Friday, July 21, 2017

André Michaux (1746-1802), a French botanist most noted for his study of North American flora.

André Michaux (1746-1802)

André Michaux's (1746-1802), a French botanist and explorer, is most noted for his study of North American flora. André Michaux was appointed by Louis XVI as Royal botanist and sent to the United States in 1785 to make the first organized investigation of plants that could be of value in French building and carpentry, medicine and agriculture. He traveled with his son François André Michaux (1770–1855) through Canada and the United States. In 1786, Michaux attempted to establish a horticultural garden of 30 acres in Bergen's Wood on the Hudson Palisades near Hackensack, New Jersey. The garden, overseen by Pierre-Paul Saunier from the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, who had emigrated with Michaux, failed because of the unexpected New Jersey harsh winters. For a period of time he traveled the western mountains of North Carolina including climbing Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain, the Black Mountains and the peaks of Table Rock and Hawksbill. Michaux first called the Black Mountains by their current name. In 1787, Michaux established and maintained for a decade a botanical garden of 111 acres near Charleston, South Carolina, from which he made many expeditions to various parts of North America. Michaux described and named many North American species during this time. Between 1785-1791 he shipped ninety cases of plants and many seeds to France. At the same time he introduced many species to America from various parts of the world, including Camellia, tea-olive, and crepe myrtle.  In addition Michaux collected specimens in England, Spain, France, and even, Persia. His work was part of a larger European effort to gather knowledge about the natural world. 
SC Michaux Garden. Courtesy of the Charleston County Register of Mesne and Conveyance.  Michaux's contributions included Histoire des chênes de l'Amérique (1801; "The Oaks of North America") and Flora Boreali-Americana (1803; "The Flora of North America") which continued to be botanical references well into the 19C. His son, François André Michaux, also became an authoritative botanist. His work set the stage for several following botanists including his son, Franciois Michaux and Constantine Rafinesque. André Michaux was born in 1746, near Versailles, France. Trained to take over as superintendent of a wealthy landowner’s estate, he abandoned this career after the death of his newlywed bride, and turned his attention to botany. He quickly made a name for himself in botanical circles in France and became a plant collector for the royal gardens in Paris. 

After the collapse of the French monarchy, André Michaux, who was a royal botanist, lost his source of income. He actively lobbied the American Philosophical Society to support his next exploration. His efforts paid off and, in early 1793, Thomas Jefferson asked him to undertake an expedition of westward exploration, similar to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Corps of Discovery, conducted by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark a decade later. At the time of the planned Michaux expedition, Lewis was an 18-year-old protégé of Jefferson who asked to be included in the expedition, and was turned down by Jefferson.


Before Michaux set out, however, he volunteered to assist the French Minister to America, Edmond-Charles Genet. Genet was engaging in war-like acts against English and Spanish naval interests, aggravating relations between America, England and Spain. George Rogers Clark offered to organize and lead a militia to take over Louisiana territory from the Spanish. Michaux's mission was to evaluate Clark's plan and coordinate between Clark's actions and Genet's. Michaux went to Kentucky, but, without adequate funds, Clark was unable to raise the militia and the plan eventually folded. It is not true, as sometimes reported, that Thomas Jefferson ordered Michaux to leave the United States after he learned of his involvement with Genet. Though Jefferson did not support Genet's actions, he was aware of Genet's instructions for Michaux and even provided Michaux with letters of introduction to the Governor of Kentucky.

Nearly 300 plant species in Kentucky were 1st described by Michaux. His book 1803 Flora Boreali-Americana, published posthumously, was the 1st flora of North America based entirely on the author’s own botanical studies. His name is commemorated as an epithet for several species, including Croton michauxii (now Croton linearis), Hedyotis michauxii (now Houstonia serpyllifolia), Quercus michauxii and Saxifraga michauxii.  André Michaux returned to France in 1796, with his many plant collections, which are still preserved in the Michaux Herbarium in Paris. Over the next 4 years he worked on his book, but it was yet to be published, when he set sail for the South Seas on another botanical expedition. 
On his return to France in 1796 he was shipwrecked, however most of his specimens survived. His 2 American gardens declined. Saunier, his salary unpaid, cultivated potatoes & hay & paid his taxes on the New Jersey property, which is now still remembered as "The Frenchman's Garden," part of Machpelah Cemetery in North Bergen.

In 1800, on his visit to the United States, Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, concerned about the abandoned botanical gardens, wrote to the Institut de France, who sent over Michaux's son François André Michaux to sell the properties. He sold the garden near Charleston, but the concern expressed by Du Pont & his brother Eleuthère Irénée du Pont preserved the New Jersey garden in Saunier's care & continued to support it. Saunier continued to send seeds to France for the rest of his life, & is credited with introducing into gardens the chinquapin (Castanea pumila) & the smoking bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides).

André Michaux's Charleston garden was actually a nursery for plants, that he was collecting from around the region. Established about 10 miles north of St. Michael’s, in the Goose Creek area, he returned to France.In 1796, his son, Francois, returned to Michaux's Garden in Charleston in 1801, and wrote, "I found in this garden a superb collection of trees and plants that had survived almost total neglect for nearly the space of 4 years."


