John Muir's Botanical Travels

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Various specimens from John Muir's collection, photographed by Stephen J. Joseph, from "Nature's Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir's Botanical Legacy" by Bonnie J. Gisel and Stephen J. Joseph (Heyday Books, 2009). See the slideshow below on this page for more images from the book.

The great 19th-century naturalist, mountaineer and conservationist John Muir is known for his treks in the high Sierra of California, his near-mystical passion for wilderness, his determination to save Yosemite and create America’s national parks.

Bonnie Gisel wants you to remember Muir as a botanist. Wherever he walked — and he seemed to walk everywhere, from the Midwest to Florida, across California and Alaska — he collected plants.

She’s tracked his collection across the country, had it captured in remarkable photographs, and brought it back to the light of day. It’s a dazzling, sobering, window on our botanical world, then and now.

This hour, On Point: On the trail of John Muir’s botanical travels.

You can join the conversation. It’s spring — the season of plants is coming. Do you know what that would have looked like in your neighborhood 150 years ago? Can you picture the botany of John Muir’s day?

Bonnie Gisel, co-author with photographer Stephen Joseph of “Nature’s Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy." She has studied and written about John Muir for 20 years and is the curator of Le Conte Memorial Lodge, the headquarters for the Sierrra Club in Yosemite National Park. She performed pathbreaking research to assemble the collection of Muir’s botanical specimens that had before been scattered across the country.

Dean Taylor, researcher at the Jepson Herbarium at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s an expert on the endangered plants of California and has written popular field guides to the flowering plants of Yosemite and the Sierras. He’s walked in Muir’s footsteps and has seen, firsthand, the damage climage change is doing to the plants John Muir catalogued.

This program aired on March 31, 2009.


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