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Thomas Drummond 1793 - 1835

Thomas Drummond was 21 when he moved to Doohillock, taking over the late George Don's botanical garden. His father had been a local professional gardener. Thomas worked at Doohillock for the next 10 years, selling plants of botanical interest as well as running the market garden. He married Isobel in 1820 and they had a son and two daughters.  Professor Hooker from Glasgow University visited the garden and was impressed by Thomas' knowledge.  Hooker went on to become Sir William Hooker, the first director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Thomas was an able botanist, with a keen interest in mosses and lichens.  His book,   Musci Scotici, was published in 3 volumes in 1824 – 25.  Thomas acted as a guide for a field trip into the Angus Glens with Hooker and other leading botanists of the time.

In 1825, Hooker recommended him for the job of assistant naturalist on an expedition to the Arctic, to find the Northwest Passage. The party split up in Saskatchewan. Drummond was sent on a separate trip to the Rocky Mountains. Travelling by canoe and horseback with only one Native American hunter, he explored the mountains for six months and made extensive collections. Early on, and in severe weather, his companion left him totally alone to fend for himself for

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Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’

© RHS / Barry Phillips

two months. After running into a bear with cubs, he narrowly escaped a mauling, but he was nearly dying of starvation when he made it back to his party in Saskatchewan. His collections were the basis for Hooker's book about the plants of America, Flora Boreali Americana. Over 80 North American plants have been named

Opuntia drummondii on a

Bulgarian stamp issued 1970

after him, including Acer rubrum drummondii, Opuntia drummondii, and Anemone drummondii.

On his return to Britain, Thomas was made the first Curator of the Belfast Botanical Garden. He moved with his family, but left after a couple of years.  

In 1831, funded by William Hooker, he was able to travel once again to America, this time to explore the southern states to collect specimens for his patron. Arriving in New York, Drummond travelled to Philadelphia, on to Baltimore and Washington before setting out across the Alleghenies on foot, finding the terrain easy in comparison to that of the Rockies. He took a steam boat down the Ohio River to St. Louis. He collected a vast number of plants in Loiusiana before visiting Texas in 1833 where he was one of the first to gather good specimens. Unfortunately, in Velasco, Texas, he and his companions were struck down by cholera and, although he survived, many did not. He almost starved because no-one was able to supply food. When exploring the Brazos River in early 1834 he fell ill again with a fever and boils. After visiting Florida, Drummond must have sailed to Cuba. Hooker received a

letter from the Consul in Havana in March 1835 telling of Drummond's death. The details of his death were sent in another letter which never arrived. The seeds of a plant sent to Glasgow in February, 1835 were grown in the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Professor Sir William Hooker called it Phlox drummondii in honour of Thomas.

The genus Drummondia DC bears his name and the genus Drummondita Harv. for Thomas and his brother, James. Mount Drummond and the Drummond icefield in Banff Park, Alberta are named after Thomas.

Anemone drummondii

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