Author: Henry Noltie Page 1 of 5

William Roxburgh’s herbarium specimens at RBGE

For many years I have been aware that in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (E) is more than one set of specimens collected in South…

How the Grass of Parnassus got its name: a botanical ‘Just So’ story

I was asked this question on a recent trip to North Ronaldsay and had to plead ignorance. We had been discussing a floral display on the local golf…

Another botanical William Jack

One of the most talented Scottish surgeon-botanists ever to have worked in Asia was the Aberdonian William Jack (1795–1822), who, before succumbing to fever aged only 27, acted…

Happy Birthday India: or, the changing names of a Himalayan sumach

How to choose a tree suitable for a High Commissioner of India to plant to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Independence while on a visit to RBGE? Trees,…

Edward Bulkley and the Du Bois Herbarium

In the lead-up (or is it a wind-down?) to retirement I must clear my office, including four herbarium cabinets full of specimens laid aside from time to time…

Ficus benghalensis

1. Ficus benghalensis L. MORACEAE Banyan, बनयान The banyan, a species of wild fig, is one of the most iconic of all Indian trees. Its characteristic appearance as a mature…

Dimocarpus longan

2. Dimocarpus longan Loureiro SAPINDACEAE Longyen, longan; Bengali: ashphal, आशफल A small tree related to the lychee and native of South and South-East Asia. It is cultivated for its…

Leea guineensis

3. Leea guineensis G. Don VITACEAE The name of this genus commemorates James Lee, a Scottish nurseryman, who, with Lewis Kennedy, owned one of the most important of the…

Stephania glandulifera

4. Stephania glandulifera Miers MENISPERMACEAE An extensive climber, which grows from a large tuberous root; it is ‘dioecious’ (having male and female flowers borne on separate plants). This species…

Alpinia zerumbet

5. Alpinia zerumbet (Persoon) B.L. Burtt & R.M. Smith ZINGIBERACEAE Shell ginger It is not certain where this plant was originally native, but somewhere in tropical South or South-East…

Tacca chantrieri

6. Tacca chantrieri André DIOSCOREACEAE One of the so-called ‘bat flowers’, with brownish flowers surrounded by pairs of paler, petal-like bracts and drooping, thread-like bracteoles. This species occurs from…

Tabernaemontana divaricata

7. Tabernaemontana divaricata (L.) R. Brown APOCYNACEAE Crepe jasmine, moonbeam, East Indian rosebay; Hindi: chandani, चांदनी This small tree is native to India but it is widely cultivated…

Kaempferia rotunda

8. Kaempferia rotunda L. ZINGIBERACEAE Hindi: bhumichampa, भूमी चम्पा This plant is a member of the ginger family from tropical South-East Asia. It is widely cultivated, and possibly also…

Agapetes odontocera

9. Agapetes odontocera (Wight) J.D. Hooker ERICACEAE This subtropical relation of the blaeberry (or blueberry) comes from the Khasia Hills in the Indian State of Meghalaya, where it was…

Coelogyne corymbosa

10. Coelogyne corymbosa Lindley ORCHIDACEAE A common orchid of the broad-leaved forest zone of the Sino-Himalayan region, from Nepal eastwards to China, including the Indian states of Sikkim, Arunachal…

Peganum harmala

11. Peganum harmala L. NITRARIACEAE A plant with many uses, both mystical and practical. It is one of the possible identifications for the Vedic plant ‘soma’, and the origin…

Dichrostachys cinerea

12. Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arnott LEGUMINOSAE Hindi: Kunali, कुणाली The genus name Dichrostachys, which was given by the Indian surgeon Robert Wight and the Scottish botanist George…

Schima wallichii

13. Schima wallichii (de Candolle) Korthals THEACEAE An evergreen tree that can reach a height of 30 metres; the generic name may be derived from the Greek skiasma, on…

Dichroa febrifuga

14. Dichroa febrifuga Loureiro HYDRANGEACAE Hindi: basak This shrub is related to the hydrangea. It has attractive blue berries and is widespread in subtropical South-East Asia, occurring up to…

Camellia sinensis

15. Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze var. assamica (Masters) Kitamura THEACEAE Tea; Hindi: chai, चाय The source of the world’s major caffeine drink exists in two wild varieties – the…