Jack Nisbet: David Douglas and the Douglas Fir
David Douglas was a Scottish botanist. In the early years of his career, he worked as an assistant to the head gardener at Scone Palace in northeastern Scotland. He then moved to the Botanical Gardens of Glasgow University, where he often attended William Hooker’s botany lectures. As a worker in the greenhouse, Douglas often supplied the plants for Hooker’s lectures. Hooker, who was impressed with Douglas’s botanical intuition and curiosity, recommended him to the Royal Horticultural Society of London. At this time, botany was the most important science in the world. In Europe, plants carried an extremely high value. So, in 1824, the Society sent Douglas on a plant-hunting expedition in the Pacific Northwest. His was under the protection of the Hudson Bay Company, which controlled the only settlements west of the Rockies. Through the company, he met John McLoughlin, who agreed to let Douglas accompany him on any trading or trapping expeditions in order to collect plant samples. During his time in the Pacific Northwest, Douglas sent plant samples back to England by packing them in sand. Some believe this technique was one of the main reasons for his success. After spending much of his time in the coastal rainforest of western Washington, Douglas decided to head inland to explore an entirely new botanical habitat. Along his journey, Douglass contracted a few native girls to construct him four English style hats made of Indian hemp, with his initials sewn into the side. He also encountered various species of rodents, whom he found were actually competing with him for the ripe plant seeds. Upon reaching Spokane, Douglas fell in love with the sparsely populated parkland – a stark contrast to the dense rainforests in the West. Here, he discovered and collected many of his most notable specimens. David Douglas is probably most well known for his identification of the Douglas fir evergreen tree. This tree is one of the...
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