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ERNEST HENBY WILSON has been such a shining ornament in Botany and Horticulture for the past quarter of a century, that it was only fitting he should be elected to the distinguished position of President of our Guild and his portrait occupy the page of honour. Wilson was born at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire in 1876. Some years later his parents removed to Solihull in Warwickshire, where he entered the nurseries of Messrs. Hewitt. I n 1892 he was recommended to the then Curator of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens—Mr. W. B. Latham, an old Kewite—as a very promising journeyman. The gardens at this period were noted for their rich and varied collections of plants, particularly of stove and greenhouse ferns. In those days, hours of work were long ; but Saturday afternoons gave an hour's extra freedom, and then frequent botanising trips were arranged, when Wilson displayed those magnificent power's of observation and discernment which have contributed to make him the greatest plant collector of modern times. Birmingham, with its Technical School, offered facilities for the study of botany. Wilson made such use of them that he won a Queen's prize in this subject at the Examination held by the Board of Education. I n January 1897, Wilson came to Kew, and it was not lo)ig before his sterling qualities were recognised, both by his woi'k in the garden and in the lecture room. Commencing in the herbaceous ground, a few months later he was transferred to the " Seed Pit " where he spent the rest of his time in Kew. I n most of the lecture courses he came out top, and also won the Hooker prize at the " Mutual " for a masterly essay on Coniferae. His love of botany as a science led Wilson to think of becoming a teacher of that subject; so he left Kew and became a student at the Royal College of Science, South Kensington. But he soon discovered his real vocation, and when Messi's. J. Veitch &, Sons asked the Director to recommend a sxiitable man to send out to Central China to collect living plants and their seeds the choice fell on Wilson, and how well he succeeded on this first trip (1899-1902) was shown by Veitch's asking him to make a second trip (1903-05) to another part of China, which was even more successful. Wilson's fame as a plant collector had by then become world-wide, and 1907-9 found him again visiting China for Harvard University and several subsciibers ; he made a second trip in 1910-11. The results of his labours are shown in Flantce WilsoniancB, which contains descriptions of no fewer than 2,716 species and 640 varieties of plants ; many of these were new to science. Wilson next made two journeys to Japan. In 1914, he explored the Southern Island Yakushima, with its Cryptomeria forests, to the sand dunes of Saghalien. In 1917, he went to K:jrea, Formosa, and other outlying parts of this wonderful Empire. In Ma}' 1922, when he presided at the Annual Dinner of the Guild, Wilson had just returned from the latest of his journeys, having visited, on behalf of the Arnold Arboretum, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Java, Singapore, the Federated Malay Str-aits, the greater part of India, East Africa, Rhodesia, South Africa, and Natal. Despite his wanderings, Wilson has found time for a vast amount of literary work, and has recorded much first-hand knowledge. His work has received recognition from numerous learned societies, including the V.M.H. from the R.H.S., and the M.A. from the Harvard University, the controlling body of the Arnold Arboretum, of which he is now the Assistant Director. W. H . M2

Profile for Kew Guild Journal

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