Elizabeth Britton, a botanist who took the lead in advocating for the establishment of the New York Botanical Garden, and founded the Wild Flower Preservation Society of America, was born on Jan. 9th 1858. Some might say her blossom expertise made her a “flower child”.
She attended schools in Cuba and New York and in 1875 graduated from Normal (now Hunter) College, New York City. For 10 years she worked on the staff there, and during that time she laid the foundation of her reputation as a leading amateur botanist. By 1883 she had specialized in bryology, the study of mosses, and had published her first scientific paper in the field. One can only wonder whether she would have circulated
She was given charge, on an unofficial basis, of the moss collection of the Columbia botany department, and gradually she built an impressive collection. Considered in her day as a leading expert on the stay of mosses. She wrote more than 300 papers on mosses and wildflowers. She taught in an unofficial capacity at Columbia College. Her efforts contributed to the founding of New York Botanical Gardens. It could be said she had a legal grow operation.
In 1902 Britton was a founder and in 1902–16 and 1918–27 secretary and treasurer of the Wild Flower Preservation Society of America. Through the society and various publications she led movements that succeeded in saving numerous endangered wildflower species around the country. She was, one might believe, a real seed nut.
From 1916 to 1919 she was president of the Sullivant Moss Society, which she had helped found in 1898 and which in 1949 became the American Bryological Society. She published more than 340 signed scientific papers during her career and had 15 species and 1 moss genus (Bryobrittonia) named for her. She was a true moss namesake.