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

Some Rare Plants

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sketch of the botany of sc & gaThe Cumulation of Botanical Knowledge, I
Stephen Elliott, 1771‑1830.
A Sketch of the Botany of South-Carolina and Georgia.
Charleston, S.C.: J.R. Schenck, 1821‑24.  Black roan.Phelps Memorial Collection.

This sample opening, with its references to “Walt” [Thomas Walter] and “Mich” [Andre Michaux] shows the slow cumulation of knowledge about South Carolina plants.  Elliott, a Charlestonian banker who graduated from Yale in 1791, also served as professor of natural history and botany at the Medical College and as a contributor to Legare's Southern Review.

elliottia racemosa muhlenbergA specimen of Elliottia racemosa, a threatened species
Elliottia racemosa Muhl.
on David L. Adam's premises 
near Hamburg S.C.
Printed: In GEORGIA et CAROLINA, circa urbem Augusta, legerunt S[tephen]. T[hayer]. Olney et J[esse]. Metcalf
Current name: Elliottia racemosa Muhlenberg ex Elliott; “Georgia plume.”

This is the "long-lost" Elliottia, the genus named in commemoration of Stephen Elliott (1771-1830), whose Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgiawas heavily used by Ravenel as a source.  USC's Elliott College was named in his honor in 1847.   The genus Elliottia was established by Henry Muhlenberg (1752-1815) as a tribute to Elliott, who published the name in 1817 in the first volume of his Sketch.  This species is now apparently restricted, in nature, entirely to Georgia;  there are now no known naturally-occurring populations east of the Savannah River, though it is historically known from South Carolina, as this collection proves, on the south side of present-day North Augusta.  Although the plants in natural populations in Georgia produce viable seeds, seedlings are never seen; the species is commonly propagated vegetatively, and is sometimes seen in cultivated in gardens. This species is officially recognized as "threatened” by the state of Georgia, but does not enjoy federal protection.

Stephen Olney (1812-78), a businessman and botanist of Rhode Island, specialized in algae and vascular plants, primarily from the northeastern states. His collecting partner was Jesse Metcalf (dates not known). The two were later involved in operating a mill in Providence, Rhode Island, producing cotton cloth during the Civil War.

proceedings of the elliott society of natural history of charleston, sc Ravenel and the Elliott Society
Henry W. Ravenel, Notice of some New and Rare Phaenogamous Plants found in this State,
Proceedings of the Elliott Society of Natural History of Charleston, South-Carolina
, vol. I (November 1853-December 1858): 50-54. From the library of Prof. Yates Snowden.

This is the second of two papers that Ravenel contributed to the proceedings of this society, named for the South Carolina botanist Stephen Elliott (1771-1830), although Ravenel was not often able to attend the Society’s meetings.  Following his more scientific discoveries, Ravenel reports visiting the grave near Santee of Thomas Walter, author of Flora Caroliniana (1788).

sageretia minutifloraA specimen of an uncommon coastal shrub 
Sageretia Michauxii Brongniart
Sept/68--Seen [illeg.] on Coast of S.C.
misit J[oseph]. H[enry]. Mellichamp
This seems to be the S. Michauxii as described in Chapman's Flora, with some slight difference. Chapman quotes Rhamnus minutiflora Mx as a synonym. The plant described under this last name in Ell. Sk. scarcely agrees with this plant & Elliott seems not to have been familiar....[continued on other side of label, which is taped down]
Current name: Sageretia minutiflora (Michaux) Trelease; "Shellmound buckthorn."

Mellichamp collected the specimen and sent it to Ravenel. This is a reasonably rare species in South Carolina, and it somewhat characteristic of shell-midden or shell-ring communities along the coast.  Ravenel mentions the works of both Chapman and Elliott, both of which he (HWR) would have been using extensively.

schisandra glabraA mixed specimen of "Star-vine," endemic to the southeastern United States
Schisandra coccinea Mx
Bluffton S.C.
from Dr. Mellichamp

 Scizandra coccinea Mx
June 85  Bluffton S.C.
Dr Mellichamp

Scizandra coccinea Michx.
Deep swamp, Beaufort District, So. Car.
June, 1884, Dr. Mellichamp
Current name: Schisandra glabra (Brickell) Rehder.

A very rare species in South Carolina known only from Beaufort and Jasper Counties. The plant was named by John Brickell (1749-1809) as Stellandria glabra in 1803, and subsequently (very soon afterward) by André Michaux asSchisandra coccinea, apparently unaware of Brickell's name. Although Brickell got the name first, the genus name that Michaux invented (viz. Schisandra) is a "conserved" generic name against Stellandria. As Brickell named it first, Rehder (1863-1949) transferred Brickell's name into the genus Schisandra. All of the above labels are present on the same sheet, along with two additional packets containing material. Dr. Joseph Hinson Mellichamp achieved considerable stature as a botanist, particularly around the Bluffton area, and was a steady correspondent with Ravenel.

juniperus communisA dwarf juniper from Aiken County, the single population in South Carolina
In pencil: Juniperus communis L.
Prostrate, taking root, one dead limb
near 10 ft long - on poor sandy soil, on 
Mt [?]
Aiken S.C.   Sep 21 69        HWR
Current name: Juniperus communis L. var. depressaPursh; Ground juniper.

This is a circumpolar species, generally known in the Southeast only from high elevations. The prostrate variety is known from a few disjunct localities, such as this one. Taxonomic questions remain concerning the status of the variety, as it sometimes forms small trees.  Ravenel found two populations in Aiken County, in what is now present-day Hitchcock Woods. Ravenel refers to this collection, and explicitly to the label thereon, in his journal entry for September 21, 1869. This entry credits his (only) son, "Harry," with the discovery of the two populations. "Harry" was Henry St. Julien Ravenel, born in 1848.  The natural occurrence of this population has been questioned, although Ravenel himself addressed this issue in 1876:

This spot is in virgin forest of Pine, Oak, etc and there are no signs of clearing or of former cultivation, by which their introduction may be traced to hand of man. . . . Strange that the Alpine form of a tree which grows 1000 mi north, should be found here, flourishing on these warm sandhills!

the american juniper of the section sabinaSharing Botanical Information
George Engelmann
The American Juniper of the Section Sabina.
St. Louis, MO: R. P. Studeley, 1877.  Original wrappers, inscribed to Ravenel from the author.

Offprint from Transactions of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, 3:4 (December 1877).


bachman's warblerBotanical Illustration in South Carolina, II 
John James Audubon, and Maria Martin, 1796-1863,
"Bachman&'s Warbler.  Gordonia pubescens,
plate 185, from his Birds of America, no. 38, 1833.
Current name: Franklinia alatamaha.

Audubon's double elephant folio engravings Birds of America, published in parts between 1828 and 1838, and purchased for South Carolina College by vote of the legislature in 1831, are also important for their botanical backgrounds.  The bird depicted here has been named for Audubon’s Charleston friend, the Rev. John Bachman.  By the late Victorian period, the plant (which was painted by Bachman’s sister-in-law Maria Martin) was no longer found growing in South Carolina; interestingly, in 1882, Ravenel himself published a paper about this plant in American Naturalist.




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