#OTD On this day in 1827, Scottish botanist David Douglas (Sponsored by Sir William Hooker), took a break from collecting for the Royal Botanic Institution of Glasgow.
He was lagging behind the others in his party as he was making his way through the Athabasca Pass west of present-day Jasper, Alberta, Canada. On a whim, he decided to abandon the trail and ascend the northern peak of Mount Brown in deep snow.
Here's what he recorded in his journal:
"After breakfast at one o’clock... I became desirous of ascending one of the peaks, and accordingly I set out alone on snowshoes ... The labour of ascending the lower part, which is covered with pines, is great beyond description, sinking on many occasions to the middle.
Halfway up vegetation ceases entirely, not so much a vestige of moss or lichen on the stones.
Here I found it less laborious as I walked on the hard crust.
One-third from the summit it becomes a mountain of pure ice, sealed far over by Nature’s hand ...
...The ascent took me five hours; ... This peak, the highest yet known in the northern continent of America, I feel a sincere pleasure in naming Mount Brown, in honor of Robert Brown, the illustrious botanist...
A little to the southward is one nearly the same height, rising into a sharper point. This I named Mount Hooker [after his sponsor, William Hooker] ..."
Douglas' trip was a success; he collected over 200 new plants.
Douglas was the first Englishman to bring back pinecones of the Sugar Pine, the Lodgepole Pine, the Ponderosa Pine, and, of course, the Douglas-fir. Within a year of his return in 1827, all of Douglas's new pines would be growing in English gardens and Scottish estates.
The Douglas-fir is not a true fir, which is why it is spelled with a hyphen. Anytime you see a hyphen in the common name, you know it's not a true member of the genus."