Wisteria hysteria! The beloved plant is dubbed a symbol of oppression and colonial conquest


Wisteria hysteria! The beloved plant is dubbed a symbol of oppression and colonial conquest by the Transport for London-funded tour guide

  • Guide says “exotic” is an “outdated and offensive” term to classify plants
  • The horticultural terms “native” and “invasive” are also considered offensive.
  • The wisteria was “brought to England by an East India Company tea inspector”










Wisteria has “colonial roots” and classifying plants as “exotic” has “colonial overtones,” according to a travel guide funded by Transport for London.

The guide through the green spaces of Brixton, south London, says ‘exotic’ is an ‘old-fashioned and offensive’ term to classify plants as it describes the ‘mysteriously alien’.

Brixton’s botanical map, which is part of the “Art on the Underground” series, also suggests that the horticultural terms “native” and “invasive” are offensive because they imply “stories of conquest.”

The guide encourages visitors to see “the gardens as places to consider injustice, oppression and colonial heritage”.

The authors explain that the “colonial legacies” are perpetuated in horticulture through language and it is therefore important to question the influence of “colonial language” on our plant names. They add that these consequences of colonialism “still affect who owns a garden today and who does not”.

Among the problematic plants is wisteria, as it was “brought to England in 1812 by John Reeve, an East India Company tea inspector.”

Wisteria has ‘colonial roots’ and classifying plants as ‘exotic’ has ‘colonial overtones’, according to travel guide funded by Transport for London

Brixton's botanical map, part of the

Brixton’s botanical map, part of the “Art on the Underground” series, also suggests that the horticultural terms “native” and “invasive” are offensive.

The pamphlet explains that “the East India Company had its own armies to conquer and control territories in South and East Asia, and that plant collectors used the East India Company’s ships and network.”

The plane trees are also reported as problematic, as those in the capital are hybrids of the eastern plane and “eastern” is a “pejorative” term to describe “people or objects originating in or characteristic of Asia”.

On the children’s journey, the authors of the map asked the questions: “Why would it be interesting to know more about plants from the point of view of other countries?” and ‘Do you think it was helpful to be given new names?’.

Historian Dr Zareer Masani told the Daily Telegraph: “The fact that the current craze to blame colonialism or slavery for almost everything has now reached our factories is a measure of the absurdity of things.

“The obsession with this kind of political correctness has spread from our statues and road names to the very food we eat, the clothes we wear, the language we use and now the flowers we enjoy.

“One can only guess what new area of ​​our life remains for our new Puritans to attack next. “

In March, Kew Gardens pledged to show visitors how the plants on display played a role in British colonialism and the slave trade.

London’s famous Botanic Gardens have said they will switch display boards to plants such as sugar cane – previously harvested by slaves – to showcase their ‘imperial heritage’.


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