Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 62/January 1903/The Missouri Botanical Garden

THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

JANUARY, 1903.




THE MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN.
By Professor WILLIAM TRELEASE,

DIRECTOR OF THE GARDEN.

IN 1840, Henry Shaw, an Englishman who had settled in St. Louis in 1819, retired from business with the—for that time—large fortune of a quarter of a million dollars. Revisiting the land of his

PSM V62 D199 Henry Shaw.png
Henry Shaw.

birth, he saw how Englishmen enjoy the fruits of labor such as that by which he had acquired this large sum of money. Traveling on the continent, he saw what the world of pleasure offers to those who are able to pay for it. But he returned to the land of his adoption, determined to make for himself there surroundings as nearly as possible comparable with those of his own countrymen; and he so far succeeded that the modest little garden with which he surrounded his country house in the suburbs of St. Louis came in time to be the pleasantest of the resorts of the residents of that city, and the one place to which they were all sure to wish to take their visiting friends.

If he had stopped with this, he would have caused his name to be long remembered by his fellow-citizens, for he did not hold his home as his own exclusively, but admitted to the enjoyment of its beauties any who wished to share them with him. But while his grounds were developing and growing in beauty, he learned, through the helpful acquaintance of Sir William Hooker and of his own fellow townsman,

PSM V62 D200 Wall gardening.png

Wall Gardening.

Dr. George Engelmann, that it might be possible to perpetuate his name in a surer and more lasting manner, and to cause the garden that he had planned and planted to become of use in the world of science and to grow in such usefulness through the centuries, while losing nothing of its beauty and attractiveness to those who cared to enjoy without using it. In 1859 he secured the passage of an act by the legislature of Missouri which empowered him to deed or will, as he might elect, such of his property as he wished, to trustees for the maintenance of a botanical garden for the cultivation and propagation of plants, flowers, fruit and forest trees, and for the dissemination of the knowledge thereof among men, by having a collection thereof easily accessible; by the establishment of a museum and library in connection therewith, as also by establishment of public lectures and instruction upon botany and its allied sciences, when it shall be deemed advisable in furtherance of the general objects of said trust; and. . . for the purpose of maintaining a perpetual fund for the support and maintenance of said garden, its care and increase, and the museum, library and instruction connected therewith."

As the new and larger plans shaped themselves in Mr. Shaw's mind, they began to take form on the grounds, and a flower garden, arboretum, and fruticetum—Loudon's main parts of a garden—were quickly laid out and planted, and separated and fronted by rubble walls in the outermost of which a severe but rather impressive gate-house, bearing the chosen name of the establishment—Missouri Botanical Garden—

was built. Not far from his house, Mr. Shaw put a small fireproofed building, over the door of which the inscription 'Botanical Museum

PSM V62 D201 The missouri botanical garden museum.png

The Museum Building.

and Library' was cut in the stone, and in which, largely through the interest of Dr. Engelmann, were soon installed a small but well chosen collection of books, and some 60,000 specimens of plants, consisting of the herbarium of the then lately deceased Professor Johann Jakob Bernhardi and a small local collection made by Riehl. The arrangement of these specimens, Mr. Shaw once informed me, was entrusted to 'a young man named Fendler,' whose name was already known as that of an expert collector and destined to be made still better known by subsequent work in the tropics. On the occasion of my introducing to him a gentleman who was making a study of the flora of Missouri and who wished to consult the Riehl collection, Mr. Shaw expressed the regret with which he observed that though the flower garden was visited by thousands of people each year, and the contents of the small and miscellaneous museum attracted them, this was the only request for access to the herbarium or library that. had been made by a botanist for years.

From time to time he turned his thoughts toward the fuller realization of his plans, apparently hesitating between leaving their inception to the trustees that he had provided for appointing by will, and making the beginning himself either alone or in conjunction with trustees—a possibility specifically provided for in the enabling act of the legislature. On the occasion of my first visit to him, in the early spring of 1885, he pointed out to me the place, on Flora Avenue, before the main gate of the garden, where he had seriously thought of building lecture rooms, laboratories and residences for a faculty of botany. It was somewhat earlier than this that he called the great botanist, Asa Gray, into his counsels, and largely because of the wise advice of Dr. Gray, who saw that the time was not yet come in St. Louis for an institution such as was contemplated, he decided to let its growth be a normal one from small beginnings—but without in the least modifying his provisions for the final attainment of the largest results he had ever contemplated. Amid the beautiful surroundings of his country home, though also maintaining a city house, Mr. Shaw passed the latter half of a very long life—always coming back to the reconsideration of the coming development of his plans, modifying them in details, but never altering their original breadth as shown in the act that had been passed so many years before. To the garden he welcomed all who cared to visit it, and himself dictated the position of nearly every tree or smaller plant set out.

