Allan Octavian HumeThe SLBI provides facilities for the study of plants, including ecology and conservation, and aims to encourage interest in all aspects of plant life. We encourage participation of people from all ages, backgrounds and levels of learning. 

  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.

Read our Memorandum-and-Articles-of-Association

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 (dried plant collections).

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 

Enjoy an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, in which Matt Biggs interviews Roy Moxham about Hume’s work on the Great Hedge of India. 

About the SLBI today

Today the SLBI continues to base its activities on the aims of Hume. To see the range of our activities, please view our short films on YouTube (as above) or see our other pages – Events, School Visits, Herbarium, Library, Garden etc.

We developed a new Business Plan for 2021-26 – read the SLBI Business Plan – Executive Summary here.

The SLBI is led by a small group of SLBI Trustees (list as at AGM, Sept 2021), with Roy Vickery as its President.

Activities are managed by 4 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 join us by becoming a member of the Institute, please see Join Us.

To support us by making a donation, leaving us a gift in your will or fundraising for us, please see Support Us


View our Impact Report

Impact Report 2020-2021


View our Annual Report and Accounts

Accounts 2020-2021

Accounts 2019-2020
Accounts 2018-2019
Accounts 2017-2018


View our policies and values statements

SLBI Complaints Policy 4.11.21  

SLBI Conflict of interest policy 11.6.20

SLBI Equality and diversity policy 11.6.20

SLBI Environmental policy 24.3.21

SLBI Ethical Funding Policy 3.5.22

SLBI Invasive Plants Policy 2022

SLBI Investment policy 2021

SLBI Health and Safety Policy 22.11.21

SLBI Safeguarding Policy 16.12.21

SLBI Staff Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures 2016

SLBI Volunteering Policy 27.10.21  


SLBI Business Plan 2021-2026 Executive Summary

In February 2020 the SLBI declared a Climate Emergency: SLBI Climate Emergency Declaration – 6 Feb 2020 

In July 2020 the SLBI released a Statement in support of Black Lives Matter: SLBI Black Lives Matter statement 3.7.20