About us

“We are the botany makers, and we are the dreamers of plants, wandering by coastal shingle structures, and sitting by Potamogeton-filled streams…”   (with apologies to Arthur O’Shaughnessy).

Botany at the University of Reading

At Reading we are passionate about training the next generation of botanists to deal with critical issues of identification, conservation and sustainable use of global plant resources in the 21st century. Taught modules with botany can be found within BSc Biology, BSc Ecology and MSc Species identification and survey skills in addition to PhD research opportunities.

Botanical teaching and research at Reading has a rich heritage. Reading botany alumni (the ‘Reading mafiosi’) are found across the globe making significant contributions to taxonomy, conservation, plant science and education, often associated with major institutions.

Golden Anniversary

2019 was the 50th anniversary of our masters degrees in plant diversity at the University of Reading. We celebrated this with a diverse series of Reading Botany events throughout the year, bringing together past and present staff and students and celebrating their work, the plants themselves and the importance of botany teaching. These events included hosting the 2nd Botanical University Challenge, running a Fascination of Plants Day event for local primary school children (check out our video ‘why are plants smelly?’), a Harris Garden Open Day, the Gold Medal award-winning Chelsea Flower Show stand on invasive plants and the Reading Botany Alumni reunion and a collaborative symposium with the British Ecological Society on Enhanced Fieldwork Learning.

A major 50th Anniversary event and highlight of the botanical year was our symposium “The Big Botany Challenge!” on the state of botany in UK schools.  This brought together over 80 individuals from more than 50 organisations and discussed ways to enhance the coverage of plants in secondary biology education.

If you are interested in botany and plant science teaching, inspiring future generations in the wonder and importance of plants, or in linking up plant-related career scenarios with schools, please join the ongoing discussions here on these pages and by contacting j.mitchley@reading.ac.uk.

Careers with plants

Reading Botany alumni can be found around the world working in many different plant-related careers. These include employment in the fields of plant science, taxonomy, ecology, conservation, ecological consultancy, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, education and research. There is a wide range of career paths open to botanists and we aim to demonstrate this as we link up with our alumni and hear their stories.

Reading Botany Team

Led by Dr Jonathan Mitchley, the Reading Botany 2019 Team includes Dr Alastair Culham and Professor Julie Hawkins  (with support from other Reading staff, students and volunteers). We are involved in botanical teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate courses, research and outreach in the School of Biological Sciences alongside Dr Brian Pickles and other staff involved in plant-related research. Botany at Reading also thrives in other Schools at the University of Reading through the work of Professor Simon Mortimer in Agriculture, and Professors Nick Branch and Frank Mayle in School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science.

We are based at the Whiteknights campus. This campus is a large green oasis in Reading that has a parkland with many fine trees, species-rich meadows, woodland, lakes and the beautiful Harris Garden. Additionally, our glasshouses and the Herbarium provide us with invaluable botanical resources for students and researchers alike.