‘Direct action will save our wild plants’
The first plant I ever grew
My father grew cacti and, inspired by his collection, I used my pocket money to buy a small, hairy specimen, probably
Cleistocactus brookeae. It grew well until we relocated to Hong Kong when I was 11 years old.
The plant that shaped the botanist I am today
Black salsify, Scorzonera
hispanica. Seen under a microscope salsify and related plants have beautiful, almost crystal-like, pollen grains. I studied how their pattern develops, which can be used to understand the process of plant evolution.
My favourite plant in the world
The magnificent coco-de-mer,
Lodoicea maldivica, with its record-breaking double coconuts. I’m lucky to work with the Seychelles Islands Foundation, which protects the World Heritage Site where it grows.
The plant that made me work hardest
I’ve seen the delicate-looking, but really rather tough, crimsonpurple-flowered Incarvillea
mairei in the mountains of Southwest China. Although it’s a perennial I consistently failed to establish it in my small garden in Edinburgh.
The plant I’d like to grow more of
I’d like to be able to grow more daphne, which form such beautiful shrubs. I succeeded nicely with Daphne tangutica, but I’ve never tried goldenflowered Daphne calcicola, which was so admired by plant hunter George Forrest in Yunnan, China.
The plant I am in human form
I’m tenacious and determined in arguing the case for conserving plant diversity and think a wind-ravaged pine or fir clinging stubbornly to a wind-swept mountainside, such as the ones I’ve climbed in Yunnan, comes closest.
The plant that helped shape my life
At school in Cheltenham I helped our biology teacher transplant a group of stinking hellebore,
Helleborus foetidus, which were threatened by development to a safer site. I’ve known since then that sometimes only direct action will save wild plants.
The plant I’d always give as a gift
Everyone has space for a houseplant. I like to choose Dendrobium orchids, which take me back to my childhood in the hillsides of Hong Kong. Stephen Blackmore’s new book How Plants Work is published in November by Ivy Press. RRP £30.
Stephen fostered a childhood interest in cacti to become an internationally renowned botanist
The huge seed of the double coconut