Correspondence of Charles Mohr
and G. W. Clinton
(Updated August 5, 2003)
The Correspondence of
Charles (Carl) Theodore Mohr (1824‑1901) and
George William Clinton (1807‑1885)
Vol.6 no. 2 [L 218] Recd Feb. 24 ansd 25th
Mobile, February 14th, 1869 Most esteemed Sir!
Since I have written to you the last time acknowledging the receipt of the Catalogues wich you was so kind to send to me, I have tried to file the list of your desideratas as far as my limited material would allow. Besides the specially desired specimens, there added a few others wich are new and unknown to me asking your kind aid and assistance in the determination of the same. You will find the labels of the same numbered and your comments upon my remarks upon the same are respectfully solicited; I have no doubt that most ot these specimens collected by Dr. [Elihu] Hall in Western La [=Louisiana] pertain to the Texan flora and are undoubtedly described, but I have no access to any book to wich I could refer to satisfy myself. The want of a national flora is deeply felt, and I hope that the promise wich Dr. Gray gives in regard to the long wished for continuation and final completion of the great work, commenced now more than 20 years ago, will ere long be realized; I should think that since that time the interest for Botany has yearly increased in this country so as to justify the undertaking of such a vast work from a financial point of view, and also is it my conviction that there would be no talent lacking to insure a sufficient number of colaborators wich could undertake the elaboration of certain familys or groups of famlys in the form of complete monograph as it has been done in DeCandoll's Prodromus.
The accumulation of material since the last ten years from the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains and the pacific coast [?] must have been immense and is increasing every year, so that after the completion of such a work, but comparatively little supplementary additions the future would afford. I could but little accomplish the past summer; the stern necessities of my calling give me but little time indeed either to make excursions or for herbarial investigations; for the few rambles upon the shores of our bay, I found as most interesting species for the first time Telanthion, Syphonichia diffusa, Helianthemum polifolium, and the Trepocarpus Arethusa, the Texan Gallardia elegans, as this latter plant has been observed only upon one spot, (but covering the same completely with its lovely flowers) upon a island in the delta of Mobile river on entirely new made land it must be regarded as a lately arrived immigrant. Cyperus flavicomus, and a most interesting variety of Juncus polycephalus with ensate leaves; You will find specimens of all these plants besides specimens of other species already sent to ... [more?] perfect and characteristic.
I wish to call your particular attention to the strange viola collected last April upon the banks of Pentullala [?] creek Central Ala. It is rather a poor specimen as it had already past flowering, but it shows so many striking differences from any of the rest of the genus that it must take the place of a strikingly peculiar species. Is it perhaps described among texan plants? With the packages of plants I send you my list of desideratas. Please let me know all you wish to get from the flora of this part of the country either to enrich the collection of the Buffalo societys museum or for exchange. I can promise you specimens of the plants within a narrow radius of this place, as I have little prospect to be able to extend my excursion to any greater distance.
Hoping that the package will reach you safely and that I will have soon the pleasure to hear from you
I remain most respectfully
[The Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers flow in a southward direction toward the Gulf of Mexico through western Alabama. The Mobile (on the west) and Tensaw (on the east) Rivers begin at the confluence of these two rivers. Both form a delta complex above and opposite the City of Mobile at the northern apex of Mobile Bay.]
[Elihu Hall (1822‑1882) collected in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Texas. He was a correspondent of George Clinton and exchanged specimens with him.]
[Transcription note: a single letter with a macron indicates the letter's doubling (sumer, "m" with a macron is summer); the closed quotes come after the comma or period; the in or en prefix; the s sign (like an "f") sometimes used with two esses (the other ess "s" sign) or as a single symbol indicating two esses. Mohr mispells much English as a foreign language. He frequently drops the "c" before "h" and "k" and uses lower cases in the names of states as adjectives.]
Vol.6 no. 8 [L 212]
Mobile March 5th 1869 My dear Sir!
I have before me your kind and esteemed favors wich are replete with intrest to me and for wich I tenor you my sincere thanks. That the package of plants has offered to you some points of interest and afford to you in some parts that pure pleasure wich is bestowed upon the lover of our amiable science, is also a great pleasure to me. ‑ Your remarks upon my dubious species are most thankfully received, they relieves my herbar of errors of wich I could not relieve it since many years; a interogative is always an eyesore in ones collection, and every doubt reliefed and new truth recognised again to our treasure, wich we value so much. As to the first of your notes relating to the time of my having collected the supposed Anemone multifida I must have made a mistake in writing 1868 on place of 1866. You may be assured, that if I could come within 500 miles of your neighborhood I could not deny myself the pleasure in paying you a visit to secure the much coveted advantage of your personal acquaintance. I feel indeed sorry that I can not comply with your wish in sending you a better specimen of that interesting Viola, so as to enable you to identify the species with certainty. It grows in the middle of the state in the prairies bordering Pentullala creek at least 150 miles from here; ‑
Anticipating the difficulty of getting new specimens of another season I planted a few seeds but I did not succeed in raising any plants from. ‑ I hope that, what I can not do now will be able to accomplish at some future day. It is certainly widely different from any form of Viola lanceolata. Of the supposed Helianthemum polifolia I will get next June plenty of good specimens so as to investigate his claims to a true species closely. Of the dubious Festuca I think to be able to get more specimens next month.
