The SLBI provides facilities for the study of plants including ecology and conservation, and aims to encourage interest in all aspects of plant life.
Since its inception in 1910, the Institute has enabled many to develop a satisfying and absorbing interest, become better botanists, pursue their own studies, share their knowledge with like-minded individuals and contribute to our natural heritage.
About the early history of the SLBI
Founded in 1910 by a keen botanist, Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912), the aims of the Institute have remained almost unchanged in 100 years. Hume’s lasting contribution has been to provide an environment where those interested in plants, be they amateur or professional, may meet and develop their knowledge of plants.
Several generations of botanists have benefited from, and contributed to, the facilities available at the Institute. Today, members still enjoy, as they have done since the Institute’s inception, the evening lectures, field trips, workshops, library, garden and herbaria.
Originally a civil servant, Hume spent 45 years serving the people of India in a most progressive and forward-thinking manner: he realised that India’s development and release from poverty depended on agricultural reforms. After his retirement, he initiated the creation of the Indian National Congress in the call for Indian independence.
A leading ornithologist in India, after his return to England in 1894 Hume turned his attention to horticulture, embarking on an intensive study of British flora, employing W.H. Griffin as his botanical assistant in 1901. His intention was to make the study of plants accessible to the working classes: he recognised the difficulty in identifying alien plant species and began growing and pressing for a herbarium.
This interest led him to purchase in 1909 a Victorian house in Tulse Hill, which became, one year later, the South London Botanical Institute. At the heart of the early library and herbarium were the books and specimens of Hume, F. H. Davey, W. H. Beeby, F. Townsend and J. Woods.
Over the years, many distinguished botanists have been associated with the Institute, notably: W.R. Sherrin, Dr John Ramsbottom, J.E. Lousley and Dr Cecil Prime.
See our three films about our founder A O Hume Hume’s Legacy Hume’s Herbarium Hume: The Story of a Life
About the SLBI today
Today the SLBI continues to base its activities on the aims of Hume. It is led by a small group of trustees, with Richard Allen as its current Chair and Roy Vickery as its President. Activities are managed by 3 very part-time staff and lots of greatly valued volunteers. If you would like to become a trustee or volunteer in another way, please see Get Involved.
To see the range of our activities, please view our short film following the link on our home page or see our other pages – Events, School Visits, Herbarium, Library, Garden etc.
To join us by becoming a member of the Institute, please see Join Us.