It was apparently the death of Engelmann, a resident of St. Louis and one of the greatest as perhaps the most accurately painstaking of American botanists, that caused the next step forward to be taken. Shortly after this, in 1884-5, Dr. Gray was once more, and this time rather urgently, called into consultation, that the city in which the plans were laid might not be entirely without a botanist; and the result was that in the spring of 1885 Mr. Shaw proposed to the directors of Washington University to endow in that institution a school of botany, with the understanding that by testamentary provision the best uses of his garden for scientific study and investigation should be ensured to its professor and students. The offer being accepted, the Henry Shaw School of Botany was formally inaugurated on the sixth of November following, and its single professor was thrown into a pleasant and frequent personal intercourse with Mr. Shaw which lasted until the death of the latter. About this time, suggestions were not lacking, from men of judgment, that by rendering the union between the garden and school of botany still closer through placing the former under the care of the directors of the university, it might be possible to ensure a much larger revenue for the needs of the garden since the university enjoys exemption from taxation under an old charter, which the new establishment could scarcely expect to secure with the existing constitutional provisions of the state. The arguments were well considered, but the saving of PSM V62 D203 George Englemann.pngGeorge Engelmann. money—which to-day would amount to over $25,000 annually—did not weigh in Mr. Shaw's mind as contrasted with autonomy, and when he died, in August, 1889, his will was found to provide for the administration of the garden by an independent board of trustees, consisting of fifteen persons; ten named by the testator, and the other five holding office as trustees ex officio, in various capacities: The chancellor of Washington University, the bishop of the episcopal diocese of Missouri, the president of the public school board of St. Louis, the president of the Academy of Science of St. Louis, and the mayor of the city. Two additional honorary trustees, whom he evidently hoped to have assist in the inauguration of the establishment on broad lines, were named: Dr. Asa Gray and Professor Spencer F. Baird—neither of whom, unfortunately, survived Mr. Shaw, while it is evident from the phrasing of his will that their places were not intended to be filled. Two other citizens of St. Louis, named as trustees in the will, had died, also, before the testator, and it was held by the courts that their places should not be filled. Except for the members ex officio, the board of trustees is a self-perpetuating body, itself filling vacancies as they occur.

The testamentary provisions for the carrying out of Mr. Shaw's purposes do not differ in any essential respect from the plan sketched in the enabling act of 1859—passed because there was at that time some uncertainty as to the possibility of otherwise making the provisions that he wished to make in such manner as to ensure their permanence. The purposes of the trust are stated by him in his will to be "having for the use of the public a botanical garden easily accessible, which should be forever kept up and maintained for the cultivation and propagation of plants, flowers, fruit and forest trees, and other productions of the vegetable kingdom; and a museum and library connected therewith, and devoted to the same and to the science of botany, horticulture, and allied objects." Provision is distinctly made for the perpetual maintenance of the establishment on the original site; for holding the endowment in the form of real estate, in which Mr. Shaw, following English custom, had made most of his investments; for the establishment of public lectures on botany and allied sciences; additions to the collections of plants, the museum and the library; exchanges; increase in the means and appliances of instruction; and

PSM V62 D204 Figs being prepared for the winter.png

A Bit of Horticulture. Figs Prepared for Winter.

the maintenance of the revenue of the school of botany up to a specified point. It is provided that there shall always be a director of the garden, appointed and subject to removal by the board of trustees, by whom his duties are from time to time to be prescribed, but who, "when within the sphere of his duties thus prescribed and while he shall faithfully perform those duties thus prescribed. . . shall not be subject to the interference, management or control of said board," though without such construction of this provision being possible as to take away from the board the permanent control over the garden and the grounds of the institution. The director's residence is indicated as the garden home of its founder, and he is required by the will to devote his entire time and efforts to its interests, and to so employ his energies that from year to year the institution shall grow up in efficiency in promoting the ends in view in its inception.

Provision is made for the cooperation of the garden and the school of botany by the requirement that the professor or professors in the latter shall be the director of the garden or his chief assistant; or both, or that they shall be appointed on nomination of or subject to tin.' approval of the trustees of the garden. The instruction of garden pupils is specifically indicated as a purpose of the institution, and among the subjects that are mentioned as forming a part of the purpose of its founder are horticulture, arboriculture, medicine and the arts, so far as botany enters into them, and scientific investigations in botany proper, vegetable physiology, the diseases of plants, the forms of vegetable life, and of animal life injurious to PSM V62 D205 The garden home.pngThe Garden Home. vegetation, and experimental investigations in horticulture, arboriculture, etc.; but the testator wisely adds: 'I leave details of instruction to those who may have to administer the establishment, and to shape the. particular course of things to the condition of the times.'

The intention and obvious need of maintaining the establishment as an ornamental garden are evident in the many references to it as a fundamental idea, and Mr. Shaw very specifically states that he considers it 'an important feature to always keep up the ornamental and floricultural character of the garden.' Direction is given that the yearly net revenue from the endowment shall be applied 'first to the payment of the salaries of the director, assistants, professors and gardeners, and the payment of the wages of the employees and laborers, in keeping up the grounds in good style and providing for the preservation and increase of the plants and trees, and preserving the buildings and inclosures of the grounds, and secondly to the purchase of plants, flowers, and trees, additions to the library, the enlargement and improvement of the garden when necessary or advisable, and such other expenditures as from time to time may lie found necessary' in furtherance of the purposes of the testator.