In 1800, the elder Michaux sailed with Nicolas Baudin's expedition to Australia, but left the ship in Mauritius. He then went to Madagascar to investigate the flora of that island, & was supposed to have died there of a tropical fever. While Michaux is often said to have died in 1802 or 1803, Aaron Burr recorded meeting Michaux in Paris on September 17, 1810. According to Burr he went "to Michaux's, the botanist, who was many years in the United States, & has written a valuable little book of his travels. He is now publishing his account of our trees, which will be extremely interesting. It demonstrates that we (not the whole continent, but the United States alone) have three times the number of useful trees that Europe can boast..."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Triumphs & Tirades of Botanist & Naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840)

Young Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840)

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840) has generated more interest in his life & work than almost any other American botanist & naturalist. He explored Kentucky from 1818 until 1825, collecting perhaps 10,000 specimens, &, in his career, published over 900 books & articles, described thousands of new genera & species (mostly plants). He remains a source of fascination, as articles & books that discuss Rafinesque continue to be published to this day. His Kentucky legacy is forever tied to that of botanist Dr. Charles Short, to Transylvania University & the supposed “infamous curse,” & to his botanical collecting & publishing on the flora of Kentucky.

Born in Turkey & raised in France, Rafinesque was a child prodigy & already a learned botanist & general naturalist, when he arrived in America at the age of 20. He later described himself as a botanist, naturalist, geologist, geographer, historian, poet, philosopher, economist, & philanthropist. He botanized for a few years in the middle Atlantic states, then returned to Europe, lived in Sicily for about 10 years, & returned to America in 1815, with a cargo of botanical drugs & 50 boxes of books & collections, all of which he lost in a shipwreck off Block Island, New York.

Discouraged but full of excitement about all the discoveries that awaited him, Rafinesque launched himself into a frenzy of activity over the next few years, traveling back & forth across the Alleghenies. From 1818 to 1826, Rafinesque focused his attentions almost entirely on Kentucky. An encounter with John James Audubon in Henderson Kentucky in 1818 produced several stories that have be-come legendary (see the accounts concerning Audubon’s violin & his drawings of a fake fish). Rafinesque eventually made his way to Lexington & secured a position as a Professor of Botany & Natural History at Transylvania University, a position he held until 1825. He traveled mostly in central & western portions of the state, collecting thousands of specimens in Kentucky. Early on he established a working relationship with Dr. Charles Short, a renowned Kentucky botanist, but this association eventually soured due to their different standards relating to information exchange & specimen preparation. He published Florula Kentuckiensis in 1824, the 1st general account of the plant life of the state.

After a disagreement with Horace Holley, the president of the university, in the Fall of 1825, Rafinesque departed Kentucky in 1826. He was said to have left a curse on the university; &, curiously, President Holley soon lost his position, contracted yellow fever & passed away from the disease, & in addition, the university admin-istration building burned down! Eventually Rafinesque settled in Philadelphia, but there he fell upon hard times, & died in 1840.
During his lifetime Rafinesque proposed more new names than any other American naturalist, a phenomenal total of about 2700 new genera & nearly 6900 new species, the majority being vascular plants. Sadly, most of his lifetime collections (containing an estimated 50,000 specimens & possibly 10,000 Kentucky specimens) have been lost. His herbarium was put on public sale, but without a single bidder it was left abandoned in a storage room, where the collection was heavily damaged by rats. Most specimens became very damaged & were discarded. Although some of his specimens remained at other herbaria, including some type specimens, there seems no doubt that thousands of possible type specimens were lost. 
Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood) 
Rafinesque’s published articles & books total over 900 titles. Included among them is the 1st descriptive outline of the vegetation regions of Kentucky, as well as the 1st general account of the plant life of Kentucky He also wrote a Medical Flora (1828-1830) that had great influence on the development of medical botany in the United States His many descriptions of new genera & species have been studied over the last few decades, & many of his names have been resurrected. Over 100 genera & species in Kentucky bear the “Raf.” author citation. Among the species named in memory of Rafinesque are Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood) & Viola rafinesquii.
Viola rafinesquii.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1895 Floral Treasures. G. R. Gause & Co., Richmond, Indiana

1895 Floral Treasures. G. R. Gause & Co., Richmond, Indiana
George R Gause (1867-1940), a member of the Friends (Quaker) Church, was for over 50 years a "Dealer and Grower of Choice Plants and Bulbs, Cut Flowers for Weddings and Funerals a Specialty, Office and Greenhouse National Road opposite Earlham Cemetery, Richmond, Indiana." 

