Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club/V6/13

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Vol. VI. ] New-York, January, 1876. [ No. 13.


§ 72.  Vegetables cultivated by the American Indians. I.

Some lived only by hunting; others had fields of waving corn, and raised also beans, pumpkins, tobacco, American hemp, and sunflowers.Higginson's Young Folks' History of the United States,  p. 14. Boston, 1875.

Similar statements are found in all our histories, and are derived from the accounts of the earliest European visitors that have left us their story.   Yet the American origin of most of these plants has been disputed.  Even A. De Candolle, who has discussed such questions with the greatest learning and ability (Geog. Bot., Chap. IX.), is not convinced that this continent can lay claim to any of the cultivated Cucurbitaceæ.  On the other hand, Asa Gray gives Cucurbita ovifera, L. ( the Orange-Gourd, Egg-Gourd, etc. ), as wild in Texas, and probably the original of all this group, viz. C. Pepo (Pumpkin) [C. Pepo, α, L., C. maxima, Duch ?], C. verrucosa, L. ( Warty, Long neck, and Crook-neck Squash, Vegetable Marrow, etc. )  Field, Forest and Garden Botany, New York, 1868.  Dr. Gray, ibidem, agrees with De Candolle that Lagenaria vulgaris, Ser., (Bottle Gourd) is not a native.

In examining this question a remark of De Candolle's is noteworthy.   In accounting for the potato in South Carolina, he says: The voyage of Raleigh took place 95 years after the discovery of America.   It is not impossible that the potato, now for a considerable time carried by the Spaniards from place to place, may have been recently introduced into North America by some unknown navigator, and the little diffusion of its culture among the aborigines, in particular towards the north, where it succeeds so well, would show that the introduction was not very ancient.  As an illustration of such a possibility Champlain (Voyages, Paris, 1613, p. 7,) found in l'isle de Sable . . . des herbages que pasturent des boeufs et des vaches que les Portugais y porterent il y a plus de 60 ans.  Champlain, by the way, does not seem to be quoted by De Candolle.

One of De Candolle's difficulties in admitting the American origin of cultivated Cucurbits is the absence of native names.   To meet this objection we applied to the eminent philologist, Dr. Trumbull of Hartlord.  His answer, which follows, not only removes that difficulty, but is rich in learning important to the subject.

Harford, Conn., Jan. 7th, 1876.

***  I could never discover where the doubt came in, as to the American origin of several well-known varieties of (to quote old Parkinson) these Gourds, or Millions as some call them, or Pompions as I may call them.

First, for the northern varieties of Squash.   In the last edition of Webster's Dictionary, I gave briefly the origin and meaning of the name, and more fully in a note to my edition of Roger William's Key, p. 125.  It is unquestionably of Algonkin origin.  The root, asq, denotes something immature or not complete: hence, it takes the two-fold meaning, raw (i. e. not cooked) and green (not ripe).  It became the generic name of fruits and vegetables which might be eaten green or raw, and particularly of Cucurbits.  The Indian plural of asq, in the Massachusetts dialect, is asquash.


Wood, in New England's Prospect, published in 1634, says, that in summer when their corne is spent, Isquouter squashes is their best bread, a fruit like a young Pumpion.

Roger Williams (l. c.) wrote in 1643: Askútasquash, their vine apples, which the English from them call Squashes, about the bignesse of apples, of several colours, a sweet, light, wholesome refreshing.

Eliot, in translating the Bible, puts askootasq, plural askootasquash, for cucumbers, in Numbers xi., 5; quonooasq (literally, long-asq) for gourd; monaskootasquash, for melons, etc.

Josselyn (N. E. Rarities, 57) says: Squashes but more truly squontersquashes, a kind of melon, or rather gourd; for they often degenerate into gourds. . . . The yellow squash, called an apple squash (because like an apple) and about the bigness of a pome-water, is the best kind.

In England, the name squash was understood to be of American origin.   Robert Boyle mentions his experiment with the seed of squash, which is an Indian kind of pompion that grows apace. (Works, i. 494.)  But the name is not found, for any Cucurbit (or for any other fruit), in the earlier English herbalists — before 1650.  It is used by Shakespeare for an immature pea-pod — perhaps so called because of its emptiness, (i. e. easy to be crushed, or, as we sometimes hear in the vulgar dialect of New England, to be squashed; a colloquial onomatopœia): or is it from the French cosse, an [empty] pod?  The word is not, I think, to be found in any English dictionary before 1700.

Going South, we find, still earlier, two Virginia Cucurbits, with Indian names adopted by the English, and still in use : the Macock and the Cushaw (corrupted to Kershaw.)   Clusius (Exotic. 1. ii. c. 2) describes the Macocqwer Virginiensium forte, from a specimen sent him from London in 1591, which James Garet brought from Wingandecaow Provincia, quam Angli Virginiam nuncuparunt.  This specimen was hard shelled, orbiculate, about four inches diameter, the seeds flat and heart shaped.  In the edition of 1605, he mentions the receipt of another specimen, which young John de Laet bought of a sailor at Amsterdam.  Of the former, he says, As it is reported to have come from Virginia, I readily pursuade myself that it is the same which the natives of that country call Macocqwer, etc.

