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William Bartram's Florida

Oct 7, 2013

William Bartram was a trailblazing explorer and naturalist. In the 18th century, he cut a path across Florida and seven other states.  His travels took him along the St. Johns River, Seminole villages and the Alachua Prairie, which we now call Paynes Prairie.  

He documented plants and animals in exquisite detail long before there were cameras, and named the gopher tortoise. He also tried to name the Sandhill Crane the "Savannah Crane," but someone else had already named that bird with the distinctive trumpeting call.  He even named a craggy looking tree after Benjamin Franklin, who was a friend of his father and fellow naturalist, John Bartram. 

And according to Jeff Rodgers, education director at the South Florida Museum, "His artwork was so fine and so detailed, which is indicative of the botanical artists, that these became actual type specimens. So all specimens are recognized based on his drawings, not on actual specimens that are in museums. So he was a botanical artist of the first caliber."

The South Florida Museum in Bradenton is hosting "Following in the Bartrams' Footsteps," a series of botanical artworks based on the work of William Bartram, through December.