During the final years of New France, women were primarily interested in plants for their medicinal, culinary, and utilitarian properties. Beginning with the English conquest, and above all after 1800, local plants began to be considered for themselves—for their beauty, for their names, for knowing where they grew, often to help professional botanists working on North American flora. Three aristocratic women from Quebec City gathered an impressive number of plants from Lower Canada in order to create herbariums—albums for themselves and for European and American botanists. Through the correspondence between Harriet Sheppard, Anne Mary Perceval, and Christian Braun Dalhousie (Lady Dalhousie) and the English botanist William Jackson Hooker, we discover the reasons behind their interest in and their passion for plants, as well as their need for exchange. By drawing on a variety of sources, such as herbariums, albums, catalogues, and other publications, this presentation will examine which sorts of plants interested them, such as wild orchids and rare specimens. Given that there are more rare plants traced by Lady Dalhousie than those of her two friends, we can compare these plants with those that are in a precarious situation in Quebec today. Lady Dalhousie made numerous extremely interesting discoveries, including some species that are now extinct in Quebec.
About the presenter
Jacques Cayouette was born in Lévis in 1944. After attending Collège de Lévis (1955–1963), he completed several degrees from Université Laval, Quebec. His research areas include the study of plants from the North-eastern region of North America, with a specialization in the flora of boreal and arctic environments. Cayouette has been a botanist and researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa since 1984. He contributed to the third edition of Flore laurentienne as well as to the Flora of North America and Flore nordique du Québec et du Labrador projects. In addition, he has written À la découverte du Nord. Deux siècles et demi d’exploration de la flore nordique du Canada (Multimondes, 2014) and co-authored three volumes of Curieuses histoires de plantes du Canada (Septentrion, 2014, 2015, and 2017). For over twenty years, Mr. Cayouette has been passionate about the history of Northern plant exploration in Quebec and Labrador as well as the discovery of useful plants from the New France era until today.
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