A BBC presenter came under fire today after claiming racism had become endemic in gardening.
James Wong, 39, said the "fetishisation" of words such as "heritage" and "native" were examples of how "UK gardening culture has racism baked into its DNA".
The botanist, who has presented Countryfile and appeared as a panellist on Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time, made the remarks on Twitter after a user shared an article he wrote last month questioning why horticulture wasn't perceived as more political.
In a series of tweets, he said: "The idea of field of ‘wildflowers’ (they ironically meant non-native cornfield weeds) was ‘more in keeping with the area’ is not just historically f*****. "It also is predicated on often unconscious ideas of what and who does and does not ‘belong’ in the U.K.
"This is the kind of exhausting s*** you have to go through everyday if you work in U.K. horticulture. "Unless of course you internalise these unquestioned (often unconscious) ideas that are predicated in large part on a bedrock xenophobia and racism."
Wong, who holds ambassador roles with Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society, added he believed racism was holding gardening back from being treated on a par with other art forms such as music and film.
James Wong has been contacted by the Daily Telegraph for comment.
The remarks drew criticism from social media users with Wong accused of debasing the "concept of racism" through "trivial overuse".
Bunny Guinness, a fellow panellist on Gardeners' Question Time, said she disagreed with Wong, adding most people were "welcoming and supportive" in the industry.
She told the Telegraph: "It seems a bit bonkers to me because those terms are terms that have been used all over the world to discriminate between native and exotic plants for very important reasons.
"I have done so many commercial gardens, everywhere from the the east end of London to Birmingham and generally we want to encourage gardening. It is a very generous creative profession and most people are welcoming and supportive.
"I do not know anyone who is racist in the gardening industry. "Native applies to plants and have been used for a long time, we have to discriminate between native and horticultural for good reason."
In response to one critic who claimed Wong wasn't "fit" to hold an ambassadorial role with Kew Gardens, the presenter, of British-Malaysian heritage, told how he had made a podcast for the institution about its "ongoing efforts" to confront racism in botany and horticulture.
A Kew Gardens spokesman declined to comment on Wong's remarks but confirmed he had recorded a podcast episode "on botany and decolonisation" for its Unearthed series.
"We appreciate that he is leading this important conversation," the spokesperson added. The Royal Horticultural Society have been contacted by the Daily Telegraph for comment, while the BBC declined to comment.
Wong's remarks are the latest to associate racism with gardening after Gardeners’ Question Time was previously accused of peddling racial stereotypes.
In 2014, Dr Ben Pitcher, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Westminster, said the Radio 4 programme was riddled with "racial meanings" disguised as horticultural advice and discussions on soil purity and non-native species promoted "nationalist and fascist belief".
At the time, a BBC spokesman said the "passing mention" of Gardeners’ Question Time was part of a broader discussion about language and race, which reflected the programme's use of "accepted gardening and horticultural terminology".
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