About the two single species of Carex mentioned in yours of 26th I think you better sacrifice a few Utriculi (if these are ripened enough) to enable you to determine their status. The same even if mutilated might enable me to look for more of their kind. I find our southern Eleocharis extremely difficult to make out, the diagnostic of Chapman is rather short and often unsatisfactory to me. As soon as my time permits I will overhaul the whole of the representation of this genus in my posession.
It seems that the odd composite is as much a puzzle to you as it was to me, I often laid it despairingly aside only to make new attempts to satisfy my curiosity. I collected the plant on a hurried visit to the eastern shore, of our Bay having neither my capsule nor any paper along with me; consequently during a hot afternoon the specimen faded much, and it was with great trouble to put it even in that defective state of preservation in wich it presents itself to you. Last summer (one year after) all my efforts to secure other specimens failed, I spent a whole afternoon in search for it, scouting about for many miles. I agree perfectly with you to bring it and or the Melampodium [sp.?] The fertile ray florets are entirely sterile disc induced me to do the same, but I found the general habitus of the plant so entirely different from all the Melampods [?] I am acquainted with. I am really anxious to see the mystery solved by your researches.
I can assure you, that in having gained your correspondence a devoted wish of many a year has been fully realised. In vain have I been looking around me for aid in my perplexitys and for a guide in my isolation, as my library is scanty and affords me in many instances not any advise. To see me through your kindness honored with a membership of your aspiring society gives me great pleasure and will stimulate me to devote with renewed zeal the few spare hours wich are allowed to me to the cause of botanical science.
Your are well aware that the calling of an Apothecary is confining to the highest degree, and the burdens of business irksome, allowing but little time to spare away from the counter or laboratory. In view of these facts I hope your society will be indulgent and not accuse me of a lack of zeal if my dutys as a corresponding member are but sparingly performed. According to your wish I send you my photographic carte de visit. It represents to you a fellow citizen of german birth, who loves dearly his adopted country and is striving hard to bring up for its benefit 3 sons and 2 daughters as good and useful children of this country of their birth, regarding this task as the prime object of his life. ‑ This gives me the opportunity to express to you a wish wich I cherished for some time that is to posess your photograph amongst those of my esteemed friends and correspondents. ‑ I can scarcly say now, if I will be enabled to go north next summer; it is my intention to do so, should circumstance be favorable to carry it out. I would deemed it a great pleasure indeed to see you and your botanical treasures.
I am anxious to see what you have to say about the Cyperi in the collection I send you; there are some remarkable intresting and beautyful species amonst the same, wich are entire strangers to me. ‑ With many obligations for your kind favors and in the hope to receive soon more of the same from your kindness I remain most
P. S. My last thanks for the new check catalogue. I send you to one .. male where you find all my absolute desideratas marked thus ‑. By looking over it, please check off on the right hand side of the numbers, those wich are yet desireable to you from this section of the country, either to improve your and the Societys herbar, or desirable for exchange. I have a pretty extensive herbar of the german flora, collected during my time of youthful enthusiasm. If my duplicates prove interesting they are at your disposal. Recd March 10, ansd 12th
[Alvan Wentworth Chapman (1809‑1899) had settled in Appalachicola, Florida after studying medicine in Georgia and Florida. He was collector of internal revenue and collector of the customs during the 1860's and a correspondent of George Clinton. Clinton wrote in his personal diary for January 20, 1868: "This day, I believe, received a package, a glorious package of about 500 species from Prof. Chapman. It went by Steamboat (?) to Columbia, Ga., thence the southern Express Co. conveyed it to Nashville, Tenn., thence The Adams Express Co. carried it to Cincinnati, where the American Express Co. received & brought it on to Buffalo."]
Vol.6 no. 50 [L 167]
Mobile May 10th, 1869 Most esteemed Sir!
