Societal Impact StatementFrom its beginning in 1846, Cambridge University Botanic Garden was conceived of as a plant science research and teaching facility. It has supported major advances in biology, including understanding of evolution and genetics. It promotes outreach to the public and students, explaining to all the importance of plants for life on Earth. It is part of a global network of botanic gardens and similar institutions dedicated to plant conservation and knowledge exchange. Perhaps most importantly, it celebrates the life‐enhancing beauty of plants in all their diversity.SummaryCambridge University Botanic Garden was established on its current site in 1846 by Charles Darwin's mentor, John Stevens Henslow. Many of Henslow's plantings and herbarium specimens still exist. William Bateson, who was one of the rediscoverers of Mendel's laws of inheritance and who coined the term ‘genetics’, worked at the Garden at the dawn of the last century. The attractive landscape is visited by 330,000 members of the public annually, and as originally intended by Henslow, it is an important resource for botanical teaching and research by the University and its collaborators. The Garden's collection comprises about 8000 plant species, 14,000 accessions, nine national collections and a diverse 2000 tree arboretum. Detailed analyses have revealed that, while most of the accessions are also held by other botanic gardens worldwide, several hundred are unique to Cambridge. As well as studies on fundamental principles of biology, the Garden's collection underpins research on global food security and applications in diverse fields such as engineering. As an example of research exploiting the Garden's range of floral forms, analyses of the visual factors determining the interaction between flowers and pollinating insects are described. Bee foraging behaviour may be altered by experimentally manipulating the structural and developmental bases of petal iridescence. The phylogenetic distribution of petal iridescence is consistent with the trait having evolved independently several times in the angiosperms.

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