Gardens and Parks of London
South London Botanical Institute - Hidden Gem of Tulse Hill

Another fantastic place one shouldn’t miss when visiting London is the South London Botanical Institute SLBI.
The Institute is considerably smaller when compared to the more popular Royal Kew Gardens London, but should be a noteworthy attraction one should not miss visiting since it houses a fairly extensive botanical library about endemic regional flora and a herbarium which houses a vast collection of pressed and dried plants collected from the breadth of the British Isles and Europe.

It was founded in 1910 by Allan Octavian Hume to bring the study of plants to the people of South London. Hume had been a high-ranking civil servant in India in the late 1800s where he had been the subcontinent's leading ornithologist. An outspoken individual he was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress that worked towards self-determination for India. Upon his return to England he turned his attention to botany and bought the Victorian house at 323 Norwood Road for this purpose. Today, the SLBI still provides facilities for discovering botany, ecology, horticulture, plant conservation and related arts.

Our members include a variety of people interested in plants - amateur and professional botanists, gardeners, artists, photographers, writers and others.  Many distinguished botanists have been associated with the Institute, notably W. R. Sherrin, Dr. John Ramsbottom, J. E. Lousley and Dr Cecil Prime.

Through talks, workshops and guided walks members will in the coming months discover: native British orchids, the influence of Joseph Banks, 16th century Italian botanic gardens and Brockwell Park.  In March, as part of Science Week, a "Plants are Cool" drop in event has been arranged for people of all ages.

Our adult courses cover aspects of botany, giving students identification skills.  Upcoming subjects include one-day events such as an "Introduction to Conifers", "Mosses at West Norwood Cemetery" and "Conifer Identification".  At the end of April a six week course will look at "Wetland Plants" - their identification, adaptation and ecology.  This will include trips to local ponds and lakes.

A lovely botanic garden is maintained for members.  Volunteers are welcome and the annual seed swap allows members to grow rare plants at home.  Our popular Spring Plant Sale of plants are grown locally by members is on 7th May.
The Institute supports an extensive botanical library specialising in regional flora, a historic, herbarium and two lecture rooms. The herbarium houses thousands of pressed and dried plants collected from the British Isles and from across Europe during the late 1800s.
These resources are available every Thursday from 10am to 3pm.

The South London Botanical Institute SLBI can be found at 323 Norwood Road, just north of the Tulse Hill one-way system
By Petra Broddle First published in Herne Hill Society Newsletter for Spring 2008