Charles Christopher Parry

The King of Colorado Botany

Today is the birthday of the man known as the King of Colorado Botany, Charles Christopher Parry, who was born on this day in 1823.

Parry discovered both the Torrey pine and Engelmann spruce, which gives you a clue about his impressive mentors. Although he rubbed shoulders with the best botanists of his time, Parry's focus was not academic. He was more interested in making sure the public and the common man benefitted from his work.
In 1845 while he was at college, Parry's teacher was the great John Torrey. Parry was good friends with Asa Gray - who was also a student of John Torrey. In 1848, Parry learned about the botanical trade from the star of the Missouri Botanical Garden: George Engelmann.
In the summer of 1862, he brought Elihu Hall and J. P. Harbour on an expedition to Colorado. The men gathered ten sets of over 700 species. According to William Weber, their effort remains "the largest [collection ever] made in Colorado in a single season."
Parry spent 20 summers in Colorado - in a cabin nestled between Torrey Peak and Gray Peak - mountains he named after John Torrey and Asa Gray. Parry named another mountain Eva Peak in honor of his wife. He even named one Mount Flora.
In 1870, during a visit to England, Parry met the master botanist of his age: Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In fact, it was Hooker who referred to Parry as the "King of Colorado Botany."
And it wasn't just Colorado that Parry explored. He traveled throughout the West, amassing over 30,000 specimens for his herbarium. When Parry was collecting in California, he continued his habit of recording his thoughts into notebooks. Occasionally, he waxed poetic about the landscape. In one example from his time in California, he wrote:

“A newborn moon hangs her crescent over the western hills, and by its full-orbed light, we hope to see our way to winter quarters on the Pacific.”

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Charles Christopher Parry
Charles Christopher Parry

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