1901-1947 Exploration of the United States


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1901-1947 Exploration of the United States

1901-1921, Ernest J. Palmer ‘Collector-at-Large’

In 1901, Ernest Jesse Palmer began shipping sends and live plants from Missouri to the Arnold Arboretum. Palmer collected alongside his mentor and noted plantsman, Benjamin Franklin Bush, whose A List of the Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Missouri (1895), had motivated Palmer to share his collections with the botanical community. Palmer worked from Webb City, Missouri, and predominantly made collections of genus Crateagus, until 1921 when Charles S. Sargent recognized Palmer’s keen abilities as a botanist and collector and offered him a position at the Arboretum.

1921-1947, Ernest J. Palmer ‘Botanist-Collector’

Palmer was one of the Arboretum’s most prolific collectors. His trips throughout the continental United States were taken almost annually, each lasting several months. As a result of his botanical fieldwork, he amassed approximately 69,000 herbarium specimens over his lifetime, large portions of which are divided among Harvard University Herbaria, The Morton Arboretum’s Herbarium, and The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Herbarium. Additionally, he made a multitude of germplasm collections, with a focus, per C.S. Sargent’s request and Palmer’s own fascination, on the genera Crataegus and Quercus, and the flora of the central and southern United States – in particular: Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. One taxon first described and collected by Palmer in the Ozark Mountains as Quercus shumardii var. acerifolia was more recently elevated to species level as Quercus acerifolia, and is now considered one of the rarest North American oaks. A population was visited in the autumn of 2014 by Curator of Living Collections, Michael Dosmann.

Palmer’s nearly half-century of botanical exploration also resulted in the publication of numerous descriptions of new taxa, scholarly articles, and books (see Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 43 (4) for bibliography including the Annotated Catalogue of The Flowering Plants of Missouri, a 385-page description of flora and environs published in 1935. In addition to being a natural historian, he was also a poet, publishing an anthology of his poems in 1958 titled Gathered Leaves: Green, Gold and Sere.

Additional Resources

Kobuski, Clarence E. “Ernest Jesse Palmer, 1875-1962.” The Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 42 (4) 1962 [link].

Palmer, Ernest J. “On Nuttall’s Trail through Arkansas.” The Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 7 (1) 1926 [link].

Palmer, Ernest J. “The Ligneous Flora of the Davis Mountains, Texas.” The Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 10 (1) 1929 [link].