By Andrey A Pritsepov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, and Simon Milne, Regius Keeper, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The key commonality between plant science and diplomacy it is the sensitivity towards passing seasons. Both must learn to adapt to withstand good times and bad.
In an unsettled period for world politics and diplomacy some respite is sorely needed. When diplomatic relations are strained, innovative and creative approaches to building bridges between nations is even more in demand.
Plants recognise no boundaries and, as such, botanists are frequently granted leeway in their pursuit of plant science. Against this backdrop the Moscow Main Botanic Garden and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) have established a new partnership in conservation and public engagement. Included in this is an exchange of native plants between the two to bring a piece of Russia to Scottish soil and vice-versa.
RBGE is passionate about its role in delivering international and national plant science and conservation. Much is still to be learned. Knowledge already acquired is being used extensively by medics and scientists, and now by diplomats. In hospitals our plant dependence is evidenced from knowing cancer patients have been treated with an extract of taxus – the yew tree – while atropine, from deadly nightshade, is administered before operations and a compound from daffodil bulbs is dispensed for Alzheimer’s disease. More routinely, our days are supplemented through direct contact with products from plant species, from cotton sheets to wooden floors, food stuffs and beverages of all kinds.