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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/423

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SKETCH OF MOSES ASHLEY CURTIS.

mons as the 'Woody Plants.' This volume, of one hundred and twenty-four pages, was printed by the State in 1860, and at once became a popular manual for the farmer and the woodsman, and for amateur botanists a key to the more conspicuous trees and shrubs useful for their fruit or timber or as ornaments. The key devised to enable one of no botanical knowledge to determine a given plant or shrub was founded upon the character of the fruit and distinguished by the common name. The preface of this little work is an introduction to the geographical distribution of plants in the State, and shows what a thorough acquaintance he had with the vast subject." The essay made prominent the exceptional position which North Carolina holds in respect to climate, soil, and forest products, by calling attention to the existence of a difference in elevation between the eastern and western parts, which gives a difference of climate equivalent to ten or twelve degrees of latitude. The work displays an accurate knowledge of common names, with all the local changes which they undergo. It has been liberally drawn from by subsequent writers, not always with due acknowledgment. In "A Commentary on the Natural History of Dr. Hawks's 'History of North Carolina,'" published in the "University Magazine" in 1860, Dr. Curtis corrected many errors into which the author had fallen by accepting the exaggerated and too highly colored accounts of the old travelers and explorers concerning the plant-growth of the State.

Dr. Curtis's "Catalogue of the Indigenous and Naturalized Plants" of North Carolina was published by the State in 1867 as a part of the Geological and Natural History Survey. At the time of its issue the author asserted that, comprising forty-eight hundred species, it was the most extensive local list of plants ever published in North America. It is claimed to have been the first attempt to enumerate the cryptogamous as well as the phenogamous plants ever made by any botanist in this country. It consisted of one hundred and fifty-eight pages of catalogue, with no scientific description, but a mere statement of the locality of each plant, and was the result of twenty-five years of botanical study over a territory of fifty thousand square miles. Pathological mycology had only begun to be studied in Dr. Curtis's lifetime. An incident related by Dr. Wood suggests that, had he engaged in this branch of investigation, he might have become a master of the subject. A group of doctors were examining some figures of microscopic fungi in Beale's "Microscope in Practical Medicine," and particularly the Oïdium albicans, which was supposed to be a cause of thrush. Dr. Curtis coming in, at once recognized a very familiar fungus, and, showing that the spores could only find lodgment when the soil was prepared to receive them, cau-