That, in the many specifications of provision for instruction and research, sight should not be lost of his wish that the institution, as a place of beauty, should always afford the pleasure to coming generations that it had given to the people of Mr. Shaw's own day, and that its connection with the outside world might be a pleasing, helpful and broad one, he provides that, though closed on holidays and Sundays as a rule, it shall be opened on the afternoon of the first Sunday each in June and September—dates on which it presents at their best two distinct phases of its attractiveness, the roses and other spring shrubbery on the one, and the decorative bedding on the other; that there shall be preached each year, by a preacher and in a church selected by the episcopal bishop of the diocese of Missouri, a sermon on the wisdom and goodness of God as shown in the growth of flowers, fruits,

PSM V62 D206 Sunday visitors.png

Sunday Visitors.

and other products of the vegetable kingdom; that premiums may each year be awarded at a flower show in St. Louis; and that each year there shall be given a banquet to the trustees of the garden and the guests they may invite—literary and scientific men, and friends and patrons of the natural sciences, and a banquet to the gardeners of the institution and invited florists, nurserymen and market gardeners of St. Louis and vicinity.

Immediately after Mr. Shaw's death, the admittance of his will to probate making known the constitution of his board of trustees, the latter organized and appointed as director the professor selected by Mr. Shaw to take charge of the school of botany, defining his duties as 'the duties prescribed for that office in the last will of Henry Shaw, deceased, and such other duties as may from time to time be prescribed by this board in pursuance of the trusts declared in said will.' Under its organization, the board holds monthly meetings for the transaction of business connected with the management of the large endowment property—which at the time of Mr. Shaw's death was appraised at not far from a million and a third dollars, and which is now carried on the books as $1,588,274.60—and the consideration of current administrative details of the Garden. The board consists of some of the most representative citizens of St. Louis, and is possessed of the fullest confidence of the community, as is shown by the attitude of the courts, when, as has several times proved desirable, instructions have been asked on questionable points, or special powers requested. The most notable instance of this is afforded by a request of the board for power to sell certain endowment real estate left by Mr. Shaw and distinctly made inalienable by the terms of both the enabling act and his will, but which was found incapable of utilization for long-term residence leases, as contemplated by him, because of the unwillingness of American home builders to make use of leased ground. Notwithstanding the clear provisions against the alienation of real estate, the courts, being convinced that these provisions brought a detail of the will into conflict with its purpose, granted the desired permission PSM V62 D207 A carnivorous plant drosera brevifolia.pngA Carnivorous PlantDrosera brevifolia. after full consideration of the question in both the lower and supreme court. By the provision of small committees charged with specific duties, the board is able to give remarkably detailed care to the many phases of its trust, and from month to month the plans of the director for the administration of the establishment are passed in review and provided for by suitable appropriation of funds.

In the development of the Missouri Botanical Garden, two distinct periods are already distinguishable: a first, now drawing to an end, in which, because of the unproductiveness of a very large part of the endowment property, and the need of protecting the latter by the accumulation of a reserve fund sufficient to cover improvement costs that might at any time be assessed against it, little could be hoped for except the bare maintenance of the institution on the lines indicated by its founder, which, having been inaugurated by him only in part, at once increased the expense of maintenance considerably beyond the point at which it had been when the garden was only the home of a private gentleman; and a second, now in sight, in which, the realization of his plans to make of the garden a center of research and instruction is to be looked for in greater measure with the passage of every year.

During the first, or maintenance, period, both trustees and director

PSM V62 D208 The general effect of the grove.png

General Effect—the Grove.

have taken the ground that standing still was impossible—that the institution must either advance or recede—and maintenance, therefore, has really meant slow growth in most of the directions contemplated by its founder. In one single respect, only, has ground seemingly been lost—for the small museum, which, in the later years of

PSM V62 D208 A mosaic of succulents.png

Detail—a Mosaic of Succulents.

Mr. Shaw's life, under the care of household servants had deteriorated so far as to be neither useful nor creditable, was closed when his trustees took charge of the establishment; and the need of using the museum building for other purposes has as yet prevented renovating and reopening it. Under the liberal policy of his trustees, the collection of living plants has increased from a scant 2,000 to 10,000 species or varieties; the decorative features have each year grown in variety and attractiveness; the library has increased from less than 1,000 volumes to over 36,000 books and pamphlets; the herbarium has increased from a little over 60,000 sheets of specimens to about 400,000 sheets; a course of instruction for garden pupils has been put in operation, which has trained a number of the best of the young men now engaged in horticulture—in the broad sense—in the country; the school of botany, though it has not had many students, has given botanical instruction to such of the undergraduates of Washington PSM V62 D209 A speciment plant martinezia caryotaefolia.pngA Specimen PlantMartinezia caryotæfolia. University as wished to take up this study, either as pure botany or in connection with medicine or engineering, and has prepared for the Doctor's degree in the university several candidates whose theses have reflected credit on the institution as well as on themselves; and, during the laying of what must be conceded as a solid foundation for the more rapid development and greater productiveness of the next period of the garden's history, time has been found by the garden staff for the performance of sufficient research work in various departments of botany and horticulture to have caused its recognition as an establishment for this purpose.

During the laying of the foundation for the greater productiveness of the garden, sight has not been lost for a moment of the desirability of maintaining it as an attractive resort for the lovers of the beautiful, and it may be said that considerably over 100,000 persons visited it last year—some 43,000 on the two open Sundays. As is always the case in large places, detail is often lost in mass effect, or the seeker after detail sees nothing of broad treatment; and in the administration of the institution there is not a day which does not bring to the director more dissatisfaction with either general effect or detail than is made good by contemplation of the best that either offers. And yet the impression that the garden makes on those whose comments reach the office, appears to be that of a place of beauty—and it is often a matter of surprise when I become critical of the dwarfing of individual plants that attends their massing either in the open air or in the

PSM V62 D210 The mausoleum.png

The Mausoleum.

crowded plant houses, to find that excellent specimen plants of hundreds of species are capable of disentanglement whenever they are needed for any particular use or can be allowed adequate space.

