A collection of Paepalanthus made by Gardner
Gardner's itinerary in Brazil
George Gardner was probably born in May 1809 (although some records suggest 1812), at Ardentinny in Scotland. He died on 10 March 1849, at Neuria Ellia Rest House, Sri Lanka. Gardner was the son of a gardener to the 5th Earl of Dunmore, and started medical studies in 1829 when he enrolled at the Andersonian University, Glasgow. In 1835 he obtained his diploma as a surgeon.
While at university he had become well acquainted with Scottish plants and attended William Jackson Hooker's botany lectures, as well as making several excursions with his professor in the Highlands. Musci Britannici, or pocket herbarium of British mosses (1836) was his first publication.
With strong recommendations from Hooker, Gardner decided to travel and collect in Brazil, and endeavoured to travel throughout Northeastern Brazil. In 1836 Gardner arrived in Rio de Janeiro and spent a year collecting around the city and in the Organ Mountains. He then began his primary expedition, travelling via Bahia to Pernambuco, Alagoas, Ceará, Piauí, Goiás, and Minas Gerais. He returned to Rio de Janeiro in October 1840. During his extensive travels Gardner practised medicine, made pertinent observations on slavery, and made several geological observations including the first discovery of chalk in South America. Gardner then organised his collections, and made several further explorations before returning to England in April 1841.
Gardner sent live plants, seeds, fossil fishes and other collections to England. The herbarium collections were routinely sorted by George Bentham and Hooker for distribution. His unpublished Catalogue of Brazilian plants numbers his collections to just over 6,100. His Brazilian expeditionary account was published as Travels in the interior of Brazil (1846).
In 1844 Gardner was appointed Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden, Peradeniya. With great energy, he launched the development of the garden, as well as its scientific era. He also started work towards a Ceylon Flora which was never completed due to his early death. He did make wide-ranging collections on the island, also undertaking extensive fieldwork in the Nielgherry Mountains in India. During his final excursion, Gardner fell ill after a late lunch. He was found 'lying in a fit of apoplexy' (Torrington 1849) and died later in the evening, possibly as the result of a brain haemorrhage.
Contrary to many accounts the only genus named after Gardner was Gardnerodoxa Sandwith.
D. J. Nicholas Hind, RBG, Kew Personal contribution.
Torrington. (1849). Death of George Gardner. Hooker's J. Bot. Kew Gard. Misc . 1: 154-156.