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14 May to 4 July 2010

Exhibition Guide by H.J. Noltie

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh,

Arboretum Place/Inverleith Row,

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5.30pm. Admission free.
To download exhibition text contact: Email,

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Exhibitions programme supported by The Scottish Arts Council.

When the Royal Scottish Museum donated its botanical collections, including the Cleghorn Memorial Library and a vast number of botanical illustrations, to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1941, Hugh Francis Clarke Cleghorn of Stravithie (1820–1895) became, posthumously, one of our greatest benefactors. His herbarium had been given to RBGE in 1896, but although illustrations and specimens were now housed under one roof, no attempt to re-establish the connections between them has been made until now.
Cleghorn was born in Madras, but came to Scotland at the age of four to be raised by his aunts and grandfather near St Andrews. His schooling was at the High School of Edinburgh and Madras Academy, St Andrews, followed by studies at the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he studied medicine and took Robert Graham’s summer botany class at RBGE in 1838 and 1839. In 1842 he joined the East India Company as an Assistant Surgeon and returned to his birthplace. Cleghorn probably had innate interests in the visual (his father was a friend of David Wilkie), but his determination to use Indian artists to record plants was encouraged by the Indian botanist Robert Wight (a family friend) and by the Director of Kew, William Hooker. From July 1845 to September 1847 Cleghorn was based at Shimoga, in what was then the Nuggur [= Nagar] Division of the princely state of Mysore (present-day Karnataka), during which time he employed a ‘Marathi’ artist to draw a different species each day. Illness forced Cleghorn back to Britain in 1848, where he stayed for three years, during which he wrote his important report for the British Association on the effects of tropical deforestation, and worked on Indian economic products for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
After returning to Madras in 1851 he taught botany and materia medica at the Medical College and was secretary of the Agri-Horticultural Society, and in both of these roles he employed Indian artists – to illustrate lectures and publications, and to record medical symptoms and botanical specimens. He was friendly with Alexander Hunter, founder of the Madras School of Art, and from August 1852 employed two of its students P. Mooregasan Moodeliar and T. Rungasawmy to draw plants and copy book illustrations. On Wight’s departure from Madras in 1853 his artist Govindoo was looking for a new patron and Cleghorn duly obliged. Inspired by the London Great Exhibition of 1851, the first of the Madras Exhibitions took place in 1855, and Cleghorn was greatly involved with the economic plant products exhibited. The following year he was appointed by Lord Harris, Governor of Madras, to the new post of Conservator of Forests. Before leaving for a second home leave in September 1860 Cleghorn established a forest conservancy system in Madras, undertaking three extensive Forest Tours, apparently accompanied by Govindoo.
After returning to India in 1861 the rest of Cleghorn’s career was largely spent working on forestry in the NW Himalaya, but this period resulted in only a few botanical drawings (and those by Western artists); for a time he acted as Inspector-General of Forests and he has been considered to be the founder of Forest Conservancy in India.
This exhibition is devoted to drawings from the periods 1845–7 and 1852–9; the title is taken from a book he published in London in 1861 and reflects the two major sources of Cleghorn’s botanical subjects.


‘Forests’ is taken here in a wide sense, to represent the wild habitats from which native species were drawn for Cleghorn. During his first two spells in the Madras Presidency he experienced a wide range of such habitats. The Western Ghats, even today, are thickly covered with evergreen forest, with an annual rainfall of up to 3000 mm largely during the summer monsoon. To the east of the hills is a plateau at around 900 metres – this is much drier (the annual rainfall of Mysore is 780 mm), but extensively used for agriculture, with scrub vegetation especially on the numerous rocky hills that dot its surface. Cleghorn got to know these habitats in the 1840s: from the ‘the undulating plateau of the Mysore, the primeval forests of Coorg and Malabar, where European furniture cracks and warps, and the Malabar ghauts, where in the south-west monsoon the lancet, in pocket, coats with rust’. During this time his anonymous ‘Marathi’ artist, doubtless recruited in Bangalore or Shimoga, drew native species and some of the common agricultural crops.
After returning to India from Britain in 1851, Cleghorn was based in Madras, which has a rather limited flora. He lived at St Thomé beside the sandy beach south of Fort St George, and investigated sand-binding plants for the Government. Close at hand were the mangroves of the Adyar River, the dry deciduous forest of Guindy Park (the Governor’s country house), and salt marshes to the north of Madras. Species of these habitats were drawn for him by Mooregasan and Rungasawmy. After becoming Conservator of Forests 1856, his tours took him to teak and sal forests of the Northern Circars of Andhra Pradesh, back to his first stamping grounds of North Canara and the Ghats, and also to the Malabar Coast of what is now Kerala and the high hills of Tamil Nadu – the Nilgiris and Anamallais. Some of the species of these habitats were drawn for him by Govindoo.


