The 1648 Collection

Buxus sempervirens in the 1648 border

In 1648, the gardens first director, Jacob Bobart the Elder, published a list of all the plants in the garden, entitled “Catologus plantarum Horti medici Oxoniensis” (catalogue of the plants in the Oxford medicinal garden). It contained approximately 1400 plant names, and several of these species are now grown in this border which is in the south-west corner of the Walled Garden.


The garden was founded as a physic garden in 1621, where they grew plants for medicinal purposes.  For example, the male fern – Dryopteris filix-mas – which has a huge range of “virtues” and is known to be a vermifuge. The male fern roots contain an “oleoresin” that paralyses tapeworms and other parasites and then expels them. However, not everything in the Garden at that time had medicinal properties. Buxus sempervirens, for example, was grown as hedges along with other plants such as the English yew tree– Taxus baccata – which is the oldest plant in the garden, planted in 1645.

Spores on the underside of Dryopteris filix mas fronds

In the 1600’s, as today, the garden grew a mixture of both native plants and plants from other nations. The most exciting and exotic plant grown in 1648 that is grown in this border today is the Virginian spidewort – Tradescantia virginiana. This plant was sent from America to John Tradescant. He was a gardener and collector of amazing plants and was responsible for introducing many new plants to Britain.

Plants growing in the 1648 Borders

Acanthus mollis

Alchemilla mollis

Asphodeline lutea

Buxus sempervirens

Clematis viticella

Cyclamen hederifolium

Dryopteris filix-mas

Epimedium alpinum

Geranium sanguineum

Tradescantia virginiana


Read more about the 1648 border here.