Charles Sprague Sargent was Forestry Professor at Harvard
Letter transcribed by Robert “Roy” van de Hoek, December 5, 1998.
July 28, 1898
Prof.[essor] C.[harles] S.[prague] Sargent-
Y[ou]r letter a- mailed me
upon return- ing from an absence in this mo.[nth] I sent yesterday as good
specimens as I have been able [to] procure- The fruiting spec.[imen] was
coll’[ecte]d June 15 ‘98. I first met
The new Cercocarpus Mar.[ch] 22 ‘97. They are found in an arroyo in “The Salte Verde Country” - a certain region of the old Earthquake - volcanic and sunburnt glorious in its rainbow cliffs & a- sleep under its mantal drapened of lichens well guarded by the sharp edges of its splintered rocks & river canons. This is a veritable “No-man’s-land,” where the tourist an[d] hunter never
enters & I never put foot there without hoping to be forgiven - knowing well that I intrude. Yet - the past two win- ters, I have nearly lived there: no region is at once so real, so so strange & so dreamlike. It is on the so.[uth] side of the isl.[and] & has - I should think - a stretch of 20 miles of coast-line. It is - as the name indicates - a land where the rocks have evidently leaped fr.[om] the Bull-Rush Ridge (about 2000 f[ee]t el.[evation) to the
very sea-edge. It is a “Green Leap,” because at its Eastern extremity, there is water (a miracle in this isl[and]!) - for two streams, or, more correctly, two tricklings of water there continue to flow all the year & in winter a verdent ???e?a is conspicuous f[r]o.[m] the ridge; but as you enter the Salte Verde, the Leap even in winter is un- speakable & water is never seen. The strangest of sights is that of the beauti- ful Gilia danthoides wh.[ich] lifts its sweet face in the midst of this land of ???
& desolation: for even to- day, you may follow the foot steps of the Earthquake & f[o]r. some old cause long since set in motion the cliffs pay h[ou]r. by h[ou]r. ???? tribute of falling crag & land- & rock - slide to the sea. In the small arroyo - an arroyo so narrow fr.[om] time to time you can touch each side with yo.[ur] hands - thrives the new Cer. cocarpus: about 50 trees 200 - 500 f[ee]t. el.[evation]. I have nev- er seen any in the adjoin- ing arroyos: they grow in company with Adenostoma
fasciculatum, Rhus in- tegrifolia, Rhus ovata & (mostly) Ceanothus cuneatus var. macrocarpus. This Ceanothus forms thickets on the adjacent hill on the “wooded side:” while on the “clear side” Adenosto- ma fasciculatum ????ghs. (In these Isl’[and]s there is al- ways a vast difference in the two slopes or “sides” as we say of a canon or an arroyo - as - however - no doubt you remember. I recall y[ou]r visit to Mrs. Wheeler about 4 y[ea]rs. ago. I
was a guest at her house at the time - ill & how my heart ached to see you go off so lively - while I was just able to row for a half-hour. Mrs. Wheeler & I began with the flowers that winter - I have nev- er stopped: & to her I am indebted for much that can never be told: she was always in her home here, like a bit of rare china in a crockery shop. Con- sidering her burdens, I think she was the grandest character I have known:
You know - she is in the Eastern home now - the Isl.[and] has never been the same since her departure. “nor shall be where ?? seems ??? have deceased.” Tomorrow I go to see if the fruit of the new Cerc. is ripe - a trip of 50 miles because of the heat. I shall start at 4 p.m. & stay over night at the two Streams then for the burning stretch start at 4 a.m. ?????? w[ith] the streams, and wait until 4 p.m. to start again for Ava- lon. No need for me to
envy y[ou]r. livliness these days - you see. I should mention too, that ?? the ??? of the ??? Cerc. I found ??? ??? Eastwood re- fers to would be Notholoena cupillus-virens L. ??? the ??? - I say - I mean on the wooded side under the ??? ??? of the Ceano- thus fr[uit] whence issue the stems of the new Cerc. as well: really - at the ??? on the wooded side. I shall send you some photographs soon, wh.[en] will I
believe, and ??? y[ou]r questions in regard to general appearance height, etc. of the trees. 5 1/2 f[ee]t, exactly is the length of the ??? stock. I have ???? for ???. ??? that stands under the tree you can judge. THe stock is 1inch in diameter, lacking 1/8 in[ch]. Why say “who I am?” Perhaps my first (& truest) study of botany began when a little child of 2 or 3 y[ea]rs. My mother says at that age, I would be
seen in the garden kissing the pansies & ver. benas & saying, “How pretty you are - I love you.” Otherwise - I have al- ways known & studied the flowers in Minneso- ta in the So[uth] part earl- ier & later in the region near Lake Itasca wh[ich] is now I believe, set apart as a State Park or something of that sort. (I never read newspapers - so I am not certain - but know there was something done about that wondrous land). - It is
so stupid to hear these details of one for whom you can have no interest. However - I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, July 25 1865. Mainden name - Luella Blanche Engle. Am a contriutor of poems & prose articles to “Land of Sun. shine.” “The Heart of Catalina” (wh.[ich] I send you) is the most important, I think, at ????? with my - acquaintance & knowledge ??? written conerning the
plants: there was a notice of the article in Erythea Oct. ‘97. I have coll’[ecte]d for M[iss]o[uri] Botanical Gardens & for Acad.[emy] of Sciences, San Francisco: am still coll.[ecting] for Smith- sonian & for Kew Royal Gardens. In Apr.[il] ‘97 I made a trip to San Nicolas Isl.[and] 50 miles seaward, a reef-bound Isl.[and] with out a harbor wh.[ich] had not previously been visit-
ed by a woman - so difficult are the land- ings: I made first coll.[ection] of plants fr.[om] that Isl[and]. These sets are now in Kew Royal Gardens, M[iss]o[uri] Bot.[anical] Gardens, Smith sonian, San Franc.[cisco] Acad.[emy] of Sciences & one was sent Mr. W[illia]m ?. Canby. San Clemente Isl[and] I have visited as well there finding Quercus tomentella, Lyonothamnus & Antirrhin- um speciosum in abundance tho[ugh] never be- fore reported to San Fran[cisco]
Acad.[emy] of Sciences. Notice of this in Erythea (open letter) Feb.[ruary] ‘97. 50 miles a day in winter is pleasure/s ??: I love to be out all night: water & some fruit & my ??? is all I ask. I have spent w[ee]ks. in our most re- mote regions - the goats have come to be as great friends as the hills, the plants & the sea. - You see I must love it all, to rise at 3 am. as I do to get an early start. Among people - in the cities - there I am lonely &
unhappy. You will wish you had never asked who “I am.” ???it’s the soul of it all, I love - I in my strong body, am but a messenger. All people would be strong, if they knew how. And yet - it’s so simple In summer, I do not like the heat & here in Avalon swim & row & skate, instead. Yet - for the ??? ???e’s sake - I shall go forth. In any way, I shall be glad to aid you - if I can.