At the time of Mr. Shaw's death a fraction less than forty-five

PSM V62 D210 In the parterre.png

In the Parterre.

acres of land were included in the garden, divided into: garden proper, 9.4 acres; arboretum, 20.5; fruticetum, 8; lawn about residence, 2.7; grove about the mausoleum of the founder, who, by his own direction, is buried on the grounds, 0.6; and vegetable garden—the garden first laid out by Mr. Shaw, at the rear of his house—3.5 acres. Though changes cannot be held off indefinitely, the several parts of the garden as existing at the time of the organization of the board of trustees have thus far been maintained in much the form that they presented during Mr. Shaw's life.

PSM V62 D211 One of mr gurney lilies.png

One of Mr. Gurney's Lilies.

The central garden consists of a sunken parterre immediately facing the main gate, through which most visitors enter the grounds; a series of regular beds separated by low hedges, lying to the left and centered about a pavilion from which a bird's-eye view of the whole is had; and a group of plant houses, with lawn and bed surroundings,

PSM V62 D211 Wild flowers among the trees.png

Wild Flowers among the Trees.

at the right. It is on this part of the garden that the largest annual expenditure for maintenance is made, for there is no class of open-air gardening so expensive as flower-gardening in beds separated by lawns that are kept properly mown. Among the additions that have been made to this part of the garden are ponds for the cultivation of the Royal Lilies (Victoria Regia and V. Cruziana) and other water plants—a group which is a particular favorite of the head gardener, Mr. James Gurney, who has originated several beautiful and remarkable hybrids and seedlings in it.

The arboretum, which for some reason was planted with the trees in rows, as in a nursery, has always been kept in a less polished condition than the flower garden, affording opportunity for the spontaneous growth of many of the wild plants of the region—indeed, PSM V62 D212 In the arboretum.pngIn the Arboretum. a portion of it has never been plowed, and its prairie vegetation is left undisturbed by the scythe until after the year's growth is finished. It contains a varied collection of trees, many of them now of mature growth, though the tornado which devastated St. Louis in 1896 destroyed some of the choicest of them and mutilated others. In its parklike character, the arboretum affords a restful change from the more formal flower garden, and its studied air of neglect is not the least of its charms. With the growth of the manufacturing interests that have necessarily followed the lines of the great railroads passing not far from the northern and western limits of the garden, has come a considerable change in the possibility of growing perennial plants, and particularly coniferous evergreens, which, intolerant of smoke to a degree scarcely surpassed except among the lichens—which I have never seen growing in the garden—have gradually succumbed, until, notwithstanding constant efforts to replace them, they have all but dropped out of cultivation.

In the so-called fruticetum, which, from the nature of its present use, is kept closed to the ordinary sight-seer though always opened to those to whom its contents are of real interest, is growing, in addition to the shrubbery properly constituting a fruticetum, a small collection of the fruits best adapted to the climate of St. Louis, replacing the old orchard into which, in the later years of Mr. Shaw's life, this section had grown, but which was almost entirely destroyed by the tornado.

The vegetable garden furnishes to the pupils being taught under the founder's will, the means of practise in vegetable growing, which,

PSM V62 D213 A mushroom bed agaricus amygdalinus.png

A Mushroom Bed—Agaricus amygdalinus.

by the provision of a small forcing house, is carried through the entire year. About the old residence, which, by direction of Mr. Shaw, is

PSM V62 D213 The old range.png

The Old Range.

occupied by the director, is still maintained the ample expanse of grass which has always characterized this part of the grounds; this is augmented by a shaded and shrub-planted strip around the vegetable garden, which Mr. Shaw called the pleasure ground, and which has been the scene of some of the pleasantest entertainments of a bygone generation of St. Louisans.

Adjoining the arboretum and vegetable garden is a pasture area of some eighty acres, of which one fourth has recently been graded, drained,

PSM V62 D214 Modern hothouses.png

Modern Houses.

supplied with water, and partially planted to a synopsis of North American plants arranged in the familiar sequence of families adopted by Bentham and Hooker, while the remainder will shortly be molded and planted to a general synopsis exemplifying the more modern arrangement of Engler and Prantl, on plans already largely prepared.

PSM V62 D214 A cactus house.png

A Cactus House.

Gardening within doors was not a large part of the art as formerly practised, and the plant houses are far from meeting the wishes of the gardeners, even to-day. The earlier of these were built before the days of light and airy steel construction, and to grow symmetrical and elegant specimen plants, or to bring along through the season a constant succession of flowers, was not and is not possible. In them, however, are to be seen choice or picturesque specimens of a variety of plants best adapted to the conditions that they offer, and of late vears they have been supplemented by a range of modern houses, which, though small, is sufficiently large for the growth of many plants that are not seen outside of botanical establishments, as well as of those that possess commercial value because of their ready growth and abundant production of flowers. Among the collections of tender plants that are especially worthy of mention are the PSM V62 D215 Agaves.pngAgaves. cacti and agaves, which, the special subjects of much of the work of Engelmann, have long been well represented in the living collections, and have been added to with the passage of time until there are today few collections of these groups which surpass or even approach them in size or importance. One house is devoted to representatives of the Bromeliaceae, of which something over 100 species are cultivated, and to which others are being added at short intervals. One tower is occupied with tender yuccas, which, planted in the ground, are beginning to assume a size ami character impossible in the open air in a latitude so far north as that of St. Louis, or in tubbed specimens. In one house are brought together the sago plants, Cycadaceae, of which a fairly good collection is owned by the garden, and added to with every opportunity. In another, are planted out tree-ferns. In others, orchids, already numbering some 600 forms, aroids, in considerable variety, carnivorous plants, acacias and plants of similar foliage, and other groups of particular decorative, economic or biological interest, are displayed, and the provision this season of several new houses for the propagation of plants and for. growing those that are needed for the embellishment of the houses that are open to the public, makes possible increased beauty of the latter.

