Don, Sabine and Others

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In 1832, the plants Douglas collected were named Pinus douglasii (doug-GLASS-ee-eye, after David Douglas) by David Don,5 an English botanist and librarian for both Lambert and the Linnean Society. Don proposed a name suggested by Joseph Sabine, the secretary of the Horticultural Society. A year later, John Lindley6 renamed the plant Abies douglasii in the Penny Cyclopaedia, a weekly publication of a few pages of a multi-volume encyclopedia costing only a single English penny per issue. It was with this publication that the common name "Douglas-fir" had its origin, replacing the then frequently used "Oregon pine." Unlike most common names, Douglas-fir would remain consistently applied to the species, while its scientific name, as we shall see, would undergo several changes.

It was not until 1867 that the genus Pseudotsuga was proposed. In his second edition of Traité général des conifËres, the French horticulturist Elie-Abel CarriËre7 established Pseudotsuga douglasii, basing his name on Pinus douglasii. This name would remain in use until Nathaniel Lord Britton, the founder of the New York Botanical Garden, proposed Pseudotsuga taxifolia in 1889. Britton suggested, incorrectly according to our modern rules of botanical nomenclature, that Pinus taxifolia (1803) was the first correct name for the tree, inasmuch as Pinus douglasii was proposed in 1832. What Britton failed to note was that Pinus taxifolia, proposed in 1803, was a later homonym, since the very same name was published in 1796. In short, the 1803 species epithet "taxifolia" was not available for Britton to use.

In the documentation of scientific nomenclature, every day counts. It is not known exactly when, in 1832, Don published the third edition of Lambert's A description of the genus Pinus. Rafinesque's Atlantic Journal, wherein he proposed Abies mucronata, was published sometime during September or October of 1832. In 1897, the American forester George Sudworth8 proposed Pseudotsuga mucronata suggesting that Abies mucronata predated Pinus douglasii. Sudworth abandoned this name the following year and took up Pseudotsuga taxifolia in a slightly modified form. Even so, Charles Sprague Sargent9 who published a new American silva maintained Pseudotsuga mucronata was the correct name in 1898, and considered Britton's Pseudotsuga taxifolia to be incorrect.

5. David Don was born on December 21,1799, at Doo Hillock, Forgarshire, Scotland, into a family of modest means. Quietly studious, he read and studied botany mainly on his own until he became librarian to Lambert. Responsible for one of the best collections of botany books in private hands, he devoted his energies to learning the library's content and then applying that knowledge to the collections in Lambert's large herbarium. He began to publish in 1820 and continued steadily until his death in 1841. In time, Don also became librarian to the Linnean Society of London, and in 1826 assumed the position of professor of botany at King's College. His best-known work was an 1825 flora of Nepal. (The word flora may refer to plants as a group, or it may denote a treatise describing the plants of a particular region or time. Thus Pursh's Flora Septentrionalis Americae ["Plants of North America"] is a flora.)

6. John Lindley was one of the foremost English botanists of his day. Born in 1799, he assumed several important positions after receiving his doctoral degree in Munchen, Germany, in 1832, the most notable being the librarian at the Royal Horticultural Society and professor of botany at University College, London. He was a remarkable scholar with access to the best libraries and collections – both dried and living – so he was to study some of the most difficult groups of plants. He began publishing in 1819, with a monograph on wild and cultivated roses appearing the following year. His first major work on orchids appeared in 1826, and soon he was the world authority on this large and taxonomically complex group. With his appointment to University College in 1829, he published his first synopsis of the British flora, followed the next year by a thorough review of all of the world's plant families. His books ranged from the technical to the general; he worked on both living and fossil plants; and he regularly taught large numbers of students. His 1838 book on medical botany established him in the forefront of this sub-discipline, and his 1846 The vegetable kingdom set a new standard for college text books in botany. All during his career, Lindley edited several journals and published numerous works for the English garden enthusiast. Even though Lindley died in 1865, others continued many of his publications and today the journal Lindleya is devoted to the study of orchids.

7. CarriËre was one of the best-known French horticulturists in the last half of the nineteenth century. Born at May-en-Multien, France, in 1818, he began as a market gardener at Aunet before obtaining a position as gardener at Museum Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Within a short period he was the head gardener and would serve in the position until 1869. Although he published some minor works on gardening, his best known works were the two editions on conifers, the first published in 1855 and the second in 1867. It was from his knowledge of conifers in the garden, where he could make detailed comparisons, that he came to establish both the genus Tsuga and Pseudotsuga. From 1867 until his death in 1896, CarriËre was the editor of the journal Revue horticole, one of the more significant horticultural journals of the nineteenth century.

8. George Bishop Sudworth began his career in American forestry with the Division of Forestry, the forerunner of the United States Forest Service. Born in 1864, he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1885 and served as an instructor in botany there the following year. His move to Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1886, heralded the start of his interest in North American trees. As the nation's dendrologist his 1897 paper, entitled "Nomenclature of the arborescent flora of the United States," was published in volume 14 of the United States Department of Agriculture's Bulletin of the Division of Forestry. This was followed in 1898 by a book on the subject entitled Check list of the forest trees of the United States, wherein he treated all trees of the country. Later that year he published Forest trees of the Pacific slope; this was augmented with 207 figures. He continued to work on the trees of different regions of the United States and began a project to map the distribution of the major forest species. Only that for the genus Pinus was ever published (in 1913) by him; Elbert Little (see below) would publish additional volumes of maps starting more than a half-century later. His revision of the Check list in 1927 just before his death was to serve the United States government until the early 1950s.

9. In a sense, one could christen Charles Sargent as an American – specifically Bostonian – "gentleman of leisure." Born in 1841 to a wealthy family, he graduated from Harvard University in 1862 and then served in the Civil War until 1865, after which he spent three years traveling in Europe. In 1870, Sargent became the professor of horticulture at Harvard and in 1879 was appointed the Arnold professor of arboriculture, he remained in this position until he died in 1927. Sargent was the founder and first director of the Arnold Arboretum that came into existence in 1872. Through his efforts the Arboretum acquired a massive herbarium (in part the result of his many trips and through its support of numerous collectors) and one of the finest collections of botanical books in the United States. Both the library and the herbarium significantly augmented the already excellent botanical collections and library associated with the University's herbarium.

Sargent published four significant works. The first was his 14 volumes of The silva of North America that was published from 1890 to 1902. Each of the species he treated was figured in detail with large, elegant drawings typically based on living material. The descriptions were augmented with comments on the use and history of each species phrased in superb prose. He wrote of the men and women who discovered and named the species, where the trees could be found in arboreta, and their importance in the long-term conservation of the land. His two-volume Trees and shrubs was aimed primarily at the arborist interested in growing new or little known woody plants. His Manual of the trees of North America (exclusive of Mexico), published in 1905, followed by a second edition in 1922, was to serve as the primary field manual for the trees of the United States and Canada for nearly a half century. Finally, from 1913 through 1917, in three volumes, Sargent published with others Plantae wilsonianae. Here he and his colleagues described and in many cases named the woody flora of western China based on the explorations of Ernest Henry Wilson 1876-1930), one of the greatest plant explorers of the twentieth century.