RECORD: Darwin, C. R. et al. 1864. [Letter to the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society on the prizes recently offered by the Society]. Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society 4: 91-3.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, OCRed, corrected and edited by John van Wyhe 9.2006, textual corrections by Sue Asscher 1.2007. RN3
To the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society
Cambridge, April 11, 1864.
Gentlemen,—We beg respectfully to represent to the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society that serious injury will be caused to the native plants of England by the prizes recently offered by the Society for collections of wild specimens of English plants.1 But, at the same time, we desire to thank the Society for having shown a wish to promote a knowledge of scientific Botany.
The value of land, and the advanced state of agriculture consequent therefrom, has caused many wild plants to be now confined to few or even to single localities, often of small extent. It is feared that such species will be extirpated by collectors for prize herbaria, who are desirous of obtaining every plant known to grow in their county, and are greatly tempted to destroy what they do not gather, in order to prevent other candidates from finding as many species. The plants liable to be thus destroyed are mostly not such as gardeners would wish to obtain for cultivation: they possess no beauty nor interest to the common eye, but are of much value in the estimation of scientific botanists. There is scarcely a county in England in which one or more plants will not be in danger of extirpation by the collectors for these prizes. Neither will the prizes promote scientific botany amongst the class for whose benefit they are in-
1 See Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society 4 (1864): 2, 17 and Correspondence vol. 12, pp. 131-3.
tended, for there is nothing to ensure the recipient of a prize himself knowing the names or localities of the plants in his collection, or that he has examined a single botanical book, gathered any of the specimens, or even seen any of them. But supposing the case not to be so bad as this, the objection will probably apply, in some degree, to every collection sent to the Society; for no attempt is made (indeed it would be next to impossible) to ensure the collection being really formed, named, mounted and arranged by the candidate himself, without the help of other persons.
As it seems nearly certain that these prizes cannot be of much use in promoting scientific Botany, and must seriously threaten the rare, curious, and botanically interesting plants with extirpation, we venture to express our hope that the Council may be induced to withdraw them before the season has arrived for the destruction to commence.—We have the honour to be Gentlemen, your most obedient servants,1
Charles C. Babington, Prof, of Bot., Cambridge.
Churchill Babington, B.D., F.L.S.
C. Darwin, M.A., F.R.S.
[The remaining 124 signatures are omitted from the transcription but are available in the image view.]
1 As a result of the objections to the prize competition, the Royal Horticultural Society issued revised instructions to account for the concerns expressed in this letter. See Correspondence vol. 12, pp. 132 note 5.
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