ISSN 1188-603X

No. 395 June 5, 2008 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Gerald D. Carr []

I was very surprised and extremely concerned to learn that the Oregon Flora Project (OFP) funding has diminished to the point that the already small staff will necessarily be reduced to a mere fraction of a single position as of July 1, 2008. As sad and depressing as this reality is for the small cadre of tireless workers who have brought the OFP to its present state of development, loss or stagnation of the OFP will have far more and long lasting negative impact on the conservation and appreciation of arguably Oregon's greatest natural assets -- its flora and fauna.

It is my understanding that three very important elements of the OFP are at or near full functionality: 1) The Oregon Plant Atlas, 2) The Vascular Plant Checklist, and 3) Photo Gallery. Each of these resources has tremendous value as a stand-alone tool. As they are to be implemented on the internet, however, these tools will be interactive and synergistic in providing invaluable information to resource managers, researchers, and educators, as well as the lay public. These tools provide the accepted name, range, and visual identity for each of Oregon's approximately 4,500 species of plants. One of the very important goals of the OFP (especially for the plant atlas) was attained upon completion of the databasing of all Oregon plant specimens in the OSU herbarium (125,592 individual records).

The three elements mentioned above also set the stage for the production of an actual flora (in digital and print format) with descriptions, keys for identification of each species and variety, and other ancillary data. While completion of such a flora should be a steadfast goal, it is one that will take more time and a larger budget to accomplish. In the meantime, maintenance of the checklist, image gallery, and atlas should not be neglected. The value of these tools diminishes over time as they fall out of sync with taxonomic advances and nomenclatural changes. However, the cost of adjustments to keep the database current should be relatively modest and well worth the effort.

Currently, the OFP receives no institutional support for salaries, not even the modest amount that would be required to keep the existing tools in the OFP up to date. The OFP leadership has indicated that it will not be possible to continue to make existing OFP resources available without institutional support. Given its value to educational, conservation, and public service goals of the State of Oregon, sponsorship of the OFP by OSU or other state agency should be given high priority.

Production of a modern flora for the state of Oregon is a scientifically meritorious enterprise. However, its importance to the citizens of Oregon goes far beyond scientific merit to increasingly critical issues of conservation and management of natural resources. Some of the tools already derived from the OFP effort address these issues directly. It would be foolhardy to allow these tools to disappear or fall into disrepair. I strongly urge those who have a stake in managing natural resources (don't we all?) to support the Oregon Flora Project in any way possible.

[The Oregon Flora Project website is From this site you can access the Atlas, the Rare Plant Guide, searchable archives of our 13 years of published newsletters, and read about the other elements that have been in production.]


From: Ed Alverson, Eugene, Oregon [ealverson@TNC.ORG]

[Editor's note: Adapted from an essay that will appear in Plant Hunters of the Pacific Northwest, edited by A. R. Kruckeberg and R. M. Love]

Lucia Summers was among the earliest resident botanists in Washington or Oregon, and a pioneer female botanist in western North America. She was born and raised in Vermont, and moved to Seattle in late 1870 or early 1871 with her husband, the Rev. R.W. Summers. Robert William Summers was the first Episcopal priest in Seattle, and their arrival in nascent city provided the couple with the opportunity to experience a northwest landscape that was just beginning to be altered by the first generation of white settlers. After three years in Seattle, the Summers moved to McMinnville, Oregon, where they lived until 1881. Lucia Summers was a collector of both bryophytes and vascular plants, and her collections are housed in a number of major herbaria outside the Pacific Northwest. However, because there were no herbaria in the region at the time of her residence, few of her collections from the northwest are accessible to present-day northwest botanists. For this reason, her role as a pioneer resident botanist is not well known.

In 1871, Rev. Robert W. Summers and his wife Lucia Summers arrived in Seattle, Washington Territory, Robert having been hired as the first Episcopal priest in Seattle. Robert was in his mid-40's at the time, and Lucia was 34. Prior to that date, both had traveled extensively and had lived in a variety of locations before their emigration to the northwest. It had been a mere 17 years since the arrival of the first permanent white settlers, and the Seattle of 1871 was little more than a village of about 1500 inhabitants.

