Kew Gardens asks: are plants problematic?

Kew Gardens asks: are plants problematic?
Ming Yeung/Getty Images
Text settings

Statues toppled, buildings renamed — last summer's BLM inspired iconoclasm changed the face of streets and landmarks across Britain. Surely though this reckoning with the past was merely restricted to the physical manifestation of our shameful past?

Apparently not, according to the director of Kew Gardens. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Richard Deverell has today spoken of his concerns about the history of the plants based in the Royal Botanic Gardens in south west London. 

The world heritage site plans to 'completely change' the display information on plants such as sugar cane to reflect their links to empire and slavery. Deverell, whose institute is currently trying to plug a £15 million Covid-related black hole, said: 'We’re looking at our collections and how we bring new narratives' adding 'we’re clearly in part borne from the imperial period, from the imperial legacy. I recognise there is a lot to do.' 

He continued: 'We have a lot to do to broaden the narrative around these plants, how they have been used around the world by indigenous communities, how they got to Britain... There are complex historical narratives here and what matters to us is that we tell these stories in a way that resonates with all the different communities we’re seeking to reach.'

Steerpike wonders how long it will be before Britain's botanists start to campaign for Rhododendrons must fall...

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

Topics in this articlePoliticskew gardensplants