Cleghorn took a deep interest in the exotic plants that were then flooding into Indian gardens from all over the world, especially from South America and Australia. Some – such as timber trees, including acacias and eucalypts, and food plants such as Tacca and yams – were grown for potential economic benefit; others such as the jacaranda were purely ornamental.
From January 1853, with Colonel Francis Reid, Cleghorn was joint-secretary of the Madras Agri-Horticultural Society. This Society, founded in 1835, had a semi-official status in that the Madras Government provided their extensive grounds beside the cathedral at a nominal rent. The Society ran flower-shows, distributed seed, and awarded Government-funded prizes to encourage enterprise and quality. Cleghorn worked closely with two garden superintendents sent out from Edinburgh by John Hutton Balfour, Regius Keeper of RBGE – Andrew Thomas Jaffrey and his successor Robert N. Brown. Both apparently took to drink, but Jaffrey, who lamented the ‘anti-Horticultural climate’ of Madras, supervised the production of many of the botanical drawings and annotated them. Jaffrey published pamphlets on practical horticulture in Madras, and Brown a catalogue of the Society’s garden (which was better than Cleghorn’s own earlier list!). Cleghorn’s role in the Agri-Horticultural Society gave him access to a network of private gardens owned by senior Civil Servants in Madras and its hill station of Ootacamund (Ooty), some of whom appear to have imported exotics directly from British nurseries. After becoming Conservator in 1856 Cleghorn’s responsibilities came to include two governmental gardens – the Lalbagh at Bangalore, and the Government Gardens at Ooty, each overseen by a gardener sent from Kew – William New and W.G. McIvor respectively. Smaller numbers of drawings made in both these gardens are represented in the collection.
Currently accepted scientific name + authority (FAMILY)
Vernacular name (English, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit). Indian names taken from Botanical & Vernacular Names of S Indian Plants by M.R. Gurudeva (2001)
Notes. Where possible reference has been made to publications by Cleghorn and contemporary Madras authors
Contemporary annotations


Collection number
Note. Most works are executed in ink and opaque watercolour heightened with gum arabic.
1. Solanum lycopersicum L. (SOLANACEAE)

Tomato, love apple (Cleghorn cat.); goode hannu, kempu chappara badane (Kan); thakkaali (Tam)

The tomato is native to the highlands of western South America; it was cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico and taken to Europe by the Spanish. It had reached Indonesia by the time of Rumphius in the late seventeenth century, but the date of introduction of the tomato to India is something of a mystery. Although, around 1800, Roxburgh stated that ‘it is now very common in India ... generally cultivated over India, even by the natives for their own use’, in 1891 Sir George Watt could still write that ‘Natives’ were only ‘beginning to appreciate the fruit, but the plant is still chiefly cultivated for the European population’. John Graham in his Catalogue of Bombay Plants (1839) wrote that ‘the plant grows wild in many parts of the Deccan; particularly about old Forts. Probably it was introduced by the Musselmen, and has since been naturalized’.

At this time the fruit seems not to have been popular even with Europeans as Graham could write that it was ‘also called the Wolf Peach [the literal meaning of the Linnaean epithet]; in allusion to its very beautiful appearance, but worthless qualities as a fruit ... used as a garnish ... [and] by some in soups &c.’ In any case this drawing is probably one of the earlier representations of the plant made in India.

Annotations: 312. Solanaceae. Solanum Lycopersicum. ‘chappara badhane gidaa’ [in Kannada script]. Shemoga, 20 Nov ’46.

232 x 300 mm.

CN 312
2. Gossypium arboreum L. (MALVACEAE)

Tree cotton; kari hatthi (Kan); parutthi (Tam); kaarpaasa (Sans)

Cotton was of great interest in India in Cleghorn’s time, and experiments were taking place on the introduction of long-staple American varieties that could be exported for spinning and weaving in Manchester, so that India would have to purchase back woven cloth! Cleghorn’s boss, Captain Onslow, Superintendent of the Nuggur Division, experimented with the cultivation of American Cotton at Kadur, using seed sent from Coimbatore by Robert Wight, and Cleghorn reported on this to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh in July 1850. This drawing, however, shows one of the native, short-staple, Indian cottons. Although the flowers of most cotton species open yellow and turn wine-red with age, some, such as G. arboreum var. rubicundum Watt, are red from the time of opening and this drawing may show one of these. Such forms are not used commercially but are grown on a small scale in gardens in South India, and are used for making the sacred thread of the Brahmins.
Annotations: 394. Malvaceae. Gossypium arboreum, L. Shemoga, 3d May ’47.

