Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Forest Trees of North America

As mentioned in a previous post, Henri de Büren spent time at Harvard with Asa Gray, the preeminent American botanist of the 19th century before. While doing research I came across illustrations meant to accompany a publication by Gray on the forest trees of North America that he was working on in the early 1850s. The plates were drawn over a 10 year period from 1849 and 1859. For a number of reasons the illustrations would not be published until Gray's death.

"To the preparation of this report on forest trees by drawings and plates the Institution devoted a considerable sum during ten years; but owing to the many engagements of Dr. Gray, and other causes, no descriptive manuscript was ever received from him, and the expense of the illustrations becoming so great, Professor Henry (Secretary of the Smithsonian) suspended the work and the whole matter was permitted to rest until a more favorable opportunity. This never came, the death of Professor Henry and pressing demands on the Institution for other objects prevented its resumption, and the plates already executed with so much care and success remained at the residence of Dr. Gray until his recent death, when they were forwarded to the Institution."

It is impossible to know, as Henri does not mention it, but he may have seen a couple of the drawings while visiting Harvard in 1852.

Whether Henri saw them or not they are stunning, and I wanted to share them. All images come from Plates prepared between the years 1849 and 1859, to accompany a report on the forest trees of North America, 1891 and are courtesy of the Smithsonian.

Red Buckeye Tree

Magnolia Tree

Ohio Buckeye Tree

Honey Locust Tree

Kentucky Coffee Tree

Tulip Tree

Wild Plum Tree

Common Locust Tree

American Crab Apple Tree

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