Library of the Gray Herbarium

Library of the Gray Herbarium

EDWARD PALMER (1831-1911)



Edward Palmer was born in England on Jan. 12, 1831, and emigrated to the United States at the age of eighteen. He developed an interest in natural history collecting under the tutelage of Dr. Jared Kirtland and got his first major opportunity to collect when he was appointed to Captain Page's Water Witch expedition to Paraguay as hospital steward and botanical collector in 1853. After the Paraguay expedition he went to England to visit his mother, got married on March 29, 1856, and came back to the U.S. He studied medicine for a few months in Cleveland; then he lived in Kansas, Colorado, and for a few months, California, where he worked on the Geological Survey of California, collecting marine invertebrates. During the Civil War, he did medical work in army outposts in the southwest for a while after the war. He managed to make natural history collections while working for the army. The rest of his life was mostly taken up with making archaeological, zoological and botanical collections for a variety of patrons, primarily in the south western U.S. and Mexico. He is best known for his botanical collections, which are said to number over 100,00 specimens. He made numerous botanical collecting trips to Mexico from 1878 to 1910. Rogers McVaugh describes Palmer's botanical specimens as "exceptionally well documented for his time," a trait which was obscured by the fact that his field notes were not distributed with his plants.


Bot Gaz 52: 61-63
Am Fern Jour 1: 143-147 (also Biog 12/p-18)
McVaugh, Rogers. Edward Palmer, plant explorer of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1956. 430 p. [a scholarly biography]
Beaty, Janice J. Plants on his back: a life of Edward Palmer, adventurous botanist and collector. New York: Pantheon Books, 1964. 182 p. [a popular biography]


Scope and Content:

The Palmer papers consist of brief lists off his plants and more extensive field notes for his plants. There are two main sections of field notes in this collection--one set for Acapulco plants collected in 1894-1895 and one set for plants collected in the state of Durango, Mexico, in 1896. There are also a few notes by D.C. Eaton and Asa Gray on Palmer's collections. The lists deal with a few collections made from 1880-1897.

There are also Palmer papers in several other parts of the archives:

1) 32 letters from Palmer in the semi-historic letters about 75 letters from Palmer in the Historic letters

2) plant lists in the bound miscellaneous plant list volumes (Plant List Box II)

3) field notes for 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1910 collections in the inactive plant lists file

4) xerox copy of a typed copy of Palmer's field notes for 1908 Chihuahua collections in the library stacks, FN P 184 f



Most likely Palmer's field notes were sent to the Gray Herbarium to be used in identifying specimens which he sent to the Herbarium; the notes probably just remained here after the specimens were identified.


Container List: (BOX AB)

Folder 1:

'Palmer's Mexican Plants. Purchased in the market of Culican 1891"
"Palmer's Colima Plants, 1897"
"Dr. Edward Palmer's Mexican Compositae"
"Plants collected in Mexico by Dr. Edward Palmer in 1897"
printed sheet of location codes
3 copies of printed list of plants collected by Palmer south-western Chihuahua, Aug.- Nov., 1885.

Folder 2:

Palmer's field notes on Acapulco plants, Oct. 1894-Jan. 1895-- 48 leaves

Folder 3:

List of plants collected in S.W. Texas and N. Mexico, by Edward Palmer, 1880 -- for Dr. Gray
lists of missing numbers
D.C. Eaton's list of Palmer's Mexican ferns
"Palmer's Tex - Mex Coll. 1880" -- notes in Gray's handwriting

Plants of Durango, Mex.

Plants of Florida

Plants of Guadalajara

Plants of Guaymas

Lists of specimen, "much of this book is in Asa Gray's Handwriting" belongs with plant list box II.



Field notes, 1896: written in pencil on large sheets of newsprint paper and grouped into sections with the following titles:
Mexico - Plants collected at Durango and vicinity April 1-8, 1896; dry season; 6207 feet above sea level; no. 1-30.

State of Durango Mexico - Plants collected at Samtiago Paspasquiaro; 120 miles wast of north from the city of Durango; elevation about 6700 ft.; April 11-15, 1896; dry season; no. 31-53.

Plants collected at Mina Tres Reyes (Three Kings Mine); 13 miles west from Santiago Papasquiaro, state of Durango, at an elevation of about 8200 ft.; April 16-19 inclusive, 1896; in the dry season; no. 54-89

Mexico - Plants collected at Durango and vicinity, June 1-24, 1896; during dry season; no. 125-300; contains also no. 90

Plants collected at Durango and Vicinity, July 1-25, 1896; in the rainy season; no. 301-391.

Plants collected at Santiago Papasquiro, state of Durango, Mexico, Aug. 1-11, 1896; rainy season; no. 392-472; later added 967-973.

Mexico. Plants collected at Durango and vicinity, August 14-31, 1896; rainy season; no. 473-556.

Plants collected at Durango and vicinity, Sept. 1896; rainy season; no. 557-743.

Plants collected at Durango and vicinity, Oct. 1-22, 1896; no. 744-770.

Mexico. Plants collected at Dos Cajetes; 30 miles nearly west from Durango on the Road to Utinapa; 8500 ft. elevation among pines and oaks; end of rainy season; Nov. 3-5, 1896; no. 771-834; Later numbers added: 951-956 and still later added 961 and 962. The latter is a fern you will [find] numbered 862 which change to 962.

Plants collected at Durango and vicinity; Nov. 8-10, 1896; end of rainy season; no. 835-873, also 880.

Mexico. Plants collected at Durango and vicinity - having mixed dates, 1896; marked there in mo. 883-950; also added from 957 to 960 and from 963 to 966; also 966 1/2.


Indexed in Main file under:
Palmer, Edward
Gray, Asa (1810-1888)
Eaton, Daniel Cady (1834-1895)


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