Father of Irish Commercial Forestry
On this day in 1899, Augustine Henry wrote to his friend the designer Evelyn Gleeson after meeting Ernest Henry Wilson for the first time.
Toward the end of his time in China, Augustine Henry living in the Simao District in the Yunnan Province of China. He knew that the flora of China was an untapped market for European horticulture. Meanwhile, a young botanist named Ernest Henry Wilson was just starting out.
Henry wrote to his friend, Evelyn Gleesen, to share the news about his Wilson after their first visit together:
"I have ... a guest of all the things in the world at Szemao, a Mr. Wilson, late a gardener at Kew, who has been sent out by Veitch's to collect plants or preferably their seeds and bulbs in China. He has made his way here to consult with me on the best way of the procedure and concerning the fascinating country around Ichang, and he will stay here for 2 or 3 weeks. He is a self-made man, knows botany thoroughly, is young, and will get on."
Henry also shared with Evelyn that he,
"would be glad if [Wilson] will continue to carry on the work in China which has been on my shoulders for some years. There is so much of interest and of novelty."
Later the same day, Henry also reported back to Kew about the progress of their new, young plant explorer, Wilson:
"[He will] do, I think, as he seems very energetic, fond of his botany and level-headed, the main thing for traveling and working in China.... [I wrote] on a half-page of a notebook ... a sketch of a tract of country about the size of New York State [on which I marked the place where I had found the single tree of Davidia involucrata (the Dove Tree or Handkerchief Tree) in 1888. I also provided Wilson with useful information and hints.]"
Henry and Wilson stayed close and corresponded for the rest of their lives. Wilson went on to find the Dove tree - but that is another story for a day dedicated to Wilson. As for Henry, when he returned to his native Ireland, he was increasingly concerned with de-forestation in his home country, and he began to study forestry. the rate at which that country was being deforested, his interests had turned to the study of forestry. In 1913, he became the first professor of forestry at the Royal College of Science for Ireland. He and his wife, Elsie, opened their Dublin home to famous friends like Yeats, George Russell, Erskine Childers, and Evelyn Gleeson.
Henry is regarded as the father of Irish commercial forestry.