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Free art exhibit honors scientist who discovered plant species

Free art exhibit honors scientist who discovered new plant species
Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 14:47:15-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — If you want to check out a free art exhibit and learn a little about our history here in southern Colorado, you can visit the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center and learn about a man who dared to trek the southern Rockies 200 years ago, making hundreds of incredible discoveries along the way.

That man is Edwin James. When he was 22 years old, he became the first scientist to reach the foot of the southern Rockies and describe its plants and climate.The Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists is honoring his legacy by showcasing some of the hundreds of plants he helped discover and document.

Carol Till, the President of the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists believes his contributions to science have not received the level of attention given to the Lewis and Clark expedition (to the northern rockies) of 1804-1806, and so to mark the 200 anniversary of James' expedition, it was time to shine a light on James and his contributions.

The plants illustrated in this exhibit are all plants that James discovered and added to the scientific record. He collected over 500 plant specimens and his collections from the state took 20 years to catalogue!

Some plants are easily recognized today, like the state flower, the Blue Columbine (found on July 11, 1820 near the base of Elephant Rock).

Till explained he was the first scientist to botanize above Timberline, and he found many of these plants on Pikes Peak.
"James didn't expect to find the abundance of plants above the tree line and was astonished by their beauty," Till described. "He was the first to experience the incredible diversity of plants in Colorado from the plains to the mountaintop."

Till hopes visitors to the exhibit will learn about an important explorer/scientist through our art. "It is astonishing to think that 200 years ago this year, this was an unsettled, unknown landscape," she said. "It is interesting to imagine how this landscape looked to him with no towns and roads, just geographical landmarks. [James and his team] were just following rivers and bushwhacking up mountains!"

You can check out this exhibit for free at the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.