Biology was probably my first curriculum, one of my earliest “lessons in biology” that I remember was a phrase that my mother taught me. I was running around at 3 years of age re-iterating “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. Many years would go by before I comprehended the meaning of that expression, yet in a whimsical way it introduces how I became who I am. My mother’s dedication to teaching her first son introduced me to a world that was — and is — still mesmerizing. From my earliest childhood I remember chasing insects, looking at flowers and playing with seeds. The autonomous dynamism of an inert object transforming itself into green life so enthralled me that I would incessantly unearth seeds just to follow their progress. When I was four years old, I was traumatized to discover that the white rice that I had planted in a cake pan full of mud, rotted instead of grew!
From there onwards, plants never lost their influence over me. For my seventh birthday party I adamantly requested squash as presents instead of a G.I. Joe. I learned of squash thanks to my father. He had several old-timers as friends, older gentleman who were former miners, woodsmen and even trappers. One of these guys was named Orville, he lived in an old cabin along side Fountain Creek in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I remember, while joining my father to visit Orville and his cats, seeing in the entry way a pile of squash. I got a couple of them from Orville, (who by the way used his cat litter as fertilizer) and needed more, that is how my birthday wish was formed.
By the time I was 12, I had already become an orchid collector, begonia collector, vegetable gardener and even an African violet specialist. My fodder for research in those days was “The Golden Guides” nature series, edited by Herbert H. Zim. I always liked the name Herbert H. Zim, it went well with other characters of my childhood… like Dr. Seuss. I thought Zim must have been an amazing man. The books he “wrote” were so wonderful. The field guide series included such titles as Fish, Non-Flowering Plants, Orchids, Butterflies and Moths, Cacti, Exotic Plants, Fossils, and more. I had them all. I put to memory the scientific names of all the orchids and plants and had childhood fantasies of being a famous botanist, “Dr. Orchid”.
Botany and plants never left me as I went through high school. I continued to study and think about plants but I never imagined that I needed to study something like that in school. When I went to college, I chose to study things that were outside my sphere of ease. I chose mathematics and philosophy. Why? To challenge myself to think… I hated math, and philosophy came a close second.
I graduated from university, traveled the world and had a family. I returned full circle to the pursuit of plants when a dear friend and great mentor; Steve Brack suggested that I could also make a living with my passion. Steve encouraged me to combine my yearning to travel and discover, with my love of plants to make a new career collecting seeds. Because of him, it was not long before seed collecting became a way of supporting us, our travel, and discovery.
My brother Patrick joined us in mid-2006, he became my right hand man, and was a quick apprentice. We traveled the globe.
We studied. Between Alicia, Patrick and myself there were not too many teams that could have accomplished the acquisitions that we did in such a compressed time frame. In less than 10 years we logged several million miles together. I now have decades worth of field experience which is absolutely the best way to learn. I am ready to share my knowledge with the world. This is only the beginning…
— Joseph Simcox, The Botanical Explorer
Joseph Simcox is known as the Botanical Explorer. His work has been documenting and studying the world’s edible plants.