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People Commemorated in Eastern Sierra Plant Names

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Yellow tackstem, Calycoseris parryi A. Gray (Asteraceae)
~ and ~
Sand blossoms, Linanthus parryae (A. Gray) E. Greene (Polemoniaceae)

by Larry Blakely

References and Notes

(First Posted: 2000 10 03; Last Revised: 2004 07 03; Text appeared in the newsletter of the Bristlecone chapter, CNPS, May, 2000/Vol. 20, No.3)

Calycoseris parryi

Yellow tackstem, Calycoseris parryi A. Gray (Asteraceae)
Photo and © by Larry Blakely

Linanthus parryae

Sand blossoms, Linanthus parryae (A. Gray) E. Greene (Polemoniaceae)
Photo and © by Larry Blakely

Yellow Tackstem

Yellow tackstem, a charming yellow-flowered member of the chicory tribe of sunflowers, was one of many new species collected by the much loved and well regarded western botanist Charles Christopher Parry (1823 - 1890) (1), (2), (3), (4) while he was serving as surgeon-naturalist with the Mexican Boundary Survey during the years 1849 - 52. Sand blossoms is one of the most beautiful of the desert annuals collected by Parry; he got it during one of his later sojourns in California, near the "head of the Mojave River" (5) in 1876. (It was also collected about the same time by Washington Matthews in Inyo County, and sent, as was Parry's specimen, to the herbarium at Harvard for taxonomic treatment. (6) )

C. C. Parry

C. C. Parry. (National Library of Medicine)

Parry began making extensive plant collections at age 19 in upstate NY in the countryside of his youth (his family had immigrated, from England, to a farm there when Parry was 9). He was educated in the better schools of the area, culminating in an MD degree from Columbia, where he studied with John Torrey. He became life-long friends with both Torrey and Torrey's protege Asa Gray, as well as with their St. Louis associate, George Engelmann - the 3 pillars of mid-19th century US botany. In 1846 he settled in Davenport, IA, where he practiced medicine for a brief time. However, he soon discovered "... that all his natural tastes and instincts led directly away from the unreason, the too-often self-inflicted ills, and the petty conflicts with which the active physician has perforce to deal - led him to the unvexed, blossoming solitudes where Nature, silent and orderly, works out her fair results." (7) Davenport remained his home for the rest of his life, although he was "almost continuously in the field collecting" (7). His second wife, Emily (19), (his first wife died 5 years after they were married) was an avid helpmate throughout their 30 years of marriage. I haven't found out much about her, but she must have charmed old Asa Gray considerably, since he named sand blossoms for her (note the feminine -ae ending of the specific epithet)(8).

Torrey Pine cone

Drawing (computer colored) of a Torrey Pine cone collected by Parry. Parry sent the cone to Torrey, who had Joseph Prestele (18) prepare an illustration of it which became plate 59 in the Botany of the Boundary report (10) .

Most of Parry's botanical collecting for the Mexican Boundary Survey was carried out in California; several other botanists covered the rest of the border (8a). Major Emory, the overall leader of the Survey, writes of many difficulties, not the least of which was arriving in California as the Gold Rush was getting underway! (9) He applauds those of his men who resisted the temptation to leave the survey for the gold fields; certainly such a thought never occurred to Parry, however - he was after botanical gold. When the Survey's final report was published in 1859, the volume on the "Botany of the Boundary" included a general introduction written by Parry(10), in which he gave a vivid description of Southern California landscapes at that time. He described the vast expanses of the many species of native spring wild flowers blooming in dense profusion (supplanted in our time by vast expanses of closely-spaced tile-roofed houses).

One of Parry's many notable discoveries for science, and for which he is perhaps best remembered in California, was the Torrey Pine. In 1850, while in San Diego, he traveled one day a short distance north, where (he wrote Torrey) "I ... found a new species of pine ... Its characters are so unique I am in hopes it may be non-descript...if new I wish it with your permission to bear the name Pinus Torreyana ..."(11). Torrey acquiesced, of course. Sadly, Parry is losing recognition as discoverer and namer. Over most of the time since Torrey described it, the Torrey Pine was known botanically as Pinus torreyana Parry. However, now, in "The Jepson Manual" (12), it is given as "Pinus torreyana Carrière".(13)

Nolina parryi

Nolina parryi S. Watson.
Webber photo (©)

