The Economic Botany Collection held at Kew Gardens began life in 1846 and now holds 85,000 specimens . It illustrates the extent of human use of plants around the world and, although closed to the public, some specimens are on display at the Plants + People exhibition in Kew Gardens. A future project is to put the full database online.
As part of a research visit I was privileged to view these “fossilised” roses excavated from a tomb in Hawara, ancient Egypt. It’s amazing to see organic matter from the 1st century BC. We spotted a perfectly preserved flower necklace from the tomb of Ramesses II from the same drawer as these roses. It’s remarkable that we can still see plants that are over 2,000 years old; when we buy flowers they rot within weeks.
The darkest colours in the photo above are roses. This variety is still commercially available, now known as Rosa Richardii or the Holy Rose of Abyssinia. Here is a photo from David Austin Roses so you can visualise how the bouquets would have looked when first made.