Lucia's given name was Susan Ann Noyes, and she was born in Hartland, Vermont on November 22, 1835, the older daughter of Benjamin Noyes and Julia Ann Bartlett. Lucia was the name of her father's first wife, who died in 1831; presumably her nickname "Lucia" was a memorial. Lucia had one sibling, a sister, Lavinia, who was born in 1839. Lucia's father Benjamin was listed in the 1860 census as a "master carpenter", with a combined value of real estate and personal property of $2900, a considerable amount at that time. The Noyes family was a long established New England family, and presumably was sufficiently affluent for Lucia to receive an advanced education, unusual for women at that time.

Some time during the 1850's, Lucia's family left New England and moved to Hannibal, Missouri. Presumably it was in Hannibal where she met, and then married, Robert William Summers. The date of their marriage was July 17, 1859. Hannibal, of course, is the river town along the Mississippi that was the childhood home of Samuel Clemens. Robert Summers was born in 1827 in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of John Summers, an officer in the U.S. Army who had distinguished himself in the "Indian wars" of the west. Perhaps it was hearing stories of his father's experiences on the frontier that was the source of Robert's life-long interest in Indian culture and artifacts. Robert was also descended from a family long-established in the new world; his obituary stated that he was descended from Sir George Somers, part of a group of Virginia colonists who were shipwrecked on Bermuda in 1609. Sir George's published account of their experience was the source of the plot of William Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest".

As a young adult, Robert Summers undertook a brief tenure as a homesteader in Oregon's Willamette Valley. He established a claim in 1853 in the Eola Hills, in northern Polk County between Salem and McMinnville. Cawley's biography speculates that Summers emigrated to Oregon because he was a distant relative of the Applegate family. But in early 1855 he sold his claim, and moved back east. Perhaps he realized he was not cut out to be a farmer. He and Lucia were married five years later.

Of the Summers' whereabouts between 1860 and 1870, we know little, but apparently the couple spent time touring Europe for a portion of that interval. Robert was ordained in Kentucky in 1867. In the 1870 census the couple was recorded as living in Frankfort, Kentucky. Three children were listed as members of their household, Nettie Watson, William Clark, and a 3 year old girl also named Lucia Summers. The first two were possibly a niece and nephew, the third likely their own child. The fates of these three children are not known, but one year later, when the Summers arrived in Seattle, they were childless, no doubt the victims of some kind of tragedy or illness that befell many children in the 19th century.

The Summers would live in the Pacific Northwest for the next 10 years, and would remain on the west coast for the remainder of their lives. Robert and Lucia made a striking, and in some ways, peculiar couple. One of his parishioners in Seattle described the couple: "He was not a young man and his hair, which was gray, hung in long curls to his shoulders. He wore a beard and was very patriarchal and dignified looking...Mrs. Summers was also very peculiar in her dress and manner. She had lived for some time abroad, and was a fine musician and linguist. She taught music and drawing. Both she and Mr. Summers were very fond of nature, and loved to collect insects, lizards, etc., from the woods, where they spent a good deal of time" Furthermore while the Summers were "very charming and cultivated people, they were a little antiquated and they lacked the force necessary for so thriving a place" (as Seattle) (Jessett, 1948). One gets the impression that both Robert and Lucia viewed the world through the eyes of the artists and philosophers of the Romantic period of the early 1800's, and as such were out of place in a country the era of the industrial revolution.

