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“Botanical Opportunities in British Columbia”

John Davidson’s speech to the British Columbia Academy of Science in 1912 provides insight into Davidson’s view of how little British Columbians knew about their province’s flora and landscapes. Read about Davidson’s plans for promoting knowledge of natural history and botany within the province.
The following text is a faithful and precise transcription of the original text and includes errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation present in the original.

To B.C. Academy of Science
November, 1912

In presenting a summary of the position of Botany in British Columbia, I am fully aware of the enormous contrast there is, between the magnitude of such an undertaking, and my ability to condense it into an evening lecture.

When you consider that the area of the Province exceeds that of the British Isles, that in Great Britain much of its area is under cultivation or occupied by innumerable towns, that the remaining area yields a Flora which has been seriously studied by hundreds of eminent botanists for many years past, and will be continued by others for many years to come, you may feel assured that I am quite conscious of the honor and responsibility which the Provincial Government has laid on me, of laying the foundation for a Botanical Survey of the Province, thereby paving the way for future botanical research by students of our New University.

At the outset, I may say that the Botany of British Columbia is practically untouched. We have virgin soil for many enthusiastic botanists in all branches of the subject.

It is true that many collectors have from time to time visited the Province and have collected specimens from certain locations at certain seasons, but these collections can by no means be looked on as representative of the areas in which they were found, because the collectors in most cases not being botanists must have overlooked many of the inconspicuous plants or lower forms, which, to the botanist, are of as great interest and importance as the more conspicuous showy plants.

Further, many of those collectors came here at the instigation of Horticultural bodies, to search for useful specimens for garden or greenhouse decoration, and it may be mentioned that many such specimens have been found during the more or less hurried journeys through British Columbia. We need students situated in various parts of the Province, to observe and make records all the year round.

Early explorers too, have been able to bring back collections from points along the coast where they had landed. Such plants as Arbutus Menziesii, Spiraea Douglasii, Salix Scouleriana, Mimulus Lewisii and others serve to perpetuate the memory of some of the early collectors in the West Coast.