Constrained by poverty: Richard Relhan’s botanical fieldwork in Cambridgeshire, 1781–1820


  • Christopher D. Preston



Bryophytes, cryptogams, Flora Cantabrigiensis, fungi, lichens, vascular plants


Most records in the successive editions of the Rev. Richard Relhan’s Flora Cantabrigiensis (1785, 1802, 1820) and its supplements (1786, 1788, 1793a) are not attributed to recorders, and consequently the contribution of Relhan himself to these works has never been clear. In this paper I use Relhan’s statements in his surviving correspondence to identify the records that can plausibly be attributed to him. His hitherto neglected records of algae, fungi and lichens add significantly to the information provided by those of vascular plants and bryophytes. Taken together, they indicate that Relhan’s fieldwork was largely restricted to areas he could visit on foot from his home town, Cambridge, with rather few excursions to more distant parts of the county. His repeated references to his poverty show that this was the main constraint on his fieldwork. He visited some favourite sites near Cambridge repeatedly, especially Gogmagog Hills and Madingley. Although his published works make no reference to environmental change in the county, he did react to the enclosure and drainage of the species-rich wetland Hinton Moor by replacing the records in the final edition of his Flora by substitutes from two similar sites, Shelford Moor and Sawston Moor.



2023-06-12 — Updated on 2023-07-29