Monday, July 17, 2017

1884 Why women should grow seeds & plants - Get out of the House & possibly make Money!

In the United States of America, women did not get the right to vote nationally until 1920.
Abbott Fuller Graves (American artist, 1859-1936) Flower Sellers

SEED, BULB AND PLANT GROWING FOR WOMEN by William A Manda 1862-1933

"In the great reform movements of this age, having in view the betterment of women's condition, no factor is so important as the economic. “What shall we do" is a question that can best be answered by those who can show how time lost in idleness — in hopeless dreaming —can be profitably employed; how energy wasted in impatient fretting for work to do, can be utilized in work that is necessary and waiting to be done.

"It was the hope that I might be able to throw out a suggestion or two, that I accepted an invitation to talk here today on the subject of, “Seed, Plant and Bulb Growing,” a subject which has engaged my attention and work for a number of years. I cannot remember the time when I did not love flowers passionately; I was very early in life called a “plant maniac;” I rarely went away from home without coming back, laden with plants, cuttings, seeds or bulbs. Among my earliest recollections are the flowers in the home garden and the gardens of dear old ladies who welcomed me because I loved their four-o'clocks, scarlet runner beans and peonys. My windows were filled with flowering plants and the thought of some day owning a greenhouse “all my own” filled me with delight. The harsh winds and the cold winters of Iowa, my childhood home, drove me, as they did thousands of others, to California and the greenhouse materialized, and became the nucleus of a rare collection of plants, greater than my wildest fancy ever pictured.

Francis Coates Jones (American artist, 1857–1932) Remaining Indoors-Flowers in a Window
I have a great sympathy for women who are compelled or think they are compelled or prefer to remain indoors. They cannot realize the delight experienced in working in the open air. There is a buoyancy, exhilaration and an enthusiasm in an intimate relation with sunshine and growing vegetation and outdoor air, that are unknown to those whose vision and life is bounded by four walls. I am glad to know the time has come when woman can go into the field and work without being ostracized, or thought to be out of her “sphere.” In the past nothing has alarmed the average woman so much as to be told she was “out of her sphere.”

"Outdoor work is healthful, it brings sight to the eyes and bloom to pale cheeks. The work done in hybridizing is most fascinating. To bring a new flower into existence; to improve existing types; to learn the habits of the various flowers and plants; to assist at their weddings and to help bring into the world a seed with it's unknown possibilities; is like opening a door into a new world of beauty, a new world of thought, where life becomes broader, richer and better. “We use flowers to speak for us our tenderest thoughts; we use them to interpret all the tenderest things in life.” “When lovers want to tell the unutterable words they betake themselves to the dumb messengers who have learned to say so much.” We lay them away to hold fast the memory of the most precious moments of life. In our deepest grief we put them on the bier of our loved ones who have left us. At all times and in all places they minister to us.

"Flower-names come down to us impearled with myth and story. What sacred romances the lotus flower, the martyrs palm and victors laurel recall. The long dreaded names of botany are often little poems in themselves, heliotrope is “she who turns to the sun,” mesembrianthemum is “flower of the mid-day,” masturtium is “bent nosed,” geranium is “cranes bill.” These were simple heart and eye names to the Greeks and Romans, just as we call our pets heartsease, morning glory and day's eye. And what is the purpose of all the beauty that comes each year to gladden our eyes. All for this. That at last the seed might grow and ripen. “And yet no man through all the population could make one. Earth and sun it takes them both. It takes the solar system all alive to make a seed.” What are our fruits but the seeds protected by rind, and pulp and sheath and juices, that each and all may be perpetuated. They are all the children of the trees and plants. But with all the delight and pleasure the work brings, like everything else it has its drawbacks, especially when one is doing it for profit. To find customers and dispose of what has been grown, to be able to meet the expenses connected with work of the kind, and make a fair profit, are the problems that all growers have to meet.


"There are many things that can be grown profitably, but any crop that is easily grown and is used in large quantities must become cheap. A few years ago, callas, smilax and freesias brought good prices, but now they are grown by so many in California, and Bermuda is also growing bulbs with great success, with the advantage of much lower freight rates, while prices offered for them are so low that in two or three years it will not pay to grow them.

Abbott Fuller Graves (American artist, 1859-1936) The Chrysanthemum Show
"The demand now is for the best. The time is past when poor quality of anything in the line of flower seeds can find a market. The germinating properties must be sure and the plant must come true. There are many bulbs that have only been grown in amateur gardens that would succeed admirably here. Gladiolus — best varieties — hyacinths, lilies, ixias and sparixies, amaryllis tritonias, rabianias, anemones, ranunculi, spotted callas, narcissus of the choicer varieties, iris, cyclamen and any other bulbs that are valuable for cut flowers or the garden. Among seeds are verbenas, poppies, cinerarias, candytuft, asters, chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, petunias, phlox, Chinese primulas, the newer varieties of mignonette, cannas and a thousand and one other varieties.

There is great work to be done with seedling roses. California has not yet given to floriculture a fine rose. Tea roses bloom from seed in a few months and very pretty varieties are often raised from the self fertilized seed. With all the types we have to work with we should be able to raise some grand new varieties by hybridizing. Especial care should be taken to develop a hardy race of roses that will stand the severity of eastern winters, and that will have all the beauty of form and color of Tea roses. Good climbing roses are also needed, the number of these that are valuable is small.

