National Geographic : 1996 Nov
breadfruit to the West Indies, Chinese tea to India, cochineal (for red dye) from Mexico to England-it was to promote British prospects, not necessarily local needs. SIRJOSEPH BANKS, FRS, died full of years and honor and gout on June 19, 1820, age 77. We don't know what he would have considered the monument closest to his heart. The gar dens at Kew? The plaque that bears his likeness at Botany Bay? The 75 species of banksias? Or maybe the memorial in Tomb stone, Arizona, of all places, where a little patch of England grows in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Here, in the backyard of the Rose Tree Museum, the world's big gest rose tree rises from a thick twisted trunk, its branches curling through 8,660 square feet of overhead trellis. The tangle of leaves splits the sun's rays into hundreds of bright fingers that speckle the ground in a calico pattern of light and shade. The tree was planted in 1885 from cuttings taken from a species introduced to England in 1807. One of Banks's far-flung collectors had found the previously unknown rose on the China coast and sent it to Kew Gardens. It was named Rosa banksiae in honor of Banks's wife and soon became commonly known as the Lady Banks's rose. From Kew it spread over much of the globe, until today it is one of the hardiest and most popular roses in cultivation. Looking down on the spreading limbs from a viewing platform the inn's proprietors have built, I am struck by how precisely this rose tree exemplifies a man whom Linnaeus called "the immortal Banks." Here is this most spectac ular descendant of Rosa banksiae, its tendrils creeping relentlessly into every part of the trellis, even as Banks insinuated himself into virtually every corner of the scientific world and several excellent crannies of the political and commercial worlds as well. I think Linnaeus was right. If the rose tree looks as if it might live forever, so does the intellectual legacy of Sir Joseph Banks. Q PINEAPPLE,ANANAS COMOSUS, TROPICALAMERICA;NATURAL HISTORYMUSEUM he dream of a palm house outlived Banks, who died in 1820 before its cre ation. Now a part of Kew Gardens, the greenhouse harborsan orderly riot of plants, including a hibiscus calledLae orange. Banks's legacy lingers in the per fume of a Georgian-style flower arrangementmade of plants introducedat Kew or their cultivars. Banks did live to achieve another goal: to grow a pineapple for his Christmas table.