IF YOU HAD MET HIM the year his famous book was published, you might have mistaken William Hughes for a mild-mannered gardener. By that time, he had settled into his role at the country estate of the Viscountess Conway, a noblewoman and philosopher, and had published a book on grapevines. But the old man was more than a tottering plant enthusiast. When his treatise on New World botany, The American Physitian, dropped in 1672, its contents revealed a swashbuckling history.
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