"The carnation, fragrant, spicy, beautiful, grows more popular every day and will never go out of fashion. Florists are doing much with the carnation. New and valuable varieties are brought out every year. It is very profitable for the cut flower trade, as it ships well long distances. Seeds of fine carnations always bring a good price. I find that they thrive best in a stiff soil. A good carnation should be of a medium height, the flowers should have long stems and should not burst their calyx. It should be perfect in form, with petals either fringed or plain. In growing seeds much care should be exercised and only perfect flowers allowed to bear seeds. My favorite flower, if I have a favorite, is the begonia, I have over one hundred varieties of the fibrous, besides many of the tuberous and rex begonias. I have great expectations from these exquisite plants. Beside the collection are a number of very beautiful seedlings, which are the pride of my heart. To me the begonia has always suggested things spiritual, it is so pure, so free from imperfections. Closely examined, the flowers seem as though formed of tiny chrystals cemented together with diamond dust.


"The demand for decorative growing plants and for cut decorations is constantly increasing. The leaves of various palms, strings and sprays of Asparagus Plumosus nanna and English ivy, stems of Bamboo, Papyrus and Cyperus, flowers and berries of the pepper tree, acacia blossoms, wreathes of the beautiful Bignonia venusta and Bougainvillea. Carnations, freesias, daffodils, jonquils, violets, poinsettias and many other flowers with lasting qualities will be shipped east in large quantities by cold storage, as soon as transportation becomes cheaper. Many hardy shrubs and roses are imported from Europe every year...Many plants can be grown in California for decoration. A person I would say, should grow with the idea of improving old types or developing new ones. Learn to hybridize and watch the tendency of the flower. Work with an intelligent purpose and make your ideal high. When at last a type is fixed, your painstaking and care will be rewarded, for no one can take your work and keep it up to the same standard, without going over the same ground, and it is only those who are willing to work who can do this. You can then easily find a market and within reason name your price for you alone have the new creation. It must be remembered that the tendency of all plants is to revert to the original type and any plant that shows such degeneration must be ostracised."


From the Rural Californian, A Journal for Suburban and Country Home. Los Angeles, March, 1894. Volume 17, "By permission of Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, N. J."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, New Jersey Seed and Plant Catalog

Pitcher & Manda Seed and Plant Catalog, Short Hills, New Jersey. William Albert Manda's biographical information, from a catalog tells us that in 1883, he assumed the position of curator of the Harvard Botanical Gardens at Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass. After five years he resigned to join the firm of Pitcher & Manda in Short Hills until 1894, after which he "acted independently as a landscape architect and horticultural expert."
Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, New Jersey Seed and Plant.  William Albert Manda (born 1862 near Prague, Bohemia), Manda says he lived in Iowa as a child. Apparently, he traveled to the U.S. East Coast in 1882, to collect plants for shipping back to Europe. There he took the job as Curator of the Harvard University Botanical Gardens in 1883. He worked there for 5 years, then resigned to join the firm of Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, N.J. An announcement in the 1888 "Garden & Forest" magazine, stated that the firm was doing business as the United States Nurseries. The partners were James R. Pitcher & William Albert Manda. This firm was famous for its collection of orchids, valued in 1901 at $100,000. The partnership ended in 1895, when Manda published an announcement in "Garden & Forest" magazine that he was severing his connection to Pitcher & Manda & starting a new business at South Orange, N.J., called The Universal Horticultural Establishment. The firm of Pitcher & Manda kept the same name but announced that they were under new management. "Garden & Forest" announced in September 1897 that a firm called the American Bulb Co. was "successors to Pitcher & Manda" & further announced that there would be a public auction held on October 4-7, 1897 to sell "the entire collection of Pitcher & Manda, including 100,000 palms, all the choice collection of ornamental foliage plants; also, real estate, greenhouses, etc." A 1901 San Francisco newspaper refers to the firm holding a collection of orchids valued at $100,000. And a catalog held at Rutger's Univeristy includes the notation that the firm was in business from 1885 & 1904.  
William Albert Manda of Pitcher & Manda, Short Hills, New Jersey. In 1909, William Albert Manda was doing business as W.A. Manda, Inc. Reportedly, a statue of him was erected in his honor at his death by the South Orange Garden Club at Meadowland Park in South Orange. At the time of his death in 1933, he had a collection of some 12,000 species of cacti & succulents. His younger brother, Joseph A. Manda had his own nursery business in 1898, which continued as Joseph A. Manda & Son. They dealt in orchids among other things. The 1900 census shows the brothers living next door to each other at 191 Valley Street, South Orange. William was a single man, sharing his household with one of his employees; while his brother Joseph's household contained also their parents & a sister. By 1908, Joseph A. Manda was living at 191 Valley Street, in West Orange. Thomas Capek, author of the book "The Cech (Bohemian) Community of New York" (1921) says that the Manda Floral Co. (landscape architects) and W.A. Manda, Inc. of South Orange, N.J. were both founded by the same Czech florist. 

