Global Gardens and the Age of Discovery
In the 18th- and 19th-century, scientific fervor and intellectual curiosity resulted in many voyages of discovery by European nations. Naturalists, zoologists, and gardener-botanists accompanied colonial voyages with the intent to collect, transport, and distribute plants of beauty and value. Many of these explorers would interview local people and gather observations for how these plants were cultivated in their native lands. They collected plants and seeds, and the cuttings were then transported to wealthy landowners who had the means to sponsor these expeditions, as well as the capacity to farm these plants on a large scale.
A young United States was less interested in ornamental horticulture and more interested in finding crops with higher calorie count to feed the young nation. North American plants were exported in large quantities at low cost to support European powers seeking lumber, crops, and ornamental plants. Slaves and indentured servants were needed to cultivate crops for export and domestic use.
Journals were kept, illustrations were drawn, and records were preserved. Native people, expedition assistants of color, and gardener-botanists of lower status have all but been erased from the historical narrative.
Our Global Gardens display does not pay tribute to those who have been credited with the discovery of plants in our gardens. Instead, we hope the display allows the individual to reflect on the diversity of plants in the world and to appreciate the work and sacrifice of those whom history did not credit.