Botanist of the Oaks
Today we celebrate the May 1st birthday of French Botanist Aimee Antoinette Camus ("kah-MEW") in 1879.
In terms of ranking among female scientists, Camus is second in authoring land plants - with a total of 677 species. It's especially impressive given that only 3% of land plants are authored by women!
Best known for her study of orchids, Camus was the daughter of botanist and pharmacist Edmond Gustave Camus.
Together, Camus and her father collected more than 50,000 specimens for their family herbarium.
Her father sparked her passion for orchids and plant anatomy. More than that, he offered connections with some of the best French botanists of her day.
She gave the name of Neohouzeaua ("Neo-who-zoh-ah")to a genus of seven tropical bamboo, in honor of the lifelong work that Jean Houzeau de Lehaie ("Who-zoh-do-lou-ay")had devoted to the understanding of the botany and propagation of bamboo in Europe and Africa.
Camus also authored horticulture books to appeal to the masses and she was always forecasting the latest in botany. When plants arrived from the French colonies, she would attempt to calculate the economic value of the plants.
She spent her entire professional career at the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. To this day, Camus's monumental work remains the most comprehensive classification of the oak genus Quercus.
Her book is simply called, The Oaks, and Camus wrote this in her introduction,
“The oak forest that enabled our ancestors to fight against hunger, cold, darkness, that gave them shelter, weapons, construction materials, furniture, boats, means of transport, is today in part free from these obligations.Coal, iron, cement, concrete are all replacing wood; but the Oak with its qualities remains of great usefulness to man and its protection is of the utmost importance.Further, while industrial expansion has brought ugliness to so many places, is not the forest one of the last havens of beauty?”