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Henry Reeks


Henry Reeks, of Thruxton, Andover, England, resided at Cow Head from August 1866 to August 1868. The main purpose of his stay was to observe and record Newfoundland birds. Unfortunately, during the course of a winter ramble, he contracted a severe case of frostbite that resulted in the amputation of several of his toes. He was thus bed-ridden for much of the rest of his stay, and unable to travel far from his residence.

However, despite this great hinderence, Reeks did manage to compile a list of 212 Newfoundland birds. As well, he recorded a list 371 Newfoundland vascular plants, and even kept detailed daily weather records (Reeks 1873).

About his plant collections, he wrote: "The specimens for the most part were kindly brought me by the settlers or their children, and under such circumstances, as one may naturally suppose, were generally of the most wretched description ... not having my press or drying paper with me the specimens were generally thrown aside after examination, or placed between the leaves of a book, whence they often got lost."

The accuracy of Reeks' records (both botanical and zoological) has been variously maligned by some recent authors, but it must be remembered that, 150 years ago, the state of reference materials, and, in fact, the overall knowledge of North American flora and fauna, was not what it is today! As well, we must take into account Reeks' colourful disclaimer, above.

Interestingly, though, despite the occurrence of several "limestone" outcrops on the Cow Head Peninsula, very close to where he resided, Reeks did not record a lot of "limestone plants". He did, nonetheless, note that the Laurentian Primrose (Primula laurentiana) was "common" in the area, as it is today.





[Page last updated: January 7, 2012]





















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