Nineteenth Century Flora

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by Mark K. Leach & Alexandra Zelles

A flora is a census of plants, often annotated,  growing at some location. It is a basic resource, essential to intelligent conservation. In this case the location is the county that includes Madison, Wisconsin. What is unusual about this flora is its focus on the historical plants and lichens, those found growing in the early days of European-style settlement.

The starting point for this flora was the "preliminary flora of Madison and vicinity" by two respected botanists, Lellan S. Cheney and Rodney True, published by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters in 1893. Cheney and True titled their report "preliminary," because they had not completed their plant census work. Besides its incompleteness, the 1893 flora contains many names of plants that are not recognizable to today's botanists.

The flora was updated, with hundreds of additional species, by examining 19th and early 20th century herbaria records. An herbarium is a place where preserved plants are stored for scientific study. Fortunately Wisconsin has three excellent herbaria: the Wisconsin Herbarium at U.W. Madison (which Cheney curated from 1891 to 1903), the Freckmann Herbarium at U.W. Stevens Point, and the herbarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Many of the plant names used by Cheney and True no longer apply. All the names used in the new book were current at the time of publication. Many synonyms are included to aid readers.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword, by Amy Staffen
  • Biographies of L.S. Cheney and R.H. True
  • Map of Nineteenth Century Dane County
  • Introduction
    • Clues for Conservation and Restoration
    • Species Information
  • Bryophytes (Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts; 164 entries in 39 families)
  • Ferns and Fern Allies (39 entries in 11 families)
  • Gymnosperms (14 entries in 3 families)
  • Dicotyledons (768 entries in 96 families)
  • Monocotyledons (284 entries in 24 families)
  • Lichens (182 entries)
  • Place Names (a rough incomplete guide)
  • References and Readings
  • Index to Plant and Lichen Names

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