Nineteen plants occurring in the Eastern Sierra were named for, or by, Parry(14). There are 62 such plants in California as a whole. His name graces many very beautiful California plants, including Parry's noline (Nolina parryi S. Watson), which gets into Inyo Co. in the Kingston Range according to Mary DeDecker's specimen cards, and the very rare Parry's lily (Lilium parryi, S. Watson), of Southern California mountains. During his lifetime he collected over 30,000 specimens, from California, Colorado (he was dubbed by Joseph Hooker, of Kew Gardens, England, "the King of Colorado Botany"), Utah, and elsewhere in the west. His joys were collecting and exploring; he trod, as he said, "reverently in the steps of Chamisso, Douglas, Nuttall, and others ..."(3). For the most part he left to others the duties of authorship of names for the many new species he collected. Yet, in several publications he did yeoman taxonomic duty, e.g., on the Ceanothus and manzanitas of California. According to Ewan (1), he provided substantial aid to William Brewer, Sereno Watson and Asa Gray in preparation of the Botany of California, the state's first flora. He wrote numerous natural history articles and essays in the scientific, semi-popular and popular literature.

Lilium parryi

Lilium parryi S. Watson.
Brousseau photo (©)

He enjoyed several summers exploring and collecting in the Colorado Rockies, and climbing and determining the altitude of many peaks. He was the first botanist after Edwin James to climb and botanize Pike's Peak (a 42 year lapse). Several of Colorado's higher peaks retain today names Parry bestowed in the 1860s - for his fellow botanists (Gray's Peak, Torrey's Peak, Mount Engelmann, James Peak), other naturalists (Audubon Peak), and his second wife (Mount Eva)(3).

"One of the most genial and lovable of naturalists, he united with sound botanical knowledge and method an endearing personality ..." (15) "...the gentle soul of Parry..." (1) "...the good Dr. Parry..."(1) " ... The most warm-hearted, unassuming, and genial of men; one whose learning and humility were alike delightful, whose nature reflected the sweetness of the flowers he loved, and who was welcomed to every fireside ..."(3).

It is difficult to accept the rampant permanent destructive changes brought about by man in nature's realm. One small consolation is to be able to read the eloquent accounts of Parry and others like him, who were on the scene before nature's destruction became so widespread. Parry was witness to major changes in California, caused by the industrious burgeoning population. He was one of the first, in 1883, to raise the alarm over threats to the Torrey Pine; he called for its protection, which eventually came to pass (16). Also in 1883, he ended another article with these words: "Coming back [to San Diego] once more after an interval of one-third of a century ... I am confronted by the same features of natural scenery. I have gathered to-day plants that were fresh to my early view thirty-three years ago; but the human changes that rise up before me suggest other reflections that may more properly take the form of unutterable thoughts." (17).

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1. Ewan, Joseph. 1950. Rocky Mountain Naturalists. Univ. Denver Press. pp. 34-44.

2. McKelvey, Susan Delano. 1956. Botanical Exploration of the Trans-Mississippi West 1790-1850. 1991 Reprint, Oregon State Univ. Press, Corvallis. pp. 1031-1038.

3. Weber, William A. 1997. King of Colorado Botany; Charles Christopher Parry, 1823-1890. Univ. Press of Colorado.

4. Rodgers, Andrew Denny. 1942. John Torrey, A Story of North American botany. Princeton Univ. Press.

5. Cronquist, Arthur, et al. 1972. Intermountain Flora. Vol. 4. New York Botanical Garden. p. 146

6. Watson, Sereno. 1880. Botany of California, Vol II. Little, Brown, & Co., Boston. p. 465

7. Preston, 1893, cited in Weber (3), pp. 5-6

8. Silva, Paul, The Correct Spelling of Commemorative Epithets, article from The Jepson Globe 8(2):1,3; seen reprinted in The New Mexico Botanist Newsletter, February 18, 1998.

8a. Other botanists who collected plants for the Mexican Boundary Survey (see Rodgers (4), p. 220 ff.): John Milton Bigelow, George Thurber, Arthur Schott, and Charles Wright.

