BOTANICAL EVALUATION OF THE GOAT ISLAND COMPLEX, NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK
HISTORICAL BOTANICAL SPECIMENS
The primary source for historic specimens of vascular plants were those curated at the Clinton Herbarium, Buffalo Museum of Science. Since the founding of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, which operates the Museum, in 1861, various members of that society have collected and published their discoveries on the Niagara flora as one of the most interesting floristic localities in western New York State and adjacent Ontario (the Niagara Frontier Region).
With the kind assistance of Dr. Harold Robinson, Curator of Bryophytes, historic specimens of mosses were searched for at the National Herbarium, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Dr. William Buck, curator of bryophytes, generously assisted in the search for mosses and hepatics at the New York Botanical Garden. Dr. Richard Harris, also of the New York Botanical Garden, kindly determined and annotated the Clinton Herbarium's historic specimens of lichens from Goat Island, and the areas around Niagara Falls.
In the Clinton Herbarium, Buffalo, approximately 20,000 vascular plant, 3,600 bryophyte, 2,500 mycological and phycological specimens were searched for collections made on Goat Island. Each Goat Island specimen as it was found was removed from its herbarium case and its label information typed into the herbarium database according to the procedure outlined above in the section above on voucher specimens. The specimen sheet was stamped, indicating its data had been entered, the specimen was reidentified (except for myco- and phycological material), and the specimen was returned to its herbarium case. Specimens found at the other institutions mentioned above, were pulled from their collections and sent on loan to the Clinton Herbarium, where they were redetermined, typed into the specimen databases and wordprocessing files, annotated and returned.
Data from historic herbarium sheets was added to floristic data compiled in the field, and from published reports.
Dr. Asa Gray exerted a powerful influence on the botanists of his day. George W. Clinton, whose collections from the latter half of the nineteenth century constitute the nucleus of the present Clinton Herbarium, consulted with Gray regarding the manner of curating his own herbarium, as Clinton notes in the very first lines of his collecting notebook. Unfortunately, Gray seemed more interested in plant taxonomy and general plant distribution, rather than the precise localities from which his specimens derived, and referred to collecting localities only in general terms on the labels of his own collections at the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University. Clinton, and probably other botanists of the period, also frequently did not cite locality data on the labels accompanying collections, hence many of Clinton's specimens cite only the name of the plant on the sheet, and the printed label with the words: "Ex Coll. G. W. Clinton, Buffalo, New York." Publications, such as Peck's first checklist of the bryophytes of New York State, cite Clinton collections from Goat Island, Devil's Hole, Whirlpool Woods, and elsewhere along the gorge of the Niagara River, but Clinton's specimens themselves do not necessarily include these localities. Apparently Peck knew their provenance from correspondence with Clinton, or through some other communication. Specimens of Clinton's existing in the National Herbarium, or the New York Botanical Garden that probably derive from Goat Island or the Niagara Gorge were not pulled for inclusion in this report because of the ambiguity of information on their provenance.
The designation "Niagara Falls," which does occur on Clinton's labels, and the labels of other collectors, is also ambiguous as to whether the reference is to localities in New York State or the Province of Ontario, or the city of Niagara Falls, New York, much less demonstrative of exact sites at the Falls, such as Goat Island and the Three Sisters, to which some Niagara Falls citations must refer. Clinton, according to his journal, liked to collect by the "American Staircase," an area now called Prospect Point. I have not been able to determine if Prospect Point was a named used before 1885, that is, before the establishment of the Reservation.