Our knowledge of the Summers' explorations in Washington and Oregon comes from a set of copybooks that Robert Summers complied just prior to his death. The copy books contain a mixture of daily journal entries and undated reminiscences, touching on places visited, encounters with Indians, anthropological notes, and natural history observations. These copybooks have been organized and edited by Robert Cowley and published as "The Indian Journals of R.W. Summers". In the journals, Robert refers to Lucia in the third person, as "The Artist", or "The Botanist", as in this description of a visit to Snoqualmie Falls, east of Seattle, in July 1873. The words are Robert's, but they certainly would describe Lucia's experience as well:

As the road hither from Seattle is not practicable for wheels, we have made the trip with horses only, up and down steep hills, through unbroken cone forests and then across the small plain known as Snowqualmie Prairie, until we find ourselves camped where road and water meet, two miles above the falls of the river...We started down the great river in a canoe, with two Indians paddling. They sat perfectly quiet and dipped their paddles in silence, as the road ahead became louder and the rush of the current more overwhelming every moment...After a time...the deafening roar was coming very near and the awful leap of a whole great river was just ahead...Then a quiet, not unmusical Indian voice said "shall we go ashore on that rock?" In an instant we were standing on a flat ledge that sloped downward just a little into the quiet eddy, as if made on purpose for a landing. As we walked on we obtained, from the top of the wooded bank, a view of the whole scene, and lo! we were but a few rods above the magnificent falls! With one sheer leap the powerful mass of water landed itself in a circular basin nearly 300 feet below us; a basin whose walls were everywhere perpendicular rock and, in some places, overhanging; perpendicular save where the outlet of the river cut through, its further progress toward the sea ...Some of us cut branches for a wildwood booth over our Artist, for the July sun was seething in its heat. And then, by sliding down fallen trees and leaping down rocks, we succeeded in reaching the level of the basin below...It took us the rest of the afternoon, by a long circuitous route, to reach camp again...our Indians were ready at the appointed time to paddle our canoe up the river again and, taking with us several rare species of moss, as souvenirs, we bade the grand, secluded, mountain-and-water scene goodbye forever, with a sigh. (Cowley, 1996).

Although Robert's term as parish priest was initially successful, after a few years church membership declined and he seemed to have fallen out of favour among the church community. Perhaps his interest in natural and cultural history was stronger than his interest in building the church as an institution. Cawley (1996) has much more to say about these details of church history. Whatever the reason, Robert and Lucia found themselves reassigned in 1873 to the Episcopal Parish in McMinnville, Oregon. This was a homecoming, of sorts for Robert, since he had homesteaded in the nearby Eola Hills nearly 20 years earlier, and McMinnville was to be the Summers' home until 1881.

The Summers' time in McMinnville was undoubtedly filled with the duties of a parish priest and priest's wife, but these daily activities are scarcely documented. It is known that Robert and Lucia designed and supervised construction of the parish church, which was located on the corner of Fifth and Davis Streets in McMinnville until it was removed in 1964.

Robert Summers' journals describe a variety of excursions around Oregon between 1873 and 1881, including local excursions around Yamhill County, multiple trips through the coastal mountains to the Oregon Coast, and even an extended excursion to the Klamath Indian Reservation in June of 1876. Lucia's few existing plant collections at the Oregon State University herbarium also document these travels...(examples....) This suggests that Lucia was present on many if not all of Robert's excursions around Oregon. One of the oldest specimens in the Oregon State university herbarium is a plant of the death camas, Zigadenus venenosus, collected by Lucia Summers in Yamhill County in 1874. That this is a poisonous species similar to the important edible common camas (Camassia quamash) suggests a connection between Lucia's botanical collections and Robert's interest in ethnography and Indian artifacts.

Roberts journal describes an interesting episode that involved Lucia's personal herbarium. On April 30, 1876, the Summers were visited at their home by a group of Indians from Grand Ronde, including Poyusah, with whom they were acquainted from earlier visits to the reservation. A friend of theirs was ill, and they had brought a small quantity of seed of a yellow-flowered composite that they hoped to grind in to meal using a mortar and pestle from Robert's collection of Indian artifacts. Apparently the Indians felt that eating the ground seed would help their ill friend. According to Robert's journal,

