Dr Dawn Edwards

Dawn specialises in cultivated plant names, applying her expertise as an Editor of RHS Plant Finder and Lead RHS Editor of The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs. She is also Secretary to the RHS Nomenclature and Taxonomy Advisory Group (NATAG)

What do you do?

The focus of my work is to investigate names of plants in cultivation with the aim of bringing consistency, reliability and stability to them.

As Secretary to NATAG, I help identify taxonomic and nomenclatural issues of horticultural significance that need deliberation, prepare information for discussion, and then communicate decisions for change to gardeners and others in the horticultural community.

As Lead RHS Editor for The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs, I oversee the writing of new entries and revision of existing text and nomenclature, liaising with the other editors and international expert contributors.

“My fascination for the amazing world of plants has been with me since childhood, but only through a career change did I realise my dream of studying botany at university. Since then I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to work every day on the subject I love as an RHS botanist.”

Why is your team’s research important?

There is often confusion around plant names in horticulture. Providing universal and stable names for plants gives clarity to gardeners so there can be confidence that everyone is talking about the same plant. This helps to avoid mix-ups when purchasing plants, investigating their care needs or checking out toxicity.

Projects I’m working on now

  • Nomenclatural issues arising from the Nomenclature and Taxonomy Advisory Group (NATAG)
  • RHS Plant Finder 2021
  • The 10th edition of The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs
  • Identity of Gunnera in gardens and as an invasive plant


For the 8th edition of The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs (2014), RHS botanists were involved for the first time in this horticultural classic that is so appreciated by gardeners. A major part of our editing was the alignment of the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Manual and the RHS Plant Finder. We also contributed to, and edited, the 1500 new entries and revised existing text to produce an up-to-date edition worthy of being the latest addition to this legacy of Hillier Nurseries. Since the 9th edition I have become the Lead RHS Editor.


  • Cubey et al. (2007–20) RHS Plant Finder
  • Edwards D. (2019–20) Plant Names Bulletin. The Plant Review, 1 (1–2) & 2 (1–3)
  • Edwards D. (2018–19) Plant Names Bulletin. The Plantsman, 17 (3–4) & 18 (1–2)
  • Lancaster R, Edwards D, Marshall R, Sanford R (eds). (2019) The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs. 9th ed, London, Royal Horticultural Society, pp1–637
  • Edwards D. (2018) The conversion of SaintpauliaThe Plantsman, 17 (4), pp238–43
  • Edwards D. (2018) Split peas off the menu. The Plantsman, 17 (2), pp121–23
  • Edwards D. (2017) A new name for an Elaeagnus hybrid. The Plantsman, 16 (4), pp222–23
  • Edwards D, Griffith JH, Armitage J. (2015) A molecular and morphological investigation into the origins of Ligustrum × vicaryi (Oleaceae) with consideration of its nomenclature. New Journal of Botany, 5 (2), pp101–18
  • Edwards D. (2014) Developing a yellow sweet pea. The Plantsman, 13 (4), pp252–54
  • Edwards D. (2013) A proposal to amend the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (H11), Hanburyana, 7, p14

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.