Vegetable gardening is not ordinarily attractive, and a truck garden is usually associated with compost piles, bad smells, and disorder. It is not necessary for this to be true, however, and the little vegetable garden connected with Shaw's Garden is not only not unsightly in itself, but it has from year to year afforded the means of cultivating in the fullest variety a number of kinds of vegetables. Here, for instance, were grown for several seasons all procurable varieties and spontaneous species of chiles, and the monograph on PSM V62 D216 The new orchid.pngThe New Orchid. Capsicum which the horticulturist of the establishment published as a result of the studies that he was thus enabled to make, takes rank as of value alike to botanists and gardeners. Here, too, have been grown, year after year, the chief varieties of beans that the world's markets afford, and on the plants so cultivated lias been based another and equally useful monograph, by the same gentleman. Mr. Irish. Though not classed as vegetables, sweet peas in all procurable sorts have been grown for like purposes of study in this enclosure, its seclusion affording needed protection of the plants while under observation; the thesis of one of the garden pupils, Mr. Rudolph Mohr, on this group of decorative plants, is of more than passing interest.

It is the lot of all living and growing institutions which give promise of prolonged existence, to have gifts of greater or less magnitude made to them. The Missouri Botanical Garden has not proved an exception to this rule. Even before the death of its founder, Dr. George J. Engelmann placed in the hands of the present director of the garden the invaluable herbarium of his father, the late Dr. George Engelmann. and shortly after the organization of the board of trustees this was formally transferred to them by Dr. Engelmann, together with the library of his father, which, however, had actually been placed at the garden and in part arranged before the death of Mr. Shaw. One of Dr. Engelmann 's biographers expressed the great surprise occasioned by the vast amount of work that he, a busy physician, had found time to do. The number and minute accuracy of his unpublished notes, which form part of this gift from his son, were even more surprising. Over 20,000 of them exist, varying in character from a mere memorandum of the appearance of a plant which he had observed in a foreign garden, or a simple bibliographic reference, to accurate detail sketches of all of the specimens on which his conception of a species in a difficult group rested; PSM V62 D217 E Lewis Sturtevant.pngE. Lewis Sturtevant. and the sixty thick volumes in which they are now contained are counted among the choicest possessions of the institution.

It was but a few years after the organization of the garden under its present management that the Director one morning received a letter from the late Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant, a correspondent for many years, but one whom he never had the privilege of meeting personally, asking if the garden would accept a large collection of specimens, reference cards, sketches, partly in watercolors, and other material illustrative of the genus Capsicum, with a view to its ultimate utilization in the preparation of an illustrated monograph such as the donor had for years had in contemplation for his own pen, but which he then saw that he must place in other hands. The gift was accepted, and the resulting publication, which has been referred to above, is now a matter of history and, I am pleased to say, met with Dr. Sturtevant 's approval. Some years later, stricken with mortal illness, Dr. Sturtevant once more wrote to ask if the garden would accept as a gift the large and important collection of pre-Linnean books that it had been his pleasure to accumulate through the years of his active study of the origin and modifications of the plants cultivated by man, adding that he wished to attach no conditions to the gift if it would be acceptable, though he offered the suggestion that the best use of the books would be secured if they might be separately shelved from other classes of books and if a catalogue of them and the other pre-Linnean books of the library might be printed, so that persons wishing to make use of them might know where they were to be found. Visitors to the library are more interested in the quaint volumes of this part of its contents than in any other, and investigators have called its treasures into use on many occasions, not infrequently writing from a distance for transcripts of passages that they have needed to use, but have not been able to consult elsewhere. Sometimes, for days at a time, students of particular groups of plants long cultivated, have been occupied with the camera, reducing to unimpeachable PSM V62 D218 In the library a mantel of the city home.pngIn the Library. A Mantel of the City Home. form their quotations from these books. Quite recently, it has been found possible to nearly double this collection, by the purchase of a similar collection formed by a gentleman in Europe, and the catalogue of the Sturtevant library—made and printed some years ago in compliance with the suggestion of its donor, which was considered of the greatest importance—will be supplemented by a list of these later acquired works. Very touching was the last thought of Dr. Sturtevant for the garden. Knowing that death was at hand, he took from their cabinet the last and greatest of his treasures, his manuscript card references to the literature of cultivated plants, and himself packed them in a safe manner for shipment, giving instruction that they should be forwarded to the garden immediately after his death. May the institution never be less worthy than it then was of such confidence! To go into details concerning the library at large would be wearisome and useless. Suffice it to say that, based on the small but well selected library bought by Dr. Engelmann for Mr. Shaw many years before his death, and augmented by the gift of the libraries of Engelmann, Sturtevant and the director of the garden as well as many smaller collections, it has been increased by annual purchases of considerable size, selected with discrimination from the libraries of some of the world's greatest botanists, as these, through the death of their owners, have come into the market, until it now comprises over 16,000 volumes and 20,000 pamphlets, valued at over $60,000 and fairly symmetrical in all fields of botany and the sciences that must be taken into consideration in botanical work, as well as in gardening, landscape work, horticulture, forestry, greenhouse construction, and the like. Large as it is, however, it is so far from being satisfactorily complete for the uses it is put to that a sum greater than its present valuation could be spent on it within a few years, if the money were available and the works needed were in the market, without having even then a surfeit of the good things that such a library, destined for research purposes, should offer the busy man who, to use them, must be freed from too great care and delay in searching them out and placing his hand on their contents. Strongest in the library, as would be expected from the fact that the Garden is a garden and possesses a large herbarium and is at present more concerned with the systematic study of flowering plants than with other subjects, are the departments devoted to floras and monographs; those difficult things to have at hand, series of journals and proceedings in whole or in part devoted to botany; and the compendiums of gardening and garden plants; but there are in this country few fuller collections of treatises on plant morphology and physiology, and the works on the ecology of the flower are probably nowhere surpassed in completeness of representation. From the first establishment of the school of botany in the university, it has been the policy to spare no trouble or reasonable expense to make the library as complete as possible in any field in which special work is taken up, and the result is that each piece of research accomplished has been marked by a corresponding growth in the library.

