April 15, 1963
A Series of Papers on the Native Plants of California
Volume 5, Number 3, Page 289 to 350
Published by
The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Claremont, California

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 (20 Years). Her winter home was located next 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. However, she did travel to the deserts of the west as well and we know this through her correspondence such as in the following letter. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as Dr. Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanic Garden and a signifcant Scientist with the National Academy of Sciences.

Peter Raven recognized the botanical exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask by dedicating about one-half page (p294) to her. By the time Blanche Trask visited San Clemente, her marriage was over, so she actually was not "Mrs." as Peter Raven begins his paragraph on Blanche Trask, but nonetheless, the dedication is accurately portrayed by Peter Raven. It becomes clear that Blanche Trask walked the entired island and was indeed a "tireless explorer" just as Peter Raven quoted it.

She did appreciate the desert scene of the southwest but the California Channel Islands is her "sense of place." Indeed, the Channel Islands have a bit of a "desert feel" to them. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island.

The above narrative and quote by Peter Raven was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 3, 2000, for educational purposes in hopes of someday adding San Clemente Island to the Channel Islands National Park. Santa Barbara Island, already in the National Park is just about 20 miles north of San Clemente Island.

Mrs. Blanche Trask, tireless explorer of the Channel Islands, first visited San Clemente in October, 1896, walking the length of the island and discovering Quercus tomentella (Erythea 5: 30. 1897). She apparently also ws there for a short time in October, 1902; and she returned in 1903, living on the island for three months in late spring and publishing a narrative "Flora of San Clemente Island" (Bull. So. Calif. Acad. Sci. 3: 76-78, 90-95, 1904). The first set of her plants , at the California Academy of Sciences, was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 (with the exception of a few sheets). But she apparently also sold sets of San Clemente plants, however, and they are represented at the Gray Herbarium , New York Botanical Garden, United States National Museum, and several European herbaria, including Edinburgh. In studying Mrs. Trask's account of her labels, it is important to remember that her "north coast" is our east coast, "south coast" the west coast, "east end" the south end, and "west end" the north end. Very few of these collections have been seen in the preparation of this flora. Mrs. Trask was the discoverer of San Clemente's endemic genus, Munzothamnus, although it was not described until later.

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