9. Emory, William H. 1857. Report of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey. Volume I. Washington, DC (Available on the internet at:

10. Emory, William H. 1859. Report of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey. Volume II, Part I. Botany of the Boundary. Washington, DC (Available on the internet at:

11. Rodgers (4) p. 223.

12. Hickman, James C. (ed). 1993. The Jepson Manual. UC Press, Berkeley.

13. In 1859 a description of the Torrey Pine was published by Torrey (apparently believing it to be for the first time) in the government report on the Botany of the Boundary (10); he gave credit for the naming to Parry. This is Torrey's description, p. 210, Botany of the Boundary:

PINUS TORREYANA (Parry MSS.) : foliis quinis elongatis (6-9-unc) rigidis, vaginis squamosis (5-10-1in.) strobilis subglobosis, squamarum apophysi elongato-pyramidata deflexa, umbone continuo obtuso subrecurvo. (TAB. LVIII and LIX.) Bluffs near the mouth of Solidad [sic] creek, 10 miles north of San Diego, California; Parry. A small tree, seldom more than 20 or 30 feet high, with a trunk 12 to 15 inches in diameter; often almost prostrate from its being exposed to strong ocean gales. Bark of the young branches whitish; the lower part of the trunk scaly. Branches horizontal, but curved upward towards the extremity. Leaves stouter than in any other North American pine, rough on the margin, abruptly pointed, the sheaths nearly two lines in diameter and an inch and a half long in the young leaves. Cones conical-globose, about 4½ inches long. Seeds, without the wing, three-fourths of an inch long, with a thick bony shell. This is the only pine of the section Pseudo-strobus found within the limits of our flora. P. Apulcensis which resembles it, differs in its more slender and shorter leaves, and ovate smaller cones, &c. It is also allied to P. Orizabre, Gordon in Lond. Hort. Jour. 1, p. 231 cum icon. , but that has very slender leaves, which are extremely rough on the angle, and ovate cones.

However, the name was published earlier (with Parry noted as author ?) by E. A. Carrière, in Paris, in an 1855 self-published work on conifers (see below for citation). Presumably Carrière supplied a description (had he seen Parry's specimens?). Carrière's association with Pinus torreyana appears only in recent decades; perhaps his work was belatedly recognized. (I hope to learn more about the Carrière work, which I haven't seen, and possibly other matters relating to this subject, for a future update.)

Unfortunately, from the point of view of one interested in the people responsible for naming our plants, the editors of The Jepson Manual (12) minimize the use of author names; they are not given at all for families or genera, and, for species, in cases where the 'ex' would be appropriate (but optional, see following), they opted not to give the actual namer of the species. According to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Tokyo Code), Adopted by the Fifteenth International Botanical Congress, Yokohama, August-September 1993, Article 46, in a work such as Carrière's or Torrey's, wherein the author of the work and the description (eg., Carrière or Torrey), as opposed to the one who proposed the name (eg., Parry), the author citation may be EITHER in the form one who proposed the name 'ex' the author of the work and description, OR, simply, the latter without mention of the one who proposed the name.

Cited authorship of Pinus torreyana in florae and sylvae over the years (emphasis added to author citation):

Hickman (ed), The Jepson Manual (12), 1993: Pinus torreyana Carrière
Munz, A California Flora, 1959: Pinus torreyana Parry ex Carr.
Abrams, Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States, I, 1940: Pinus torreyana Parry
Jepson, Manual of the Flowering Plants of California, 1923: Pinus torreyana Parry
Jepson, The Trees of California, 1909: Pinus torreyana Parry
Sudworth, Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope, 1908: Pinus torreyana Parry
Sargent, Manual of the Trees of North America, 1905: Pinus torreyana Torr. [!]
Watson, Botany of California, Vol. II, 1880: Pinus torreyana Parry
Torrey, Botany of the Boundary, 1859: Pinus torreyana (Parry MSS).

J. Haller, in a 1986 paper (Haller, J. 1986. Taxonomy and Relationships of the Mainland and Island Populations of Pinus torreyana (Pinaceae). Syst. Bot. 11(1):39-50), gives this full taxonomic description:

PINUS TORREYANA C. Parry ex Carrière, Traité Gén. des Conif. 326. 1855.-[Pinus torreyana C. Parry ex Torrey, nom. superfl. Bot. Boundary 2 (1):210. 1859.].-LECTOTYPE (here designated): California, San Diego Co., "San Diego" 1850, Parry 1397 (NY!; isolectotypes: NY! 2 sheets, US! 2 sheets).

