The Collector is about David Douglas(1799-1834), a self-taught botanist from Scotland who was hired by the Royal Horticultural Society to explore the Pacific Northwest for plants. Jack Nisbet, the author, tells the story of this much admired botanist using snippets of Douglas personal journal woven throughout the book.

David Douglas arrived at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River in 1824, 18 years after Lewis and Clark had reached the Pacific. Douglas’ passion for nature made him steadfast and determined in his explorations. In the two years he explored the west coast he traversed more than 10,000 miles through rugged territory. With an acute sense of observation, he collected and cataloged hundreds of species of flora and fauna for the R.H.S.

Douglas was good natured, diplomatic, stubborn and a good marksman. All these traits helped him negotiate his encounters with native Americans, French trappers, and scores of interesting people he met during his travels. Douglas endured many hardships during this expedition, but his plant-hunting success was beyond all expectations. He is responsible for introducing 240 Pacific Northwest plants into Britain’s landscape with the most notable being the Douglas fir, which is named in his honor. This conifer significantly transformed Britain’s landscape and timber industry.

Douglas introduced numerous other trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs to British gardeners and there are over eighty species of plants (and animals) which have douglasii in their scientific names, such as the Douglas maple, Douglas dustymaiden, Douglas spirea, Western water-hemlock, Douglas aster, and Quercus douglasii. In 1834, David Douglas’ life was cut short when he died under mysterious circumstances in Hawaii while climbing Mauna Kea; he was only 35 years old.


Acer glabrum
Douglas Maple

Chaenactis douglasii
Douglas Dustymaiden

Spiraea douglasii
Douglas Spirea
Cicuta douglasii.
Western Water-hemlock

Aster subspicatus – Douglas Aster

Quercus douglasii Blue Oak

The book club members found the subject of this book fascinating, but they unanimously voted The Collector as being “poorly written”!…………….A.G.C. Book Club