A sightseeing pamphlet funded by Transport for London has claimed that the capital’s gardens and green spaces are filled with colourful colonial legacies and that many terms in botany, like “exotic”, are insulting and offensive.
The ‘Art on the Underground’ pamphlet guides visitors around the UK’s capital city through green spaces in Brixton and South London, focusing on the “colonial connotations” of British gardens and horticulture.
The downloaded guide says it “addresses the legacies of the British empire” and looks “at gardens as places to consider injustice, oppression and colonial legacy” – rather than somewhere to simply enjoy plants and nature.
According to the pamphlet, many common plants found in the UK have “colonial roots” and reflect “racial slurs.” For example, the sightseeing map states that Wisteria’s problematic history is related to John Reeve, an East India Company tea inspector, who brought the plant to England in 1812.
The East India Company “had its own armies to conquer and control territories in South and East Asia and plant collectors used East India Company ships and networks,” the pamphlet notes, adding that the slave-owning firm and its members were at the centre of importing seeds to Britain.