Pyotr Kostromitinov’s wood collection from Fort Ross: evidence of the early botanical exploration of northern California

Ksenia N. Kuanetsova, Anna V. Stepanova, Ekaterina L. Kotina, Alexei A. Oskolski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Systematic attribution of the wood samples collected in 1830 by Pyotr Kostromitinov, the Manager of Fort Ross, a Russian settlement on the Pacific coast of northern California, has been carried out. As some wood samples belong to the taxa that had not been described at the time of their collection, their labels provide interesting evidence for the first steps of botanical exploration of an exotic flora by the Russian colonists who were not professional naturalists. Particularly, Garrya has been recognized by them as Viburnum, Lyonothamnus as Arbutus, and Torreya as Taxus. In contrast, different species of Ceanothus have been referred not only to this genus, but also to Rhamnus and Laurus. The meanings of some Russian vernacular plant names mentioned in the published historical documents have been clarified. For instance, lavr (laurel) was used not only for California laurel Umbellularia californica, but also for some Ceanothus species (probably C. velutinus). The reference of the vernacular name chaga to Sequoia sempervirens has been confirmed. Unlike most early wood collections, Pyotr Kostromitinov’s samples are made of thin stems and branches with no conspicuous surfaces showing their wood appearance. Such pieces are hardly suitable for demonstration of aesthetic or technical properties of timber. Pyotr Kostromitinov’s samples likely represent one of the earliest cases of collecting wood as objects of particular interest for botany and, more generally, for natural history. It was an important novelty for the 1830s, as the botanical exploration of woods did not have any sufficient conceptual background in those times.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIAWA Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • California flora
  • collecting practices
  • folk taxonomy
  • history of wood anatomy
  • vernacular names

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Plant Science


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