In John James Audubon’s Birds of America, the Silky Camellia is Stuartia malacodendron. Taxonomists have since changed the genus to Stewartia. The famed scientist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) first named the plant in honor of John Stuart (1713-1792). John Stuart was also England’s 3rd Earl of Bute. The earl is better known for his politics than his botany. Although some might argue his work as a botanist was far more valuable than the state in which he left the English government. His authoritarian approach to serving as the country’s Prime Minister earned him the nickname of “Jack Boot,” just like the United States’ own version of a jackboot that served as the 45th President. The Earl of Bute resigned from office in 1763 and turned his attention to botany and managing his estate near Christchurch in England’s county of Hampshire. In 1785, the earl published The Botanical Tables Containing the Families of British Plants.
In the branches of Stewartia malacodendron John James Audubon drew the Carolina Turtle dove. The bird is now commonly known as the Mourning Dove. “I have tried, kind reader, to give you a faithful representation of two as gentle pairs of Turtles as ever cooed their loves in the green woods. I have placed them on a branch of Stuartia, which you see ornamented with a profusion of white blossoms, emblematic of purity and chastity.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!