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Mr Ernest Henry Wilson (also known as Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson, Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson)

Ernest Henry Wilson, a pioneering botanist, traveller, photographer, writer and plant explorer, was born on February 15, 1876, in Chipping Campden, England. His early fascination with nature and plants set the stage for a remarkable career that would take him on expeditions around the world, contributing significantly to the field of horticulture and botanical science.

Wilson's journey into the world of plants began with his formal education at Birmingham Municipal Technical School, where he developed a keen interest in horticulture and botany. He later continued his studies at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, under the guidance of renowned botanist Sir William Thiselton-Dyer.

In 1899, Wilson embarked on his first botanical expedition to China, a region that would become the focus of many of his future endeavors. During this trip, he meticulously documented and collected a vast array of plant specimens, many of which were new to Western science. His botanical discoveries laid the foundation for his reputation as a skilled plant collector.

Throughout his career, Wilson's expeditions took him to various parts of the world, including Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and North America. However, his extensive explorations in China, spanning several decades, stand out as the most significant chapter of his life. His collection efforts in China introduced numerous plants to the West, such as the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata) and the regal lily (Lilium regale).

Wilson's accomplishments extended beyond mere plant collection; he also made substantial contributions to horticulture. He introduced many new plant species to cultivation in the Western world, influencing garden design and enriching botanical collections. His work significantly impacted the development of gardens and arboreta, and many of his introduced plants are now staples in horticulture.

In 1927, Wilson published "Plant Hunting: A Naturalist's Life," a memoir detailing his experiences and adventures during his plant-collecting expeditions. The book provides insights into the challenges and triumphs of his journeys, offering a glimpse into the life of a dedicated plant explorer.

Tragically, Wilson's remarkable career was cut short when he died on October 15, 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, following a car accident. His legacy lives on through the plants he introduced to cultivation, his writings, and the impact he had on the field of botany.


  1. Bean, W. J. (1930). Ernest Henry Wilson: 1876–1930. The Gardeners' Chronicle, 88(2297), 292–293.
  2. Cox, P. A. (1999). Plant-hunters: The Adventures of the World's Greatest Botanical Explorers. London: Thames and Hudson.
  3. Wilson, E. H. (1927). Plant Hunting: A Naturalist's Life. New York: Macmillan.

To learn more about him, please click here to go to the Historical Profile article: https://www.parksandgardens.or...

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