.to identify the plant they had brought, I showed him (Poyusah) specimens of various dried plants with golden flowers. He at once picked out a sunflower and said their plant was like that in color and growth. Theirs, however, was "a little flower, and the sunflower seeds were much larger, but by-and-by their flower would be full of them. Then, when it was ripe, the Indians would pick the head off it and turn it upside down and shook the seeds out". All this he illustrated as he went along, having my dried Wyethia in his hand. I judged the seed was a Madia. (Cowley, 1996)

Robert and Lucia's trip to the Klamath Indian Reservation from late May through late July 1876 was their most extensive journey during their residence in the Pacific Northwest. Cowley speculates that Robert was invited to Fort Klamath to provide a clerical presence for their celebration of the United States' centennial. Whatever the justification, the Summers turned the trip into an extended natural history collecting expedition. An entry in Robert's journal from July 13th, soon after they began the return leg of the journey, describes their caravan:

The head of an antelope is brought to me today, which I add to the horns of two deer shot by us on this trip and the large head of a mule deer obtained from Mr. Dyer. Our carriage is beginning to assume quite the aspect of a naturalist's, for we have tied on to its outside not only these horns but also the great cones of the Cascade needle trees. And inside we have stowed all the things preserved in cans of alcohol, and of course, the flowers in their presses.

These journal entries were apparently written following their return to McMinnville, for the entries contain the names of many of the plants they observed in each day's journey. At the time, of course there were no regional floras that they could carry for reference. In fact, the journal notes specifically that all of their specimens were examined by Professor Daniel Cady Eaton of Yale University. Presumably these specimens are still in the herbarium at Yale.

The Summers' route on this expedition was a loop from McMinnville, starting south on the west side of the Willamette Valley through Polk, Benton, and Lane counties. The first night they camped on the Luckiamute River, and the second night on the Marys River. On the fourth day, June 3rd, their botanical sightings along the Long Tom River and Coyote Creek were described:

Only a few plants have added themselves to the Yamhill list, i.e. a white larkspur, variety of species elatum, the tricolored Mimulus, Menzies' Calandrinia, the ebracteate Gratiola. Then on the Big Hill and the Coyote Creek Hills, the mountain flora so familiar to the Coast Chain, and the added monticola pine and a fragrant laurel, low and abundant, scenting all the forest, (we think it a Ceanothus). The richly tinted Oregon Thermopsis lastly arrays itself with the humble herbs along the way.

Their route took them south through the Umpqua Valley and over the divide south from Canyonville to Grants Pass in the Rogue Valley, and then further south to Ashland. From Soda Springs, near Ashland, they turned eastward to ascend up and over the Cascade Crest. In Robert's journal he noted for June 20th:

We make our camp alone in this vast solitude, one lonely cabin or cabin store-house for the California Stage, being the only human sign for many hours. We name it Mountain Camp par excellance. Soon after leaving it, we begin to descend on the east side...The whole face of the country has changed. Not a familiar plant greets the eye beneath or beyond the cones themselves. Open glades abound, but the lupines, brilliant blues, white and yellow, the Eriogoni, pink or yellow, yes, even the compositae - all luxuriant and abundant each in its stations - are unfamiliar.

Finally, on June 25th, after a journey of nearly four weeks from McMinnville, they arrived at their base camp on the Klamath Reservation. The Summers spent nearly two weeks on the Klamath Reservation, making day trips to nearby destinations, visiting the fort, and interacting with the Kalmath Indians. Their camp was located at Wood River. Robert's journal describes the setting:

Our tents under the weird black pines are beginning to seem like home and we nightly return to them with increasing delight. Tent life has a charm like nothing else: free and close to nature; a flickering blaze from great red embers; the stars at night shimmering through needle leaves and small slender cones; mountain, plain, and ice-cold river all within reach; the golden mumulion a great mossy log in the middle of it, and the blue mimuli on the borders of it; soldiers marching along with military precision; Indians stalking hither and thither, with unmilitary freedom and dignity - all so many elements of a picture cut out of a world so different from the one we habitually live in.

