In Quebec in the 1820s, three elegant women could be often seen wandering through the woods in Sillery, just past the Plains of Abraham. They were picking ferns, flowers, including native orchids, mushrooms and other wetland plants. This was not to decorate their dinner tables, although all three were famous for their magnificent parties. They first tried to identify the plants, then they sketched them, pressed them and dried them. Their collections of preserved plants were pressed and dried between pieces of paper to create an herbarium so they could study them further. If they thought them very special, they packed them up and sent them off on the next sailing ship to Britain.

Botany also happened to be a desirable feminine accomplishment for British-educated aristocratic women. They read botany books, attended public lectures about plants and corresponded with naturalists.

All three belonged to Quebec’s most aristocratic elites. One was Christian Broun Ramsay, or Countess Dalhousie, wife of Lord Dalhousie who was Governor General of British North America from 1820-1828. She lived in the Chateau Saint-Louis, where the Chateau Frontenac is now.

Another was Harriet Campbell Sheppard, wife of a lumber merchant, who lived at Woodfield, a magnificent estate in Sillery (part of it is now Mount Hermon Cemetery).

The third was Anne Mary Flowers Perceval, wife of the collector of customs for Quebec. She lived next door at Spencer Wood, now the Bois de Coulonge park.

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