British Columbia's Leading Botanist
November 19, 1937
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Canadian botanist and writer Julia Wilmotte Henshaw.
Remembered as one of British Columbia‘s leading botanists, Julia studied for a bit with the botanist Charles Schaefer and his wife, Mary Schaefer Warren. This was a happy working relationship by all accounts until Julia published Mountain Flowers of America in 1906. The Schaefers felt Julia had profited from their work and beat them to publish it. But other perspectives point out that Julia was more driven, and she was an experienced author. Over time, Julia went on to publish two additional volumes on Canadian wildflowers.
A founding member of the Canadian Alpine Club, Julia had a regular column in the Vancouver Sun newspaper called The Note Book. Her peers at the paper called her “Gentle Julia.”
Julia's weekly column is a delight to read even today and I tried to find some experts from her November columns.
On November 28, 1934, Julia wrote:
“A friend who walked through my garden yesterday and who had read in the "Note Book" last Friday the list of plants in bloom there, arrived at the house in an indignant mood and abraided me for omitting to say that the following flowers were also to be gathered: White California Poppy, Pink and Blue Larkspur, Large White Heath, Fuchsia, Thyme, Lobelia And Nasturtiums.
Taken altogether, the garden is making a brave showing when one remembers that today is November 28.
One thing I am sorry to note, all my best nasturtiums whose seeds should have Iain dormant till the spring, are already turned into little plants three inches high.”
And here’s an excerpt from Julia's final column dated November 23, 1937 - just five days before her death:
"We have become so used to the "tame" mushrooms, grown in sheds and carefully reared for [year-round] sale, that October and November fail to any longer bring in their wake the old thrill of gathering wild mushrooms, the flavor of which so far surpasses that of the homegrown varieties, useful as the latter are in their steady procurableness.
Fruits of the field have a flavor all their own, and one need not be a gourmet to appreciate the Wild Strawberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Crabapple, and for their own special purposes the Sloe, Hip-haw, Wine-berry and Grape.
Have you ever read these delightful lines from the "Heart of New England"?
Oddly fashioned, quaintly dyed,
In the woods, the mushrooms hide;
Rich and meaty, full of flavor,
Made for man's delicious savor.
But he shudders and he shrinks
At the piquant mauves and pinks,
Who is brave enough to dare
Curious shapes and colors rare?
But the toadstools bright and yellow
Tempt and poison many a fellow,'
Nay! a little mushroom study
Would not injure anybody."