A herbarium is an uninteresting collection to the average person who does not need to use it, whether he be a botanist or not. In envelopes, or glued or bandaged down on sheets of paper are thousands of more or less fragmentary plants, sometimes moldy or worm-eaten, for time works havoc with all organic matter, and usually much faded. And yet not even the library is more indispensable for the worker on the species that they represent; for they are the real plants, and not some one's interpretation of them. The choicest part consists always of the original specimens preserved by an author when describing and naming a species or genus, for however his description or figure may have erred, this type persists as a record showing the true generic and specific characters. An herbarium is not always a conclusive source to which to turn for final information, for the author may have and often has had two or more related species under his eye when describing the one to which he gave recognition and a name, and herbarium study calls for some discriminating power; but notwithstanding the inherent difficulties, its value is real and lasting. Though the founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden did not specifically mention a herbarium in his will, his purchase of the Bernhardi collection in the early years of his planning shows his practical appreciation of the need of such a part of the equipment of the institution, and in some manuscript suggestions for his trustees, not made a part of his will, he distinctly states that the correct naming of the plants cultivated in an educational and research garden 'can only be done by a botanist, aided by an herbarium and botanic library'; and one of the world's greatest botanists, in speaking of the relative value of living collections and the hortus siccus or herbarium, expresses himself as follows:[1] "If the collections of dried plants are compared with those of living plants, the advantages of each are more nearly balanced than is usually thought. In a herbarium you see simultaneously specimens of related species and also different localities, different ages or different conditions of the same species. You know the name of the plant, if the herbarium is well determined, and you go at once to the authors who have spoken of it. You learn its origin, which is indicated on the label. On its side, the living plant gives more means for certain anatomical observations. It permits one to better describe certain characters of little importance, such as color, odor, etc., but in the country the plants are not named, and in a botanical garden they are often badly named. . . . The geographic origin of the plants is there almost always uncertain or unknown; the individuals are often modified by cultivation and crossing; fruits are rarely seen with the flowers; rarely several individuals of the same species or several related species; and still more rarely are botanists permitted to gather enough specimens of an exotic plant to examine it to their satisfaction and to preserve the proofs of their work." And he goes so far as to head the chapter devoted to this consideration with the lines: 'Of herbaria in general and of their superiority to every other zoological or botanical collection.' It might have been added, truthfully, that in a garden the representation of any given species is likely to be transient, since the casualties to which living specimens are liable are innumerable; on the other hand, the specimens in the herbarium, though subject to their own particular dangers, are far less likely to suffer, and rarely disappear even in the course of very long periods of time except as a result of gross carelessness.

The principal collections of this class at the Missouri Botanical Garden are, in the first place, the herbarium of Engelmann, which, containing the types of his work on cacti, Agave, Cuscuta, Yucca, conifers, and other groups of plants on which he was a recognized authority, and in which he described many species, will long form the most essential resource of students of these plants, for clearing up difficulties in their interpretation. Some years since, one of the young men at the garden was struck by the frequent coincidence of a certain handwriting with species of grasses known to have been collected by Haenke, and to have served for studies by Presl; and investigation showed that the writing was really Presl's, and that in the Bernhardi herbarium, which contains many valuable—but unfortunately inadequately labeled—specimens, was a nearly full set of this important collection of Haenke the grasses of which were subsequently studied in detail by Professor Lamson-Scribner, to the elucidation of a number of questions concerning the grasses of the United States, which could be answered only by recourse to the original specimens on which Presl's species rested.

