Mary Gibson Henry

The Biannual Botanical Explorer

April 16, 1967
Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist Mary Gibson Henry.

Mary was born to be a plantswoman. The Gibson family’s roots in horticulture went way back. Mary's great-grandfather, George Pepper, was a member of the First Council of the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society.

Mary became an avid botanist and plant collector and also served as president of the American Horticultural Society.

The daylily Hymenocallis henryae is named in her honor.

In 1909, Mary married Dr. John Norman Henry.

Mary had a large backyard garden and greenhouses. Mary also had a splendid kitchen garden, native rock plants, and orchards.

Starting in 1929, Mary went on biannual plant collecting trips. On her first trip, Mary brought the family - all four kids and her hubby. I'm not sure if she continued to botanize with her family. Still, over the next forty years, Mary went on over 200 botanical expeditions - a staggering number of trips for a female botanist in the early 1900s.

And, Mary figured out that plant collecting wasn’t for sissies, saying,

"I soon learned that rare and beautiful plants can only be found in places that are difficult of access ...

Often one has to shove one's self through or wriggle under briars, with awkward results to clothing and many and deep cuts and scratches ...

Wading, usually barelegged, through countless rattlesnake-infested swamps adds immensely to the interest of the day's work.”

On this day in April, Mary died in North Carolina doing what she loved to do: collecting plants.

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Mary Gibson Henry courtesy Royal BC Museum
Mary Gibson Henry courtesy Royal BC Museum
Mary Gibson Henry Grave
Mary Gibson Henry Grave

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