Wild About Texas – October, 2007
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. -Marcel Proust
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a new garden honoring 10 valiant botanists who walked hundreds of miles and endured severe hardships to discover and collect natural treasures of the Lone Star State and surrounding areas. This garden is divided into a series of boxes planted with species bearing the names of each of the following featured botanists.
Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801 – 1879)
Born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer grew up to become a newspaper editor and naturalist. He became a political agitator for reform of the German government and in 1834 he immigrated to the U.S. as a political refugee. Called the father of Texas botany, he was the first permanent resident plant collector in Texas.
George Engelmann (1809 – 1884)
German-born physician George Engelmann was instrumental in collecting, describing and assembling the flora of western North America particularly in the Rocky Mountains and northern Mexico. He published around 100 botanical papers and was respected as the principal botanist of the western U.S. of his time. His legacy helped found the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Thomas Drummond (1790 – 1835)
Thomas Drummond hailed from Scotland. He spent 1833 and 1834 collecting plant and bird specimens between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau. He contributed 750 previously undiscovered plant species which were ultimately distributed to museums and other scientific institutions worldwide.
Charles Wright (1811 – 1885)
Connecticut-born Charles Wright collected all over the world, with significant collections from Texas, namely from Jasper, Angelina, Tyler and Newton counties. Commissioned by Asa Gray of the Harvard herbarium to survey the 673 miles of the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso, Wright wrote “sleep all night if you can in the rain and walk twelve to twenty-five miles next day in the mud and then overhall a huge package of soaked plants and dry them by the heat of the clouds.” From this trip, Wright sent Gray 1,400 plant species.
Josiah Gregg (1806 – 1850)
Josiah Gregg of Tennessee traveled the Plains as a young man. In 1848, he joined a botanical expedition to western Mexico and California, during which he corresponded with and sent plant specimens to the eminent botanist George Engelmann. Gregg is well known for his book Commerce of the Prairies, a work on the folklore and practical life of the western frontier.
Jean Louis Berlandier (1805 – 1851)
A French-Swiss naturalist, Berlandier traveled and collected plants in northern Mexico and made the first substantial botanical explorations in Texas, namely in Laredo, San Antonio, Gonzales, San Felipe and the silver mines on the San Saba River. He married and settled in Matamoros where he became a physician and oversaw the hospitals and served as an interpreter during the Mexican War.
Julien Reverchon (1837-1905)
Frenchman Julien Reverchon amassed a collection of 20,000 Texas plants specimens representing more than 2,600 species, gathered largely during expeditions to West and Southwest Texas. The Missouri Botanical Garden now houses the collection, recognized as the best of its kind in the world. In his later years, Reverchon became a professor at Baylor College.
Edwin James (1797 – 1861)
Trained in medicine, geology and botany, Edwin James of Vermont was the first American botanical explorer in the Rocky Mountains. He received the appointment of botanist, geologist, and chronicler in the United States army expedition of 1819/1820 led by Major Stephen Long and later served as a surgeon in the US army.
Ferdinand von Roemer (1818 – 1891)
A scientist by profession with a Ph.D. in paleontology, Roemer also studied law in his homeland of Germany. From 1845-1847, Roemer explored flora, fauna and geology from Galveston to Houston, west to New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, and north to Waco. He authored a book, Texas (1849), addressing German immigration to Texas and the physical geography of the state.
Barton Holland Warnock (1911 – 1998)
Considered by many to be the leading authority on the flora of the Trans-Pecos, Barton Warnock collected more than 26,000 specimens during his 33 year tenure at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. He wrote three popular field guides of the plants of the Trans-Pecos and the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center in Lajitas, named in his honor, is an educational facility interpreting the Chihuahuan Desert.
For more information about Texas native plants, visit the Wildflower Center’s Web site at: www.wildflower.org.
About the authors: Andrea DeLong-Amaya is the Director of Horticulture and Flo Oxley is the Director of Education and Conservation at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.