Observations by David Douglas, continued

Page 2 of 6

Ponderosa pine near Unity, Oregon
Photo © by James L. Reveal


The first species in the manuscript was scheduled to be called Pinus douglasii [=Pseudotsuga menzesii (Mirb.) Franco]. While it is traditional for plants to be named for their discoverer, it is not traditional for one to name a new species for him or her self. Thus, the name Pinus douglasii was credited by Douglas in his manuscript to "Sabine in Trans. Hort. Soc. Vol." Likewise, the other new species of conifers, P. menziesii [=Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.](1), P. nobilis [=Abies procera Rehd.](2), P. amabilis [=Abies amabilis Douglas ex J. Forbes](3), Pinus monticola Douglas ex D. Don(4), Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex Laws. & C. Laws.(5), and Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loud.(6), were all attributed to Sabine.

It is therefore likely that Douglas prepared the manuscript for the Secretary of the Royal Horticultural Society, Joseph Sabine (1770-1837), with the idea that he would publish the paper. This never happened. However, it is certain that Sabine conveyed the information in the manuscript to David Don (1799-1841), the librarian at The Linnean Society of London, who published several of the names in an unnumbered insert in Lambert's 1832 third edition of A description of the genus Pinus. Significantly, in the late fall of 1830, Douglas sent a critical set of six specimens of the conifers back to London (they arrived in 1831), and with these, complete descriptions could be drafted. Also, seeds were obtained as well, which were rapidly introduced into cultivation (Pinus ponderosa was already in cultivation).


Western larch near Lolo Pass, Montana
Photo © by James L. Reveal

It appears that Douglas probably drafted his manuscript in 1829 prior to his departure for the Columbia River in October of that year, and indicated to Sabine that he would promptly obtain adequate material to support his belief that each was new to science. It also probably took Douglas some time, in 1828–29, to review the specimens of all of his conifers, in both the herbarium and in the literature, before he could draft his manuscript. As for the new specimens and seeds, these he obtained in 1830, with the result that he had good material of Pinus monticola, and seeds of most of the rest. It is clear that Douglas wrote the manuscript while still in London.

It may also be postulated that Sabine was reluctant to claim authorship of a paper he did not write, and knowing that Don was revising Lambert's treatment of the pines, took the opportunity to provide him with at least some of Douglas' names, descriptions and specimens. What caused the delay in the formal publication of some of the new species is unclear. Don described Pinus douglasii, P. menziesii, P. nobilis and P. monticola, but not Douglas's "P. amabilis," P. ponderosa or P. contorta. Each of these latter names would appear after 1832 in listings of cultivated plants. Exactly what in the way of specimens was before such authors as John C. Loudon (1783-1843), the noted British horticultural writer, when he proposed his names, is unclear as well. Could he have seen Douglas' specimens and based his name on this material, or did he see trees in cultivation? The latter now seems likely. As for Charles Lawson (1794-1873), who published P. ponderosa in a book written with his father Peter Lawson (d. 1820), he stated that he saw living material growing in England and made no mention of any herbarium material.

–James L. Reveal



1. The nomenclatural summary of these names is as follows:

Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr., Traité Gén. Conif.: 260. 1855, based on Pinus sitchensis Bong., Mém. Acad. Imp. Sci. Saint-Pétersbourg, sér. 6, Sci. Math. 2: 164. Aug 1832. (Collector unknown, Sitka, Alaska.)

Pinus menziesii Douglas ex D. Don in Lamb., Descr. Gen. Pinus: 2: unnumbered page between pp. 144 and 145. 1832 (see footnote 23, below). Abies menziesii (Douglas ex D. Don) Lindl., Penny Cycl. 1: 32. 1833, nom. illeg., non Mirb., Mém. Soc. Hist. Nat. Paris 13: 63, 70. 1825.

Picea menziesii (Douglas ex D. Don) Carr., Traité Gén. Conif.: 237. 1855. (Douglas, Arguilar [=Umpqua] River, Oregon, Oct 1826.)

2. The nomenclatural summary of these names is as follows:

Abies procera Rehd., Rhodora 42: 522. 1940, a new name for Abies nobilis (Dougl. ex D. Don) Lindl., Penny Cycl. 1: 30. 1833, nom. illeg., non A. Dietr., Fl. Berlin: 793. 1824, based on Pinus nobilis Douglas ex D. Don in Lamb., Descr. Gen. Pinus: 2: unnumbered page between pp. 144 and 145. 1832. (Douglas, Arguilar [=Umpqua] River, Oregon, Oct 1826.)

Picea nobilis Douglas ex Loud., Arb. Frut. Brit. 4: 2342. 1838. (Cultivated specimens grown in England from seeds gathered by Douglas in Oregon and/or Washington.)

3. The nomenclatural summary of these names is as follows:

Abies amabilis Douglas ex J. Forbes Pinet. Woburn.: 125. 1839. (Cultivated specimens grown at Woburn Abbey, England, from seeds gathered by Douglas in Oregon.)

Picea amabilis Douglas ex Loud., Arb. Frut. Brit. 4: 2342. 1838. (Cultivated specimens grown in England from seeds gathered by Douglas in Oregon and/or Washington.)

The above two names were based on different elements and thus the Forbes name is not a new combination based of the Loudon name. Rather, Forbes likely took the name from a note by William J. Hooker (Comp. Bot. Mag. 2: 93. 1836) who mentioned the name but did not describe the tree.

4. The nomenclatural summary of this name is as follows:

Pinus monticola Douglas ex D. Don in Lamb., Descr. Gen. Pinus: 2: unnumbered page between pp. 144 and 145. 1832. Strobus monticola (Douglas ex D. Don) Rydb., Fl. Rocky Mts.: 13, 1060. 1917. (Douglas, mountains near Grand Rapids of the Columbia, Oregon, collected in 1830.)

5. The nomenclatural summary of this name is as follows:

Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex C. Lawson in P. Lawson & C. Lawson, Agric. Man.: 354. 1836. (Douglas, Spokane River, Washington, collected in 1826).

Neither Lewis and Clark nor Douglas distinguished between ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa) of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada ranges, and the mountain ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum Engelm.) of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Douglas collected material from the Blue Mountains of Oregon where the scopulorum is the local expression, but most of his material came from locations to the west.

6. The nomenclatural summary of this name is as follows:

Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loud., Arb. Frut. Brit. 4: 2292. 1838. (Douglas, "on swampy ground near the sea coast; and, abundantly near Cape Disappointment and Cape Lookout," Washington, collected in 1830.)

Lewis and Clark did not distinguished between the shore pine (Pinus contorta var. contorta) which is restricted to a narrow band along the coast from southern Alaska to northern California, and the much more widespread lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm.). Douglas confused lodgepole pine with jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb.), a more northern and eastern species.