Between the Lines Book Club: William Lobb

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

One of the main characters in the second part of the book is William Lobb, who was a real-life botanist. Lobb’s first plant-collecting venture was on behalf of James Veitch, of the famous Veitch Nurseries in England. Lobb set out for South America in 1840 on a gruelling trip that lasted until 1844. It is probable that, among other things, Lobb brought England the secret to making gunpowder from sodium nitrate (before that it was made with potassium nitrate).

Lobb’s next trip was from 1845-1848, and involved South America again. In 1849 he went to North America where he made the trip to Calaveras Grove that plays such an important role in the book. The grove was first discovered by a hunter who was chasing a bear (not the other way around?). Lobb took measurements of the Giant Sequoias, collected seeds and seedlings, and headed back to England early so as to be the first to bring the samples to England. Veitch was thrilled and made a lot of money from the find, since Sequoias quickly became popular with wealthy English gardeners.

Lobb became increasingly strange and frail. He died, probably of syphilis, in California in 1864. Perhaps fittingly, a google search of his portrait only shows pictures of plants, especially the Monkey Puzzle Tree, the Sequoia, and the William Lobb Rose.

William Lobb Rose


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