Before me are your kind and interesting favors of Febr. 27th & March 12th, wich both I have received in due time. In justice to your kindness I should have come before this to reply to the same. I was always in hopes I might be able to report to you something interesting about my botanical excursions wich intended to make during the spring, but the very unfavorable weather would not allow to carry out my intentions. The first Sunday of this month was truly a lovely spring day and the first excursion boat leaving this for the opposite (eastern) shore of our bay, I treated myself to a ramble over fields and woods after a short trip in the water. Great was my satisfaction to find at once the mystery solved wich surrounded the sphinx like [Syn...sist?] of wich I did send you a specimen in my last package; the only one ...ood meet two years ago and all my searching for a better specimen last year had also prooved entirely unsuccessful, as I looked for it some what too late in the season. This time I found it in its full glory covering with its large yellow dark purple & red flowers a grassy lawn. I found it to be Coreopsis Drummondii, belonging by its incurved somewhat verrucose seed to the subgenus Calciopsis. The fact of having overlooked this character and the specimen in question being destitute of the ray florets, did entirely mislead me in the investigation of its true character. I have some doubts to regard the plant as indigenous to the flora of this region, having not meet with it in this neighborhood, except in one place, wich might have been cultivated at a former time, and used for an ornamental ground. Like the Galliardia elegans and the everywhere here naturalised Plox Drummondii, it might have domiciled itself here since years. But as we have a few truly indigenous plants here (v.i. ...carpus Arethusa) in common with the Texan flora it might still be claimed as a true native of this region. ‑ You ask me if there is no prospect here for the formation of a society of naturalists. I am sorry to say none whatever, those wich take any interest in such pursuits are few and far between. The much talked of development of the inexhaustible natural resources of this state, would make such a society very desirable, but as the dollar and cents can not be the primary question involved, it is difficult to inaugurate the matter. In my pursuits I have a sole companion in my old friend Dr. ... Romer, but he has given up collecting. In his younger [sic] he was a cooperator of the almost extinct clan of Southern botanists, as Dr. Carpenter, Teinturier, Ridell, whose merits are inscribed in the flora of T. [=John Torrey] & Gray. The surroundings of this place offer a very unfavorable terrain for geological or minerological pursuits, the sands and loams are entirely devoid of organic remains; the older tertiary and cretaceous stratas wich extend throughout the center of the state till they meet the carboniferous and older formations are very interesting. The University of Ala. and Springville College possessed fine series of the fossils of the same collected by the later Professor Tralmin [sp.?]; both of this collections have been destroyed by fire. I just mention this to give you an idea of the rich field open here for investigation.
I have taken due note of the Veronica agrestis. Of our friend Lesquereux I have not heard for a long time. The above named friend of mine intends to make a trip to the south of Florida. There is a faint hope to get a number of your desideratas in the list anulled. At least I hope so. Hoping to be favored soon again with some news from you
I remain most respectly yours
Recd May 17
[Note that in Mohr's field trips around Mobile Bay, it is apparently the eastern shore that was the less developed and the indigenous flora was intact.]
[Romer, Carpenter, Teinturier, Ridell: Friedrich Adolf Roemer, 1809‑1897. German geologist; authority on the mountains of northwestern Germany. His brother Ferdinand (1818‑1891) investigated and wrote on the geology of Texas and Tennessee. Variant spelling is Romer. For Riddell, see note at the end of Lesquereux' letter April 6, 1867 above. In the Index Herbariorum for collectors A‑D (1954, Lanjouw, J. and F. A. Stafleu), there are numerous botanists with Carpenter as surname: perhaps Mohr's reference is to William Marbury Carpenter (1811‑48) whose collections from Louisiana are at the Smithsonian Institution, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University. Teinturier may be a misspelling, but it is likely this was a Louisiana collector, possibly with specimens at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.]
[In the first version of this note (above), I probably mistakenly indicated that the Romer reference was to Friedrich Adolf Roemer, a German geologist. The Romer referred to by Mohr is more likely Dr. F. J. B. Romer. a physician of Spring Hill, Alabama. According to an article in the Mobile Register for August 28, 1964 (Friday, Page 2B Columns 1-4 "Book Run Through Yankee Blockade In 18623 Provided Medicine For Area"), Romer was a physician of Spring Hill, Alabama. The years of his life are given as 1856-1885, although 1856 is too early if Romer was a physician by 1863, so perhaps these are the dates he lived in Spring Hill. He was "appointed by President Jefferson Davis as surgeon and botanist of the Confederate States" and became superintendent of clinical laboratories in Mobile and Spring Hill, producing medicine for the Confederate armies. Mohr probably assisted him in the Mobile lab. The substance of this beautifully written article was Romer's struggle to find a way to replace "ipeca[c] used in the treatment of stomach disorders" and the necessity of procuring a botanical text from Paris to correctly identify a plant growing locally as its source. Blockade runners were successfully employed out of Charleston, South Carolina to procure the book. Richardsonia scabra was ultimately successfully identified and this weed was harvested in lieu of ipecac, although this is the same species that is the source of Undulated or Farinaceous Ipecac (synonymous with R. pilosa H. B. K.).]
[I thank Charles J. Torrey III, Research Historian of the Museum of Mobile, Alabama, for presenting me with a copy of the article from the Mobile Register.]