The initial journey of a Wardian case was a test. In 1829, naturalist and surgeon Nathanial Bagshaw Ward accidentally discovered that plants kept in airtight glass containers could endure for long periods of time without watering. The following year, he was inspired to test his invention by transferring two cases that were filled with a variety of mosses, ferns and grasses between London to Sydney the longest voyage by sea called.
On November 23, 1833, Ward received a letter from Charles Mallard, the ship captain in charge of both cases, informing the captain: “your experiment for the preservation of plants alive … has fully succeeded”.
The next task was returning. In February 1834, the cases were planted with plants from Australia. Eight months afterward whe, when Ward and his companion George Loddiges, a well-known nurseryman, boarded the boat in London, they examined the healthy coral fronds plant ( Gleichenia microphylla) that was one of the rare Australian plant that had never been seen before in Britain. The experiment was a huge success.
The Wardian case, as it was later known, revolutionized living plants’ movement across the globe. The case was shaped like a miniature greenhouse made out of wood and featured glass roofs with glass inserts. In these cases, plants had a higher chance of survival during the process of moving.
Cases of Wardian filled with cycads of Rockhampton, Queensland, arrive at the Missouri Botanic Garden after an extended journey through London as well as New York, c.1920. Missouri Botanic Gardens.
Many times, it is thought to be an aspect of the gardening trends of the Victorian period; however, the Wardian Case was, in reality, a renowned plant mover with the highest efficiency. A few of the main functions of the case are the transportation of tea from China to India to build the foundations for the Assam and Darjeeling tea districts, aiding in the movement of the rubber out of Brazil and then transporting it via London to Asia and becoming the biggest producer of the plant; and transporting bananas for many years across and from the Pacific Islands, Central America and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Tea plantations in India The cases transferred teas away from China and China to India to build the foundations for The Assam as well as Darjeeling district of tea. Wikimedia Commons
The Wardian case was able to resolve a significant problem in the transportation of living plant species; however, it also had significant impacts on the environment between the 19th and 20th centuries.
Botanists and horticulturists utilized this box for more than 100 years to transport thousands of plants across the globe, no matter if they were located in England or in the United States, France or India, Russia or Japan. The Australian tale that is this Wardian case is a crucial and largely untold tale.
Wardian cases line the pathways within The Adelaide Botanic Garden. Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
Each state has a unique connection to the other. New South Wales received the first plants from Ward himself. Ward’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has sent its first Wardian cases, filled with ornamental plants and fruit trees in Western Australia. In fact, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens even had the path that was lined Wardian cases. Tasmania was a key player in the fern trade of the 19th century. Also, Queensland made use of an Wardian case to carry the cactoblastis moth, which helped deal with the problem of prickly pear.
Victoria’s involvement in the investigation isn’t surprising. It’s a connection of ornamental plants and gardeners. At present, Victoria is home to the country’s largest nursery business, as per some reports, which is worth over $1.6 billion each year and employs more than 11,000 workers. The current industry cannot separate from the world tradition of bringing wonderful and valuable plants to Australia over 100 years in the past. Two instances illustrate the flourishing early trade of Victoria.
Preparing to deliver live plants to Wardian cases to the Jardin of Agronomie Tropicale in Paris, c.1910. Image courtesy Bibliotheque historique du CIRAD.
In 1855, Charles Mackay’s well-known poem The Primrose was about the arrival at Melbourne of a rare and beautiful flower, as well as the procession that took it from the docks to an exhibit place inside the city. The poem reads, in part: “She has cross’d the stormy ocean/A pilgrim, to our shore/As fresh as Youth and Beauty/And dear as days of yore.”
According to some reports, over 3000 people gathered to witness the flower-adorned traveler. Police were brought in to ensure order in Melbourne’s streets following the parade. The news of the celebration was reported in a number of international papers, like Harper’s Weekly and the Illustrated London News.
The British artist Edward Hopley painted the scene, A Primrose from England (1855), to mark both the moment of the plant’s arrival in Melbourne and, in the typical Hopley style the social scene of the time.
The process of transporting the plant was in the minds of either artist. Primroses that Mackay sang so beautifully and Hopley, in a stunning way, brought to life came to Melbourne with a specially-designed Wardian case. The primrose would not have made it to Melbourne without the technology to move plants. This was not only the primrose. After 1858, the Wardian case was a major factor. It was clear that the Wardian case played an important influence on the appearance and variety of the Victorian landscape.