Henry William Ravenel (1814-1887)

Introduction | Introduction to the Botanical Collection | Applied Botany: Some Cultivated Plants | Ravenel in the South Caroliniana Library | Type Specimens in the Ravenel Collection | Some Rare Plants | Some Noteworthy Plants | A New Species of a Fresh-Water Alga | Weedy Plants from South Carolina | Specimens from Some of Ravenel's Southern Colleagues | Specimens from Some of Ravenel's Northern Colleagues | Plants Named After Ravenel | References

Applied Botany: Some Cultivated Plants

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vitis viniferaA specimen of a cultivated grape
 Herbemonte grape from
 Flushing - Long island
 from Dr McDonalds
Current name: Vitis vinifera L., the variety known as "Herbemont". 

Throughout his life, Ravenel was actively involved in agriculture as well as in science.  He wrote not only for scientific publications, but also for more general readerships in the Southern Agriculturist & Horticulturist, the Southern Cultivator, the Southern Farmer & Market Gardener, and Farmer and Planter.   Ravenel grew an assortment of grape varieties at Hampton Hill, near Aiken.  His diary indicates, in the summer of 1860, that he was very interested in the development of the local fruit industry, and was himself involved in shipping considerable amounts of peaches to New York. The Herbemonte grape was a popular variety, growing well in the southern states.

sorghum vulgareSorghum, a potentially useful food and forage crop
Sept. 4 1857
found at  Genl. Hammond's place
in Barnwell - said to grow wild on Savannah River.              HWR
Current name: Sorghum vulgare L.; “Cane sorghum.”

This specimen had been widely grown as a source of sorghum molasses, and also for seed and fodder. Ravenel almost certainly knew James H. Hammond socially; Hammond (1807-1864), later to serve as state senator (and governor), had been elected as a General within the local militia, prior to the Civil War. In addition to being a rather flamboyant political personality, Hammond was a successful planter, and was very interested in new crops for introduction.

There are two separate plants on this sheet, and they are likely from different populations.  The specimen was repaired in the 1930's, remounted on period paper, and then sent to Agnes Chase for determination.

boehmeria niveaA specimen of “Rhamie”
Boehmeria [in pencil: "tenacissima"]
Rhamie cultivated 
Aiken S.C.
Current name: Boehmeria nivea (L.) Gaudich; "Rhamie."

Cultivated in Aiken, probably collected in the 1880s.  Rhamie has enjoyed a reputation as an important fiber crop (the fibers obtained from tissues in the stems) and it was grown with some success in 19th Century South Carolina.

firmiana simplexAn ornamental tree, grown in Aiken
Sterculia platanifolia
Japan varnish tree
Aiken S.C.
Jul 84      HWR
Current name: Firmiana simplex Wight; “Parasol tree.”

One of Ravenel's late collections, taken from a cultivated street tree in Aiken.  This plant is introduced from Asia, and is still commonly grown in warmer parts of the USA.  Its green bark and twigs, deeply lobed leaves, fragrant flowers, and prominent, yellow fall foliage make it an attractive curiosity.  It still grows around Aiken, as well as other cities in South Carolina. (It appears in a few places on the USC campus, and around downtown Columbia.)

During the later years of his life, Ravenel, as seen in his journal, became less and less interested in politics, and became more devoted to his garden and to sharing information with other botanists.  He died three years to the month after collecting this specimen.


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