Emma Cole was quite a remarkable woman. After teaching for several years, she left at the age of 31 to study botany at Cornell University, and then came back to teach again, but she also traveled the world researching plants. She worked with Charles Sprague Sargent from Harvard (and was credited with helping find 20 new species) and became vice president of the Kent Scientific Institute- the forerunner of our Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Her specialty was the genus Crataegus (better known as the Hawthorn tree to us mere mortals). Her work was so extensive she even has one species named after her: Crataegus coleae and guess what… we still have lots of hawthorns in the wilds of the valley, perhaps even a Cole’s Hawthorn?
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Hawthorns, they can destroy expensive tractor tires and will skewer even the thickest Coat with their long pointed thorns leaving trail of bloody pin holes on the bearer, but perhaps I’ve been a little hasty and maybe, just maybe they do have some redeeming value… at least with a historical view point.
So come this summer the visiting professor and his troupe of students will venture out to the wilds of the farm to see how much is left of Emma Cole’s West Michigan. It will be a day we may do a little venturing ourselves… ready with band aids just in case.