James is an ethnobotanist — in simple terms, he is a scientist who studies how people use plants. In his first prime-time show, Grow Your Own Drugs, James cooks up homemade herbal remedies, offering an alternative to over-the-counter medicines for a variety of common ailments as well as some great beauty fixes to make you feel fabulous. James has two best-selling books, Grow Your Own Drugs and A Year with James Wong. He joined BBC1’s Countryfile team when the show moved to its new Sunday evening slot in April 2009 and he has presented films on extreme tree hunting, guerilla gardening, mistletoe auctions and everything in between. In 2008, James was one of BBC4/2’s Fossil Detectives where he traveled around the United Kingdom in search of plant fossils like amber and jet to help unlock the secrets of our past, and also appeared on Gardeners’ World, the Chelsea Flower Show coverage, Channel 4’s Richard & Judy, The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV and BBC Breakfast.
James is half Malaysian; he was born in Singapore to an indigenous Iban father and English mother. He spent most of his childhood in the jungles of Borneo and other parts of Southeast Asia. His grandmother, an eccentric indigenous woman, used to teach him about traditional medicines and this is where James’ passion for plants originated — a passion that would see him travel the world in search of new plants and their fascinating uses. From incredible edibles to medicinal marvels, from harnessing the power of plants to help overcome civilizations’ great threats to learning lessons from the diet of the Stone Age man, James sees plants as much more than greenery for your garden.
James was trained to a master’s level at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and graduated with distinction. He went on to work at BGCI, the world’s largest plant conservation network. His work involved educating and raising awareness by transforming information from botanical journals into engaging and relevant stories for the press, education projects and conferences, as well as contributing to scientific journals. He has also worked as a freelance ethnobotanical consultant, advising companies and organizations about useful plants and their applications.
James lives in London and speaks English, Spanish and Mandarin. Destined to bring new life to an old genre, his raw passion and untamable sense of adventure are infectious. James is a unique blend of explorer, anthropologist, gardener and, always, ethnobotanical adventurer.