BEN # 812
aceska at CUE.BC.CA
Thu Jan 29 05:17:44 EST 1998
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BBBBB EEEEE NN N N BOTANICAL
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No. 182 January 29, 1998
aceska at victoria.tc.ca Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
E. L. GREENE VERSUS M. E. JONES
From: Dr. Frank A. Lang <flang at sou.edu>
[What follows is an amalgam of two radio scripts broadcast over
Jefferson Public Radio, Southern Oregon University's regional
radio station. Nature Notes has been on the air since 1989 and
features the people, places, and things of the natural world in
short 3-4 minute sound bites.]
Here we feature two early western botanist, Edward Lee Greene
and Marcus E. Jones. As you will discover they didn't like each
other very much. At least Jones didn't like Greene very much,
but then Jones didn't have much good to say about very many
people. According to Willis Linn Jepson's obituary of Jones
published in Madrono (1934, 2:152-154), none of the targets of
Jones' vitriolic personal attacks ever answered his assaults.
February 27, 1876, an Episcopal priest, Edward Lee Greene, wrote
a letter to a regular correspondent, Professor Asa Gray, the
Professor of Botany at Harvard University, if not the United
States. Greene wrote:
"The place where I am going I am sure it will please you
to hear the name of, unmusical and to my ear sounding like
a cross between ancient Greek and modern Digger Indian
though it be. My address is to be Yreka, Siskiyou County
away up between Mount Shasta and Klamath River!! I can
hardly sleep nights since I have secured my appointment to
that field of missionary labor, so delighted am I."
"I have now a pretty ample supply of sermons on hand:
don't mean to compose a new one all next spring, summer
and fall: but to herborize to my heart's content ..."
Greene's tenure at Saint Laurence's, now Saint Mark's, Yreka,
was brief. Details of his departure are not known, but it prob-
ably had to do with his greater enthusiasm for herborizing; that
is, botany, than for sermonizing. By April 9, 1877, a year
later, Greene was writing Gray as the Episcopal priest in Silver
City, New Mexico. His entries in the Report of Official Acts at
Saint Laurence's abruptly ended January 21, 1877. The next
entry, on April 8, was by the Right Reverend J.H.D. Wingfield,
Bishop of Northern California.
Greene had much better luck as a botanist at Yreka. Of the
numerous specimens he collected and sent to Professor Gray, two
were outstanding. Greene's Mariposa lily blooms in July in the
oak woodlands north of Yreka near the Oregon-California border
and near Little Shasta Meadow to the east. If cows or deer
haven't nipped off the buds, the plant's 3.5 centimeter (that's
about an inch and a half) long, bright purplish or lilac blos-
soms are hard to miss.
The other equally handsome plant, the Siskiyou four-o'clock,
Mirabilis greenei, is in full bloom on the rock bluffs above the
highway to Irongate Reservoir in early May. Its clustered stems
with thick, ovate leaves bear purple petal-like sepals to four
centimeters long that are very showy. If you should be fortunate
enough to see these plants in the wild, please don't dig them.
Leave the plants for others to enjoy.
Marcus E. Jones, the Utah mining engineer turned botanist, had
an almost pathological dislike for Greene. He also had a small
botanical journal, "Contributions to Western Botany." [Greene
published botanical journals "Pittonia" and "Leaflets of Botani-
cal Observations." - AC] Jones, a number of years after the
death of his arch enemy Edward Lee Greene, wrote his infamous
epitaph of Greene:
"Greene, the pest of systematic botany, has gone and
relieved us from his botanical drivel. They say that the
good that men do lives after them, but the evil they do is
interred with their bones. I suspect his grave must have
been a big one to hold it all."
Jones expressed his dislike for Greene whenever possible:
"Greene was first, last and all the time a botanical
crook, and an unmitigated liar, when it suited him to try
and make a point against someone else."
As you might suspect, that unspoken someone else was often
Jones. But Jones gets even:
"Recently I have been going over Greene's Leaflets and
notice his treatment of Rhus trilobata, which makes one
feel like committing murder, but fortunately, Greene has
passed beyond human retaliation. His case makes one half
inclined to believe in hell, for no other place would be
suitable for him." ... "Greene's assurance was limited
only by his opportunities, and his assumed superiority in
first-hand knowledge was sublime to those of us who knew
he did not know what he was writing about." ... "Greene
was a man who never had any personal friends, his over-
weening opinion of himself, which he was always injecting
into his conversation, repelled people. He was a moral
reprobate, a retired Episcopalian minister, kicked out of
the pulpit because of sexual vices, and a conscienceless
For the most part, Greene was none of these things. He was an
Episcopal priest, for a time at Yreka, and later at Saint Mark's
in Berkeley. He was, in spite of Jones' assertion, a highly
regarded botanist, who was appointed the first botanist at the
University of California after giving up on the priesthood. His
forced departure from the Episcopal church was more likely
because of his uncertainties about theology rather than a sexual
preference for choir boys.