232 x 299 mm.

CN 394
3. Bergera koenigii L. (RUTACEAE)

Curry leaf (Cleghorn cat.); karibaevu (Kan); kariveppilai, karivembu (Tam); kiadaryah (Sans)

A small tree that can reach five metres in height, its leaves (fresh or dried) form an essential ingredient of South Indian curries. It occurs throughout the Indian Subcontinent, and in Burma, Vietnam and southern China. It was described by Linnaeus from material sent to him from the Coromandel Coast by his pupil Johann Gerhard König, who went as a surgeon to the Danish colony of Tranquebar in 1768. König later became a professional naturalist, firstly to the Nawab of Arcot, and in 1778 to the Madras Government. His friend William Roxburgh (who was with König when he died in 1785) wrote of the leaves of this plant ‘They have a peculiar flavour, which I cannot describe; at first it is rather disagreeable, but most people soon become perfectly reconciled to, if not fond of it’. Roxburgh also recorded its medicinal use by ‘native physicians’ – the bark and root as stimulants, to cure ‘eruptions and the bites of poisonous animals’, and the green leaves, eaten raw, to cure dysentery. The hard wood has been used for agricultural implements. The generic name commemorates Johan Just von Berger (1723–91), physician to Christian VII of Denmark, and was suggested to Linnaeus by König probably as a sop to his former patron G.C. Oeder, with whom he had fallen out over the naming of a polygonaceous plant found by König in Iceland (perhaps the reason for his banishment to Tranquebar). Oeder had intended to name this plant in honour of Berger, but to his annoyance König had sent a specimen to Linnaeus who named it Koenigia islandica after his former pupil.
Annotations: 427. Aurantiaceae. Bergera Konigii L. ‘karepaaka gida’ [in Kannada script], Karbehoo Duk. [i.e., Dakhni], Kareepak, Duk., Kari vayroona sopoo (Bertie). Dried leaves sold in the Bazar, considered stomachic. Gardens, Shemoga, May ’47.

232 x 286 mm

CN 427
4. Cicer arietinum L. (LEGUMINOSAE)

Chickpea; channa, kadale (Kan); chunda kadalai (Tam); chanaka (Sans)

The chickpea, probably derived from a species from SE Turkey and cultivated for more than six thousand years, is the third most important pulse crop in the world – eaten whole (fresh or after drying), or ground into a flour. The note on this drawing refers to a paper on the meteorology, geology and natural history of the Southern Mahratta country (immediately to the north of the Nuggur District) by Alexander Turnbull Christie published in 1828/9 in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal. Christie listed chickpea as one of the crops sown at the end of the monsoon in September/October and eaten by horses as well as ‘natives’ – he wrote ‘An acid exudes from all parts of the plant, and is often collected in the following manner by the Ryuts [tenant farmers]. The dew which is deposited on the plant over night, is found in the morning to be strongly impregnated with acid. Long pieces of cloth are then dragged over the plants until they become quite wet with the acid liquor, which is then wrung out ... The liquor is of a brown colour, is slightly acid, contains a large quantity of saccharine matter, which gives it a sweet taste, and when allowed to evaporate very slowly, the acid is deposited in cubical crystals. It is sometimes used by the natives in their curries, instead of vinegar; and is also employed by the native doctors in medicine’.
Annotations: 57/723. Leguminosae. Viceae. Cicer arietinum Lin. Bengal gram. Chenna Hurburray Hind., Kuddlay Can. Grown on regur [black] soil, less in Nuggur than in Dharwar. The ryots here collect the exudations of a dewy morning as observed by Dr Christie in the S. Mahr[atta] Country. This is a pleasant acid, and forms an ingredient with opium in Cholera nostrums of Native Doctors’. 1. A flower, 2 & 3. do. dissected, 4. A legume, 5. Do. opened, 6. &c Seed and sections. Cultivated, Ajampur, 23d Dec ’45.

