David Douglas, of the fir and squirrel
January 7, 2020 10:32 AM   Subscribe

About a hundred years ago, a young Scottish man came to Oregon to collect seeds and plants. Along the way, he named over eighty species and cataloged thousands, including our ubiquitous fir, the cute squirrels who coexist with me, and a lizard.
posted by OneSmartMonkey (8 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
died a victim of science in a mountain forest of Hawaii. Not bad. I could think of much worse ways to go.
posted by snwod at 10:44 AM on January 7

About two hundred years ago.
posted by Glomar response at 11:17 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]

Douglas’ death was a bit of mystery. (I wrote about this in my latest book.) A few days before his body was found, he had briefly visited with a hunter named Ned Gourney, an Englishman who had escaped from the prison settlement at Botany Bay, Australia. (He’d been convicted of stealing 2 shillings worth of tin roofing.)

Even though Gourney recovered Douglas’ body and reported to authorities what had happened, rumors started circulating that he had killed the naturalist after an argument. Gourney denied it to his deathbed. A priest who was there at the end said his “wildly protested” innocence was just evidence of his guilt.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:54 PM on January 7

One must admit, tossing a body in a pit with an angry bull would be an effective way of covering up a murder, at least one by blunt instrument.
posted by tavella at 1:31 PM on January 7

That lizard is also cute, in a very grumpy kind of a way.

His p.o.b. is currently pronounced /scoon/, and not as in the delicious pastry (which is /skon/ [as in “(It)'s gone”, as they are anywhere near me] or /sCONE/.
posted by scruss at 1:56 PM on January 7

Eh, I think I have that wrong. Sorry.
posted by humboldt32 at 4:13 PM on January 7

A few years ago I saw a museum exhibit about him. It included pressed plants he sent back to the Royal Botanical Society, his journals, his tent, the skin of a cougar he had killed, a stuffed raptor he mounted, and a bunch of other stuff along with enough information to make me stand in awe of him. He traveled to the PNW 3 times, and never over land. He sailed around the tip of South America SIX times to do his cataloging journeys. That's... insane!

Total respect for him, thanks for the post and the reminder. Also, Douglas Firs are awesome trees.
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on January 7

Pedantry to an empty room doesn't incur points, right? So, let it be noted, Douglas fir (or as we botanical pedants like, Douglas-fir) is not botanically a fir. The most glaring difference is that fir cones are solid things that stand up on top of the branches, like stubby candles, and disintegrate there, while Doug-fir cones dangle and fall whole, and are scaly like pine or hemlock cones. With the mouse butts sticking out from under the scales.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:19 PM on January 12

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