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'The Great Pagoda', (exterior)

Sir William Chambers first published this design of the Pagoda in 1763 in his 'Plans, elevations, sections, and perspective views of the gardens and buildings at Kew in Surry'. The building itself was constructed between Autumn 1761 and Spring 1762. This particular illustration appeared as a large format fold-out drawing of the Pagoda. Engraving on paper by T. Miller

© RBG KEW

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Nelumbium speciosum, Willd. (Lotus)

Watercolour on paper, no date (late 18th early 19th century). Hand painted copy of an illustration commissioned by William Roxburgh. In his 'Flora Indica', Roxburgh tells of his familiarity with two 'sorts' of this plant from the coast of Coromandel, one with rose-coloured flowers, the other with white ones, and with a third variety brought from China, with smaller rosy flowers. He describes how they grow in 'such sweet water lakes' and how, on the coast they flower all year. In Bengal they flower during the hot season, April, May and June. Roxburgh writes also about the radical joints which, in old plant, are swelled into tubulosities of various size, '...from them issue many fungous fibres, and from the upper part and the interior part of these tubulosities issue one, two, or more leaves and flowers...'. Roxburgh then reports that the tender shoots of the roots are eaten by the natives, boiled or in their curries. The seeds are eaten raw, roasted and boiled. The natives also use the leaves as plates from where to eat. This beautiful plant, known with their Sanscrit name Padma, is considered holy and often used in religious ceremonies. The specimen here figured is the pink variety

© RBG KEW

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Study of Coco de Mer - Lodicea sechellarum

Includes hand written notes by Gordon on different aspects of the plant, also a drawing of the cross section of the nut, an illustration of the germinating nut, and a snake twined around one of the trees.
Major Charles George Gordon, (Charley Gordon' and later 'Chinese Gordon') was one of the most celebrated soldiers and diplomats of the Victorian era. A somewhat eccentric character, Gladstone described him as a 'hero, and a hero of heroes'. His violent death at Khartoum was commemorated by George William Joy's painting 'General Gordon's Last Stand' (1885). Sir Joseph Hooker enlisted Gordon's services in the collection of plants while Charles was appointed Governor of the Egyptian Equatorial Provinces. In 1881, Gordon went as Commanding Royal Engineer to Mauritius, and while visiting the Seychelles became interested in the Coco-de-mer. Specimens of both this tree and the breadfruit tree were sent by Gordon to Kew. In 1882 Gordon also sent an illustrated letter to Kew outlining the possibility of the Seychelles being the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden, also suggesting that the breadfruit tree was the 'Tree of Life' and the Coc-de-Mer the 'Tree of Knowledge

© RBG KEW