Friends of the Arboretum Lecture

"Plant Hunting Expeditions of E. H. Wilson"
Jason Lattier, Department of Horticultural Science Graduate Student and Former JCRA Intern

  • Thursday, January 5, 2012 – 7:30 pm9:00 pm

E. H. Wilson was a latecomer to the great age of Victorian plant exploration. He was plucked from relative obscurity as a young man, and went on to become one of the greatest plant hunters of all time. Jason will discuss the amazing aligning of events that had to occur for E. H. Wilson to embark on his career. The majority of the talk will focus on his first three trips to China for the firm of Veitch Nurseries and later Arnold Arboretum. His first trip was focused on capturing the dove tree (Davidia involucrata). This was during a period of unrest and turmoil (Boxer Rebellion) when anti-foreign sentiments were high. It was quite a dangerous trip and he faced many perils along the way.

The second trip to China was in search of the yellow poppywort (Meconopsis integrifolia) which took him further inland than any plant explorer had ever gone. His third trip took him deep into the Himalayas into Tibet to collect a range of plants for the Arnold Arboretum, focusing on conifers. His fourth trip (also for the Arnold Arboretum) took him to Hubei and Sichuan by way of the Trans-Siberian Railway; he was tasked with searching for more conifers and for lily bulbs. It was this trip that almost cost him his life, yet he discovered his most prized introduction, the regal lily (Lilium regale).

Jason will conclude his presentation with a discussion on E. H. Wilson's later trips to Japan, Formosa, and his career in the United States as "Keeper of the Arboretum" at the Arnold Arboretum. Jason will use E. H. Wilson's own words from his journal to tell much of the story, and will also be using many of his original glass-plate photos, some dating back to the turn of the century 1900.

All in all, many of the plants we enjoy in our gardens were introduced by E. H. Wilson, and the treacherous story of their capture and domestication may give a new appreciation for the early days of exotic plant introduction.

Free for Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum members, NC State University students (with ID), and Department of Horticultural Science faculty and staff, all others $5.00.
Advanced registration is not available.
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Need directions? Click here.
Free parking is available at the JC Raulston Arboretum and along Beryl Road.
Please call (919) 513-7005 for more information about this lecture.