Today we celebrate the American doctor and amateur botanist who left a legacy in Michigan.
We'll also learn about the first botanist to explore Michigan.
We’ll recognize the man who started the California Botanical Society.
We hear a quick thought on spring from Ellis Peters.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a beautiful book about Hydrangea.
And then we’ll wrap things up with National Licorice Day.
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April 12, 1872
Today is the anniversary of the death of the American doctor, University of Michigan regent, and amateur botanist Zina Pitcher - who was profiled last week on his birthday, April 5th.
In his spare time, Zina enjoyed botanizing, and he’s remembered for the thistle he discovered, commonly known as Pitcher’s Thistle (Carduus Pitcheri or Cirsium Pitcheri).
Today, on Zina’s death date, I think about the story of a young boy who had broken his arm in the early 1840s. The boy’s family had brought him down from Northern Michigan to Detroit for treatment.
The break was terrible, and doctors were beginning to think the arm would have to be amputated. But, at the last minute, as the boy was being prepped for surgery, Dr. Pitcher was consulted. After a careful examination, Zina thought he could save the arm, and in the end, he did.
Like Zina Pitcher, the boy, Peter White, grew up to be a regent at the University of Michigan. Long afterward, he saw to it that Zina Pitcher’s grave in Detroit was planted with blossoming flowers every spring.
April 12, 1810
On this day, the 24-year-old English botanist Thomas Nuttal hopped on a coach and left Philadelphia.
Thomas was leaving on an expedition to study the flora of the Northwest that was arranged by Professor Benjamin Smith Barton of the University of Philadelphia.
With a salary of $8 per month plus expenses, Thomas was eager to collect and document everything he discovered. By August 12th, he’d arrived at Mackinac Island, where Thomas botanized for days. Thomas was the first botanist to explore the flora of Michigan, including Mackinac Island. One of Thomas’s Mackinac discoveries was the dwarf lake iris (Iris lucustris), which became the state wildflower of Michigan.
Today, Mackinac State Park says this about the flora,
“Two major forest types cover much of Mackinac Island. A fragrant coniferous forest containing cedar, spruce, balsam fir, and paper birch grows around the edge of the island and wherever the soils are cool and moist. In the shade of these evergreens grows some of the most beautiful wildflowers of the north woods."
April 12, 1913
On this day, the Botany Man, Willis Linn Jepson, gathered some 20 people together in a meeting room at the Oakland Public Museum. He had always dreamed of starting a botanical society for California, and the meeting agenda was to discuss creating such a society. Two weeks later, the California Botanical Society was established.
Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.
— Edith Pargeter, English author, linguist-scholar, and mystery writer
Note: Edith was a lifelong gardener, and she wrote a series of historical murder mysteries called The Cadfael Chronicles(“Cod-file”). Her books centered around a twelfth-century Benedictine monk who was an herbalist and Apothecary turned amateur sleuth. Between 1977 and 1994, Edith wrote twenty Cadfael novels under the pseudonym, Ellis Peters. Most of the stories begin with Cadfael working in his herb garden.
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2020, and the subtitle is Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden.
It's a shame Naomi's beautiful book came out during the pandemic.
Naomi always does such a great job with her books, and I'm a massive fan of her other book on dahlias. Naomi's also written about snowdrops and orchids.
Hydrangeas bloom so abundantly; it’s no wonder they're our favorite indoor and outdoor flowers. Hydrangeas are workhorses, and they can bloom from late spring to fall with a bouquet of colors that include pink, white, lavender, rose, and blue.
If you're a lover of hydrangeas - or know a gardener who is - this book is a beautiful gift. Even better, if you gift someone a hydrangea this year, consider including Naomi's beautiful book as part of the present.
This book is 240 pages of a truly incredible blooming plant: the hydrangea.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
Today is National Licorice Day.
The botanical name for licorice means “sweet root,” and in Dutch word, it's zoethout (“Zoot-Howt”), which means “sweet wood.” The secret to the flavor (which is 50 times sweeter than sugar) is hidden in the plant’s very long roots and rhizomes. Thus, children who grew up chewing on licorice root would suck out the sweet sugars and spit out the pulp.
The licorice plant is actually a perennial shrub in the legume or pea family. Don’t confuse it with the annual trailing dusky licorice plant that gets popped in containers.
The glycyrrhetinic acid in licorice causes the body to hold salt and water. Throughout history, armies would give licorice to soldiers and horses when water was in short supply. Licorice is used as a remedy for coughing - Hippocrates used it that way. It regulates digestion - Napoleon used it for tummy troubles.
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