Rocky Mountain Blue
Today is the birthday of the botanist Edwin James who was born on this day in Vermont in 1797.
As a young man, James compiled the very first Flora of Vermont plants.
James went on one of the first expeditions of the American West from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains. He discovered the mountain Columbine, Aquilegia caerulea, which ultimately became known as the Colorado Blue Columbine and the State Flower of Colorado.
An account of James' climb of Pikes Peak on July 13, 1820, states:
"A little above the point where the timber disappears entirely, commences a region of astonishing beauty . . . covered with a carpet of low but brilliantly flowering alpine plants. . ."
James' phrasing, "a region of astonishing beauty," became the title of a 2003 book on the botanical history of the Rocky Mountains by Roger Lawrence Williams.
After the expedition, James married and settled in Burlington, Iowa. His home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. James died in 1861 after an accident. A monument to James was installed on Pike's Peak, and the Des Moines County Medical Society planted Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine on his grave in the Rock Springs Cemetery. Newspaper accounts said the location was in the most picturesque part of southeastern Iowa.
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