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Abstract Detail

Botanical History

McCourt, Richard [1], Fry, Joel T [2], Benamy, Elana [3].

A Flower from Gettysburg.

During the herbarium digitization project entitled the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis (MAM; for which nearly one million specimens from 13 institutions were imaged, while proofing the data captured from images of the specimens, one of us (EB) encountered a plant specimen of Asclepias viridiflora that captured her attention. It wasn't so much the plant, which was a common species, the green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), which grows in Pennsylvania and almost every other state in the U.S. What brought Elana up short was the information on the label. Written in a distinctive 19th century cursive hand, was the date and location where the plant was collected: "Battlefield of Gettysburg, August 20, 1863." The battle of Gettysburg occurred on July 1-3, 1863, barely 7 weeks earlier. One of the most famous and bloodiest battles of the Civil War, it was where some 50,000 soldiers had been killed or wounded. More men died in the battle than lived in the town of Gettysburg itself. What would have led someone to collect a plant from this hallowed site about which, President Abraham Lincoln, speaking on Nov. 19, 1863, had said "the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract"? The collector's name on the label was Thomas Meehan, a noted Philadelphia botanist and horticulturist, whose botanist brother, Joseph Meehan fought in the famous battle. This paper explores the story of the collection and preservation of this botanical legacy of the famous battle.

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1 - Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA, 19103, USA
2 - Bartram's Garden, Philadelphia, PA, 19143, USA
3 - Drexel

none specified

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: HIST1, Botanical History
Location: Tucson E/Starr Pass
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
Time: 2:30 PM
Number: HIST1001
Abstract ID:1324
Candidate for Awards:None

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