The Legacy of Explorer and Botanist David Douglas

Aug 10, 2018 11:32:53 AM | The Tale of David Douglas |

David Douglas High School, Douglas County Oregon, and the Douglas fir tree are all named for David Douglas, Scottish botanist and explorer.

The Legacy of Explorer and Botanist David Douglas

How One Botanist Changed the World: The Tale of David Douglas

Image Copyright: Jamie Street / Unsplash

The 18th and 19th centuries saw an explosion of invention and innovation in medicine, engineering, chemistry, and the sciences. 

Perhaps lesser known, but just as important were the advances made in botany through the exploration of the flora of the “New World.”

During this period of exploration, plants and trees from North and South America made their way around the world, transforming landscapes forever. The names of some of these botanical explorers would be honored in museum galleries, schools, and in the very “botanical” names of the plants and trees. 

David DouglasThe Legacy of Explorer and Botanist David Douglas

Image Copyright: Curtis's Botanical Magazine / Wikipedia, Public Domain

What do Portland's David Douglas High School, Douglas County Oregon, and the Douglas fir tree of the Pacific Northwest have in common? They are all named for David Douglas, Scottish botanist and explorer. 

Douglas would explore the Northeastern U.S., the Pacific Northwest, and the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii), discovering hundreds of plant species previously unknown to western science. 

Seed samples of plants he sent back to Scotland would transform the look of European gardens with new and exotic flowers and trees. Over 80 species of plants and animals contain the Latin binomial name, douglasii, in his honor. Douglas is, perhaps, the most famous of many botanists and explorers from the 1800’s who would transform the botanical world with their discoveries.

Douglas is one of many such explorers who changed the look of the world through his explorations in botany. And here’s some inspiration for the budding herbalist, botanist, and explorer: Douglas began his short career as a child gardener, the same way a modern child might mow lawns and weed flowerbeds for a little extra cash. His curiosity and hard work led to incredible advances in botany. The lesson here: you never know where your botanical curiosity will take you.

If you find David Douglas’s story and legacy inspiring, you’re invited to join me, ACHS Herbal Medicine Department Chair, for the talk, “Historical Herbalism: Famous Figures in Herbal Studies” on August 21 at 3 p.m. Pacific time. We’ll look into the incredible lives of other major figures in botanical history such as Karl Linnaeus, Jane Colden, and Marianne North.

Come to our campus in Portland, Oregon to hear the talk live and in person, or sign up for the live-streamed webinar to listen remotely. See ya there!

Historical Herbalism Webinar with Scott StuartDisclosure of Material Connection: I am the Herbal Medicine Department Chair at American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.

Scott Stuart

Written By: Scott Stuart

Scott's love of herbal medicine, Chinese martial arts, and Taoist philosophy called him to change careers from journalism and photography to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Scott has completed a four-year Master's program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Scott is a former Vice President of The Clackamas Center for Traditional Medicine (CCTM).