Today we celebrate a Quaker son of Pennsylvania who accomplished so much during his lifetime and left a legacy of botanical information for future generations.
We'll also learn about a woman who, together with her husband, created an impressive arboretum in the middle of Iowa.
We’ll hear some thoughts about spring from a Contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist, and thinker.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a fun fiction book about an adventurous young woman who joins an expedition in Yellowstone National Park at the end of the nineteenth century.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the fascinating story of the Alaska State Flower - the Forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris).
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April 28, 1782
Today is the birthday of the botanist, physician, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, William Darlington.
Like his fellow eminent botanists John Bartram, Humphry Marshall, and William Baldwin, William was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania. A native of West Chester, William received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. When William was a student, Benjamin Barton, the botanist and author of the first American botany textbook was an early mentor.
After signing on as a surgeon for an East India merchant, William traveled to Calcutta. A year later, William returned to England and married Catharine Lacey, the daughter of a distinguished Revolutionary War General.
Lacey supported William’s work. The Darlingtons were married for forty years and had four sons and four daughters. Two of their sons were named in honor of fellow botanists: their oldest son was Benjamin Smith Barton Darlington and their youngest son William Baldwin Darlington.
The year 1826 was a big year for William Darlington. He organized and presided over the Chester County Cabinet of Natural Sciences, and he published his first edition of "Florula Cestrica," his summary of plants in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
William was a saver and an archivist. Today, William’s work to preserve his letters with Humphry Marshall and John Bartram are much appreciated. In terms of legacy, one of William’s most valuable contributions to botanical history is his masterpiece called Memorials of Bartram and Marshall.
In 1853, the botanist John Torrey named a new variety of California pitcher-plant for Darlington. He called it Darlingtonia Californica.
As for William, his large herbarium and works were bequeathed to his beloved Chester County Cabinet of Natural Science.
William was buried in Oaklands Cemetery, near West Chester. Twenty years earlier, William wrote his own epitaph in Latin - it is inscribed on his monument: "Plantae Cestrienses, quas dilexit atque illustravit, super tumulum ejus semper floreant" or May the plants of Chester, which he loved and documented, forever blossom over his grave. William's tombstone is crowned with a relief of Darlingtonia californica.
April 28, 1916
Today is the birthday of the arboretum-maker Frances Bickelhaupt.
Frances is remembered for the arboretum that she and her husband Robert created around their family home in Clinton, Iowa.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Robert and Frances watched in dismay as Dutch Elm disease claimed the beautiful Elm-lined streets of their hometown.
In response, Frances and Robert began planting a diverse range of trees on their 10-acre property.
Now, Frances and Robert were exceptionally disciplined when it came to planting trees - they committed to grouping all the trees by species.
Today, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum has a lovely collection of trees - including ash, beech, birch, crabapple, elm, hickory, honeylocust, linden, magnolia, and oak. Bickelhaupt also has a gorgeous conifer collection, regarded as the Arboretum’s crown jewel, and features many rare and dwarf conifers. In total, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum boasts over 2,000 different species of plants.
In 2020, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum was damaged by the derecho ("duh-RAY-cho") - a widespread and severe windstorm that blew through the midwest on August 10, 2020.
As a result of the derecho, Bickelhaupt lost 28 trees, and many more were damaged in the hurricane-force winds. The first course of action is clean up following by tree removal - for the trees were so damaged they could not be saved.
Today, if you happen to visit the Bickelhaupt Arboretum, there is a poignant sculpture of Frances and Robert near the entrance. They are standing side by side, and Frances has one foot resting on the top of a shovel she holds against the earth.
In the winter, you may want the summer; in the summer, you may want the autumn; in the autumn, you may want the winter; but only in the spring you dream and want no other season but the spring!
― Mehmet Murat ildan (“MAY-met Moor-rat ILL-don,” Contemporary Turkish playwright, novelist, and thinker
Grow That Garden Library
This fiction book came out in 2000, and it won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for Fiction.