Research by Marlea Graham, California Garden & Landscape History Society. Photos from the Pitcher and Manda catalog.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Botany, Philadelphia, & The Poinsettia

America's Poinsettia: 
1st public display was at the 1829 PHS Flower Show 
by Joel T. Fry - 12/12/2011
"It is a little known fact that the poinsettia was introduced to the gardening world from the Bartram Botanic Garden in 1829. This international symbol of winter cheer was first successfully grown outside its Mexican homeland by Robert and Ann Bartram Carr at the Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia.

"The plant now known as poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is native to the pacific coast of Mexico and has an ancient history of human use. It was almost certainly seen by early European explorers and colonists, but somehow never entered cultivation in Europe. It was re-discovered or at least brought to the attention of the outside world in the 1820s by an American, Joel Roberts Poinsett (1778-1851).

"Poinsett, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, held various diplomatic and political positions through his life, but always continued a strong interest in natural science and horticulture. He first served as a special envoy to Mexico in 1822-1823, and when the new Mexican Republic was recognized in 1824, Poinsett was first U. S. Minister Plenipotentiary. He resided in Mexico from 1825 to early 1830. During this period, perhaps in the winter of 1827-1828 Poinsett encountered the unnamed plant that now bears his name.

"As part of his mission to expand cooperation between the two countries, Poinsett shipped plants and seeds between Mexico and the United States. At present there is evidence that four different collections of seeds and plants were sent from Mexico to Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia in the period 1828-1829. Poinsett was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in early 1827, and this seems to have cemented his connection with the Philadelphia scientific community and with Bartram’s Garden .In early 1828, William Maclure, a longtime friend of Poinsett, and Thomas Say, a Bartram nephew, travelled to Mexico, visiting Vera Cruz and Mexico City. William Keating, a geologist from the University of Pennsylvania also traveled to Mexico in 1828 to prospect for American mining interests. Poinsett, Maclure, Say, and Keating all arranged for Mexican seeds of plants to be sent to Bartram’s Garden.

"Thomas Say sent over a hundred varieties of seeds from Mexico, “of my own collecting” in a letter to Robert Carr dated July 23, 1828. This list is in large part made up of fruits and vegetables offered in the markets in Mexico, but some trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants from the wild were included, notably several forms of cactus. William Maclure returned briefly to Philadelphia in the fall of 1828, and he brought yet more Mexican seeds and plants with him. This is the most likely route for plants of the poinsettia to Bartram’s Garden.

"Robert Buist, a Philadelphia nurseryman, remembered seeing the first poinsettia roots unpacked at Bartram’s Garden in 1828: “On my arrival in this country from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, in 1828, I paid a visit to the famed “Bartram Botanic Garden,” and there saw two cases of plants which had just arrived from Mexico. Among the contents were the stumps of a strange-looking Euphorbia, which, after a few months’ growth, showed some very brilliant crimson bracts.” (The young Buist soon built a very successful career on the new scarlet plant, and as a result he was credited with the introduction of the poinsettia to Europe in 1834.)

"The paper trail of the poinsettia next appears at “The first semi-annual Exhibition of fruits, flowers and plants, of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society,” held June 6, 1829. This was the first public show of the PHS, a tradition continued today as the Philadelphia Flower Show. One of the noteworthy exhibits was “A new Euphorbia with bright scarlet bracteas or floral leaves, presented to the Bartram collection by Mr. Poinsett, United States Minister to Mexico.” There can be no doubt that this was the poinsettia, now known as Euphorbia pulcherrima. The plant on display, apparently the original sent from Mexico, was still colorful in early June. And while we now take for granted the connection of poinsettias and Christmas, it would take a while for nurserymen to reliably flower the new scarlet plant in time for the early winter holidays.

"A year later, in July 1830 a committee of the PHS, “For visiting the Nurseries and Gardens in the vicinity of Philadelphia,” made particular note of the “Euphorbia heterophylla, with its large scarlet flowers,” as well as “some curious species of Cactus, lately received from Mexico” at the Bartram Botanic Garden. At this early stage, the appropriate scientific name for the poinsettia was still in doubt. Poinsettia resembled a known North American native, Euphorbia heterophylla and so for a time it was referred to under that name. Philadelphia nurserymen also used the name “Poinsett’s euphorbia” and around 1832, Robert Buist began using “Euphorbia poinsettia” for the new plant. Between 1833 and 1836 the poinsettia went through a rapid series of scientific names as it was described and published in the US and Europe—first Pleuradena coccinea, then Poinsettia pulcherima, and finally Euphorbia pulcherima. (Although there is still some debate whether some North American Euphorbia species should be split off into a new genus Poinsettia.)

