BOTANICAL EVALUATION OF THE GOAT ISLAND COMPLEX, NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK
DAVID F. DAY
David Fisher Day (1829-1900) was a lawyer, closely associated with the young Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences established in Buffalo in 1861, serving several times as its President. He was a colleague with George W. Clinton in law and in botany, and was, with Clinton, a founding member of the B.S.N.S. Committee on Botany. This Committee was dedicated to botanical exploration of the then unknown region around Buffalo, and to developing a research herbarium for the new society. For a while Day was President of the Section on Botany for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Lang, no date).
"... strangely enough, without any agreement or knowledge of the purpose of the other, we [Clinton and Day] met in a piece of wood in the southeastern portion of the city [of Buffalo]. Each of us had already collected something; and after comparing what we had found, we spent the remainder of the day together, returning to the city at nightfall. Thereafter for several years our journeys together were very frequent," (Day, 1896). Day's personal collection of plants went to the Buffalo Botanical Garden herbarium, and were later transfered to the Clinton Herbarium when the Gardens ceased to exist.
Day and Clinton botanized together and had friendly arguments over correct identifications of field collections (Clinton's unpublished botanical journal). In 1882 and 1883, Day published The Plants of Buffalo and Its Vicinity as a bulletin of the new society of natural history, including not only vascular plants, but also the little-known flora of mosses, liverworts, lichens, algae, and fungi - "The fact is entitled to notice that now, probably for the first time in America, a local catalogue is published in which the plants of all the classes in the vegetable kingdom are included" (Day, 1882). Quite a few diverse species in these inconspicuous groups from Niagara Falls were reported in that publication.
The collections of Judge Clinton, who corresponded widely with the foremost botanists of his time, were duely reported in this publication, as were those of Miss Mary Wilson, who also corresponded with distinguished scientists, and Charles Peck, who was to become the foremost American student of mycology (study of fungi) of his day - a botanist of the New York State Museum overseeing the flora of New York State. Peck supervised and corrected the lists of mosses and liverworts for the catalogue, based on Clinton's collections, and authored the section on fungi, many of which were also based on Clinton's local collections. Professor David S. Kellicott of the State Normal School of Buffalo did the first and only provisional treatment of the alga flora, which the Society was to revise and reissue later. This is the Kellicott who contributed the report of the rare Wolffia columbiana Karst in the "Niagara River above the Falls" of Day's (1888) Niagara Flora.
When the Reservation was established in 1885, it was natural that the Commissioners turn to Day for a botanical catalogue, as he was considered to be the expert on the local flora. Motivated perhaps in a similar way to produce a list of plants occurring in the new Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park, two Canadian workers authored valuable catalogues of plants found in these areas. In 1890, Prof. J. Hoyes Panton produced a list of plants occurring in the vicinity of the Horseshoe or Canadian Falls, and in 1895, Roderick Cameron, Gardener for the Park, published a list for the "park and its outlying territories." His list of species is exhaustive and his intent may have been to follow, to some extent, the format of Day's Plants of Buffalo and Vicinity (1883). Day's flora was unusual in its time for describing not only the vascular flora but also the hepatic, moss, alga and fungal floras as well. Cameron's list of mosses is remarkably trustworthy as he reports nothing that cannot be currently discovered in the area to the present day (Eckel, unpublished data). Another important aspect of Cameron's efforts was his mounting voucher specimens of the plants he reported in an herbarium to be kept in the Park Superintendent's Office, organized by family in cases, specimens of which exist today in the herbarium of the Queen Victoria Park School of Horticulture (NFO).
Many small populations of species were probably overlooked by Day in the one year he engaged in the Niagara Flora, as he himself acknowledged, as when he reported a species common in western New York, as Moonseed (Menispermum canadensis) was then, but "doubtless overlooked" by himself at the falls, or species typical of certain habitats he knew to be on Goat Island, for example, which were "not yet seen by us, but may be confidently looked for (Ludwigia palustris)." He attempted to compensate for the brevity of his examination by including species in the catalogue that occurred elsewhere in the Niagara River, but which he had not been able to observe at the Falls in the time allotted, such as the Water Lilies (Nuphar and Nymphaea species), which were "some distance above the Falls."
Day began his catalogue with a historical review, confining himself to certain major botanical works available to him, beginning with the botanist Peter Kalm, student of Carolus Linnaeus of Sweden whose notes of his visit at Niagara in 1750, though copious in many respects, are surprisingly empty of botanical observations. The possibility of Table Rock being the type locality for Lobelia kalmii and Hypericum kalmianum, though very probable, cannot be substantiated with specimens or manuscript. John Torrey, the author of the first flora of New York State (1843) may never have visited the Falls himself. Day indicated he had use of "the MS. journals of the Hon. George W. Clinton," the Flore Canadienne of Abbe Provancher, the Catalogue of Canadian Plants of John Macoun, and the Canadian Filicineae of Macoun and Burgess, of London, Ontario.
