Richard Spruce Collection

Spruce's ethnobotanical collections

The Economic Botany Collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, holds over 78,000 objects illustrating useful plants. These include medicines, paper, foods and ethnographic objects (such as textiles, musical instruments and utensils) as well as plant specimens (including seeds, roots, pickled fruit, bark, oils and samples of wood).

Richard Spruce's interest in economically important plants is evident through his many observations of the native uses of the plants he collected in the Amazon and Andes. During his time in South America he collected over 260 objects for inclusion in Kew's Museum of Economic Botany (which opened to the public in 1847). These include Cinchona bark, curare poison (Strychnos toxifera) and tools used in the preparation of cassava (Manihot esculenta), as well as native fruits and seeds.

The Economic Botany section at Kew is conducting its own research into Richard Spruce's ethnobotanical collections. Herbarium specimens which are associated with an artefact or plant specimen from the Economic Botany collection are indicated in the determination section of the specimen detail page with 'EB'.


Bow, arrows and quiver collected by Spruce

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Funded by Mellon foundation     In partnership with RBG Kew