Securing the future of Darwin’s potato

As the RHS herbarium revs up for its move to its new Wisley quarters, there’s a rare chance to sponsor its historic specimens

The RHS herbarium’s specimen of the Chilean potato plant collected in 1834 by Charles Darwin
The RHS herbarium’s specimen of the Chilean potato plant collected in 1834 by Charles Darwin | Image: RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society herbarium holds more than 86,000 dried specimens from the UK and overseas, and is a treasure trove of stories and rare plants. Tucked away in one box is a geranium said to have sprung from the spot where Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was killed by Zulu warriors in 1879; in another there’s a Chilean potato plant that Charles Darwin brought back on the Beagle. Currently housed in the original 1916 laboratory building at Wisley, the herbarium will move into new quarters at the Surrey garden in 2020. The National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning will accommodate research laboratories, a library and archive. In the new herbarium specimen sheets will be housed with new boxes lined with acid-free paper to ensure they are stored in optimum conditions. Each box can be sponsored for £300 and donors’ names will be engraved on the wall in the new centre.

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