It would be even more tiresome to give a minute analysis of the contents of the herbarium than of the library. Suffice it to say that in addition to the Engelmann and Bernhardi herbaria, it contains the herbarium of Sturtevant—purchased after his death from an old friend to. whom he had given it, but who desired it to be placed with the other material serving as a record of his friend's work; a pre-Linnean collection formed by the German botanists, Ludwig and Boehmer, on which a Prussian flora was based long since; the cryptogamic herbarium of the director of the garden; a very large and full collection of the plants of Alaska, made on the Harriman Alaska Expedition, and containing, through the Bernhardi herbarium, representatives of a considerable number of the species collected by the early Russian explorers; a good representation of the plants of the West Indies, collected by a former assistant at the institution, who was sent into the Caribbean region on a collecting trip; one of the fullest representations of plants from the Azores, in which, and to a smaller extent in Madeira, the director has spent some time; a very full representation of the flora of Missouri, in which the Biehl collection and a set of specimens many years since put up by Professor G. C. Broadhead, and on which his early notes on the plants of the state rest, are of especial interest; and probably the fullest set of Chinese plants that has yet come to this country. All the more important current collections of the plants of North America, and many of those from foreign lands, have been bought as they have been offered for sale. Not long before his death, Dr. Chapman, long the only authority on the flora of our southern states, asked the director to visit him, in order that arrangements might be made for the ultimate passage to the garden of his personal herbarium. Twice, the Chapman herbarium had been sold—each time the best representatives in it being selected, and supplemented by fragments from his scrap books when these were essential for the representation of a species; but there remained at the time of his death a large amount of material which as he said consisted of the original fragmentary specimens representative of his earlier work on the southern flora, and, therefore, really the types of the species contained in it as he then understood them. For every student of the plants of this region, therefore, this collection is of the greatest value, as showing, so far as

PSM V62 D222 Seed beds.png

Seed Beds.

it goes, what he really had in mind when using a particular name—and it was precisely that this record of his work might be permanently preserved, that he was desirous that his collection should find its home in the garden.

In themselves, living plants, books and herbarium specimens are but a burden to those charged with looking after and caring for them. He is a happy botanist who has no care except for the thing that his mind is turned to at any given moment. Happy the gardener with only a bay-window to care for! The need for accumulating more than the use of the moment demands lies in the impossibility of otherwise having at hand facilities when they are needed. The sight-seer finds nothing but a curious scene in half an acre of seed beds, thickly studded with little labels which mark the lines where thousands of kinds of seeds lie awaiting the quickening action of sun and rain; but to the student of morphology its value is untold. The sightseer, too, is impressed with but a small part of the things that he sees in passing through a large collection of even the most beautiful plants. A mass of color, a clump of graceful foliage, repeated in different forms and places by the use of perhaps a scant score of species, is all that the average mind carries away from the greatest botanical establishment. The difference between five hundred and five thousand species in a collection is utterly lost on the casual observer. Let him, however, wish to see some particular plant that he has chanced to read of, and the difference becomes evident. To the botanist, even, the difference between one thousand and ten thousand species is not readily perceptible until he has need of some particular thing, which the larger collection may afford while the smaller is almost certain to offer only disappointment.

However large or small it may chance to be, any collection is useful or valueless according as it does or does not give information as well as please the eye. Curiosity, alone, prompts nearly every

PSM V62 D223 A named specimen.png

A Named Specimen.

observer to look for the name and native home of a plant that he sees growing in a garden. Much more than this is desired by some, and could be added profitably for all were it not for the fact that more deters the ordinary visitor and so defeats the very object for which it is offered, by keeping him from reading at all. No small part of the usefulness of a botanical garden lies in giving information that is not sought, and that the recipient would not himself think of seeking, but which reaches him through such natural channels that he unconsciously acquires not only it, but the habit of looking for the same kind of information about other things, and for more on the particular one that he has first become interested in. One of the principal objects of the founder of the garden therefore is served by the simple presentation of a named collection of attractive and attractively placed plants, which educates while pleasing those who see it. This is varied by the provision of special collections that are tempting in themselves—such, for instance, as a part of the grounds devoted to plants that are hardy in the city. Thousands of persons each year see in this little collection something that by its beauty or oddity attracts them, and the provision of a general label showing that all are hardy, and of the individual label, telling its name, causes them to wish it for their own garden and enables them to order it of their florist, or, if he does not know how to supply it, puts them in the way of seeking it in the lists of other dealers.

Very frequently, parties of visitors are accompanied through the garden by an employee who points out to them the more important features or aids them in finding things in which they are particularly interested. One portion of the grounds contains, in sequence, the principal families of higher plants, represented by several hundred attractive species chosen with reference to the fullest possible generic representation. Another is set aside for the growth of medicinal plants, and elsewhere are grown representatives of the commoner agricultural crops, of savory herbs, etc. These collections, in particular, are much used by teachers in the public schools, who bring classes to the garden for a part of their nature work, in the open air.

Even surplus and waste material contributes in a way to the same end. It is always necessary to propagate bedding plants in excess of the number actually needed, so that replacements may be possible in case of accidents or inclement weather following their transplanting into the open. While only two or three permanent specimens of a kind are wanted for tender plant,?, most species grown from seed are sure to be germinated in a greater number of individuals than this. When frost necessitates the clearing of the beds in autumn, many plants that have served their purpose during the growing season are still living, though disfigured. This surplus or refuse material is not thrown away, but by the expenditure on it of a very little care is potted, set aside in frames for recuperation if this is necessary, and distributed to hospitals and schools, where, particularly in the poorer and more densely populated parts of the city, it quietly continues the refining influence that Henry Shaw appreciated as one of the most desirable effects of his garden in his own time.