205 x 273 mm

CN 57
5. Tamarindus indica L. (LEGUMINOSAE)

Indian date, tamarind; hunase mara, unara mara (Kan); puli, pulia maram (Tam); imli (Hind); aamlika (Sans)

The tamarind, a large evergreen tree, is very widespread in the Old World Tropics and has been introduced and naturalised in the New World. It has been modified by man over a very long period, and is therefore considered to be a ‘cultigen’; its origin is uncertain, though was probably in Africa. In India it is commonly planted along roads and streets for the shade cast by its attractive, feathery foliage. Cleghorn described the tamarind as ‘a large and very handsome tree, of slow growth; the wood hard, durable, and fine-veined, but apt to be faulty in the centre ... used in the manufacture of oil and sugar mills ... largely planted around villages for its fruit and shade’. The characteristic, sour tasting, pulp that surrounds the seeds within the swollen pod is a key ingredient of two staples of classic South Indian vegetarian cuisine – sambar (a vegetable stew) and rasam (a thin soup), and, closer to home, of Worcestershire sauce. It is a member of the Subfamily Caesalpinioideae, with modified, more or less bilaterally symmetric flowers, with four calyx lobes, the petals (striped pink) and three fertile stamens each reduced to three in number.
Annotations: 92/884. Leguminosae. Caesalpineae. Tamarind: Indica L. ‘hunase mara’ [in Kannada script]. Hurryhur, 16 Jany ’46.

231 x 294 mm.

CN 92
6. Punica granatum L. (LYTHRACEAE)

Pomegranate; daalimbe (Kan); maadaalai chettu (Tam); daadimaa (Sans).

There are only two species in the genus Punica, a name taken from the Latin ‘Punicum malum’ meaning ‘Carthaginian apple’. The one shown here is a cultigen of very ancient origin, with a wild progenitor perhaps from NE Turkey; the other is endemic to the island of Sokotra. In South India this small tree is grown largely for its attractive orange flowers, as the fruits scarcely reach eatable size. Large, edible fruit in Cleghorn’s time came from Persia and Afghanistan; the part eaten is the translucent pulp around the seeds, which can be turned into juice (from which grenadine is made), or dried and made into sherbet. The outline of the fruit, crowned with a persistent calyx, has been much used as a motif in sculpture and the applied arts. The plant has many uses: for example, the flowers and bark for dyeing, and the hard rind of the fruit for tanning. It also has medicinal uses Robert Brown (1866) in his catalogue of the Madras Agri-Horticultural Society Garden recorded ‘The bark of the root is a remedy for tape-worm given in decoctions. It sickens the stomach, but seldom fails to destroy the worm’.
Annotations: 91/1010. Myrtaceae. Granateae. Punica Granatum L. Hurryhur, 15 Jany ’46.

231 x 293 mm.

CN 91
7. Capparis cleghornii Dunn (CAPPARIDACEAE)

Cleghorn’s caper

When Cleghorn collected this plant on the 1500 metre hill of Ballalrayan Durga in 1846 he identified it as Capparis roxburghii, but in 1916 the Kew botanist S.T. Dunn realised that it was a distinct species and named it after Cleghorn. Dunn based his description on a Cleghorn herbarium specimen at Kew, with the number ‘D176’. Although this drawing has been trimmed, from its position in the sequence it can be identified as drawing number 176 of the Mysore series, and therefore the one referred to on the specimen – it is therefore part of the type material of the species, and gives a far better impression of its appearance than the rather poor specimen.

It is a thorny, woody climber that can reach a height of two metres, and is restricted to a small area of evergreen forest in the Western Ghats of Karnataka between the altitudes of 700 and 1400 metres. It is related to the European caper (Capparis spinosa), the pickled flower buds of which are a well-known condiment. This species, like its European relation, also has edible fruits, as noted on the drawing.

Cleghorn’s interests were not primarily taxonomic, and he was not a prolific collector of herbarium specimens, so very few plants bear his name – only two species besides this one, and a single genus (named by his friend Robert Wight).
Annotations: Capparidaceae. Capparis Roxburghii. Fruit edible. Balalroydroog, 13 April 1846.

226 x 280 mm

CN 176
8. Osbeckia stellata Ker Gawler var. hispidissima (Wight) C. Hansen (MELASTOMATACEAE)
While on his first home leave (from 1848 to 1851) Cleghorn regularly attended meetings of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, and on 12 July 1849 exhibited his collection of nearly 500 drawings made in Mysore, of which this is one. He lent this drawing to Robert Wight in Madras, who got his artist Govindoo to make a copy of it. In 1850 Wight published it as a new species Osbeckia hispidissima, with a lithograph based on Govindoo’s version of the drawing (see Display Case IV). Cleghorn must have been proud of this, as at a meeting of the BSE on 13 February 1851 he exhibited Wight’s recent publication and the herbarium specimen on which this drawing was based. Osbeckia stellata is a very variable shrub to 3.6 metres, widespread in the Indian Subcontinent, and through Burma and Indo-China to China and Taiwan. It was divided into a series of varieties by the Danish botanist Carlo Hansen, though as this one, characterised by its spreading, bristly hairs, is restricted to SW India, it might better have been treated as a subspecies.
Annotations: 46. Melastomaceae. Osbeckia hispidissima. fig 1/3 reduced. Berries dye black. Wostara, 25–11–’45.

