Seed Money

Gift: A gift from the Impey Family in memory of Oliver Impey who was a member of the Board of Visitors at the Botanic Garden, and Curator of Japanese Art in the Department of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean.

The Botanic Garden means very different things to different people. Some come to get ideas for their own gardens. Some come to learn about botany. Some come for the peace and quiet. Others may come to see Lyra’s bench from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy or to see where last night’s episode of Lewis was filmed.

Timothy Walker (Horti Praefectus of the Botanic Garden) enthuses about the forthcoming expedition to Japan to acquire plant material for the Impey Collection, which will promote the biodiversity of Japan, and which will then be used in all aspects of the Garden’s Education Programmes.

“Japan is an extraordinary place. It’s an archipelago of islands – with conditions ranging from seriously tropical to seriously alpine. In terms of species, it has twice the plant density of the UK. The world’s plants are struggling for a whole bunch of reasons, some of which are the result of human activity.

“On this trip seeds will be collected, but the members of the collecting team will also field test a new method of measuring, analysing and mapping biological diversity to quite a fine level. This is the first expedition the Garden has organised since the 1970s. It will be linked to research in Plant Sciences that is finding new ways to analyse biodiversity and endemism and deciding the location of protected areas.”

The Garden will contribute to the collection of seeds from threatened species from Japan in the Millennium Seed Bank Project at Kew, and enrich the collection of Japanese plants for study in the Oxford University Herbarium.

“The Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew have been sending plant collectors around the world for centuries. There is a fantastic photograph from the 1870s of Sir Joseph Hooker who was a Director at Kew on an expedition in China. They took tents, domestic staff, tables, silverware, wives and girlfriends along and Hooker sits at the centre holding a herbarium press. That is exactly the same piece of kit we use for collecting specimens – 140 years later.”

The Collection has been funded by the Impey family in memory of Oliver Impey who was a member of the Botanic Garden Board for many years.

“Although Oliver is chiefly remembered for his work in the Eastern Art Department of the Ashmolean, the border of Japanese plants will be a fitting tribute to the influence he had over the direction of the Garden. It’s lovely to remember his hidden side.”