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Tales of a Twentieth-Century Plant Hunter in China

Tales of a Twentieth-Century Plant Hunter in China

Plant Hunters
Ernest Wilson’s Chinese plant hunters. (Archives of the Arnold Arboretum)

Evening Lecture by TONY KIRKHAM, Head of Arboretum, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK

Drinks reception: 6:30 pm
Lecture: 7:00 pm
Close: 8:00 pm 

In 1899 Ernest Henry Wilson, one of Europe’s foremost plant hunters, went to Hong Kong and mainland China to collect seeds, bulbs and specimens of "never-before-seen" plants and trees, which have since transformed European gardens, botanic studies and economies all over the world. Wilson also visited Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, returning to China many times and introducing over 1,000 plants to the western world, including the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrate), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and the kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa). He also took over 5,000 high-quality photos of landscapes in China documenting its diverse beauty at the dawn of the twentieth century. In 2006 Kew's Head of Arboretum, Tony Kirkham, retraced Wilson's footsteps with the help of Chinese guides and local knowledge. The resulting tale of Wilson's travels and adventures gives a captivating glimpse of people and places in the remote province of Sichuan. Tony's journey gained him a fascinating insight into the widespread change and remarkable continuity in Sichuan and China over a century. In his lecture, Tony will describe his favorite trees, his travels in China looking for rare and prized trees for Kew's arboretum and scientific collections, and the conservation work carried out by Kew's scientists to conserve critical forests across China. He will also share some of Wilson's photos showing China 100 years ago.

Tony Kirkham came to Kew in 1978 as a Diploma student and progressed to become Head of Arboretum in 2001. He has been on many collecting trips in China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Russian Far East, and he is now one of Kew's most active plant collectors. Tony is co-author of several books, including Plants from the Edge of the World and Wilson's China. In 2009 Tony was awarded the Associate of Honor by the Royal Horticultural Society for his services to horticulture.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a 250-year old institution that leads the world in plant and fungal science. As well as being located in two exquisite gardens in England, Kew stands at the center of a global network of 800 scientific and conservation programs in 100 countries. Kew has a long history of working in Hong Kong, mainland China and other countries in the region, with extensive research partnerships in areas such as traditional medicine, plant conservation, research into useful plants and habitat restoration.

Co-presented with: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Supporting organization: British Consulate-General Hong Kong, Green is Great Britain

Event Details

27 November 2013
6:30pm - 8:00pm

9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong

HK$180 Asia Society members/ Friends of Kew Gardens/ Hong Kong Gardening Society members; HK$230 non-members.