This Botanical Map Of Brixton Spills Unsavoury Truths About Slavery

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 25 months ago

Last Updated 08 April 2022

This Botanical Map Of Brixton Spills Unsavoury Truths About Slavery
A woman reads the Brixton Botanical Map
The Brixton Botanical Map makes for an enlightening read, whether or not you're in Brixton

Many of the plants growing in the UK's soil today have their roots in colonialism and the British Empire — in fact there are countless links between botany and the slave trade.

Brixton Botanical Map — a free map produced as part of Art on the Underground — is an enlightening guide to such unsavoury connections. Guiding you around the green spaces of Brixton, the map flags landmarks such as the plane trees in Windrush Square; London's commonest tree, the plane was probably first cultivated from the seeds of an 'oriental' plane and an American sycamore by botanist John Tradescant, who is buried at what is now London's Garden Museum. Tradescant and his son were pivotal in introducing foreign plant species to Britain, many of which arrived on ships carrying enslaved people.

A beautiful map full of unsavoury truths

The trail also takes you to Brockwell Park's walled garden, one of many spots that flourishes with wisteria in the spring. The prolific purple flower is all over Instagram each year, but did you know it was introduced to Britain by John Reeve, a tea inspector for the notorious slave-trading East India Company?

Brixton's abundance of breadfruit on its market stalls is touched on too; the map tracks its transplantation from Tahiti to the Caribbean courtesy of the infamous Captain Bligh, its subsequent use to feed enslaved people on British-owned plantations, and how it came to Britain with the arrival of the Windrush generation in the 1940s.

There's so much more to learn from Brixton Botanical Map, so do grab a copy. We've recently spotted it at Brixton tube station. Otherwise you can download it as a pdf.