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Abstract Detail



Systematics Section/ASPT

Flannery, Maura C. [1].

My Dear Sir:  A John Torrey Letter and Illustration Sent to William Darlington.

John Torrey was one of the most noted American botanists of the 19th century.  The author of many botanical works including A Flora of the State of New York and the first two volumes of A Flora of North America, in collaboration with Asa Gray.  Torrey had a broad network of correspondents with whom he traded plants, seeds, and botanical news.  It was to Torrey that the specimens from the Long and Wilkes Expeditions were sent, as were those from several of other 19th century expeditions, including those of Fremont and also of the Mexican Boundary Survey.  From Wilkes Expedition material he named one of the new genera and species Darlingtonia californica after his long-time friend and correspondent William Darlington of West Chester, Pennsylvania.  Darlington was a physician who developed a deep interest in botany, writing a flora of Chester County using the Linnaean classification system, and later a revision and expansion organized around a natural system, mirroring the trajectory of Torrey’s own thinking.  Darlington was also a successful businessman, bank president, and three-term Congressman.      This paper will describe a letter Torrey sent to Darlington before the former published his 1854 paper on D. californica, a pitcher plant, along with letters which Darlington sent to Torrey about the honor.  This correspondence gives insights into the character of both these men as well as into the importance they placed on visual evidence and specimens in their botanical work.  Torrey’s letter contains a drawing not of D. calfornica, but of Heliamphora nutans, a new pitcher plant species described by the British botanist George Bentham.  In the absence of Xerox machines, Torrey had carefully traced the figure from the Bentham paper so that Darlington could see that the plant was significantly different from “his” pitcher plant.  The presentation touches upon the issue of synonymization since Darlington was concerned that Torrey’s plant would meet the same fate as an earlier plant that had been named in his honor and later reclassified.  Several letters from Darlington to Torrey at this time suggest that this accolade was very important to him.  He politely but repeatedly asks Torrey to send him specimens of the plant, one of which is preserved in the William Darlington Herbarium at West Chester University, where Darlington’s collection, part of that of the Chester County Cabinet of Natural Science, now resides.


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1 - 28 Atlas Ave., Malverne, NY, 11565, USA

Keywords:
John Torrey
William Darlington
Darlingtonia californica
botanical taxonomy.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 4
Location: Payette/Boise Centre
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2014
Time: 9:30 AM
Number: 4007
Abstract ID:361
Candidate for Awards:None


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