"In the summer of 1833, the botanist Constantine Rafinesque published the first scientific description of the poinsettia in Philadelphia, for his Atlantic Journal. Rafinesque recorded the brief history of the plant in Philadelphia to date: “The Botanical Garden of Bartram received some years ago from Mr. Poinsett our ambassador in Mexico, a fine new green-house shrub, akin to Euphorbia, with splendid scarlet blossoms, or rather bracts. It has since been spread in our gardens near Philadelphia, and is know in some as the Euphorbia Poinseti; but appears to me to form a peculiar genus or S. G. at least”

"In the early 1830s Robert Buist began sending plants or cuttings of poinsettia to Europe, and particularly to his friend James McNab at the Edinburgh Botanic Garden. Buist had trained at the Edinburgh garden, and he returned to Scotland in 1831 to acquire stock for his new nursery business. James McNab also visited Philadelphia, and Bartram’s Garden in the summer of 1834, and probably took the first successful poinsettia plants back with him to Edinburgh in the fall.

"The poinsettia flowered in Edinburgh for the first time in the spring of 1835, but imperfectly. When it flowered again in 1836 it was drawn for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. The new euphorbia was re-named Poinsettia pulcherrima by Robert C. Graham, Regius Professor of Botany at Edinburgh, in an article prepared both for Curtis’s and the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal. The modern common name “poinsettia” arose from Graham’s description, and as the plant spread rapidly in cultivation in the UK and Europe it was known under the name poinsettia. Unfortunately for history, Graham relied on Buist’s own incorrect account of the introduction of the plant, and omitted any mention of the Carrs or Bartram’s Garden. (Graham’s new genus Poinsettia has since been returned to Euphorbia.)

"It has long been the story that Poinsett personally introduced the poinsettia first to Charleston, bringing the plant on his return from Mexico, and from there it was discovered or sent to the Carrs in Philadelphia. This is impossible for the poinsettia was shown to the Philadelphia public in June of 1829, over six months before Poinsett returned from Mexico. All available evidence suggests that the poinsettia was first sent to the Bartram Garden in Philadelphia in the fall of 1828. The successful transport of live plants from Mexico to Philadelphia in 1828 was almost certainly due to the fact that a number of friends of Bartram’s Garden were on the scene in Mexico. After the new scarlet euphorbia was introduced to the public in 1829, the plant was widely propagated, and became a popular mainstay of the Philadelphia florist trade. The young gardener, Robert Buist, returned to Europe in 1831 and found the scarlet flower was unknown. Buist was a great popularizer of the new plant, but has undeservedly received major credit for its introduction. When Poinsett began to grow his namesake plant in Charleston after his return, it probably returned to him via the Philadelphia nursery community."

 A little more to the tale...

Poinsettia plants are native to Central America, especially an area of southern Mexico known as 'Taxco del Alarcon,' where they flower during the winter. The ancient Aztecs called them 'cuetlaxochitl'. The Aztecs had many uses for them including using the flowers (actually special types of bright leaves known as bracts rather than flowers) to make a purple dye for clothes & cosmetics The milky white sap, latex, was made into a medicine to treat fevers. 

Poinsettias were cultivated by the Aztecs of Mexico long before the introduction of Christianity to the Western Hemisphere. These plants were highly prized by Kings Netzahualcyotl & Montezuma, but because of climatic restrictions could not be grown in their capital, which is now Mexico City.

Perhaps the 1st religious connotations were placed on poinsettias during the 17C. Because of its brilliant & convenient holiday blooming time, Franciscan priests, near Taxco, began to use the flower in the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre, a nativity procession.  The poinsettia may have remained a regional plant for many years to come had it not been for the efforts of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 – 1851). The son of a French physician, Poinsett was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) by President James Madison. Poinsett had attended medical school himself, but was a dedicated, almost obsessive botany-lover.

A German botanist, Wilenow, named it Euphorbia pulcherrima (most beautiful) in 1833, the correct scientific name to this day.  The common name we use today was believed to have been coined around 1836.  Philadelphia nurseryman Robert Buist 1st sold the plant as Euphorbia poinsettia, although a German botanist had already given the plant the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherima.

The Poinsettias native to southern Mexico & Mesoamerica, unlike today’s commercial cultivars, grow into straight & tall trees. Often these trees can reach heights up to 10 feet tall. Through selection & breeding by growers, many cultivars have been developed in the United States & Europe. 

After its introduction in Philadelphia, the poinsettia was shipped around the country during the 1800's, usually as an outdoor plant for warm climates.  Around 1920 in southern California, a horticulturist named Paul Ecke became the next key person to promote the poinsettia.  He felt this shrub growing wild along roadsides would make a perfect Christmas flower, so set about producing these in fields in what is now Hollywood.  A few years later, due to the commercial & arts development in Hollywood, he was forced to move south to Encinitas where the Paul Ecke Ranch continues to produce poinsettias today.  Through the marketing efforts of Paul Ecke and his sons, the poinsettia has become symbolic with Christmas in the United States.  An Act of Congress has even set December 12, the death of Joel Poinsett, as National Poinsettia Day to commemorate a man and his plant.

