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Born Perthshire 1799; died Hawaii 1834
David Douglas was apprenticed at the age of ten in the gardens of Scone Palace, Perthshire; in 1818 he became under-gardener at to Sir Robert Preston at Valleyfield near Culross, from where he moved to the botanical garden at Glasgow. There he attended the botanical lectures of William Hooker who he accompanied on several expeditions to the Highlands. Hooker recommended Douglas as a plant collector to the Horticultural Society of London and in 1823 he was sent to the eastern United States and Canada and then in 1825 to the Pacific North West where he spent two years in pursuit of new species of plants, birds and mammals along the Columbia River. Returning to England, his rich collection of live plants was greeted with great enthusiasm by the botanical world. In 1829 he returned to north west America, first exploring the interior of Oregon and Washington, then collecting along the Spanish mission trail in California. In 1833 he sailed to the Sandwich Islands, arriving in 1834 where he met his death on the slopes of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii when he fell into a pit trap and was gored by a wild bull. Douglas made over 200 introductions including the Douglas fir Pseudotsuga taxifolia and the sugar pine Pinus lambertiana. His introductions can be seen in many of great houses of Britain. Most of the ‘big trees’ at the Younger Botanic Garden, Benmore were introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century as a result of David Douglas’s explorations and some of Dawyck’s largest conifers were raised from Douglas’s original seed collections.
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; R. Desmond ‘Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists; Deni Bown, ‘4 Gardens in One’; Ann Lindsay and Syd House ‘The Life and Explorations of David Douglas’.
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