Forfar botanists commemorated by plants and in stone

Continuing the novel things I found while meandering in Angus a wee while back, we came across an amazing garden while is a tribute to a number of ‘lads o’pairts’ from the Forfar are who went on to make significant individual contributions to botany and botanical taxonomy and biogeography.


Plaque with information about the Forfar botanists and the plant groups and bioregions they worked in.

The garden consists of a large selection of plants arranged to reflect the areas of specialization of each person within a fantastic area of paving slabs and drystane walling.

Most impressive was the sculpture work with the names of the Forfar Botanists inscribed. The two spherical sculptures are representations of the two main types of plant reproductive structure; a spore and a seed. The sculptures are reminiscent of carved stone balls of uncertain origins and purpose found across Scotland. These carved artefacts are an intriguing part of the record of the British Isles, ranging in age from the Neolithic to Iron Age and are part of a wider group of objects called petrospheres. In the fossil record there are instances of these spores and seeds being ‘set in stone’, so this allusion is another facet of the sculptures.


Drystane Wall with sculptures of a spore [left] and a seed [right] in the Botanists’ Garden

D. F. Wilson’s diary of work on the garden, especially the carving of the balls and the intricate work of carving the names of the Drummonds and Dons is an enthralling account of all the aspects of the stonework. To find out more about these individuals and their work, a readable and well-illustrated website has been built by The Friends of the Forfar Botanists.

The Angus Glens offered this group of botanists an accessible area to study a wide range of plants. The diversity of plant types and communities is due to a combination of unusual soils and a relict alpine-arctic floral assemblage, which are still a major site of study today. I’ve had the good fortune to be shown some of the highlights of the botany by my old flatmate and principal botanist at Botanaeco, Dr Andy McMullen. Corrie Fee and the wider Caenlochan Special Area of Conservation are covered by a number of designations for their geology, geomorphology and biodiversity assets and are well-served by the Ranger Centre in Glen Doll, which also has a carpark (£2 charge) with very, very tame chaffinches.


I am a palaeobiologist in my early 40's carrying out research work. I am based in Scotland.

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Posted in Mountains, Scotland, Trips

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