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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

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The Cutting Edge

Volume XXIII, Number 3, July 2016

News and Notes | Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature | Season's Pick | Annotate your copy

A NEW VIEW OF WERCKLÉ! PLUS, MORE ABOUT "J. CHILD." A black-and-white photograph reproduced on p. 13 of Manual Vol. 1 (2003) features three well-dressed gentlemen identified in the caption as "A. Alfaro, J. Child, Karl Wercklé (1860–1924)." The parenthetical dates indicate the lifespan of Wercklé, the depiction of whom was the main agenda for this photo (ostensibly, the only one known of him). The other two individuals, being extraneous to that agenda, were ignored (and, in any case, we had already presented a photo of Alfaro on p. 8). But the recent rediscovery of another photo, apparently from the same time period, and (at least by our argued judgment) including the same three individuals (among others), has doubled the total number of photos known of Carlos Wercklé, raising the question: just who was this "J. Child" anyway? Actually, as it turns out, virtually all the information germane to the latter issue can be found in a 1978 paper by Luis Diego Gómez (Brenesia 14/15: 361–393) cited in the same Manual volume! According to that paper, the photo in the Manual (also featured, more generously, in Brenesia) was taken at the "Exposición de Chicago en 1893," clearly in reference to the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) held in said city and year. And John Lewis Childs (1856–1921), whose surname we cut short, was perhaps more important to Costa Rican botany than we might have imagined. A prominent horticulturist on Long Island, New York (and founder of the village of Floral Park), Childs provided employment to Wercklé (recently emigrated from northeastern France) in his establishment, and sponsored Wercklé's first voyage to Costa Rica (to collect horticultural material), probably in 1897. For further information on Childs, see his Wikipedia entry (who'da thunk to look there?). Returning now to the other photo: of the five gentlemen depicted, it is obvious to everyone that the two on the left are (L to R) Childs and Wercklé, while the third, we argue somewhat contentiously, must be Anastasio Alfaro; all three are dressed virtually identically to their respective doppelgängers in the Manual photo. However, Manual illustrator, co-author of the historical chapter in our introductory volume, and great-granddaughter of Alfaro Silvia Troyo is not having it. She says that the third, reclining figure is too large and odd-looking to be her always short and slim patriarch, then just a youngster. Occam's razor, nevertheless, leaves us with our bold assertion. Because the famous three are wearing the same clothes, we would presume that this photo was taken at around the same time as the Manual photo, perhaps in the Chicago area during an outing from the World's Fair. We have only wild guesses as to the identities of the other two gents, based on the premise that they also had something to do with promoting Costa Rica's rich biology at the fair: he who is standing could perhaps be American ornithologist George K. Cherrie (1865–1948), who had worked at the Costa Rican Museo Nacional but, in 1892, became an assistant curator at the Field Museum in Chicago (and would presumably have been keen on reuniting with his Costa Rican colleagues); while the sitting individual could be Cherrie's Costa Rican counterpart, ornithologist José Cástulo Zeledón (1846–1923), whose wife, Amparo López-Calleja de Zeledón, received more extensive consideration (as a patron of botanical collectors) in Manual Vol. 1. For comparative images of Cherrie and Zeledón, see Fig. 1.1 in Dan Janzen's Costa Rican natural history (1983: 3); also, a recent paper by orchidologist Rudolf Jenny [see under "Jenny," this column, in The Cutting Edge 21(3), Jul. 2014] provides additional insights on the Childs/Wercklé relationship. We thank our esteemed colleague Isidro Chacón (CR) for bringing this photo (only the second known of Wercklé) back to our attention (we had seen the photo during preparation of Manual Vol. 1, and actually have a digital copy of it in our own archives, but had totally forgotten about it). The original, deposited in the archives of the Museo Nacional at Pavas, is undated and without any associated information. Colleagues Cleria Ruiz and Inés Vargas there state that "Efectivamente los señores Childs y Wercklé están en la fotografía, los otros señores no han sido identificados aún."

OBITUARIES. This will be old news to many, but we have only recently learned of the deaths, in 2014, of noted pteridologists Elbert Hennipman and Anthony Clive Jermy. The lives of these two gentlemen, who passed away within two weeks of one another, were intertwined in various ways, especially from our perspective. Both visited Costa Rica at least once, in the same year (1986), though (as far as we know) independently, and one of your editors (MHG) spent considerable time in the field with each of them, in the same area: the so-called "Barva transect" of Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo, on the Atlantic slope of Volcán Barva. Clive showed up in April, with his colleague Trevor Walker (1927–2006), and collected mainly at elevations of 700–1000 m, working upward from their entry-point at ca. 500 m. Both men were congenial and stalwart field companions, clearly with a great deal of experience. Bert's work in the "Barva transect" took place in November, together with his granduate students Marco Roos and Paul Veldhoen and American pteridologist Chris Haufler. We entered the transect at ca. 1500 m elevation and worked downward, eventually exiting at ca. 500 m. During our stay, and at one of our most remote campsites, Paul fell and hit his head on a rock, with frightening consequences; on this occasion, Bert's military training and discipline paid off in a big way, and he impressed everyone by staying up all night with Paul to maintain his consciousness and walking him out of the area next morning (by which time Paul had visibly improved). We never crossed paths with Clive again, but visited Bert in Utrecht the following year and were invited to his house for a cookout. They did interact with one another, though, becoming close personal friends (or so we understand) and eventually going in (together with Walker) on a commercial horticultural enterprise. Bert Hennipman (77 at the time of his death) and Clive Jermy (who lived to be 82) were cut from the same cloth: old-school, lean and wiry, field-hardened botanists of a vanishing breed; we are saddened and diminished to have lost them. While both men worked more extensively in the Old World tropics, they also left their marks on neotropical botany, Hennipman, in particular, by virtue of his 1977 monograph of the genus Bolbitis (which then included Mickelia; Dryopteridaceae). Much more information on both gentlemen may be found in obituaries (from which some of the preceding was abstracted) reprinted together (fittingly) in Amer. Fern J. 106: 144–151 (2016).


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