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Ravenel may have made two different collections of this plant from Berkeley County, probably in 1850. Like so many other excellent botanists, Alvan Wentworth Chapman (1809-1899) was trained as a physician, moving to the South from Massachusetts in 1831, and retaining considerable botanical contact with New England botanists, especially John Torrey and Asa Gray. Ravenel and Chapman communicated extensively as botanists, sharing considerable numbers of collections with each other. Chapman published his monumentalFlora of the Southern States in 1865, and it is in this work that the description of this new species appears. Chapman recognized the plant as a new species, and described it in Ravenel's honor, in 1860. In a note published on this small plant in 1876, Ravenel explained that "The only specimens are those sent to Prof. Gray and Dr. Chapman, besides those in my own herbarium." This specimen is one of the latter. It is extremely rare in South Carolina, still known only from the Ravenel collection, not having been located since, but it has since been discovered in a number of populations through Georgia and well into southern Florida. (The lower portion of this sheet bears a plant that Chapman had collected in "S. Florida".)
Chapman’s Published Description
Chapman, A. W. (Alvan Wentworth), 1809‑1899.
Flora of the southern United States: containing abridged descriptions of the flowering plants and ferns of Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, arranged according to the natural system.
Second edition. New York: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor, 1872. Original green cloth.
Opened to show Chapman’s description of Eriocaulon ravenelii (p. 503).
A grass named in honor of Ravenel by Scribner and Merrill
Panicum villosum Ell.!
(Elliott's specimen confirmed May 29 (67)
Santee Canal S.C. HWRavenel
First Annotation: This cannot be the same as the other, and does not agree with Elliotts description.
I do not know it- We have nothing
like it. The flowers are almost as large
as those of P. latifolium.
Pencil addition: Vasey
Second annotation: Panicum ravenelii Scribn. & Merr
Determined by Agnes Chase
Current name: Dichanthelium ravenelii (Scribner & Merrill) Gould; "Ravenel's witchgrass". This specimen was collected from Santee Canal (Berkeley County), prior to the date on the label (May 29, 1867), at a time when Ravenel was at Hampton Hill. On May 28, he had spent time collecting specimens from "Wilkinsons old millpond", taking, in particular, Panicum. Ravenel, in his diary, expressed difficulty in identifying these "very perplexing species." Furthermore, he suggested that previous work by Elliott was not proving very useful in his efforts.
Ravenel’s original label has been added to by two later annotators, George Vasey and Agnes Chase. "Vasey" is George Vasey (1822-1893), staff botanist at the Smithsonian Institution. His annotation suggests that this is a new species, and it was indeed named by Frank Lamson-Scribner (1851-1938) and Elmer Drew Merrill (1876-1956) in 1901 in honor of Ravenel, as Panicum ravenelii. Ravenel’s collections do not constitute type material; the holotype (at the Smithsonian institution) is based upon a specimen from the Elliott Herbarium. The annotation by Agnes Chase (1869-1963) indicates the modern name of the plant.