But the great ultimate purpose of a botanical garden is the fostering of research with the purpose of adding to knowledge. This was recognized by Mr. Shaw, and repeatedly mentioned in his provisions for the future of his establishment. Opportunity for it lies in every plant in the collections, and in every book on the shelves. To get men to use the opportunities offered is the greatest problem of administration. So far, the garden has employed only the most necessary care-takers, and it would have been impossible for a single one of its employees to have been spared from the force without neglect of some essential. Yet, though over-work and a permissible if entirely undesirable neglect of details of convenience in use, but not of preservative care, have been necessary, each of the higher employees has every year found time to do something worth doing in the field of investigation. The achievements, it is true, are neither as many nor as great as the workers or the management of the establishment would have wished them to be, but considering the fact that the garden has been in course of transition from the pleasure grounds of a gentleman to a scientific establishment, and that what has been done has been carefully done, they are not insignificant or unworthy, and each of the thirteen annual reports on the institution thus far printed contains at least one scientific publication of original results, of permanent interest to botanical workers. What will come of the staff of capable investigators that it may shortly be expected to gather together, is a matter of conjecture only—but the conjecture refers rather to the success with which men may be selected than to the opportunities that they will enjoy for the most earnest and serious application of which they are capable.

Research is coming to be recognized as of greater value for the practical development of our natural resources, with the passage of every year. The investigator sometimes sees in his subject only a problem that he must solve whether its solution can ever be of value or not. Sometimes he appears to be so constituted that the suspicion that it can result in anything useful is deterrent to him. Sometimes his chief interest lies in the very possibility of its utilization. But, in any case, no fact well made out and properly correlated is valueless, and the results of the most unpractical of discoveries are often utilized in commerce or in the arts with surprising promptness. While the research thus far carried on at the garden has been dictated largely by consideration of the needs of botanical science alone, or the personal interest of the investigator, I should not like to close this reference to it without mentioning that the studies of one of the intructors in the school of botany, Dr. von Schrenk, have taken the direction of the causes and means of prevention of the decay of timber, on which, under the authority of the National Department of Agriculture, he has done work which has brought him merited scientific recognition, while at the same time its practical results in the saving to railroads and other large users of timber already promise very large financial returns to the community at large.

While its own staff is, therefore, reasonably certain to utilize the facilities of the garden in an ever growing degree for the performance of research work, the results of which are and will always be an ample justification of their acquisition, it is not at all improbable that the passage of time will see their utilization to an even greater extent by investigators not connected with the administration of the establishment. Whatever it possesses is freely placed at the disposal of any one capable of making good use of books or material, and while its own staff, however developed, will always comprise but a small part of the persons capable of making good scientific use of its treasures, it is probable that a recognition will grow with the years, through at least the entire central part of our country, that a visit to the garden is not only possible and practicable, but almost a necessity for all of the botanists outside of the few large universities, who desire to do in its best form the work that lies in the line of their interest and training. Much use has already been made of the garden by men who would not have done their work so well without this help, and much more use of it would doubtless be made were it not for the fact that travel and residence in a city are found more expensive than staying at home, when the isolated worker counts up the cost and consults his limited income. It may be remarked, however, that the man who counts cost too closely through life is often the man who sacrifices future usefulness to present economy, and it may safely be said that few lines of saving are less profitable in the long run than those pursued at the expense of the equipment and wide acquaintance on which professional and financial success usually rests.

Prophecies are always of uncertain value and attended with danger if the prophet seeks a reputation in that field: I shall hardly venture, therefore, to say much about the detailed future of the garden. This much, however, may be said with certainty, that its endowment appears to be so ample and so well founded that, though growth and attainment will be gradual and large immediate undertakings are not within its power, its perpetuity as an important and growing center of study and education are beyond question. The research work already in progress in the garden under the control of the government is suggestive of the continued attainment of better, and larger results through cooperation with other establishments than would be possible to either alone. That the grounds will be greatly enlarged, that a supplementary garden of much larger size and more picturesque conformation will some day be opened at a distance from the smoke of the city, which has already sounded the death knell of some of the plants that were formerly cultivated with success in the present garden—which, under the provisions of Mr. Shaw's will is certain to be maintained as the real center and home of the establishment whatever adjuncts it may have—and that there will be erected in the near future a system of large conservatories of modern construction, worthy of a great botanical garden, large additions to the single small plant house now devoted to experimental work in mycology and plant pathology, and a suitable home for its herbarium and library, with ample laboratory facilities, it is easy and safe to predict. That these shall all and always be freely at the disposal of any who wish to make serious use of them in research work of any kind, is an established policy, not likely to change. Finally, it may be said that, as its founder's wish was to make its scope broad, so the purpose of those to whom he has left its administration is to develop it, so far as the means at their disposal admit, on lines which shall better fit it with the passage of each year for the performance of useful work in any part of the field, while strengthening it to the fullest during the progress of each particular study that is taken up—and, throughout, never to let it become anything but a place to which the lover of the beautiful may turn in the full assurance that he will never find it less beautiful than when it was Henry Shaw's home, but rather a place to which wealth of scientific resource has but added greater possibilities for pleasure, when pleasure only is sought.

 

PSM V62 D227 Water lilies.png

 

  1. De Candolle, La Phytographie, p. 365.