Today in botanical history, we celebrate a Kentucky botanist, a French priest and plant explorer, and a Texas doctor and botanist.
We'll hear an excerpt from Susan Hill's book, The Magic Apple Tree.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with another great book by Michael Dirr.
And then we'll wrap things up with a reminder from a modern gardener to stop and enjoy the leaves.
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October 6, 1794
Birth of Charles Wilkins Short, American botanist, and doctor. A Kentuckian, Charles wrote a flora of Kentucky in 1833. He had one of the largest, most valued private herbariums with 15,000 plant samples, and his massive garden covered several acres. Charles was honored in the naming of many plants, including the Oconee bell named the Shortia galacifolia.
Now in terms of botanical history, this plant has quite a story. Back in the 1800s, when Charles was still alive, the plant's location had become a mystery. People couldn't find it. And in 1863, after Charles Short died, botanists still did not know where to find this plant, or even if it still existed. In fact, many botanists were asked the question,
Have you found the Shortia yet?
It was driving them crazy.
But finally, in May of 1877, a North Carolina teenager named George Hyams sent an unknown specimen to Asa Gray at Harvard. And when Asa laid eyes on this plant, he knew immediately that it was the Shortia, and he could be heard crying 'Eureka' when he saw it.
Two years later, Asa and his wife along with his dear friend, the botanist John Redfield, the director of the Arnold Arboretum Charles Sprague Sargent, and the botanist William Canby all stood around the little patch of earth where the Shortia grew in oblivion of all the hubbub it had caused. The long search to find the Shortia was over. It was growing right where George Hyams said it would be.
October 6, 1858
Birth of André Soulié, French Roman Catholic missionary, herbalist, healer, and botanist. Many of the first plant collectors were missionaries. André was one of a handful of the last missionary collectors. He collected thousands of dried plants and seeds and then sent them back to Paris.
André was so fluent in the different Chinese dialects that he could pass as a local.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, plant collecting in China was a dangerous business. Collectors not only contended with geographic challenges like terrain but also political upheaval. The Opium Wars and the ongoing dispute with Tibet increased distrust and hostility toward foreigners.
In 1905, in retaliation for an invasion of Tibet by a British explorer named Francis Younghusband, André was abducted by Tibetan monks. He was grabbed right in the middle of packing up his plant specimens. André was tortured for over two weeks before finally being shot dead by his captors.
André is remembered for his discovery of the Rosa soulieana and the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii). He also has a Rhododendron, a Lily, and Primula named in his honor.
October 6, 1877
On this day, a 46-year-old American doctor and botanist named Levi Jasper James Russell was whipped.
He was lured out of his home at midnight to treat a sick woman and instead met with a mob who stripped him naked and gave him 100 lashes for being an "infidel."
A leading member of the Freethinkers, Levi was agnostic and a pioneering doctor and herbalist. He served as chairman of the committee on medical botany of the Texas State Medical Association.
Before his life in Texas, Levi had gone west to California to dig for gold with his brothers after leaving their home state of Georgia. The three brothers were among the first to prospect for gold in Colorado and helped found the city of Denver.
Levi survived being shot with a bow and arrow by Native Americans in Montana and contracting smallpox during his imprisonment by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
But all that was behind him by the time he was whipped on this day, October 6th, 1877. Levi stayed in Texas, and he continued to serve his community as a doctor. He eventually died in Bell County, Texas, in 1908 at the age of 77.
In early October, the woods begin to come alive again, and that surprises many people, who think of them in autumn as places of decay and dying, falling leaves and animals hiding away for their long winter hibernation. But it is summer there that is the dead time. In summer, the air hangs heavy and close and still, nothing flowers, nothing sings, nothing stirs, and no light penetrates. But, now, there is a stirring, a sense of excitement.
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2019, and the subtitle is Superior Selections for Landscapes, Streetscapes, and Gardens.
This book is co-authored by Michael Dir and tree breeder and nurseryman Keith Warren. Together, this dynamic duo of tree expertise put together the latest and greatest must-have tree book. The two men feature old favorites and exciting new selections. My favorite is when they recommend the hidden gems, the overlooked, and the underappreciated trees that deserve a second look.
I've been saying for the past two years that gardeners need to plant more trees. But gardeners often lack the expertise for trees that they cultivate for edibles or ornamentals. This is where The Tree Book can save the day.
If you've wondered about the trees you should be considering, what tree is suitable for your space, why a tree is not working out, or how to put together a stunning tree portfolio for your property, this book is essential.
This book is 900 pages of nerding out on trees from two masters who share information gleaned from training and experience.
Today's Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
October 6, 2017
On this day, Chris Howell, the gardener at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, tweeted a beautiful fall photo of leaves. In a day and age where manicured lawns are still universally valued, leaves are often seen more as a nuisance to our busy lives, being quickly raked up, bagged up, or blown away.
But on this day in 2017, Chris was so struck by the simple beauty of fallen leaves on a path, he tweeted that photo along with this caption:
Some leaves just need to be left on the ground to admire for a while.
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