In this book, Diane Smith tells the story of a young woman named A. E. (Alexandria) Bartram. A lively young woman and amateur botanist, Alexandria is invited on an expedition of Yellowstone in the spring of 1898. The leader of the expedition is a Montana professor who initially thought AE Bartram was a man. He was shocked to learn the truth when Alexandra joins the team. Still, it's full steam ahead 4 the group of scientists, and they embark on a summer of fascinating Adventures and a web of entangled relationships. The backdrop is, of course, the beauty of Yellowstone and 19th-century concerns about science, economics, and nature. This book offers a little bit of everything - botany, humor, adventure - and even romance.
This book is 226 pages of fiction based on true American history, nature, science, and culture.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
April 28, 1917
On this day, the State Flower of Alaska was adopted: the Wild Native Forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris "my-oh-SO-tiss al-pes-tris”).
The Forget-me-not was part of the Alaskan culture long before it became the official state flower.
During the Alaskan gold rush, the men formed lodges. A lodge called the Grand Igloo selected the Forget-me-not as the lodge emblem. Later on, women got involved with the lodge through auxiliaries.
One pioneering Alaskan woman was Esther Birdsall Darling. Esther lived in Alaska from 1907 to 1918. She created a dog kennel in Nome and later started the first sled dog race. Esther became known worldwide when she began writing about her life in the north and her Alaskan sled dogs.
Inspired by the “Forget-me-not” legislation, Esther wrote a poem dedicated to the State’s pioneers called “Forget-me-not.” It was included in the bill put before the legislature:
So in thinking for an emblem
For this Empire of the North
We will choose this azure flower
That the golden days bring forth,
For we want men to remember
That Alaska came to stay
Though she slept unknown for ages
And awakened in a day.
So although they say we’re living
In the land that God forgot,
We’ll recall Alaska to them
With our blue Forget-me-not.
In the bill's margins, there were two handwritten verses (likely written by Esther) and often used as the first two verses to her original poem.
A little flower blossoms forth
On every hill and dale,
The emblem of the Pioneers
Upon the rugged trail;
The Pioneers have asked it
And we could deny them not;
So the emblem of Alaska
Is the blue Forget-me-not.
The Forget-me-not is a member of the Borage family (Boraginaceae).
In Floriography ("FLOOR-EE-ah-grah-FEE") or the language of flowers, the Forget-me-not flower represents true faithful love, fond memories, hope, and remembrance.
In the middle ages, Forget-me-not was believed to be an effective treatment for scorpion bites. The buds of the flower curl like a scorpion's tail, which was believed to be a sign from nature. This is how Forget-me-not earned the common name Scorpion Grass.
Celebrated in folklore, there are many stories about Forget-me-nots.
The popular tale of how the Forget-me-not was named tells of a German knight walking by a river with his lady. When he stooped to pick a tiny flower, he lost his balance as he straightened to give the blossom to his beloved. He fell into the river and said, " Vergiss mein nicht." before being swept away.
After the battle of Waterloo, the battlefield was covered with Forget-me-nots. The dainty flowers sprung up to mark the spots of fallen soldiers.
When King Richard III banished Henry of Lancaster, he chose the Forget-me-not as a rallying symbol. The flower became an emblem for his followers.
During the 20th-century, Germans planted Forget-me-nots to honor the fallen and were a special remembrance after WWI.
In modern gardens, Forget-me-nots are especially beautiful in rock gardens and along water features like streams.
On April 26, 1951, the Vermont Standard shared an adorable story about the Forget-me-not.
“Professor Leon Dean of the English Department of UVM (The University of Vermont) spoke on the subject of "Vermont Folklore." He began by explaining that history is all about us… and that the learned historian no longer looks down upon the contributions of the local historian.
Folklore, he said, can be adapted to [the] classroom… and the student can go from folklore to local, and national history.
...Even more important are people whose memories reach back in a chain - from generation to generation. Professor Dean gave the illustration of a country doctor who in the spring, would carry Forget-me-not seeds which he sprinkled on the waters of the streams he passed. In time these streams were lined with Forget-me-nots, a memorial when he was gone.”
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