Greene was not the only target for Jones' pen. Take his report
of the death of Wilhelm Suksdorf, Bingen, Washington resident
and avid Columbia River Gorge botanist:
"At this writing (October 1932) there comes news of the
death of Suksdorf, by being run over by a train he was
trying to board. It seems he was 82 years old and crippled
by rheumatism so that he did not get off the track soon
enough after flagging the train. He recently made himself
odious by publishing a hundred new species carved out of
Amsinckia intermedia, a-la-Greene. He never seemed to have
discovered that Greene and Rydberg are botanically dead.
One would expect more sense than that in a field botanist,
but some people are hard to convince with a club. Suksdorf
lived in the Columbia Basin most of his life, and also
was, for a time, an assistant of Gray at Harvard. He was
always a hopeless splitter."
Jones just can't seem to leave Greene alone, can he? Although
such feelings probably occur between rival botanists today, they
are much more private. That might be related to the number of
lawyers in modern society.
Jones' career ended at Pomona College in 1934 when he died, not
of gun shot, but in an automobile accident. I heard or read
somewhere that at his funeral his colleagues placed a floral
tribute on his grave ...of wildflowers described by Greene. One
would like to believe the truth of this, even if it never hap-
Thanks to the Harvard University Herbarium Library for permis-
sion to quote Greene's letter to Asa Gray.
Frank A. Lang
Department of Biology
Southern Oregon University
Ashland OR, 97520
E-mail: flang at sou.edu
PLANT PRESS STRAPS - PLANNING FOR THE COMING SEASON
From: Olivia Lee <olivia at interchg.ubc.ca>
It is the time of planning for another field season. I have had
some calls about the plant press straps that I made. I would
like to see if there are more people interested before I decide
to make a new batch of plant press straps or not.
Plant Press Straps: 2" x 6' heavy weight black nylon web straps
with heavy duty plastic buckles. Each strap has a light
colour blank label for names etc. Cost is $25.00
can.(material & labour) per pair + postage.
Anyone interested please get in touch with me, Olivia Lee, at
olivia at interchange.ubc.ca, before March 1998.
NEW PUBLICATION: BROOKS PENINSULA: AN ICE-AGE REFUGIUM
Hebda, R.J. & J.C. Haggarty. [eds.] 1997. Brooks Peninsula: An
ice-age refugium on Vancouver Island. Occasional Paper No. 5,
B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria.
Irregular pagination. ISBN 0-7726-3139-5 [soft cover] Price:
Crown Publications Inc., 521 Fort Street, Victoria, B.C.
Canada V8W 1E7, Phone: (250) 386-4636, Fax: (250) 386-0221
In 1981 the Friends of the British Columbia Provincial Museum
(now the Royal British Columbia Museum) supported a multidis-
ciplinary expedition to Brooks Peninsula, a ragged area on the
west coast of Vancouver Island. The results of the expedition
were prepared for publication and rewritten several times, but
was only when Brooks Peninsula became a provincial park that the
British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks pub-
lished it as Occasional Paper. No. 5.
The publication has 16 chapters that deal with various aspects
of the Brooks Peninsula (geology and soils, plants and vegeta-
tion, terrestrial arthropods, fishes and vertebrates, and eth-
nographic history and archaeology of the area). Bob Ogilvie's
excellent chapter on vascular plants of the area (48 pages)
gives a complete list of species and discusses phytogeographical
problems, a chapter on vegetation (Richard Hebda et al.)
describes the main vegetation formations, and palaeobotanical
explorations are summarized by Richard Hebda (48 pages).
Chromosome numbers of 30 vascular plants are discussed by C.C.
Chinnappa, and Wilf Schofield provided a list of bryophytes
collected on Brooks Peninsula.
All the chapters brought evidence of the ice age refugium on
Brooks Peninsula. This ice age refugium is reflected in the
richness and uniqueness of flora and fauna and it was an impor-
tant stepping stone in the distribution of plants and animals
along the Pacific Coast of North America.
The final chapter summarized the role of a museum in the inter-
disciplinary expeditions and concluded that
"Museums and other institutions involved in advancing
knowledge should make efforts to continue the great tradi-
tion of the scholarly expedition. It is more than an
effective research tool, but also a powerful force in
exciting the public imagination."
This publication presents an excellent example of a scholarly
multidisciplinary expedition. It is a valuable reference for
anyone interested in this unique area.
Submissions, subscriptions, etc.: aceska at victoria.tc.ca
BEN is archived at http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/
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