The Collector is the tale of Scottish naturalist David Douglas as he traversed our region between 1823 and 1834 under sponsorship of the London Horticultural Society. A rich look back at the bountiful natural landscape of the time, it’s also an insightful snapshot of the lives of native peoples. From Douglas’ diaries we learn the relationships tribes had with the plants he was seeking, each other and foreign settlers such as those hired by the Hudson Bay Company. Nisbet brings us the excitement and botanical passion of a man who endured rough conditions and suffered an untimely death doing, as they say– what he loved. His name is still attached to over 80 plants and animals, not including the hundreds of species he introduced to European cultivation.
At the time Douglas discovered the plants and wrote of them originally, their classification was obviously not determined. As a result, his original names for them may not hold to this day. The only downside I found in this book is that I would have liked the author to refer to the plants that Douglas references in his diary with their current, accepted names in botanical Latin. I would have felt a closer connection to the stories of discovery in this book if I could have better determined which species he was journaling. That aside, it did not diminish from my awe of this man’s passion and accomplishment. Whenever I’m feeling like a helpless plant addict, I can console myself with the botanical zeal of David Douglas.
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© Colleen Miko, 2011