Robert was keen to learn about their artifacts and customs, often bartering with individual Indians for their objects: tools, hats, jewelry, moccasins, etc. On one occasion, Robert tried to barter with an Indian woman for a necklace of shell beads and a beaver charm or pomonskis. However, the woman showed no interest in any of the items Robert offered her in exchange. Eventually Lucia, who was in the tent nearby pressing her plant specimens, and offered the very dress she was wearing in exchange for the necklace. "Instantly the pomonskis was removed from the Indian neck and extended towards her. Then, with a very indifferent air, the Botanist stepped into the tent, changed her dress, and handed it to the young Klamath as her price. It was only a calico affair, and not new, but it was a made garment, freshly laundered, and the women here are none of them seamstresses."

Finally, after celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with a large assembly of military officers, enlisted men, and Indians, the Summers departed the Klamath Reservation on July 7th, 1876. The return route was northward along the east side of the Cascades, crossing into the Deschutes River drainage. Robert and Lucia continued to collect natural history specimens along the way, and Robert's journal is filled with detailed observations. They camped at Crescent Lake on the 19th, and then crossed the Cascade crest at Emigrant Pass, just south of Diamond Peak, and descended down the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Once they reached the Willamette Valley, their route took them northward along the eastern side of the valley, until they reached their home in McMinnville before the end of the month.

The Summers would live in McMinnville for five more years. In the spring of 1881, Robert resigned his ministerial post in McMinnville, and Robert and Lucia left the Pacific Northwest after more than a decade of residency. Their next, and final, home was San Luis Obispo, California, where Robert again assumed the position of Minster to the fledgling Episcopal church. He remained as minister in San Luis Obispo until 1885; after resigning that post he became the first paid librarian at the city's public library. Lucia continued to teach music and art, and to collect plant specimens. Robert died on July 5th, 1898, he was 70 years old. Only six months later, Lucia died, December 27, 1989, at the age of 63.

It is difficult to summarize Lucia Summers' contribution to Pacific Northwest botany. No doubt her specimens, most of which were sent back east, were important sources of information to the important east coast botanists of her time. However, none of them saw fit to commemorate her contributions by naming a new species for her. Certainly she collected many specimens in the Pacific Northwest; her collection number series in Oregon spans over 1000 numbers , from #1000 to at least #2100. Her later California collections, which are data based by the UC Berkeley Herbarium, include over 500 records.

Jespon tells us that Lucia's herbarium was purchased after her death by Phoebe Hearst, who was a regent of the University of California, and then donated the collection to the University of California herbarium. In addition to the UC specimens and the small number at OSC, her collections are also found in the herbaria of the New York Botanical Garden, Yale University Herbarium, and the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University.

Even in their time, the Summers were a bit archaic, viewing the western landscape and its overwhelmed native cultures through the lens of the Romantic Period. Robert's descriptions of landscapes and encounters with native people read very much like the journals of William Bartram, who explored the southeastern United States a century earlier, and whose journals were an important influence on the artists and writers of the Romantic Period. But by the late 1800's, the cultural zeitgeist in ascendance in western North America was clearly looking forward, with the closing of the frontier, an emphasis on developing technology, and exploiting the region's natural resources for economic benefit. The work and writings of Lucia and Robert Summers show us that this worldview was not unanimously accepted at the close of the nineteenth century.


Cawley, M., ed. 1995.
Indian Journal of Rev. R.W. Summers. Guadalupe translations, Lafayette, OR. 120 p.
Jepson, W.L. 1931.
The botanical explorers of California - VII. Madrono 2:25-29.
Jessett, T.E. 1948.
Bishop Morris and the Episcopal Church in western Washington. Pacific Northwest Quarterly 39:200-213.
Noyes, H.E. 1904.
Genealogical Record of Some of the Noyes Descendants of James, Nicholas and Peter Noyes. Boston. 1019 p.
Pruski, J.F. 1987.
Index to collectors of type specimens represented in the portion of Hobart and William Smith Colleges Herbarium (DH) deposited at New York Botanical Garden (NY) in 1983. Brittonia 39(2):238-244.

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