(This is the online version of the paper booklet available at ticket offices in the Garden. Download the map from the booklet.)
How do honeybees share wildflower landscapes with wild bees? Can we develop self-fertilising cereal plants? When did the precursors to modern-day crop plants spread from the areas in which they were domesticated? How did every living thing alive today evolve from a common ancestor, billions of years ago?
Researchers from across the University of Cambridge use plants in a hugely diverse range of projects, aiming to answer all these questions and more. This trail takes you on a tour through the Botanic Garden, introducing you to some of the amazing people who do research in Cambridge.
Committed to excellence in research
For over 800 years, the University of Cambridge has been at the forefront of learning. Today, over 10,000 people work here as PhD students or postdoctoral researchers, seeking to answer fundamental questions about the world in which we live, make significant contributions to global innovation, and help formulate policy.
Our academic community is split over six Schools: Arts & Humanities, Humanities & Social Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Technology, Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences. We also have a number of Strategic Research Initiatives and Interdisciplinary Research Centres which tackle challenges that can only be addressed by multi-disciplinary teams of researchers.
Within the Schools you will find Faculties and Departments and, within those, individuals pursuing their own strands of enquiry. The boards featured on this trail introduce you to 14 of these individuals, all researchers at Cambridge, with work spanning plant and crop science, zoology, culture, archaeology, architecture, ecology and more. Research takes patience and tenacity, and progress is often hard-won. These amazing people have something in common: a fascination for plants, and a drive to answer questions about the world around us today.
Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Cambridge
The Botanic Garden: a living laboratory
Ever since its foundation, Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been a focus and stimulus for science. Our living and printed collections, archives, herbarium, growth facilities and horticultural expertise are provided for any member of the University, whatever their department, to use in their scholarship.
Once devoted to the fields of classification and economic botany, the expertise and reach of botanic gardens now extends to numerous branches of research, both within plant sciences and more broadly. Our collections are used to provide essential material for genetic studies, and are used to screen for high-value chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds.
Botanic gardens serve as valuable sources of ecological data including indicators of climate change, plant physiology and plant-animal interactions. Horticultural expertise is employed to grow unusual plants for research, to manage the bulk cultivation of model organisms, and for the cultivation and breeding of novel and experimental crop species.
Our living collections also serve as natural laboratories and have provided classic experimental models in the study of the genetics underpinning hybridisation and plant domestication. In the face of the current extinction crisis, our gardens are increasingly involved in conservation research and the practice of ecological and species restoration.
Professor Beverley Glover
Director, Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Want to learn more?
The interpretation boards around the Botanic Garden, our free trails for adults (available at the ticket offices and online) and our website all introduce you to the plants in our collection and some of the stories behind them.
Throughout the year, events in the Garden and throughout Cambridge bring you closer to our research. These include the Festival of Plants, held in the Garden around the start of June, Science on Sundays, a programme of talks from plant scientists, aimed at anyone interested in plants, and the Cambridge Festival – an eclectic mix of science, arts, humanities and social sciences in a two-week programme of events and activities for all the family.
We also offer a wide variety of courses for adults, ranging from plant identification, horticulture and garden design through to photography, watercolour and printing using foliage.