John Rose's (1619-1677) plate

John Rose's (1619-1677) plate

This plate is a miscellany of plants that have been omitted from earlier plates or have fruits that Morison could not fit into his classification system. For example, purslane (bottom row, centre), a popular vegetable in the seventeenth century, has a dry capsule that splits around the middle, the top falls off and the seeds are dispersed.

This plate is sponsored by John Rose (1619-1677), the Royal Gardener to Charles II (1630-1685), who appeared in the seventeenth-century oil painting Pineapple to King Charles II. However, he could not have grown this fruit – the technology for successful cultivation was not available in seventeenth-century Britain. The pineapple, a great horticultural novelty, has attracted European attention since the discovery of the Americas. However, its successful cultivation outside the tropics requires careful control of temperature inside glasshouses.

Oxford Physic Garden successfully grew a pineapple in 1744. Ten years earlier, the Garden erected conservatories that were equal to the challenge but the costs of running them were vast; between 1735 and 1754, approximately 40 per cent of the Garden’s annual recurrent budget was spent on the conservatories.

From this plate it is clear a gap was left when the plate was originally engraved; Rose’s name and arms were added later.