George Forrest (1873-1932) was born in Falkirk, Scotland, he studied as an apprentice at a local chemist, prior to setting off to Australia looking for gold. He remained there from 1891 to 1902, when he returned to Britain and was employed as a clerk in the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Sir Isaac Balfour, his employer, was impressed by his character and recommended him to A.K. Bulley, who was sponsoring an expedition to Western China in search of exotic plants.
In 1904 Forrest made his first expedition to the Western Chinese province of Yunnan, botanically China's richest province, alongside 17 other plant collectors. This first trip was both exciting and horrifying, as for political reasons the local lamas decided to kill all foreigners and any other person who maintained relationships with them. Forrest escaped narrowly but the incident did not stop him from returning to Yunnan and pursuing an extremely successful career as a plant collector.
Returning from his first trip, Forrest married Clementina Traill in Scotland in 1907, with whom he had 3 sons. During his lifetime he made seven collecting expeditions to Yunnan, collecting herbarium samples and seeds. From amongst over 31,000 plant specimens, several hundred are still in cultivation today. The specific epithet forrestii occurs in more than thirty genera and thousands of hybrids have been bred from Forrest stock.
Forrest died suddenly near Tengchong, in Yunnan, in 1932, where he was buried. The collections made during his seventh and last trip were promptly sent back to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, while he remains buried in the land where he made so many discoveries.
McLean, B. (2004). George Forrest, Plant Hunter. Antique Collectors' Club. Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Suffolk, 239 pp.