Notes: Joel T. Fry  (B.A., Anthropology, Univ. of Penn. M.A., American Civ./Historical Archaeology, Univ. of Penn.) has served as curator for Bartram’s Garden, the home of John and William Bartram in Philadelphia, from 1992. (Bartram’s Garden, 54th Street & Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19143)  

Some other publications include: 
“America’s ‘Ancient Garden’: The Bartram Botanic Garden, 1728-1850” in Amy R. W. Meyers, ed., Knowing Nature: Art and Science in Philadelphia, 1740-1840. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011;

“William Bartram’s ‘Commonplace Book’ and ‘On Gardening’ in the volume, William Bartram, The Search for Nature’s Design: Selected Art, Letters, and Unpublished Writings. Thomas Hallock, and Nancy E. Hoffmann, eds., University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA, 2010;

“William Bartram’s Oenothera grandiflora: ‘The Most Pompous and Brilliant Herbaceous Plant yet Known to Exist,’” in Fields of Vision: Essays on the Travels of William Bartram, Kathryn E. Holland Braund and Charlotte M. Porter, eds. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2010; 

“Historic American Landscapes Survey, John Bartram House and Garden (Bartram’s Garden), HALS No. PA-1, History Report,” U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, DC, 2004.

Friday, July 14, 2017

1897 Seed & Plant Catalog of Dingee and Conrad Co of West Grove, Pennsylvania

1897 Seed & Plant Catalog of Dingee and Conrad Co of West Grove, Pennsylvania. Company Timeline:
1855: Alfred Conard formed the firm of Conard & Brother of West Grove, PA
1862: Conard started a nursery business with Charles Dingee under the name Dingee & Conard. The business had two greenhouses and the establishment was known as the Harmony Grove Nursery. 1867: Dingee & Conard began propagating roses under a new system introduced by Antoine Wintzer, the head nurseryman, and a world-class hybridiser. Conard conceived the idea of disposing of their rose stock through the mail. Their first catalog offered bedding plants, shrubbery, bulbs, seeds, and roses. 
1888: Howard Preston sold his farm (a dairy farm and regional creamery) to S. Morris Jones, who continued to operate the creamery. 
1892: Conard separated from Dingee and along with Antoine Wintzer joined with S. Morris Jones. The new company continued with the growing and distribution of roses and flowering plants. Much of the farmland acquired by Jones became part of Conard-Pyle, the house was eventually provided to the head nurseryman, Antoine Wintzer, as his residence. 
1895: Antoine Wintzer worked on the improvement of the canna. 
1897: The name became Conard & Jones Co.

Alfred Fellenberg Conard (1835–1906) of West Grove, PA was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1835. He descended from German Quakers who were part of William Penn’s Colony in 1683. He worked on his father’s farm and learned the nursery business from Thomas M. Harvey. Charles Dingee was a member of the Dingee seeds family. Antoine "Leon" Wintzer was born in Alsace, France, emigrating to the USA at an early age, died at West Grove, PA in 1930. The head-nurseryman before becoming the company's Vice-President.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

WWI Patriotic Gardens


 20C AmericanVictory Gardens


Victory gardens (originally called war gardens or liberty gardens) made their 1st appearance in America during World War I (1914-1918). President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to plant vegetable gardens to ward off possible food shortages. Americans took up the challenge as a patriotic duty.


Slogans like "Food Will Win the War" appeared in numerous ads and posters aimed at encouraging the American public to do their part for the war effort.


During World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1941-1945), millions of Americans helped the war effort by turning front yards, backyards, schoolyards, and vacant lots into vegetable gardens. These "home front" projects allowed every American to dig in to help win the wars raging abroad.


By 1919,  America became the world's leading seed supplier during World War I, as Europe faced mounting seed shortages. Calling attention to the war garden movement, seed companies and nurseries embellished their catalogs with patriotic imagery.


Charles Lathrop Pack, head of the National War Garden Commission, coined the term "victory garden," as World War I was nearing its end. More upbeat than "war garden," the term was so popular that it was used again during World War II, when victory gardeners sprang into action once more.


Governmental Regulation of Food During WWI

From the outbreak of World War I in Europe until the signing of the Versailles Treaty, the Wilson administration proposed and implemented programs affecting citizens' daily activities. The Lever Act of 1917 helped meet the extraordinary food consequences of World War I. 



In August 1917, Congress passed the Food and Fuel Control Act (40 Stat. 276), also known as the Lever Act. On August 10, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued Executive Order 2679-A creating the U. S. Food Administration. In doing so, he created a government entity to supplement existing volunteer efforts. 


The U. S. Food Administration, operating in each state, was to
~Assure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war,
~Facilitate transportation of food and prevent monopolies and hoarding, and
~Maintain governmental power over foods by using voluntary agreements and a licensing system.



Herbert Hoover lobbied for and won the job of administrator of the Food Administration. Hoover had convinced President Wilson, that a single, authoritative administrator should head the effort, not a board. This, Hoover believed, would ensure an effective federal organization. He further insisted that he accept no salary. Taking no pay, he argued, would give him the moral authority he needed to ask the American people to sacrifice to support the war effort. As Hoover later wrote in his memoirs, his job was to ask people to "Go back to simple food, simple clothes, simple pleasures. Pray hard, work hard, sleep hard and play hard. Do it all courageously and cheerfully."


