Inspirational botanists

Women botanists are taking centre stage at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

An exhibition, entitled ‘Inspirational Botanists – Women of Wales’ marks the contribution of women to botanical science in Wales in the past 200 years.

It is in the Garden Gallery from March 1-31 and there will be a special ‘launch’ event on March 8 – International Women’s Day. The exhibition features 13 women either born or educated in Wales, or whose main body of work has been done in this country. Visitors will get the chance to read about their lives and see photographs, objects and the images of plants associated with them.

Margot Greer, from Swansea, is a volunteer in the Garden’s library and was part of the seven-strong team that researched and put the gallery show together.

She said: “Material donated to the library inspired us to research these forgotten women. Their hard work has led to the conservation of many rare species and fragile habitats.”

The volunteers taking part in the putting on the exhibition were, Marilyn Caruana, Sue Davies, Loretta Gibbs, Kate Jones, Polly Mason, Iva Thomas, Mike Danford and Margot Greer.

Students from the department of Media & Graphic Design of Coleg Sir Gar, Carmarthen, under the supervision of course tutor Karl Sedgewick, created the graphic design for the exhibition.

The 13 botanists celebrated in the exhibition, with their specific links to Wales, are:
Lady Caroline Wilkinson, 1822-1881, amateur botanist/artist, Gower
Eleanor Vachell, 1879-1948, amateur botanist, Glamorgan
Mary Richards, 1885-1977, botanist/plant collector, Merionethshire
Elsie Wakefield, 1886-1972, mycologist, early life Swansea, Gower
Irene Vaughan, 1889-1993, field botanist/county recorder, Carmarthenshire
Professor Lily Newton, 1893-1981, phycologist, Aberystwyth University
Janet Macnair, 1903-1975, amateur botanist, Montgomeryshire
Ann Conolly, 1917-2010, botanist, Lleyn and Bardsey
Dr Mary Gillham, 1921-   botanist, naturalist/writer, Welsh islands
Dr Helgi Opik, 1936-   , botanist/senior lecturer, UW Swansea
Professor Dianne Edwards, 1942-  palaeobotanist, Cardiff University
Professor Lynne Boddy, 1955-   mycologist, Cardiff University
Dr Natasha De Vere, 1973-   botanist, National Botanic Garden of Wales

The Garden Director, Dr Rosie Plummer, said: “Women’s contribution to science has so often been overlooked it is excellent we are able to show the career paths of amateurs and professionals alike and what can be achieved.”

Margot added: “This is only a small selection of women in this field. It is based on research carried out by our Library volunteers in 2011 on women with some connection to National Botanic Garden of Wales or its library, and is meant as a catalyst for finding out more.”

If there is a someone woman think that we should include in future, please let us know by emailing


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