Drummond, James (1786?–1863), botanist, was born near Forfar, Angus, Scotland, probably in late 1786 or early 1787, as he was baptised in the parish church of Inverarity on 8 January 1787. He was the eldest child among two sons and two daughters of Thomas Drummond (b. 1757), a gardener on the Fothringham estate, and his wife Elizabeth (née Nichol). His brother Thomas (1793?–1835) was a notable botanist and explorer in North America, and curator of Belfast Botanic Garden (1828–30). Nothing is known of James Drummond's early life, though he most likely attended the parish school, and he seems to have served an apprenticeship as a gardener. In 1808 he was employed in a garden in Edinburgh (probably George Dickson's nursery), and in the same year or in 1809 was appointed first curator of the botanic garden established by the Royal Cork Institution near Cork city. He laid out the garden, collected plants in the Cork area, including the first Irish specimen of a rare orchid, Spiranthes romanzoffiana, and was elected an associate of the Linnean Society in 1810.
Between May and November 1826 the garden was badly affected by a series of thefts; all the hothouse grapes, forty rare grafted apple trees, and many other plants were taken. On the night of 17 November 1826 Drummond and his 15-year-old son Thomas kept guard, and around 2.00 a.m. challenged an intruder. Cornelius Hyde was shot, apparently in an accidental discharge of Drummond's gun, and subsequently died. An inquest exonerated Drummond, and he was commended by his employers for his care of their property. In 1828 the government withdrew the grant that supported the botanic garden; and after fruitless negotiations with the Royal Cork Institution, Drummond – who had six children to support – accepted the post of government naturalist in the planned Swan River colony in Western Australia, with the promise of an appointment as superintendent of government gardens there.
The family sailed for Swan River in 1829, and Drummond took up several land grants and established the beginnings of a garden, but experienced such difficulties with reluctant government officials that he resigned in 1834 from his posts, and went to live on his property in the Helena valley. The following year he began collecting plants and seeds for English clients. In 1836 he established himself on a farm of over 2,000 acres near Toodyay; he named it Hawthornden, after the place in Midlothian, Scotland, associated with a distinguished Drummond family. He continued to collect plants over a huge area in Western Australia, enduring very difficult and even dangerous journeys lasting up to eighteen months, and sent thousands of specimens and seeds of hundreds of species, many new to science, to correspondents in England. Drummond's dried plant material survives in many herbaria worldwide, and he is acknowledged as the most important collector in Western Australia. One genus and over a hundred species of plants were named in his honour; many of these names are still valid, and a mountain in Western Australia also bears his name.
He wrote a number of papers on the botany of western Australia, first published in Perth, and republished by his English correspondent, the noted botanist Sir William Hooker at Kew. Drummond was given a £200 honorarium in 1846, by the British government, for services to botany, and continued collecting until 1852. He died 26 March 1863 at Hawthornden, survived by his wife. He had married (1810) Sarah Mackintosh in Cork; her father was Maxwell Mackintosh, a Scotsman. They had two daughters and four sons, all born in Cork; of the sons, James Drummond (1814–73) was a farmer and an influential politician in Western Australia. Johnston Drummond (1820–45) was an expert botanist and plant collector. He was killed at the age of 25, on 4 July 1845; as he slept in a tent, a glass spear was driven through his body by Kabinger, an Aboriginal Australian accused of sheep-stealing, with whose wife Drummond may have been sleeping. Johnston's brother John Nicol Drummond (1816–1906), first inspector of Native Police in the colony, tracked Kabinger for two weeks, and shot him dead, later claiming that he had done so while trying to arrest him. Though superiors disapproved and suspended him from duty, they soon realised that Drummond's influence over the native people was indispensable, and he was reinstated to enjoy a successful career as a policeman and as a pioneer pastoralist and mine owner.