The Strange History Of “Babington’s Curse”

Babington, it turns out, was an innocent man

-OR –

Kind of, Anyway!

By the year 1854 the name “Babington” was well known in Britain because most people wanted to choke him, maybe not to death, but choke him none-the-less. What did this English professor of botany do to warrant such an outrage? He loved plants so much that he devoted his life to studying them! Therein lies the problem, and it can be summed up in one word, Anacharis.

Just a few years before in 1847, the curator of the Cambridge Botanic Garden realized that Babington had an American water plant in his collection that he wanted to work with, you guessed it – Anacharis . This nameless person introduced it into the waters of the River Cam. By 1852, this once-rare water plant multiplied, and spread throughout the course of the river. Nothing could stop it. By 1854 it had spread into every lake, river and pond. Boats were paralyzed and unable to move, causing economic hardship. Even children cursed the name Babington, as their favorite swimming holes became useless.

Then when it just didn’t seem it could any worse it stopped, almost to the point of extinction! Why? It seems it was all growth from the same plant. Actually, it was the same sex of the same plant and it just died out. The curator of the Cambridge Botanic Garden remained nameless, the plant went dormant, but Babington, the poor fellow that did nothing, is still remembered today.

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