Many of you, whom, like me, are into CA native plants and/or identifying flora on bay area hikes may have wondered: who's this Douglas guy? He's got a fir, iris, artemesia and whole slew of other California plant species all to his name. For years I spouted off the words Iris douglasiana without even thinking. But today, well I finally decided to explore further and found the honorable Mr. Douglas of the Douglas Fir (which sidebar: is neither a fir <abies> NOR a hemlock <tsuga> but a psudotsuga- translation "kinda a hemlock"- menzesii- named for a rival botanist, Archibald Menzies, another Scottish dude- I find this humorous that the common name can shout out to one botanist while the botanic name can to the other) is (I'm quoting wikipedia now) David Douglas (25 June 1799 – 12 July 1834), a Scottish botanist. He worked as a gardener, and explored the Scottish Highlands, North America, and Hawaii, where he died. A cool resource for further information: http://lewis-clark.org/content/content-article.asp?ArticleID=487. Interesting short article for the name drops of other botanists (Torrey- i.e. Torrey Pine and Nutall- i.e. Cornus nutalli, or native dogwood- he's also got a woodpecker and viola to his name). See below for photo of Mr Douglas.
On top of having a good several dozen native shrubs, sub-shrubs, perennials and bulbs to his name, he also boasts several species of American oaks and pines. Douglas is a mysterious kind of guy. So I'm having issues finding out more about him. But hey. He's another Scottish naturalist, like John Muir (what's with these Scottish naturalists coming to CA?). Although it looks like Mr Muir took over the shift as his reign was from April 1838 – December 1914.
Okay now I'm going to side bar into a whole other rant. Because I'm wondering- who is this Menzies dude? He's got an herb and hey, even one of CA's coolest trees, the madrone named after him. Well here's what I found. Now if I found out that Douglas and Menzies where friends like Van Gough and Gaughan, well that would be totally awesome. Well I didn't find that, which doesn't mean it isn't true but I did find he lived from 15 March 1754 – 15 February 1842 and was a Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist. With a name like Archibald Menzies, he was bound be a rockstar. Dude even has his own genus of shrubs in the ericaceae (the bell shaped flowered family of blueberries, arbutus, erica, etc.) family- Menziesia. The lovely Mr Menzies below.
Bottom line to this rant: all plants have meanings- the cooler ones are of Latin or Greek derivations with awesome myths to boot... the less cool ones have old dead botanists to blame. More so, I hope to have a plant named after me before I die. Is this a self-serving desire? Perhaps. But I see it this way: some people want kids to carry on their name and legacy. Me? I'll take some dogs and an awesome Ribes or Aesculus... perhaps Aesculus californica 'Andrea's Red' or Ribes sanguineum 'Miss Andi's Choice' or maybe even Arctostaphyllos 'Kickass Andi'. Interested botanists can inquire with me for further classifications and questions.
Also, along the vein of plant meanings, etymology and derivations- I challenge you, the reader of these rambling words to play stump the horticulturist. Try me. For ex. Cupressus macrocarpa - Cypress- big seed. Let's play. We'll all learn a little Latin, a little plant geek and have a little fun.
Happy plant geeking.