Neil Lancaster

Neil is a senior botanist working on plant identification, classification and nomenclature

What do you do?

I am a botanist in the horticultural taxonomy team. I work on questions of identification, classification and nomenclature for the RHS and our members. The greater part of my time is spent identifying plants and resolving plant names for our members and the RHS curatorial teams.

Why is your team’s research important?

The research is useful to gardeners who need up-to-date information about the correct names of plants. Gardeners are helped in various ways, through the identification service, the RHS Plant Finder, the online RHS Horticultural Database, and through answers to botanical enquiries. The work ensures plant names are dependable and adhered to. Standardisation of plant names is critical for gardeners and the horticulture industry; without reliable naming consumers and sellers wouldn’t have confidence in the product.
Plant names also change regularly due to reclassification and new species, so my work ensures the industry is kept up-to-date through their involvement with the RHS Plant Finder, the online RHS Horticultural Database, and the RHS Gardening Advice Service.


The publication, in 2014, of the 8th edition of The Hillier Manual of Trees & Shrubs, a book often described as the ‘woody plant bible’, was a proud moment for myself and my two Botany department colleagues. We were the RHS Editors of the first new edition since 2002 and the first edition with RHS participation.

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.