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This paper considers the transatlantic market in ornamental plants that emerged with the nineteenth-century urban expansion in Europe and South America, focussing on Andean cities in particular. Analysing the trade in plants from a global perspective, my research reinterprets the role of plant hunters, botanical gardens and urban planners as key actors within an extractive industry built upon informal colonial relationships. I demonstrate how demand for tropical plants influenced the greening of European cities, and conversely how the application of European horticultural knowledge
re-shaped urban biodiversity in the Andean region. Alongside historical sources, including archives, newspapers and other publications, this research draw extensively on botanical collections and associated materials in Europe, the United States and South America. With this paper I will show how particular urban aesthetic trends associated with nineteenth-century urbanisation entailed a redistribution of global biodiversity at a scale unseen since the Columbian exchange.

Diego Molina is a British Academy Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), and Visiting Researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is a botanist who turned to human geography and environmental history to understand the changing relationships between people and plants. He worked for several years as a botanist in Colombia, participating in scientific explorations and species discovery, and designing public policies for plant conservation. Before becoming a British Academy Fellow at the RHUL, he was a Fellow of the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society in Munich.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.