David Rankin

David Rankin (Scotland) - "The modern plant hunter: searching for long-lost primulas"

Several species of primulas, not seen for many decades, even more than a century, have been rediscovered. Finding them is a combination of hard work - at home and in the field - and good fortune.

As more and more information becomes available on-line, the original collection sites of plants can sometimes be identified from the comfort of home. Herbarium specimens are being scanned and made freely available, old diaries and notes enable the routes of the old plant hunters to be worked out, and on-line maps and satellite images reveal possible sites. It helps if you can speak half a dozen languages. But eventually you have to put your boots on and head for the mountains - where the local people may know more than you do.

Seeing live plants, possibly photographing them for the first time, provides insights that are not possible when using only herbarium specimens. David Rankin is Profesor at School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh. At present he is the president of SRGC. Together with his wife they run successful Kevock Gardens nursery for alpines.