Wardian Case

Contributed by indianajames

The origin of the Wardian case was a scientific experiment with philanthropic aims. It was soon used commercially as a means of transporting living plants from the far corners of the globe to satisfy the demands of wealthy landowners and to enhance the collections of Botanical Societies.

In 1829 Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward's medical practice was near St Katherine's Dock. A keen naturalist, he grew plants in his back yard but the air was heavily polluted from the factory chimneys, the sulphuric gases and acid rain meant many plants hard to establish. Finding a fern and a grass seedling growing in an air-tight jar influenced Dr Ward to have a glass case made to grow some more ferns in.

George Loddiges, who's nursery supplied Ward with plants helped further the experiment by sending his consignments by ship and found that where as only one in twenty plants survived in Ward's case nineteen out of twenty survived.

The Wardian Case carried medicinal, economic and ornamental plants all over the world, helping feed communities, trade to flourish and to further British Imperial ambitions. There is no park in London without a plant that travelled in Dr Ward's Case.

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