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Donal McCracken – A talk on The St Helena Botanic Gardens

Donal McCracken
A talk with Donal McCracken, senior professor

The St Helena Heritage Society is hosting an illustrated talk on ‘The St Helena Botanic Gardens: The lost jewel in the South Atlantic’.

Dating back to 1787, the St Helena Botanic Gardens was the earliest southern-hemisphere botanic gardens to be founded within what became the British Commonwealth. In its heyday, the gardens was one of the world’s most active botanic gardens outside Europe.

It was a resting station for plants being transported across the globe. It was also used as an agricultural research station in the painful quest to find a crop species to assist the island’s struggling economy.

The great botanists of the age came to visit, including Burchell, Darwin and Hooker. It served as the base for the scientific discovery of the island’s indigenous endemic flora. But the gardens declined and was eventually destroyed.

The talk will be delivered by Irish-born Donal McCracken, senior professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban and founding chair of the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust. He is a botanical historian with four books to his name on botanic gardens history. He is currently writing the history of the St Helena Botanic Gardens, which he says should be re-established as a heritage project.