Links between Nepal and Scotland were strengthened when Nepalese Ambassador to the UK, Dr Suresh Chalise made an official visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).
The Ambassador who was accompanied by his wife, Dr Milan Adhikari and attaché, Mr Ganesh Adhikari was welcomed to RBGE by Regius Keeper, Professor Stephen Blackmore before being invited to inaugurate a restored commemorative plaque and plant a tree in a new area of the Garden designated for promotion of Nepalese biodiversity and conservation.
RBGE is internationally recognised for its expertise and specialist collections from the Himalaya and China, and its Flora of Nepal research programme with Nepalese partners builds on this. Nepal has one of the richest concentrations of plants in the world. However, conservation and sustainable use of plant biodiversity is hampered by the lack of primary inventory information and means to identify and characterise them – the Flora of Nepal project, an international collaboration led by RBGE with government and academic partners in Nepal and Japan is addressing this issue.
Nepal’s lack of trained people to undertake plant biodiversity inventory and documentation and poor facilities, lack of equipment and limited funding are being addressed by a number of initiatives led by RBGE such as in country workshops and hands-on training events. MSc and PhD training of Nepalese botanists at the University of Edinburgh and RBGE recently saw Dr Bhaskar Adhikari awarded his PhD and is the first person from Nepal to complete a plant biodiversity PhD in the UK.
Professor Blackmore said: “RBGE’s connection with Nepal goes back to the early 1800s and over the decades our working relationship with the country has grown from strength to strength. This is the first official visit to RBGE by a Nepalese Ambassador and presents an opportunity to highlight the vital research and conservation work for Nepalese plants that is being undertaken by RBGE staff, both in Nepal and here at the Edinburgh Garden.’’
Following a tour of the library and herbarium the Ambassador inaugurated the recently relocated memorial plaque to Francis Buchanan Hamilton, the first Western botanist to visit Nepal (1802-3), before planting a commemorative Lali Gurans (Rhododendron arboreum), which is Nepal’s national tree.
RBGE’s connection with Nepal began with Francis Buchanan Hamilton, the Scots-born surgeon attached to Captain Knox’s 1802-3 mission to Kathmandu. He trained as a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, studying botany under RBGE’s Regius Keeper John Hope in 1780. He was responsible for the earliest Nepalese plants to be grown at RBGE when he arranged for seed to be sent back to Edinburgh. RBGE’s records show that the last of these, a Rhododendron arboreum died in the 1960s.
Francis Buchanan Hamilton returned to Scotland in 1815 and lived in Leny House, near Callander, Stirlingshire. With the help of Alan and Frances Roebuck, the current owners of Leny House, Henry Noltie an RBGE botanist recently found the marble memorial plaque to Buchanan Hamilton, his wife and daughter in a dilapidated burial enclosure at Leny. The restored plaque is displayed in the foyer of the Herbarium at RBGE.
24 September 2010