As a young boy in Marshfield, Arthur Gilman roamed the woods and wetlands around his home. His family spent summers at their camp on Peacham Pond. Gilman remembers that even before he started school, he liked to go out every day and look for wild flowers.
Over 60 years, Gilman learned the names of more than twenty-one-hundred plants growing in the wild in Vermont, fourteen-hundred of which are native. Today, he’s the author of a 600-page manual, published in December by the New York Botanical Garden Press. In the book "New Flora of Vermont" plants are identified both by their scientific, or Latin, names as well as their common names.
After graduating from Brown University, Gilman worked for 11 years at the famous White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Conn. where he was responsible for propagating 800 plant varieties. The first effort to document the flora of Vermont was published in 1900, with later editions in 1915 and 1937 and 1969. Gilman's is the fifth.
Of it, he says, “I wrote the book with avid plant 'geeks' in mind, so I tried to make it as scientifically correct, up-to-date, and even cutting-edge as possible. But on the other hand, I wanted to make it interesting for the average Vermonter, so I tried to put in a lot of information that someone who is really interested in what they see around them would relate to.”
Gilman was especially interested in documenting rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and wildlife. He looked in places where some plants had previously been unknown and uncategorized.
Of particular interest was a rose he knew of in the towns of Cabot and Peacham. When he found it described in the Botanical Society of the British Isles in their "Handbook of Roses” he realized that this rose is thoroughly naturalized in Caledonia County and nearby, but not known anywhere else in North America.
It’s called “Sherard's Downy Rose", a species that’s common in the British Isles. Since the town of Ryegate was settled directly from Scotland he figures it was brought by those early settlers. And there’s a very nice example of Sherard’s Downey Rose at the Ryegate Town House in Ryegate Center.