Botany in British Columbia

John Davidson (August 6, 1878–February 10, 1970)

John Davidson was a botanist who popularized nature study through illustrated public lectures. He created the Vancouver Natural History Society and the University of British Columbia’s herbarium and botanical garden. Today, many consider Davidson an environmental folk hero for his conservation efforts.

Before Davidson’s arrival

Despite the few British Columbian specimens at London’s Kew Gardens in the early 1900s, many people had already studied the plants of British Columbia. These included both the original First Nation inhabitants and later immigrant settlers.

On October 25, 1886, in Victoria, British Columbia, the Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology opened in the old legislative buildings. On March 26, 1890, the Natural History Society of British Columbia formed as an independent auxiliary to the museum. Invitations were sent to “gentlemen known to be interested in the study of Natural History,” for a meeting in the museum office. At this meeting, they chose the society’s name and specified its goals: “to acquire and promote a more extended knowledge of the natural history of the Province.” Soon it became the practice for “those who have the opportunity” (amateur collectors) to supply the museum with specimens collected from all parts of the province.

In Vancouver, which lagged a little behind Victoria in the creation of an intellectual society, two local natural history clubs existed: The Vancouver Naturalists’ Field Club and The Art, Historical and Scientific Association of Vancouver.