This February, we celebrate LGBT+ identities and how they have helped shape our world. Throughout the month we will be posting histories of LGBT+ people who have made contributions to the field of botany, horticulture, garden design and botanical art. If you would like to see the original posts about the individuals below, please check out @BotanicsPride on Twitter. If you’re interested in helping out as we start to plan for Pride 2021, we would be delighted to hear from you! Please contact the Botanics RBGE Pride group for more info. Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth

Elke Mackenzie…

was a botanist from 1911 to 1990 who specialised in lichenology.  She graduated from the University of Edinburgh and began working at the British Museum where she developed a keen interest in the relatively unknown field of Antarctic lichen flora. She participated in Operation Tabarin, a top-secret British Antarctic mission ordered by Churchill, to gather data and deny safe anchorages to German vessels during WWII.

She travelled and worked across South and North America, building up an extensive collection of herbarium specimens. She became the director of the Farlow Herbarium at Harvard University in 1954 and discovered numerous lichen species throughout her life including Verrucaria serpuloides. As a pioneering and intrepid trans-woman living through two world wars, Elke contributed so much in the way of taxonomy and lived through a time when LGBTQI+ rights were next to nonexistent.