How the Botanical Office came into being; from an article written in 1938
Origin and Aims
Early in the year 1911 the Hon. Dr. H.E. Young, then minister of education, authorized the inauguration of a Botanical Survey of the Province of British Columbia, and in June of that year a Provincial Botanist was appointed, and the Provincial Botanical Office established in the City of Vancouver, where a Herbarium and library in connection with the survey were begun.
Soon after the commencement of the work it was deemed necessary to establish the nucleus of a Botanical Garden, so in 1912 two acres of land on the Provincial Colony Farm, Essondale, B.C., were set aside for this purpose, constituting the first strictly botanical garden in Canada. Since that time Botanical Gardens have been established in Montreal, Toronto, and in Ottawa where a portion of the former Central Experimental Farm is now used as a Botanical Garden.
At its inception, the aims of the Botanical Gardens were:---
First, to assemble a representative collection of plants from all parts of the Province.
So little was known of the great wealth and variety of the native flora, that such a collection should be an educational asset not only to residents within the Province but, to visitors from other parts of the world.
Second, to grow sets of species belonging to "critical" genera for study and research, to determine accurately their species and apply their valid names.
At that time, so much chaos and confusion existed in regard to the identity and nomenclature of British Columbia plants that it was common to find one plant under three or more botanical names, depending on which "Flora" was used.
Third, the University was not then in existence, but the Provincial Botanist was instructed to see that the work done should be preparatory to the founding of a Department of Botany in the University when it was established; so the aims were extended to create an outdoor museum, to provide living material for teaching, and a source of supplies for undergraduate laboratory work, as well as for post graduate research.
This aim, though third in chronological order, became the primary one when work was taken over by the University.
At first the specimens were brought, or sent from various regions of British Columbia during reconnaissance trips by the Botanist; but as the Botanical Survey proceeded, through the co-operation of over one hundred volunteers correspondents in different parts of British Columbia, fresh or dried specimens poured into the office, until the staff had to identify nearly 5,000 specimens each summer; in return for this service of identification, seeds or roots of desired species were sent to the Botanical Garden.
As a result of the depression following the outbreak of war in 1914, and in view of the fact that the University had now been inaugurated, the whole Botanical Office, Survey, Herbarium, Library and Garden collection was prematurely turned over by the Government to the University, before the Departments of Biology or Botany were established.
In 1916 the collections at Essondale, then numbering between 20,000 and 30,000 herbs, shrubs and trees, were transported about 20 miles to a prepared area of five acres on the permanent University site where they are now located.