John Clayton

John Clayton

(1694-1773) Born in England, Clayton explored the Gloucester County region botanically and in 1734 sent many specimens and manuscript descriptions to the English naturalist Mark Catesby, who then sent them on to the Dutch botanist Jan Frederik Gronovius. Clayton would also send work to Gronovius directly.

Unprepared for the amount of material sent to him, Gronovious enlisted the help of the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. However unbeknownst to Clayton, Gronovious would later use much of Clayton's specimen and manuscript work in his 1739 book Flora Virginica without seeking his permission.[5] Whether or not Gronovious properly credited Clayton in the work is the subject of debate, as some felt that Gronovious greatly downplayed his contributions.[5] However, in 1975 William T. Stearn stated that Gronovious was the true author of the work, as he had performed quite a bit of work with the material prior to the publication of Flora Virginica and that "but for Gronovius's publication Clayton's work would lack modern relevance." A second part of Flora Virginica was published in 1743 with additional information. Clayton sought to publish his own version of Flora Virginica but was unable to find a publisher before a second edition of Gronovious's book was printed in 1762. His manuscript is believed to have been lost, likely in a 1787 fire in the New Kent County's clerk's office where the papers were being stored.

Clayton's work was also studied by the European botanist George Clifford and Linnaeus later named a flower in Clayton's honor, a common eastern North American wildflower, the spring beauty, Claytonia virginica. Linneus also recommended Clayton to the Swedish Royal Academy of Science, who elected him as a member on May 3, 1747. The specimens sent to Gronovious were later collected by Joseph Banks and the material is now part of the Natural History Museum in London and makes up the John Clayton Herbarium

The John Clayton Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society was chartered in June of 1984 and was named in honor of the colonial botanist.

Associated Plants