California Native Plant Society
San Gabriel Mountains Chapter

Botany on the web: W. H. Brewer and his plants

My friend Elizabeth emailed me this quote from Lester Rowntree:

“It is interesting to notice, after one has some familiarity with plant names, how the specific names derived from those of persons begin to carry a definite descriptive meaning, just as do the other specific names based on some characteristic of the plant. Either the region in which these botanists worked is indicated or the genera they specialized in. Cercocarpus traskiae immediately brings to mind the wind-blown slopes and sheltered canons of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands where Mrs. Trask went plant exploring. Erigeron or Cheilanthes covillei carries one to the Death Valley region, Astragalus shockleyi to eastern California, Penstemon parishii to southern California, Ceanothus lemmonii to the shrubs and ferns in which the early collector J.G. Lemmon was interested. So when you see breweri coming, you instinctively prepare yourself for some choice alpine and are rarely disappointed, just as when you see 'cantabile' on a musical score you know something nice is ahead.”
Rowntree, Lester, Hardy Californians, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1936, pages 34-35.

Being inordinately fond of montane flora myself, I decided to pursue the matter of Brewer's alpines. I began with a search of CalFlora at http://www.calflora.org, which contains the records of the University [of California] and Jepson Herbaria.

Forty-seven taxa bear his name, breweri, either as a species, subspecies or variety. Seven probably occur in Los Angeles County, among them Brewer's lupine, found in the San Gabriel High Country.

The Los Angeles County “breweri” are:

Calandrinia breweri S. Watson, Brewer's calandrinia
Cardamine breweri S. Watson, Brewer's bitter-cress
Erigeron breweri A. Gray, Brewer's fleabane
Lupinus breweri A. Gray, Brewer's lupine
Monardella breweri A. Gray, Brewer's monardella
Quercus garryana Hook. var. breweri, Brewer's oak
Senecio breweri Burtt Davy, Brewer's groundsel or Brewer's ragwort

Data from CalFlora Advanced Species Query. To get the entire list, use “taxon” [the first entry], select “contains”, type in “brewer” under “Value”.

Brewer collected 1368 specimens for the University and Jepson Herbaria, of which only forty-eight came from Los Angeles County.

Source of data: http://www.calflora.org/occ/advanced.html where author or collector contains “Brewer”. Just for fun, try “Davidson” or “Parish” or another of your favorite collectors.

Yet, he is the co-author, along with Sereno Watson, of only four plant names, Rhus integrifolia (Nutt.) Brewer & S. Watson being the most familiar to us.

From 1860-1864, Brewer was first assistant on the Geological Survey of California and undertook extensive botanical surveys of areas that were still largely unexplored. The full text of Brewer's journals of these explorations, Up and down California in 1860-1864; the journal of William H. Brewer ... edited by Francis P. Farquhar, is online at the Library of Congress American Memory.

He was also a co-author, along with Sereno Watson and Asa Gray, of the first flora of California, usually called The Botany of California, published in 1876.

No entry under "Brewer" is found in The Jepson Manual.

P.A. Munz lists two generic names in the index of A California Flora:

Breweria minima Gray, became in Munz, Convolvulus simulans L.M. Parry, small-flowered morning-glory

Brewerina suffrutescens Gray, became in Munz, Arenaria congesta var. suffrutescens (Gray), suffrutescent sandwort

However, New York Botanical Garden lists 15 species of Breweria in their Vascular Plant Type Catalog and one specimen of Brewerina. The Missouri Botanical Garden - w3TROPICOS Nomenclatural Data Base lists both Breweria and Brewerina with images of the vouchers when available.

Citations are listed for Breweria beginning in 1804, so I doubt that was named for W.H. Brewer as it is before he was born! However, Brewerina may be named for him because the collection dates are right and a person with whom he associated was the author. Maybe someday I'll be able to find that information on the web, too.

Meanwhile, I'll search for Erigeron breweri in our mountains. Wanna come along?

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