As head of the U. S. Food Administration, Hoover, given the authority by Wilson, became a "food dictator." The Lever Act had given the president power to regulate the distribution, export, import, purchase, and storage of food. Wilson passed that power on to Hoover. To succeed, Hoover designed an effort that would appeal to the American sense of volunteerism and avoid coercion. He oversaw federal corporations and national trade associations; he sought cooperation of local buyers and sellers. Through it all he called for patriotism and sacrifices that would increase production and decrease food consumption. Under Hoover's direction, the Food Administration urged all homeowners to sign pledge cards that testified to their efforts to conserve food. The government board issued the appeal on a Friday. By the following week, Americans had embraced wheatless Mondays, meatless Tuesdays, porkless Saturdays.



According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Wisconsin's Green Lake County 100 percent of the housewives signed on and 80 percent of Milwaukee did. Schoolchildren joined housewives in supporting the effort by signing this pledge: "At table I'll not leave a scrap of food upon my plate. And I'll not eat between meals But for supper time I'll wait."  While Hoover preferred the emphasis on the "spirit of self sacrifice," he also had authority to coerce. He set wheat prices, bought and distributed wheat. Coercion plus volunteerism produced results. By 1918 the United States was exporting 3 times as much breadstuffs, meat, and sugar as it had prior to the war.


To achieve the results, the Food Administration combined an emphasis on patriotism with the lure of advertising created by its own Advertising Section. This section produced a wealth of posters for both outdoor and indoor display. One proclaimed: "Food is Ammunition-Don't waste it." Another combined patriotism with a modern healthy diet message. At the top, the poster encouraged readers to: "Eat more corn, oats and rye products-fish and poultry-fruits, vegetables and potatoes, baked, boiled and broiled foods." At the bottom, the poster concluded "Eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats to save for the army and our allies."  These posters are visual evidence of the government's food effort during World War I. As much as possible, it did so under a banner of volunteerism, rather than coercion. In doing so, the Wilson administration created a program that did affect the everyday lives of Americans during World War I. An executive order signed August 21, 1920, terminated the remaining branches of the U.S. Food Administration.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1906 Catalog Farmer Seed Co. of Fairbault, Minnesota

1906 Catalog Farmer Seed Co. of Fairbault, Minnesota.  Farmer Seed Company was founded in Chicago in 1888 by William L. Kueker and his brother-in-law Otto Kozlowski. As associate editors for a monthly farm newspaper in Chicago, they discovered a need for seed sources through numerous inquiries from farmers. It was then that the southern part of Minnesota was being settled by thrifty German-American farmers. In 1893, the men moved their business to a small 2-story building on West Fourth Street in Faribault. A catalog in the German language was distributed to 10,000 farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and specialized in pasture grasses, clovers, seed grains and corn seed. A second catalog was published in the English language soon after, and the circulation was upped to 20,000. The business quickly outgrew its space and in 1899, it moved across the street to a large stone warehouse. By the early 1900s, garden seed were added to the catalog. Then, after World War I, nursery stock was also included. A retail store was added in the late 1920s, and seed racks were distributed to more than 4,000 merchants across the Midwest. That retail store continues to operate today with home and outdoor decor, gardening tools and the popular wall of seeds. Farmer Seed and Nursery is now owned by Owen Nursery of Bloomington, Illinois, making it a part of one of the largest lawn and garden mail order companies in the United States.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

19C Brings Retail & Wholsale Seed Catalogs

Seed storage warehouse of Philadelphia seedsman Robert Buist. From a 1891 wholesale seed catalog

In North America, more seed and nursery companies came into being during the 2nd half of the 19C, especially after the US Civil War. Mail-order became much more common due to improved transportation networks and US postal reforms in the 1860s that made it cheaper to ship seeds and plant material, as well as catalog. Mail-order companies increased the size and number of catalogs they produced, often including colorful art, and most catalogs were shipped to customers free upon request. As more business was done by mail, catalogs contained more detailed ordering and shipping instructions. 

With the growth of cities & towns throughout the country, seed & nursery companies faced a huge potential market, but also increased competition. As a result, many catalogs tried to distinguish themselves from their competitors by promoting more novelties & giving vegetable & flower varieties names containing superlatives such as “Mammoth,” “Giant,” or “Perfection.” Catalog covers became more elaborate, & companies also devoted more space to illustrations, descriptions, testimonials, contests, special offers, & awards won at horticultural fairs or exhibitions. Novelties were often described in special sections of catalogs that were sometimes marked by different colored pages. Dingee & Conard’s 1889 catalog contained an insert on pink paper listing their discounted collections of popular varieties.

Catalogs catered to commercial farmers, home gardeners, & aspiring market growers. As truck farming increased in scale, there was a great demand for reliable commercial varieties, & some market gardeners began producing seeds for this purpose. Improvements in food preservation led to the need for varieties suitable for canning & pickling; in 1875, the refrigerated railway car was brought into use, leading to an even larger-scale commercial vegetable & fruit trade.