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

Type Specimens in the Ravenel Collection

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pachystima canbyiA type specimen of "Canby's mountain-lover"
Pachystima myrsinites, Pursh var.?
Coll. WM. M. CANBY
Giles County, VIRGINIA, May, 1869
Handwritten by Canby below this: "P. Canbyi, M. A. Curtis, sp.nov."Current name:  Pachystima canbyi A. Gray; "Canby's mountain-lover."  

A "type" specimen is one upon which the original description of a plant is based.  In Ravenel's time, when a botanist published the name and description of a new species, it was not necessary to explicitly designate a specimen as the type, as it is now, a rule enacted in 1958.

This is a mixed collection.  (Note that the correct authority is Gray, not Curtis.)  The exposed plant at top was collected by William Canby of Wilmington, Delaware (1831-1904), who presumed that it was a variety ofPachystima myrsinites Rafinesque, a western species.  Two envelopes contain plant material as well: the upper is probably from the same collection as the Giles County plant, and is so labeled.  The lower envelope is labeled "Pachystima myrsinites Raf....N. Mexico. coll. Fendler."  August Fendler (1809-1883), a native Prussian, botanized extensively in the 1840's under the direction of George Engelmann and Asa Gray; his collections are among the first from New Mexico.  Ravenel included both taxa on the same sheet, and inscribed this sheet at lower right corner, "P. Canbyi Gray & P. myrsinitesRaf."  The upper specimen almost certainly represents type material of P. canbyi; the holotype is at Harvard's Gray Herbarium. In his description of the new species, Gray indicates that it was Curtis, while still alive, proposed that the name of the new species honor its discoverer.  Canby visited Ravenel in Aiken in 1869, and the two communicated extensively.

baptisia microphylla A specimen of Baptisia from the sandhills of Aiken County
Baptisia stipulacea Rav.
Aiken, S.C.
Current name: Baptisia microphylla Nuttall; “Small-leaved wild indigo.” 

This specimen is probably a type.  Ravenel described this species in 1856, later (1876) remarking that it is "sparingly disseminated in the poor sand-hill region in the vicinity of Aiken."  J. K. Small, in his 1903 Flora of the Southeastern United States, maintained recognition of this plant as a good species (as B. microphylla), although more current taxonomic judgment holds it as a hybrid between B. perfoliata ("rabbit-bells") and B. tinctoria ("wild indigo"), both of which are fairly common in modern Aiken County.

Probably introduced species, perhaps cultivated, but more likely a pest.  Hanover House refers to the ancestral home of Ravenel's great-grandfather, originally located in Berkeley County, then transported to Clemson University (prior to the inundation of Lake Moultrie), now on the grounds at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Solanum is a large genus in the tomato family (Solanaceae), perhaps best known locally known as the native S. caroliniense, which is a fairly benign (although somewhat toxic) weed.  Solanum sodomeumwas named in 1753 by Linnaeus, and remains a valid species.   However, this specimen is likely a different taxon.  Other species of Solanum, especially (and recently) S. viarum, or “tropical soda-apple”, have been implicated as serious agricultural weeds in the Southeast.


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