Banner high – the Perennial Lupin with its bumblebee – invites all visitors to the British Museum to explore the North American landscape ... without leaving central London.
|British Museum's banner|
Silly me – goes in to the Museum and asks where’s the display – outside they say!! So outside I go – and yes the ‘flower bed’ in front of the Museum has been planted up as a trail through the Florida swamps, the Missouri prairie to the forests of New England and Canada.
For the past five years the Royal Botanical Society, Kew have teamed up with the British Museum to create a landscape on the Museum’s West Lawn (I see that’s what it is called!) ....
.... bringing Kew into the heart of London – and by wandering through the landscape, visitors can discover more about the relationships between humans and plants – from Native North Americans and new world encounters to modern conservation projects.
|British Museum as the backdrop to the North American|
landscape on the west lawn
Each of the planting areas was labelled up, the plants marked, and the areas were given brief annotations ... while the landscapes have been themed to complement the public programmes at the British Museum and Kew.
So far the habitats of China, India, South Africa and Australia have been celebrated in these annual partnership programmes – combining demonstrations, talks, lectures and study sessions – supplemented with videos, a slideshow of the star plants and the general pleasure of finding a landscape vista on the Museum’s West Lawn.
|Devonian Botanic Garden, Alberta, Canada|
(Pinus flexillis, Eastern Rockies)
Perhaps next year I can go up and see the next landscape and follow it through the seasons – its early planting, to summer flowering, to the autumnal glow, before the plants fade into their winter dormancy.
I was at the Museum to see two other exhibitions ... but I think I need to go back to visit the North American Galleries to see some of the native peoples’ close relationship with the landscape and its vegetation, which contributed so much to early European understanding of botany and natural history.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (worldwide) is working in partnership with organisations in Canada and the USA via the Seeds of Success programme to address threats to habitats and support the re-establishment of plants and eco-systems at risk.
|Paper Birch tree|
Native seeds are collected and stored in seed banks in locations in North America, with duplicate collections held at Wakehurst Place – Kew’s country garden where the Millennium Seed Bank is housed.
The American organisations involved are: Bureau of Land Management; Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Chicago Botanic Garden; Zoological Society of San Diego; North Carolina Botanic Garden and New England Wildflower Society; while in Canada it is the Devonian Botanic Garden in Edmonton, Alberta.
The British Museum’s press release highlights:
· Sweet grass (Hierchloe odorata) – that is used as incense because of its vanilla scent and is sacred to many of the indigenous peoples of North America, who believe smoke from burning dried sweet grass welcomes in good spirits.
Many of the grasses’ natural habitats of wet meadows, lake-shores, stream banks and low prairies have been lost ... so the plant is now endangered.
· Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) is a member of the daisy family and is a prairie wildflower that thrives in open woods, meadows and pastures.
This species was first described in England in 1789 by William Aiton (1731 – 1793), the first curator of Kew Gardens, in his catalogue of plants cultivated at Kew (Hortus Kewensis). Loss of habitat means this species is now becoming endangered.
· Paper Bark tree was used by Native Americans to collect the sugary sap from trees like the Silver Maple, or the beautiful souvenirs made by Native women from the bark for trading.
· Other plantings include Lupins, Echinacea, Maples, Black Walnut, Tulip Tree and carnivorous pitcher plants.
With the diversity of peoples we have in London, and those visiting each year, these landscape projects give everyone an opportunity to remember how diverse our planet is, yet remind ourselves that natural vegetation is under threat and many plant species face extinction ...
... by spreading the word, much as Kew and other botanic organisations are attempting to maintain the status quo of our natural vegetation, we can remind ourselves and others of the importance of our natural habitat and learn to protect it.
Let’s join together and help raise awareness of the importance of each of the world’s eco-systems and their absolute necessity to this life of ours, especially those locally around us ...
... let’s start there – preserve and nurture a little of everything ... let’s celebrate our botanical gardens, our allotments, our weed patches, our gardeners who encourage wildlife to remain with us for the centuries ahead.
The British Museum site provided much of this information, with some additional information from the Kew site. Obviously the inspiration came from my recent visit to the British Museum.
Press release from the British Museum on this exhibition
Detailed press release from the British Museum
Kew site: Seeds of Success USA
Youtube video (1.21m) showing landscape being created earlier this year.
Photos courtesy the British Museum site - except the Canadian one that came from the Kew article above.
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