In 1849 an influential group of subscribers came together under the care of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) to sponsor a plant-hunter, John Jeffrey, and support his ambitious expedition to North America in 1850. But after his mysterious disappearance, just four years later, he was soon all-but-forgotten. I’m delighted to announce that the little-known exploits of John Jeffrey will be celebrated in public for the first time, fittingly in a new collaboration with RBGE.

John Jeffrey is the protagonist in my latest book GREEN GOLD; a biographical fiction novel. I spent two years researching the archives of RBGE, reading letters, plant labels and a minute book of the expedition’s co-ordinating body the Oregon Botanical Association.  Jeffrey was contracted to write detailed journals recording his explorations, but they were never discovered. In GREEN GOLD I merge fact with fiction, in the form of his journals which I have imagined.

Jeffrey sent seeds from 119 plant species home to Edinburgh, and more than 400 specimens were received by the Herbarium at RBGE, including seeds and/or specimens of 35 conifer species. Despite this, Jeffrey never earned the recognition of other plant collectors such as David Douglas or William Lobb.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – click to read story on the RGBE blog

Together with RBGE I am planning a programme of activities to coincide with the publication of GREEN GOLD, including:

  • A book launch at RBGE in early 2018 (date dependent on how quickly the book gets funded).
  • We will offer a guided walk, myself together with a senior member of staff from RGBE.
  • We are organising an exhibition at the John Hope Gateway where we will display archival materials, alongside herbarium specimens.

Some pledge levels (‘Prospector’ and above) offer personal invitations to these events – read more at

Finally, I am discussing an exciting collaboration with a botanical artist linked to RBGE. I will write more news on this soon.

GREEN GOLD will be published by UNBOUND, a specialist crowd-funding publisher, if fundraising is successful. Please consider pledging your support. Find out more at:

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