During the 19th century, explorers collected plants and took them by ship to England.
Lady Amherst in the 1820s, the wife of the then Governor General of India, brought home the beautiful white Clematis montana. However, it was a problem to keep plants healthy enough to survive a long sea voyage. Fresh water was scarce aboard ships, too.
In the early 19th century, Dr. Nathanial Ward, a naturalist and physician living in London, buried a chrysalis in earth and covered its flat container with a glass jar. Soon he found that seeds had germinated under the glass. The moisture that evaporated from the earth and vegetation that grew under the glass condensed on the inside of the glass surfaces of the jar. Drops of water ran down the sides of the glass and moistened the earth, and thus, the plants inside grew and thrived. This finding resulted in the Royal Horticultural Society experimenting to find out whether glass travelling boxes could be used to transport and protect plants from the sea air and adverse temperatures during long sea voyages.
A renowned plant hunter, Robert Fortune, was chosen to test the new Wardian cases, and in February 1843, he embarked for Hong Kong on the vessel Emu with many plants in Wardian glass boxes. All arrived with their plants in excellent condition in China. He arrived back in England in 1846 with 18 glass cases filled with beautiful plants from China.
This is Moya Andrews, and today we focused on Wardian boxes.