Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

John Bartram Lives!

March 11, 2014 6:30 PM | Anonymous member
John Bartram Lives


Featuring: Kirk R. Brown

We were pleased to have had Kirk Brown as our presenter at the March garden club meeting, reenacting the life of colonial-era plantsman John Bartram, “the father of American Botany.”  (Among Mr. Brown’s many achievements is the Green Achiever Award for advancing horticulture, presented by the Pennsylvania Nursery and Landscape Association.)

In a spouse-created waistcoat, stylish breeches, buckled shoes, and with carved snake-adorned walking stick in hand, John Bartram regaled members of the Capitol Hill Garden Club with political jokes, life-long accomplishments, and complaints. Here is his story.John Bartram (1699-1777) was a third-generation Pennsylvania Quaker, born in nearby Darby. He was imbued with a curiosity and reverence for nature, as well as a passion for scientific inquiry.  Bartram purchased 102 acres from Swedish settlers in 1728, and systematically began gathering the most varied collection of North American plants in the world including Franklinia alatamaha, extinct in the wild since the early 1800s.  A self-taught man, Bartram had the quintessential “can do” American spirit that continues to inspire us today.  His travels – by boat, on horseback, and on foot – took him to New England, as far south as Florida, and west to Lake Ontario.  He collected seeds and plant specimens, establishing a trans-Atlantic hub of plant exploration through his exchanges with London merchant Peter Collinson.  Plants from Bartram’s Garden were exchanged with the leading thinkers and patrons in Britain.  In 1765, Bartram was appointed the “Royal Botanist” by King George III.  At home, Bartram founded the American Philosophical Society with his friend Benjamin Franklin.  His garden was a source of inquiry and pleasure for luminaries like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.  His seed and plant business thrived, with lists appearing as early as the 1750s in London publications.  His international plant trade and nursery business survived him and thrived under the care of three generations of Bartrams.


For more about John Bartrams's life click here.

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