Willis Linn Jepson

The Botany Man

Today is the birthday of The Botany Man - Willis Linn Jepson - who was born on this day in 1867.

Carved on his tombstone are the following words:

“Profound Scholar, Inspiring Teacher, Indefatigable Botanical Explorer, ... In the ordered beauty of nature, he found enduring communion.”

Jepson attended college at Berkeley. During his junior year, he decided to start a diary. He collected everything, too - not just dates, but as much as he could. It was a practice Jepson never abandoned and resulted in over fifty Jepson field books.

In 1894, Jepson began to think seriously about creating a Flora of California.

As long as he was working on the flora, Jepson thought he might as well create a herbarium, which he considered to be his legacy.

Although Jepson often said he disliked common names, he came up with many on his own. He once named a plant Mountain Misery after suffering the after-effects of walking through it.

By the early 1900s, automobiles were becoming mainstream, but Jepson warned,

“You must still go afoot if a real botanist. No field botanist should become soft and travel only in an auto.“ 

Jepson had started numbering plants for his flora in 1899. His last specimen was No. 27,571 - the Salsola kali- a little plant commonly known as Prickly Russian Thistle. Jepson collected it on October 28, 1945. 
Earlier that year, Jepson suffered a heart attack when he attempted to cut down a dead Almond tree on his ranch. He never fully recovered from it. Jepson passed away her November 7, 1946.

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Willis Linn Jepson
Willis Linn Jepson

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