Occasionally a reference is made to Mr. Day himself "introducing" taxa onto the Reservation, although I have not been able to find an official reference to him doing so. It is primarily Charles Zenkert, a later botanist at the Buffalo Museum of Science, who attributed these introductions to Day (Zenkert, 1934). Weedy introductions are indicated in Day's list in small capitals, other species are designated as intentional introductions into the flora of the Reservation, some native, some exotic, perhaps in keeping with the Olmsted and Vaux plan (1887) for revegetating or restoring the native flora of the Reservation:
*Ajuga reptans. BUGLE. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
#Collinsia verna. BLUE-EYED MARY. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
*Corylus avellana. EUROPEAN FILBERT. Luna Island, "Planted," Day, 1888.
R*Daphne mezereum. MEZEREUM. "One individual, perhaps planted," Day, 1883. "Introduced and spreading," Day, 1888. "Not observed," Zenkert, 1934.
*Dodecatheon meadia. AMERICAN COWSLIP. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
R*Draba verna. WHITLOW GRASS. "Introduced...Hardly yet established," Day, 1883. "Perhaps not established," Day, 1888. First Sister, east end 1988. Second Sister, east end, 1988.
*Epipactis helleborine. HELLEBORINE ORCHID. Goat Island...where originally introduced by Day," Zenkert, 1934. 1984.
R*[#]Erigenia bulbosa. HARBINGER OF SPRING. "Introduced. Established?," Day, 1888.
*Galium mollugo. BEDSTRAW. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
*Hieracium aurantiacum. DEVIL'S PAINT-BRUSH. "Introduced," Day, 1888. [Morus. "An undetermined species has been planted on Luna Island," Day, 1888.]
Penstemon digitalis. FOXGLOVE PENSTEMON. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
R*Ranunculus bulbosus. BULBOUS BUTTERCUP. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
*Ulmus campestris. ENGLISH ELM. Luna Island, "planted," Day, 1888.
Ulmus thomasii. ROCK-ELM. Green Island, "planted," Day, 1888.
R#Veronicastrum virginicum. CULVER'S-ROOT. "Introduced," Day, 1888.
*Vinca minor. PERIWINKLE. "Introduced and spreading," Day, 1888. "N side on wooded slopes...planted," 96122608.
Day's 1888 catalogue listed 285 native species, 50 alien, and 8 varieties* on Goat Island of the 909 species, 758 of which were native, and 151 alien reported for the study area of his catalogue. Hooker noted 47 species of trees and shrubs and 68 of herbs, or 115 species altogether on his one day on Goat Island. In a later report by Day (1901) he noted that 140 of the 170 species of trees and shrubs then known from western New York State occurred on Goat Island "and the immediate vicinity of the river near the Falls."
[Note: varieties in the Day catalogue are noted above only if additional to the typical variety; single varieties given without the typical variety are counted as a species): 335 species and 8 varieties.]
In this limited area of approximately two square miles of vegetated land along the Niagara Gorge and some way along the upper river above the cataracts, Day found around seventy percent of the catalogued species published previously in 1882 for the Niagara Frontier Region as a whole. The Niagara Frontier Region is the area of a circle with a fifty mile radius with its center at Buffalo, New York - an area of 7,850 square miles. This percentage still holds between the flora of land in the vicinity of the Falls and that of the Niagara Frontier Region (Eckel, 1987). This extraordinary diversity is the equivalent to that of a county flora.
Although Day tabulated his numbers of species and such, he made no statistical comparison to his regional flora in substantiating claims to the unusual variety of species at Niagara. Nor did he extend claims by contemporary botanists to the extraordinary diversity of the Goat Island flora, an area of seventy or so acres, to the matching diversity in the gorge environment, of which Goat Island was and is only a part. Yet he left behind sufficient data so that such a comparison could eventually be made.
Roderick Cameron, chief gardener for the Queen Victoria Niagara Falls Park in Ontario, also made a flora of his park and its "outlying territories," although, probably as a park employee, confining his efforts to the Canadian side of the river. His 1894 publication tallied "105 families, comprising 417 genera and 915 species" (cited in Dow, 1921). A subsequent republication of his list was "a more complete list than that in the ninth report [of 1894], but not exhaustive, since only such plants as had been mounted and were actually on evidence in the herbarium were included. The whole number consisted of '107 families, comprising 487 genera and 1,101 species'" (Dow, 1921, citing Cameron, 1895). Note should be made that Cameron's catalogue included quite a number of mosses, liverworts and other plant groups, rather like Day's 1882, 1883 publications for the vicinity of Buffalo, which accounts to some extent for the difference in the figures. Cameron's efforts reconfirm accounts of the great plant diversity in the gorge environment of which the Goat Island complex is a part.