The Father of Texas Botany
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Father of Texas Botany and legend, Ferdinand Jakob Lindheimer, who died on this day in 1879.
Lindheimer immigrated from Frankfurt, Germany, and spent more than a decade searching the wilds of Central and Southeast Texas for new species of plants.
The botanist George Engelmann was a friend and fellow immigrant from Frankfurt. Engelmann introduced him to other botanists from around the world, and he helped the Lindheimer process and identify his numerous specimens.
In January of 1842, Lindheimer wrote Engelmann:
“Herewith I am sending you 180 species of plants, most of which I collected in the spring of 1840... Send me the names soon - so that I don’t have to keep creating nicknames such as I have been using as an aid... especially for the grasses; for instance, narrow ear, panicle ear, long ear, twin ear…”
While botanizing in Texas, Lindheimer discovered several hundred new plant species, and many now bear his name. Over his lifetime, Lindheimer collected close to 100,000 plant specimens in Texas.
There are many incredible stories of Lindheimer's botanizing. Once he came across an Indian war party and ended up in a staring competition with the chief. Lindheimer won.
Another time, Lindheimer had become friends with the Comanche chief Santana who wanted to trade Lindheimer two mules and a Mexican girl for his blue-eyed, blonde-haired grandson. Lindheimer politely declined the offer.