A little more on the discovery and naming, from Rodgers (4), p. 223-4:

By the time he returned to San Diego the Surveying Corps had been broken up and he was virtually left stranded. Nevertheless, Parry continued under Emory's supervision to make excursions around San Diego for divers scientific purposes, the while continuing his botanical collecting. In a letter dated June 30, 1850, Parry told Torrey:
". ..I have been some 20 miles up the coast to the mouth of Soledad valley to examine a seam of Lignite which is exposed in the high bluff overlooking the beach. ...I here found a new species of pine growing in sheltered places about the bluff. Its characters are so unique I am in hopes it may be non-descript- ...if new I wish it with your permission to bear the name of Pinus Torreyana (n.sp.) I subjoin the following characters."
And there followed an elaborate description of the pine tree. This species of pine is known only from this bluff referred to, and from Santa Rosa Island.
In a paper read before the Society of Natural History of San Diego November 2, 1883, Parry elaborated on the discovery and naming of this pine which today is to that city substantially a municipal institution-for their prevalence there and its boulevard highway bordered by them. J. L. LeConte, staying in 1850 in San Diego, had called Parry's attention to a pine growing near the ocean shore at the mouth of the Soledad Valley there, and asked Parry what pine it was. They noticed its dense cones and long, strong leaves, five in a sheath; or, at least, LeConte called Parry's attention to these characteristics. Soon afterward, Parry was able to collect this singular and unique maritime pine, which, with its strong clusters of terminal leaves and its distorted branches loaded down with ponderous cones, was within easy reach. A single cone and bunch of leaves were sent to Torrey to be figured for the Mexican Boundary Report. It was later confused with a species of three-leaved pine, and called Pinus lophosperma. But the accurate figure, accompanying Torrey's description, in the Mexican Boundary Survey Report took precedence and the Pinus Torreyana Parry, or Torrey Pine, was established.

14. Eastern Sierra plants named for or by Parry, according to the CalFlora Database:

Arnica parryi A. Gray
Aster foliaceus Lindley var. parryi (Eaton) A. Gray
Atriplex parryi S. Watson
Calycoseris parryi A. Gray
Calyptridium parryi A. Gray
Carex parryana Dewey var. hallii (Olney) Kuk
Cheilanthes parryi (D. Eaton) Domin
Chrysothamnus parryi (A. Gray) E. Greene
Eucnide urens (A. Gray) C. Parry
Goodmania luteola (C. Parry) Rev. & B. Ertter
Juncus parryi Engelm.
Linanthus parryae (A. Gray) E. Greene
Lomatium parryi (S. Watson) J.F. Macbr.
Mimulus parryi A. Gray
Nolina parryi S. Watson
Oxytropis parryi A. Gray
Stephanomeria parryi A. Gray
Townsendia parryi Eaton
Turricula parryi (A. Gray) J.F. Macbr.

15. Saunders, Charles Francis. 1924. The Southern Sierras of California. Hutchinson, London.

16. CA State Park Website: Torrey Pines State Reserve - Human History

17. Parry, C. C. 1883. Early Botanical Explorers of the Pacific Coast. The Overland Monthly II(10):409-416. On-line at:

18. van Ravenswaay, Charles. 1984. Drawn from Nature; The Botanical Art of Joseph Prestele and His Sons. Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

19. I am indebted to David Hollombe for personal communications in 2000 and 2003 conveying information on Parry's second wife, for whom Linanthus parryae was named. I had found little about her, and in the first version of this essay referred to her as "Eva", based on the statement in Weber (3) that Parry had named a Colorado peak Mount Eva "commemorating Parry's wife", and, in the only other reference to her, names her as "Mrs. E. R. Parry (C.C.'s wife)". The following is the body of the message sent to me by David Hollombe, Nov. 30, 2003.

From Davenport, IA Democrat and Leader, April 26, 1915
Widow of Famous Botanist Is Dead at Advanced Age--Lived Here.
A telegram to W. H. Wilson, her attorney for many years, brought word this morning of the death at Stafford Springs, Conn., of Mrs. Emily R. Parry, widow of Charles C. Parry, the famous botanist who formerly lived here. Dr. Parry won a world-wide fame and did much to build up the reputation of the Davenport Academy of Sciences as a center of scientific work and research. On his death a score of years ago he left Mrs. Parry in comfortable circumstances. They left no hildren. (sic)
Dr. Parry's first wife was a sister of the late Dr. A. W. Cantwell of this ity. (sic) Mrs. Parry will be buried in the east, the funeral being Thursday. She was a most estimable woman, whom older residents will remember for her many good qualities."
There is also a listing in the marriage registers of Ashford, CT, of the marriage on Sept. 21, 1859 of Charles C. Parry, (age 36, physician, born in England, resident of Davenport, IA) and Emily R. Reston (sic) (age 38, housekeeper, born in Ashford, resident of Ashford)
They were married by "Rev. Mr. Parry" of New York, presumably Dr. Parry's father.

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