"Malvas - Seeing Them Daily"
BLANCHE TRASK
writes to
WILLIS JEPSON
Letter of January 24, 1911



Avalon, CA.
January 24, 1911

Jepson Correspondence Volume 6. Page 610.

"I wrote you some time ago in regard to the Malvas - as to whether or not you had distinguished between them; and also about the yellow poppy. As I am still lingering here and seeing them daily - wonder if the seeds propagated successfully. And would you like more? Pardon my calling attention to what is an interesting problem (to me) the second time."


Preliminary Analysis of the Letter
by
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. Her time on Catalina spanned 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, as can be discerned from this letter, Blanche Trask also traveled to the deserts of the west. We see in the short letter that Blanche Trask is still interested in botnay. It may be for her health that she is going to the desert, this time to Death Valley. For some reason, she is "lingering" in Avalon, and did not head out for Death Valley as her letter of one month earlier (December 27, 1910). She is out in her garden looking at her Island Mallows, which she calls Malvas, but are the Lavatera assurgentiflora. It is interesting that she calls the Tree Poppy of Dendromecon simply the "yellow poppy." A careful check of Willis Jepson's writing does indicate that the Malvas did germinate at the garden at University of California in Berkeley.

Blanche Trask corresponded with several professors and scientists from 1897 to 1913. Some of the institutions that she corresponded with include: UC Berkeley, Harvard University, Smithsonian Institution, and California Academy of Sciences in San Franciso. For example, Willis Linn Jepson, was Professor of Botany at the University of California (Berkeley) with a PhD and several books on botany published. About a dozen letters were written to Doctor Jepson, and one of those letters is presented here. The friendship to Willis Jepson is evident. Although Blanche Trask was aware of and appreciated all nature and wild landscapes including desert scenery, it was the California Channel Islands that were her "sense of place." The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island.

Going to Death Valley to stay "for the winter." This appears to be a major adventure for Blanche Trask, which reminds me of her journeys to San Clemente Island and San Nicolas Islands. And in this letter, we see that her trip was delayed by the quote "lingering here." I wonder if she intended to write an essay about her stay at Death Valley?

Blanche Trask wrote this letter on January 24, 1911. The above letter was compiled and analyzed by Robert Roy van de Hoek for educational purposes in recognition of the 89th year anniversary of this letter being written.

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