#OTD On this day in 1742, Jean Senebier, a Swiss pastor and botanist, was born.
Where would we be without Senebier?
Still breathing... but not realizing that carbon dioxide is consumed by plants and in turn, that plants produce oxygen as part of the process of photosynthesis.
In a nutshell, Senebier’s work is important because he had learned the function of leaves: capturing carbon for food. Prior to Senebier, the purpose of leaves and what they did for plants and people was unknown.
It was Jean Senebier who said,
"Observation and experiment are two sisters who help each other."
#OTD Today, in 1806, along the banks of Idaho’s Clearwater River, Lewis and Clark discovered the Nine-leaf lomatium, Lomatium triternatum.
A species of flowering plant in the carrot family and known by the common name nineleaf biscuitroot, the nine-leaf lomatium is so-named because each leaf divides into three narrow leaflets that, in turn, divide into three more (triternatum, from the Latin, means “three times three”).
Lewis and Clark collected many varieties of lomatiums which are found only west of the Mississippi River.
Lomatiums are used by herbalists as a remedy for viral illnesses. In 2018, the NIH reported the case of a woman who had taken lomatium extract - marked LDM-100 - for the flu and ended up with a severe rash all over her body for a week. The title of the article, "Worse than the Disease? The Rash of Lomatium Dissectum"
#OTD On this day in 1859, the naturalist and botanist Alexander Von Humboldt died; he was 89 years old.
In 1806, Friedrich Georg Weitsch painted his portrait; two years after he returned from his five-year research trip through Central and South America. Humboldt didn't go alone; he was accompanied by the French botanist Aimé Bonplant in 1799. Weitsch painted a romantic, idealized vista of Ecuador as the setting for the painting. Humboldt had climbed the Chimborazo Mountain in Ecuador, believed at the time to be the highest mountain in the world, so perhaps Weitsch imaged Humboldt viewing the landscape from Chimborazo. Surrounded by a jungle paradise, a large palm shades Humboldt's resting spot.In the painting, a very handsome Humboldt is seated on a large boulder, his top hat is resting upside down on the boulder behind him. Weitsch shows the 37-year-old Humboldt wearing a puffy shirt that would make Seinfeld jealous, a pinkish-orange vest, and tan breeches. In his lap, he holds open the large leather-bound Flora he is working on and in his right hand he has a specimen of "Rhexia seciosa" (aka Meriania speciosa). A large barometer leans against the boulder in the lower left corner of the painting. It symbolized Humboldt’s principle of measuring environmental data while collecting and describing plants.
King Ferdinand was so pleased with the portrait, that he hung it in the Berlin Palace. that he ordered two more paintings to be made featuring Humboldt's time in the Americas
Humboldt was a polymath; he made contributions across many of the sciences. He made a safety lamp for miners. He discovered the Peru Current (aka the Humboldt Current. He believed South America and Africa had been joined together geographically at one time. He named the "torrid zone"; the area of the earth near the equator. Apropos the area he was exploring, torrid means hot, blistering, scorching. He went to Russia and it was there that he predicted the location of the first Russian diamond deposits.
Humboldt was also a pragmatist. It was the Great Alexandre Von Humboldt who said "Spend for your table less than you can afford, for your house rent just what you can afford, and for your dress more than you can afford."
Humboldt developed his own theory for the web of life. "The aims I strive for are an understanding of nature as a whole, proof of the working together of all the species of nature," Humboldt wrote.
"Everything is Interaction," he noted in his Mexican diary in 1803.
#OTD After a five-year, £41 million restoration Temperate House re-opened to the public on this day in 2018.
The ironwork was stripped and repainted with many coats, 15,000 pains of glass were replaced, 69,000 sections of metal, stone and timber repaired or replaced
Home to 10,000 plants - some are the world’s rarest and most threatened plants - Kew's Temperate House is the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world.
At the end of the war we were met with this question, "Will interest in gardening continue to grow or will there be a falling off ... with the coming of peace and a greater opportunity for other recreational pursuits?"We proceeded on the assumption that fewer vegetable gardens would be made but that, on the other hand, a greater number of people than ever before would turn their attention to the growing of ornamental plants...It is a duty for each one of us to plant a home garden. Membership in the Society has shown a remarkable growth and now numbers well over 8,000. Our magazine Horticulture has been remarkably successful in attracting members for the Society from all parts of the country.
Interest in horticultural pursuits is steadily increasing, if it can be measured by the increase in membership shown by this Society in the past year.Twelve months ago we had 7,200 members. As of today, the Society has 8,151 members.Membership figures are always of interest as indicating trends.The high point of this Society was in 1938, when the total membership was slightly greater than 9,000. Ten thousand members was the goal at that time but, because of the necessity of increasing revenue, the dues were raised from $2.00 to $3.00 a year.This increase in dues was followed by an immediate drop in membership which continued until 1942 when the Society reached its low point of the last decade with a membership of 6,633.Since that time it has been climbing steadily, year by year, and it seems reasonable to believe that in another year or two the 9,000 mark will again be reached.The present figure is, of course, far beyond that of any similar organization in the country, although it is pleasant to learn that the New York and Pennsylvania societies are also showing an upward trend.
Edward I. Farrington Secretary.
Almost all the events and developments of 1945-1946 center... upon our return to peace-time living.In the reading room, for instance, visitors are no longer predominantly in uniform.The questions a year ago were often about the plants of the Pacific areas or what a gardener should visit while stationed in Boston.Now they are most often on the design of small home properties, the choice of good plant materials, the fine points of flower gardening, or the management of a greenhouse.
Today's book recommendation: The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
"The Invention of Nature" reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf also argues that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature. In The Invention of Nature Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.
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