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George Forrest

George Forrest was a Scottish botanist active in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. He is particularly noted for his success as a plant-collector in both north-west China and Tibet and especially for his introduction of over three hundred new species of rhododendrens. He also made valuable collections of birds, mammals and insects.

Forrest was born on 13 March 1873 in Falkirk, Scotland, the son of George Forrest, a draper's assistant, and his wife, Mary. He was educated at Falkirk and then at Kilmarnock where his family had later moved to in 1887.

After finishing Kilmarnock Academy, Forrest was apprenticed to a local chemist. He later emigrated to Australia and then to South Africa before returning to Scotland where he obtained work as a clerk in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in 1903.

Between 1904 and 1932 Forrest was involved in 6 plant collecting expeditions to Western China. These were first sponsored by the Liverpool gardener and cotton broker, Arthur Kilpin Bulley (born 1861, died 1942) of Bees Seeds Ltd., Neston, Cheshire and John Charles Williams (born 1861, died 1939) of Caerhays Castle, Cornwall and later by the Rhododendren Society which formed in 1915.

In 1921 Forrest was awarded the Victoria Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1924 and was presented with the Veitch Memorial Medal in 1927.

Forrest died of heart failure, outside of the town of Tengyueh, Yunnan, China, in early January 1932 on what was scheduled to be his last plant hunting expedition. He was buried on 7 January in the foreign cemetery just outside the city of Tengchung (Tengchong).


Allen, D.E., ‘Forrest, George (1873–1932)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <> [accessed 17 March 2008]

Hadfield, Miles, et al., British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary (London: A. Zwemmer, 1980), pp. 52, 123-124, and 304.

McLean, Brenda, George Forrest : Plant Hunter (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club in association with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, 2004)

National Archives, National Register of Archives, 'Person Details, George Forrest, Botanist, 1873-1932, GB/NNAF/P126501', <> [accessed 17 March 2008]

Plant Explorers, Inc., 'George Forrest', Plant Explorers. com <> [accessed 17 March 2008]

Raphael, Sandra, 'George Forrest', The Oxford Companion to Gardens, ed. Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe et. al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 196.

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