History books are filled with expeditions of conquerors and battles of armies, yet rarely do we read about olden day plant hunters who devoted their time and knowledge for traveling the world in search of plant species to bring home. In Kew Gardens website, the plant hunter is defined as a very particular kind of person a keen and knowledgeable botanist with adventure in his heart, someone who will take risk and go the extra hundred miles to seek out the most unusual and beautiful plants.
Plant hunting has been around since the Roman times, when they brought parsley, walnuts, roses and plums. Early American explorers brought back tomatoes and potatoes, while the British were in search of plants to bring back to their homeland. Its history was controversial, as author Carolyn Fry puts it, those who collected plants were able to make a name for themselves whenever they make a valuable discovery, which is why the title was very much sought after. Among the well-known names in plant hunting are George Frost (who traveled to SE Upper Burma, NW Yunnan, SE Tibet, and SW Sichuan and brought home over 300,000 specimens of plants) and Robert Brown (who collected over 3,000 specimens from his Australian expeditions). Modern-Day Plant Hunters
According to an article entitled 21st Century Plant Hunters Hold the Seeds of Conservation, research of modern-day plant hunters continue their work to ensure that all plant species do not become endangered. As opposed to olden day plant hunters whose objectives were for discovery, fame or fortune, plant hunters today are more geared towards conserving the plant species they have today to ensure that theyll still be around in the future.
Although plant hunters still benefit greatly from their trusty pens and notebooks, the technology we have today early plant hunters didnt have before allowed them to have increasingly sophisticated digital skills and numeracy. When it was highly possible for people to become plant hunters purely through training, knowledge and experience in the field, most plant hunters today are equipped with PhDs. The accumulation of valuable data for tackling environmental issues, as well as for mitigating the harmful effects of climate change is now made easier because of technology and their work provides a basis for the introduction on new plant species into the armoury of a garden designer.
Today, plant hunters and botanists alike have a common objective in mind: to safeguard the conservation of the worlds plant species. As Dr. David Harris of Oxford University says, species identification is fundamental to understanding biodiversity. Only when a new species has been named can we start to assess whether or not it is endangered and its importance to the wider environment.
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