205 x 268 mm.

CN 46
9. Cyphostemma setosum (Roxburgh) Alston (VITACEAE)

Hairy wild vine (Cleghorn cat.); huli mangaravalli (Kan); pulinaralai (Tam).

An herbaceous scrambler, growing from a tuberous, woody rootstock; all parts are covered in glandular, bristly hairs (hence the specific epithet); the trifoliate leaves are succulent, and the berries red when ripe. The genus is mainly African, but this species occurs both in SE Africa (Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique), and southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lanka, where it occurs in coastal habitats and dry plains, producing its shoots and flowers in the rainy season.

The whole plant is exceedingly bitter and William Roxburgh, when first describing it (in the genus Cissus), from the Coromandel Coast near Rajahmundry, remarked, drily, that ‘I unfortunately tasted both the roots and berries’. Roxburgh also recorded its medicinal use ‘the leaves toasted and oiled, are applied to indolent tumours to bring them to suppuration’.

Annotations: 448/419. Vitaceae. Vitis setosa, Wall. Cuddoor, 29 Jun ’47.

234 x 293 mm

CN 448
10. Momordica charantia L. (CUCURBITACEAE)

Bitter gourd; haagala kaayi (Kan); pavakkaayi (Tam); kaaravella (Sans)

Like most members of the family Cucurbitaceae (including melons, cucumbers and marrows) the flowers are unisexual, borne on the same (monoecious) or different (dioecious) plants. The plant depicted here appears to have only male flowers, which are shown in detail at top left; at bottom left is shown the characteristic warty fruit at an early stage of development. The plant is a scrambling annual, widely grown (on trellises) in India, and elsewhere in the tropics, for its edible fruit and for medicinal purposes. Heber Drury in his Useful Plants of India (1859) wrote: ‘the fruit is bitter but wholesome, and is eaten in curries by the natives. It requires, however, to be steeped in salt water before being cooked’, and, on its medicinal uses, ‘The whole plant mixed with cinnamon, long-pepper, rice, and marothy oils (Hydnocarpus inebrians), is administered in the form of an ointment in psora, scabies and other cutaneous diseases ... the whole plant pulverised is a good specific externally applied in leprosy and malignant ulcers’, which gives rise to one of its other vernacular names – the leprosy gourd. Recently the plant has been used in the treatment of diabetes.
Annotations: 222/1086. Cucurbitaceae. Momordica charantia L. ‘haagala kaayi balli’ [in Kannada script]. 1– Calyx cut open, 2– Male flower, petal detached, 3–Young fruit. Shemoga, 15 July ’46.

234 x 291 mm.

CN 222
11. Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott (ARACEAE)

Taro; kesave dhantu (Kan); shana dumpa, seppan kizhangu (Tam); arvi (Hin); aalooki (Sans).

Taro is one of the most ancient crops and has been cultivated in tropical Asia for at least 10,000 years: it is possible that rice was first known as a weed of taro terraces. The wild progenitor possibly originated in India, but the plant has been spread pantropically, and was taken to the New World probably (as later with breadfruit) as a food for African slaves. It was cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean in Classical times, and under his large genus Arum Linnaeus distinguished the New and Old World forms as A. esculentum and A. colocasia respectively. The German botanist Heinrich Schott carved up the genus Arum in 1832, retaining Linnaeus’ two species (now regarded as synonymous), placing them in the genus Colocasia (a Greek name originally applying to the sacred lotus).

As noted on the drawing the starchy tubers are the main reason for its cultivation, but the young leaves are also eaten. The drawing shows the typical structure of the aroid inflorescence, with a spike (‘spadix’) of minute flowers, enclosed in a waxy, cream-coloured bract or ‘spathe’. On the spadix the broad lower section bears female flowers, above this is a narrower cylindrical male section, with a terminal, sterile, pointed ‘appendix’.

Annotations: 451. Araceae. Arum Colocasia, Colocasia Indica. Kessaga (Can.), Kaysevea gidda (Bertie), ‘kesina dhantu’ [in Kannada script]. Cultivated for the nutritious matter obtained from the Tubers. Leaves & underground stem eaten. Jungles & introduced into Gardens. Cuddoor, 15 July ’47.

234 x 292 mm

CN 451

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