Florida Museum of Natural History

William Bartram

Bartram as Naturalist

William Bartram discovered the oak-leaved hydrangea, a species new to science in southern Georgia.


In the Southeast, William Bartram identified at least 358 plants, 150 of which were new to him. In Chapter V of his Travels, Bartram referred to his herbarium or collection of dried plant specimens as a "Hortus Siccus," Latin for dry garden: "Having completed my Hortus Siccus, and made up my collections of seeds and growing roots, the fruits of my late western tour and sent them to Charleston, to be forwarded to Europe, I spent the remaining part of this season in botanical excursions." Traveling with specimens was not easy. Bartram sewed dried plant specimens into linen books transported by pack animal. He described laying out the books to dry after a mishap. Bartram was not able to preserve animal specimens, some of which, drawn and described, joined the soup pot.

Forty common species Bartram observed in Florida are:

Unless otherwise noted, William Bartram's drawings are housed at the British Museum (Natural History), London, UK

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The link below tells the story of the magnificent summer-flowering tree and John Bartram's discovery of it in 1765 in Georgia. Named after Benjamin Franklin, the Franklinia is today extinct in the wild and reputedly all of today's specimens across America and Europe derive from the seedlings that Bartram's son William grew in their nursery just outside Philadelphia.

Article - The Garden, Franklinia alatamaha, June 2008

Call for Specimens:
The Florida Museum of Natural History is conducting a survey to establish if all Franklinia are descended from William Bartram's tree. They are asking gardeners in the USA and Europe to send samples for DNA identification. If you can spare material and would like to help, place one to three fresh leaves in 80-100g of silica gel desiccant (granules) in a plastic zip-lock bag, together with information of the location, date of harvest, and any other data about the specimen, a photograph and contact details. Send in a padded envelop to Charlotte M. Porter at the Florida Museum of Natural History, P. O. Box 117800, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7800, United States.

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