BEN # 812

Adolf Ceska aceska at CUE.BC.CA
Thu Jan 29 05:17:44 EST 1998

BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             ISSN 1188-603X
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BBBBB    EEEEE    NN N N             BOTANICAL
BB   B   EE       NN  NN             ELECTRONIC
BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             NEWS

No. 182                              January 29, 1998

aceska at                Victoria, B.C.
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

From: Dr. Frank A. Lang <flang at>

[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

From: Olivia Lee <olivia at>

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, before March 1998.


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:

   Ordering information:
   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
BEN is archived at

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