Skip to Content

Botanical expeditions

« Back to Glossary Index

**1. Botanical Expeditions Overview:**
Botanical expeditions involve scientific voyages to explore the flora of a region.
– Naturalists or botanists identify, describe, and collect specimens during these expeditions.
– Plants collected may be named by government scientists.
– Motives for botanical expeditions include scientific discovery and economic incentives.
– Challenges faced during expeditions include transportation and preservation of specimens.
– Systematic plant collection dates back to the Renaissance, with organized efforts documented in ancient civilizations.
– The late 18th and 19th centuries saw important botanical expeditions, often involving dangers.

**2. Criticism and Regulations:**
Botanical expeditions have faced criticism for their Eurocentric and colonialist past.
– International regulations like CITES aim to benefit countries of origin.
– Some collectors were missionaries, diplomats, or merchants, with local collaborators’ contributions sometimes overlooked.
– Criticism also highlights that some plant hunters learned from local cultures during expeditions.

**3. Historical Figures and Contributions:**
– Queen Hatshepsut and Sir Joseph Banks made significant contributions to plant exploration.
– Maria Jacson impacted popular science writing in England.
– Victorian plant hunters influenced British gardens.
– Contributions of individuals like Frederick Traugott Pursh and David Douglas in botany are noteworthy.

**4. Women in Botany:**
– Maria Jacson’s role in popular science writing and women plant collectors’ history are highlighted.
– Recognition of female plant explorers throughout history and their contributions to botanical expeditions.
– The importance of women in shaping botanical knowledge is emphasized.

**5. Exploration and Discovery Significance:**
Botanical expeditions contribute to exploration and understanding of plant diversity.
Botany plays a crucial role in uncovering new plant species through expeditions.
– The significance of botanical expeditions in enhancing scientific knowledge is underscored.
– Proper citation in botanical research, utilizing references, and acknowledging scholars in botanical exploration are essential aspects.

Botanical expeditions (sometimes called "Plant hunting") are scientific voyages designed to explore the flora of a particular region, either as a specific design or part of a larger expedition. A naturalist or botanist would be responsible for identification, description and collection of specimens. In some cases the plants might be collected by the person in the field, but described and named by a government sponsored scientist at a botanical garden or university. For example, species collected on the Lewis and Clark Expedition were described and named by Frederick Traugott Pursh.

Painting of Lewis and Clark navigating the lkower Columbia River by canoe in 1905
Lewis and Clark Expedition on the lower Columbia River
Charles Marion Russell, 1905

While accounts of plant collection occur in antiquity, a scientific basis occurred during the Renaissance and was associated with the establishment of botanical gardens and the teaching of botany as a discipline. The practice of botanical expeditions reached a peak in the late 18th and during the 19th century with the systematic organisation of plants into taxonomic classifications. Plant collection has attracted a number of criticisms of exploitation and colonialism leading to the establishment of international regulations and safeguards.

« Back to Glossary Index