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John Tradescant the younger introduced the pelargonium to England in the 1600's.......

(December 24, 2016)

John Tradescant the younger
1608 - 1662

Portrait attributed to
Thomas de Critz


  • John Tradescant the elder, father – 1570’s to 1638 (died aged 68)
    Gardener, Naturalist, Collector and Traveller
  • John Tradescant the younger, son – 1608 to 1662 (died aged 54)
    Botanist and Gardener


Much has been written about the ‘two Johns’ and it is extremely interesting and further reading is recommended to discover just how much we owe them with regards to the plants that we all enjoy in our gardens today. At the bottom of this very condensed article I have provided some useful links and source information if you would like to get to know the ‘two Johns’ a little better.

John the elder and John the younger are well known and respected within UK gardening history as both are attributed with having introduced many plants to our Isles that we still enjoy in our gardens today.  Both Tradescants were employed as gardeners (between 1570 to 1662) in various large houses in the South of England, including Royal gardens.  It is this connection with the English nobility that afforded them both the opportunity to travel overseas, search out unknown plant specimens and bring these back to our shores.  It is interesting to note that the Tradescants were both of English birth but possibly having a past family connection originating from France.  Neither John Tradescant had connections with the Netherlands as is often mentioned.

John the elder mainly amassed his ‘overseas’ plant collection via friends’ donations and there is divided thought on how often he travelled and returned to England with new plant introductions; it is recorded that he did indeed travel to other countries on many occasions although little is known of his finds.

John Tradescant the younger is accredited with introducing the pelargonium genera to the UK; although for a good couple of hundred years the different types of pelargoniums were all referred to as geraniums and it is this original naming that created the continuing mix up.  He is also known to have brought back many trees, shrubs and perennials that we still enjoy today.

John the younger travelled in person to Virginia at various points between 1628 and 1637, with possibly a further two trips prior to the year of his death of 1662.  However, with regards to the Pelargonium, it was as the representative of Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles the First) that he was sent out as the very first pioneer of what we now know today as PAGS (The Pelargonium and Geranium Society).  It is considered that John the younger returned to England with the pelargonium, possibly the Species P.triste, during the 1620’s as a fleet had been dispatched to Barbary to tackle the Algerians in 1620.  It is recorded that John the younger was a voyager on one of the ships and represented Queen Henrietta Maria.  Note:  pelargoniums are mainly native to South Africa and for John Tradescant to return with one from the Algiers it is considered that this had been collected from the Cape area by an unknown traveller at some time between the 1490's and 1620. 

On his death in 1662 John the younger was buried alongside his father at the churchyard of St Mary at Lambeth and it is here that you will find the Museum of Garden History. 


Source of Information:

Prudence Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen, 1984. ISBN 0-7206-0612-8

Arthur MacGregor (Editor), Tradescant's Rarities: Essays on the Foundation of the Ashmolean Museum, 1983. ISBN 0-19-813405-3

Jennifer Potter, Strange Blooms: The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants, 2006. ISBN 1-84354-334-6

Henry J Wood, Pelargoniums, 1987. ISBN 9507210 3 4

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