Seeds from Nepal mark 350 years of friendship
An Edinburgh partnership spanning four centuries is being celebrated with the city’s Lord Provost, Councillor Frank Ross and Depute Lord Provost, Councillor Joan Griffiths MBE, marking the 350th Anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) by planting a young Himalayan birch today (Thursday 22 April).
In an act of friendship underlining the importance of the organisation’s role within the City of Edinburgh over 350 years, the Lord Provost and Depute Lord Provost were welcomed to the Inverleith site by Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE and Dominic Fry, chair of the Board of Trustees. Their visit encompassed new initiatives, primarily the seven-year Edinburgh Biomes project to future-proof the Garden’s Glasshouses and the globally important plant collection within them. It culminated with the planting of a wild-origin Betula utilis, in RBGE’s Nepalese Garden.
The Garden was founded in 1670 as a physic garden near the Palace of Holyroodhouse and moved location twice before reaching its current location at Inverleith in 1820. Throughout the centuries, there has been a close relationship between the Garden and the city authority. The 350th Anniversary took place in 2020, but Covid-19 restrictions meant that an arranged visit by City dignitaries was delayed until 2021.
Simon Milne explained: “All known life depends on plants and, in an era when 40 per cent of plant species are at risk of extinction, the work of botanic gardens has never been more important. We are grateful for the strong interest and support of the people and city of Edinburgh and are committed to continuing our work conserving habitats in our own neighbourhood, across Scotland and around the world.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the RBGE’s Mission is working with our many partners around the world on research and horticultural projects. The seed of the tree planted today was collected during a joint Nepal/RBGE expedition in the mountains north of Kathmandu in 2016. It is a symbol of global collaboration and unity as we strive to halt the loss of plant diversity.”
Speaking to the VIP visitors about the Edinburgh Biomes, Dominic Fry said: “In 1670, the founders of the Garden envisaged an organisation that would study plants and their uses for the greater good of society. Now, 351 years later, our core aims remain the same as we address the twin threats of biodiversity loss and the climate emergency.
“Edinburgh Biomes will safeguard our position at the frontline of this battle through the restoration of our public and research Glasshouses and the creation of a new plant health suite and energy-efficient power plant.
“Our plans will help to lead the Green Recovery in Scotland, focusing on people, planet and plants and supporting jobs, infrastructure, education and science for the good of all.”
Lord Provost Frank Ross said: “I am delighted to be able to visit the Botanic Garden today to mark the fantastic milestone of three-and-a half centuries of continued operation in our Capital City.
“This is a significant achievement, not just as the second oldest botanic garden in the UK, but also the collective impacts on botany, preservation, sustainability and education.
“The Garden is an important public space for the community, further highlighted over the last year, and on behalf of the citizens of Edinburgh I would like to sincerely thank Patron, HRH The Duke of Rothesay, Board, staff, volunteers, friends and local and global partners involved in working together to make the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the magnificent and special green and therapeutic space that it is.”
Depute Lord Provost Joan Griffiths added: “The Garden continues to be much appreciated and well-loved by residents and visitors alike.
“On behalf of the citizens of Edinburgh, I was delighted to join the Lord Provost in planting the tree, marking the incredible 350th Anniversary. It’s a chance to celebrate everything that has been achieved and look ahead to continued world-leading work on protecting our natural plants, plant science, horticulture, preservation, and on mitigating climate change.”
The Edinburgh Biomes project begins in 2021 and is expected to be complete by 2028.
For further information, interviews, review copies or images, please respond to this email or contact Suzie Huggins on 0783 774 5007 or Shauna Hay on 07824 529 028.
RBGE and Nepal - The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has a long-standing connection with Nepal, dating from 1802 when Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton made the first scientific collection of plants from the Kathmandu Valley. Known as the Father of Nepalese Botany, Buchanan-Hamilton recorded more than 1000 species during his year in the South Asian country. Today, those links continue through the Flora of Nepal partnership, an international project to document, understand and monitor the country’s plant resources and train and support local people.
The Flora of Nepal is the first comprehensive account of the country’s plant biodiversity. It is an international partnership with the Government of Nepal's Department of Plant Resources, Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo. The Flora is published in ten volumes, with all accounts, supplementary information and images available on the project website.
Himalayan birch – the birch (Betula utilis) planted in the Garden is one of two which were collected as seed in Nepal in 2016. It is found in open areas of degraded mixed primary forest of fir trees (Abies) approaching the treeline on the North side of the Somdang valley, Rasuwa district, Bagmati zone, Nepal.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education, and plant conservation action around the world. In Scotland, its four Gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan attract more than a million visitors each year. It operates as a Non Departmental Public Body established under the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, principally funded by the Scottish Government. It is also a registered charity, managed by a Board of Trustees appointed by Ministers. Its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.” Learn more: www.rbge.org.uk.
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