Rose was the perfect name for the Grand Canyon’s first official botanist, because self-taught Rose Collom blossomed when exposed to the state’s flora.
She began her love affair with Arizona’s plants when she and her husband moved to Gila County in 1914. She explained that while he was away on mining business, she found the plants her “companions” and wrote away for books to help her identify and understand them. She started collecting seeds and made careful observations of various plant’s bloom times, growing conditions and habitats. She shared her findings with scholars from around the nation, including the Smithsonian Institution. She also started corresponding with noted botanists, and from all quarters, her growing knowledge and attention gained admirers.
Rose discovered several varieties of plants previously unknown, and each was named after her. “Rose Collom has done so much critical field work,” a scientist wrote when the Gallum Collomae was named in her honor.
She promoted the use of native plants along highways and in home gardens, and was a founder of Phoenix’ Desert Botanical Garden in 1937. She became such a respected expert, that she was hired as the Grand Canyon’s first paid botanist from 1939 to 1954.
Rose died in 1956. In 2013, she was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. Here’s how she described her fixation on plants: “Our Arizona wild flowers are unique, beautiful and hardy and courageous. They often grow, bloom and bear their fruit under most discouraging conditions. One watches for them and greets them as old and faithful friends, and surely from them one can derive strength and courage and faith.”