British - Irish Botanical Expedition to Tasmania 2018

Planing ahead for the Tasmania trip

In January 2018 representatives from horticultural and botanical institutions made a field trip to Tasmania, following in the footsteps of plant hunter Harold Comber and his trip to of the 1930s.

The BIBET contingent in Hobart January 2018
The BIBET contingent in Hobart January 2018
The BIBET contingent in Hobart January 2018

The team from Nymans worked in partnership with NT Mount Stewart (Northern Ireland), the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland and the International Conifer Conservation programme, who work to conserve and protect endangered conifers (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh).

The Wild garden at Nymans in spring
The Wild garden at Nymans in spring
The Wild garden at Nymans in spring

Generously funded by the RHS, Cotswold Outdoors and a group of private sponsors, the aim was to reintroduce some of the 147 species Harold Comber collected on his original trip. Sadly, many of the specimens he collected have been lost to cultivation. The 2018 expedition looked to retrace his steps and reintroduce lost collections back into UK horticulture. Following the field trip the team at Nymans will be able to replant Tasmanian Walk in the Wild Garden. They also looked at collecting alpines as part of the Rock Garden redevelopment project :

Harold Comber, the Wells family & others on a seed collecting trip to Uxbridge
Harold Comber, the Wells family & others on a seed collecting trip to Uxbridge
Harold Comber, the Wells family & others on a seed collecting trip to Uxbridge

The Messel family at Nymans planted their garden with plants from all over the world. They supported many plant hunting trips, such as Harold Comber’s expeditions to Tasmania and the Andes, Frank Kingdom Ward’s trips to the Far East and Ernest Henry Wilson's ground breaking expeditions to China. Many of Harold’s original specimens have contributed to  collections which are on view in National Trust and botanic gardens across the country.

A volunteer cleaning the donated lantern slides
A volunteer cleaning the donated lantern slides
A volunteer cleaning the donated lantern slides

On Harold’s return to the UK he had slides of his trip made from the photos he took while in Tasmania. He used the slides to give illustrated talks about his trip. His daughter, Mary Comber-Miles, a successful botanical illustrator, has recently donated the collection of slides to Nymans.     

The team collecting in the field
The team collecting in the field
The team collecting in the field

The expedition started out from Hobart and moved around the island for around three and half weeks. On route the team collected any viable seed, herbarium material and DNA material. All work was carried out with Hobart Botanic Garden under their permits and any other collections were made under permits presented by the Australian Government

You can visit the wild garden during normal garden opening hours. Please ask for details at Reception.