Identifying plant specimens/stories relating to women in botany.

09/07/2019 (from my notebook)


Prof Stephen Harris discussed my initial FMP proposal and tried to find such specific examples within the collections, (below) due to a number of complexities that I was not aware of until I began the research.

Project Description

My Final Major Project is a practical investigation into the myriad of ways plants have been captured (identified, collected, recorded and named) by women pre- and post-photography.

The aim of this work is to research and photograph specimens and objects from within the Oxford University Herbaria as well as living plants, illustrating the key methods used since the 17th century, and highlighting the important contributions made to date by women in the field of botany. 

It simply isn’t straightforward to find examples of plant specimens that fit the brief I had set. I have also learned that new plant species are often named after the person who funded the expedition, or after the person who began the research. It is also clear that in the past, plants wouldn’t have been named after the women who identified them. Oftentimes their husbands name would be used instead, and the women simply would not be credited for their contributions.

Stephen did show me one rather nice story about a plant named: Parkinsonia x carterae’. 

The research surrounding this plant, and its subsequent naming was undertaken by one of Stephen’s DPhil (PhD) students. Julia A. Hawkins in 1998. However, Julia chose to name (or dedicate) the plant after Angela Carter, a botanist from the S.United States who began the research during the 1970’s.


This finding was later published, and included scientifically accurate botanic illustrations courtesy of Rosemary Wise. (Botanic Illustrator, Dept of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford.)


I discussed this research with Rosemary, and she said she saw the plant in the field at the time, and drew it in situ. She remembered it well!


It is fairly clear that it will not be straightforward to identify a large number of examples such as these, so I may need to rethink my approach. I also don’t want this project to simply be a specimen digitisation project, focussing solely on photographing plant specimens and objects.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s