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Robert Fortune Featured Kew at Work Image

Robert Fortune

Robert Fortune (1812-1880) born in Berwickshire, Scotland, was a botanist and plant-hunter best known for smuggling tea plants out of China at the behest of the East India Company. Following the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, Fortune was awarded the position of the Society's Collector in China, visiting the region on four occasions, remaining there for two or three years each time. In 1846, he published his journals as Three Years Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China'. In 1848, he was tasked by the East India Company with collecting tea plants to establish plantations in India, breaking the Chinese monopoly. Disguising himself as a Chinese merchant, he travelled to the remote Fujian, Guangdong, and Jiangsu provinces, regions rarely explored by Westerners, beyond the permissible day's journey from the agreed European treaty ports. The ruling Chinese government had outlawed the purchase of tea plants, but Fortune was able to coordinate the shipment of more than 20, 000 plants and seedlings, in Wardian cases, to the Himalayas, effectively initiating the tea industry in India


Number of plant species in each use category, 2016 Featured Kew at Work Image

Number of plant species in each use category, 2016

Graphic art from State of the World's Plants 2016, page. 20, figure 6.
This illustrates number of plant species that currently have a documented use, in various use categories

© RBG Kew

Plan of the Palm House, 1860 Featured Kew at Work Image

Plan of the Palm House, 1860

Plan of the Palm House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1860

© RBG Kew