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Painting gifted to town museum in recognition of Sir Joseph Hooker

PUBLISHED: 12:58 05 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:15 05 March 2018

Representatives of the artist, Halesworth Museum and Hooker House at the unveiling of the commemorative painting

Representatives of the artist, Halesworth Museum and Hooker House at the unveiling of the commemorative painting

A painting depicting one of Joseph Hooker’s discoveries has been gifted to Halesworth to cement the link between the town and Kew Gardens.

The watercolour is of the Himalayan Sweet Box, a green leafed shrub with tiny white flowers, which was discovered by Hooker in the 1840s and given the Latin name Sarcococca hookeraina in his honour.

The painting was featured in last year’s exhibition of floral art mounted by the Halesworth Gallery as part of the Hooker celebrations.

It will be held by the Halesworth and District Museum which will look after the piece on behalf of the people of the town.

The piece was painted by by botanical artist Elaine Searle, who has just announced her retirement as course director of the Chelsea School of Botanic Art, has been exhibited worldwide and received numerous awards.

One of her works was chosen by the Prince of Wales to be included in his catalogue of plants at Highgrove House.

The gift follows the town’s celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Hooker, who was born in the house now known as Hooker House in the town.

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was a plant collector and director of Kew Gardens and a close friend of the evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin and supporter of his theory of evolution.

He was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in 1865, and president of the Royal Society in 1873.

He discovered the Himalayan Sweet Box during one of his expeditions to the Himalays in the 1840s.

Hooker had followed his father, William Hooker, who left his post as manager of the Halesworth brewery to become the first keeper of Kew Gardens, into the world of botany.

Chairman of Halesworth and District Museum, Pauline Wilcock, said: “The museum was thrilled to be offered such a beautiful and important painting by a hugely acclaimed artist.

“Our feeling was that there could be no better place to house it than the birthplace of Halesworth’s most famous son.”

The famous 19th century botanist and explorer was born in Halesworth on June 30, 1817.

Last year the town played host to exhibitions, presentations, walks and talks to honour his work and influence to mark the bicentenary of his birth.

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