Frederick Vernon Coville

Frederick Coville, botanist

(1867-1937) Frederick Coville was educated at Cornell University. He became Chief Botanist for the US Dept. of Agriculture as Assistant Botanist (1888-1893) and then Botanist (1893-1937). He was also the first Director of the US National Arboretum in Washington DC. He was designated Honorary Curator of the US National Herbarium (1893-1937). He assisted in establishing the US National Arboretum in Washington DC, and served as its first director. He received an honorary doctorate degree from George Washington University in 1921, and served as vice president of American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1903.

Coville was tapped by Clinton Hart Merriam to accompany him in the 1891 Death Valley Exposition, funded by Congress and comprised of naturalists, botanists, and zoologists. The expedition also included botanist Frederick Funston, naturalist Frank Stephens, and zoologist Theodore S. Palmer, who headed the expedition when Merriam was assigned to another project by President Harrison. A paper entitled  “The Botany of the Death Valley Exposition” was produced following their journey.

As for fieldwork, Coville was most interested in desert botany for medicinal purposes, choosing to collect specimens in the West and completed the Medicinal Plants Survey in 1898. In 1903, he helped to establish the Carnegie Desert Botanical Lab. 

His work on seeds led him to help create the USDA Seed Laboratory. He was a chairman of the research committee for National Geographic whose purpose was to find uncharted lands to explore.

Coville is widely recognized as being instrument to bringing wild blueberries to the agricultural market. The historic name for the ubiquitous Creosote Bush was Covillea, which was named for him.

Associated Plants