The Institute 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 in plants, pursue their own studies, learn with like-minded individuals and contribute to our natural heritage. Read about our early history and about the SLBI today (including our aims, trustees, policies and plans).
The 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.
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.
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.