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Ernest Henry Wilson

(1876—1930) plant collector and writer


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(1876–1930), plant collector and writer. Wilson was born at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire and early on showed great aptitude for botanical study. After training at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, in 1897 he went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Two years later, at the request of the Veitch Nursery, Wilson was recommended to undertake an expedition to central China to collect seeds and plants, particularly of the handkerchief or dove tree (Davidia involucrata) which he found, after assistance from Augustine Henry. He made a return journey on behalf of Veitch in 1903, before undertaking work for the Arnold Arboretum. Wilson consequently moved to the United States and twice more visited China, in 1906 and 1910, followed by travels throughout Japan in 1914 and 1917, and for three years from 1919, the Antipodes, India, and Africa. Wilson was made assistant director of the Arnold Arboretum in 1919, holding the post until 1927 when he was appointed its keeper. From then until his death in a car accident he hardly travelled. Wilson's prolific writings illustrate his work, beginning with A Naturalist in Western China (1913), but his finest literary achievement is considered to be Lilies of Eastern Asia (1925). As early as 1906 he received the Royal Horticultural Society's Veitch Memorial Medal, and was later honoured by the Victoria Medal of Honour. Wilson is credited with introducing about 1,000 new plants into cultivation; some of his best known include Magnolia wilsonii, Berberis wilsonii, Clematis armandii, and Acer griseum.

From The Oxford Companion to the Garden in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Lifestyle, Home, and Garden.


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