BLANCHE TRASK
acknolwedged by
CHARLES SPRAGUE SARGENT
1902
in
SILVA OF NORTH AMERICA
Volume 13, page 29


"... For seven years Mrs. Trask has lived at Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, which she has explored with enthusiasm and success. In 1897 she made a collection of plants on San Nicolas Island, a small reef-bound island fifty miles to the westward of Santa Catalina, which she was the first woman to visit; and on San Clemente she made interesting discoveries in 1896. (see Erythea 8:107). Mrs. Trask has written The Heart of Catalina, published in The Lland of Sunshine, and has made numerous contributions to that magazine."

"Cercocarpus traskiae inhabits the south coast of Santa Catalina Island, southern California, where it grows only on the steep sides of a deep hot arroyo with walls only a few feet apart and rising to a height of from one hundred to five hundred feet, in a broken volcanic and inaccessible region. Here forty or fifty individuals of this tree, growing at elevations varying from two hundred to three hundred feet above sea-level, with Adenostema fasciculatum, Rhus integrifolia, Rhus ovata, and Ceanothus cuneatus, var. macrocarpus, were discovered in March, 1897, by Mrs. Blanche Trask."

"Cercocarpus traskiae, with its large leaves dark green and lustrous avoe and white below, and its numerous clusters of snow-white flowers, is the most beautiful species of the genus."


OBSERVATIONS OF A NATURALIST FROM THE 21st CENTURY
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her California wild nature exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915 (spanning 20 Years). Her winter home was located adjacent to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located.

Blanche Trask also explored some of the desert mountains of the west, such as the San Jacinto Mountains, Colorado Desert, Death Valley, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Yellowstone. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as Charles Sprague Sargetn, professor and forester of the Harvard University.

Charles Sargent recognized the botanical exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask by dedicating a whole page to Blanche Trask as quoted above, but also some beatiful line drawings of the flowers, fruit, and leaves of this new mahogany. The only error by Charles Sargent is the use of "Mrs." since Blanche Trask was divorced by 1897. When Blanche Trask died in 1916, branches of Cercocarpus trakiae were placed on her casket in San Francisco at the funeral service by Alice Eastwood.

In 1894, three years before the discovery of Cercocarpus traskiae, Charles Sargent visited Catalina to inspect the Ironwood Tree found there. Mrs. Wheeler and Blanche Trask were to be the guides for the famous scientist of Harvard University. Blanche Trask was not yet a resident but she visited Mrs. Wheeler on Catalina several times by 1894. By 1894, Blanche Trask was in the process of leaving her husband and becoming a "wild" woman by learning some Catalina Natural History from Mrs. Wheeler. Mrs. Wheeler would soon be leaving Catalina forever, with Blanche Trask replacing her as the expert naturalist of Catalina. After Charles Sargent arrived on Catalina, Blanche Trask became ill and she could not take the small skiff (boat) with Sargent and Wheeler to see the Ironwood trees. Blanche Trask was saddened over that missed opportunity to see the Ironwood in the company of Mrs. Wheeler and Charles Sargent. Interestingly, Charles Sargent, the most foremost tree authority of America, never revisited Catalina to see the rare Cercocarpus traskiae in the wild. He would only know Cercocarpus traskiae through the plant specimens and letters that Blanche Trask sent to Harvard University.

Blanche Trask appreciated the desert landscapes of the southwest, as noted in her letters to Willis Jepson, but the California Channel Islands is her "sense of place." Indeed, the Channel Islands have a "desert feel" to them, if one spends some time on them. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island.

The above narrative was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 7, 2000, for educational and inspirational purposes in the hope of someday adding the last three "southern" islands (San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina) to the five islands that already make up Channel Islands National Park. Both Blanche Trask and Alice Eastwood would whole-heartedly approve of an "All Eight Channel Islands" National Park. It is only fitting that these three "southern" islands be added to the "name-sake" of the National Park. If not, I propose that we change the National Park name to more accurately reflect truth: "Eight Channel Islands-Minus Three National Park." My point is that Channel Islands National Park would be "greater" and not "lesser" as the current name would suggest. The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel), are a much greater distance from Santa Barbara Island than the three "southern" islands in question. These three "southern" islands are not far from Santa Barbara Island, which, by the way, already is in the National Park. Each of the three "southern" islands is roughly 20 miles from Santa Barbara Island but in different compass directions. San Clemente is "South," San Nicolas is "West," and Santa Catalina is "East."




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