Strachey, in his Historie of Travaile into Virginia, 1610-12, describes this species: The macokos is of the form of our pumpeons — I must confesse, nothing so good — ’tis of a more waterish tast.The inhabitants, he adds, seethe a kind of million, which they put into their walnut-milke, and so make a kynd of toothsome meat.  [This was, evidently, the rudimentary pumpkin-pie.]  In the Indian vocabulary appended to Strachey's book, he gives : mahcaicq, a pumpeon.

Beverley (Hist. of Virginia, 124) describes the Macocks as a sort of a Melopepones, or lesser sort of Pompion or Cashaw . . . Squash, or Squonter-Squash, is their name among the northern (i. e. New England) Indians. . . . These are summer squashes, never eaten after they are ripe,


The Virginian Macock or Pompion, Macocks Virginiani, sive Pepo Virginianus, is described in Johnson's Gerarde (1636) p. 919; and on p. 920, he figures The small round Indian Pompion and The cornered Indian Pompion.   The latter, from the figure, may be our common scallop squash.  On page 921, he describes the Virginian Water-melon, melones aquatici edules — from a specimen brought Oct. 10, 1621, by John Goodyer.  The other species, he says, are common in England, but the last described (the Water-melon) is as yet a stranger.

The Virginian Cushaw (now sometimes spelt Kershaw, according to Bartlett, who notes it as a Western name) was, I think, our old-fashioned winter Crook-neck.   In Hariot's Virginia, the name is given as Ecushaw, which is probably the Virginian equivalent of the northern asqua and asquash, and of the modern Chippeway name of a squash or pumpkin, agwissinan.  These Cushaws says Beverley (p. 124) are a kind of Pumpion, of a blueish green color, streaked with white when they are fit for use.They are larger than the Pompions, and have a long, narrow neck.The Cushaws and Pompions they lay by, which will keep several months good, after they are gathered. (p. 152.)

None of the North America species is described or named by Dodoens or his translator, Lyte, in 1578, nor in the excellent old Herbal of Jerome Bock (Hieron. Tragus), but the latter, in the edition of 1552 (pp. 834–836) describing the Cucumis seu Zucco marinus, oder Indianisch Oepffel, mentions it as one of the many species of foreign plants introduced, within the past few years, to Germany from distant countries.   He distinguishes four sorts of Mala Indica, Indianisch Oepffel — Crocea, Lutea, Citrina, and Nigra.  The Zucco marina, as they are commonly called, because they first came ex ultramarinis regionibus, some from Syria and some from India, as their popular names testify, Zucco de Syria and Zucco de Peru, etc.

But I will not meddle with the Peruvian or the Mexican species.   As regards North American varieties, the evidence seems conclusive.  Three varieties at least still bear Indian names, which date from the first coming of Europeans, and of these varieties we have no mention before they were found in North America.

   J. Hammond Trumbull  
Continued on page 86:§ 88. Vegetables cultivated by the American Indians. — II.


§ 73.  New or Little-known Ferns of the United States.No. 4.

11.   Ophioglossum palmatum, Plumier. — Frond cuneate at the base, sometimes entire, but commonly palmately 2-6-lobed, the lobes elongated and tapering; spikes 1-8 or more, borne on the sides of the stipe just below the lamina, or on the edges of the latter near its base.  Plant 6-24 inches high, fleshy, epiphytic, oftenest on Palms.  Rootstock fleshy, tuberous, covered with fine wool-like chaff, sending out many cord-like rootlets, and bearing on long stalks one or several strange hand-like fronds, sometimes ten inches in spread, and with fingers nearly as long.  The spikes are twice as large as those of O. vulgatum, and grow on the margin of both frond and stalk near their point of junction.

This very rare and curious Fern was first discovered by Charles Plumier growing on trees along the streamlet Le Fond de Baudin near Léogane in San Domingo, a century and three quarters ago, and was not met with a second time in his three voyages to the American Islands.   It seems to have been next found in 1830 in the Mauritius, by Mons. Lepervanche Meyrien, and sent to Sir. W. J. Hooker, who figured it in Icones Plantarum (Vol. I, tab. IV.).  Soon afterwards Mr. Tweedie found it in Southern Brazil, growing in the axils of the leaves of a species of Palm.  Later it was gathered at Chinantla, Mexico, by Galeotti ; in Peru, by Poeppig•growing on trees in both places ; on dead trunks at Tovar, Venezuela, by Moritz ; and again, in Brazil, by Sellow; at Monte Verde and Rangel, in Cuba, by Charles Wright in 1858-65 ; and in 1875 by the distinguished botanist of Florida, Dr. A. W. Chapman, "growing in the axils of the old leaves of the Palmetto in company with Polypodium aureum, only on one tree in deep shades, on the banks of the Caloosahatchee river in South Florida." Dr. Chapman's specimen's are not large, being about six inches high. They show some entire fronds, and others 3-4-Iobed, and have from one to three spikes. This discovery in Florida of a most rare, and peculiarly tropical Fern, is another, and very interesting illustration of the relation of the Flora of Southern Florida to that of the Antilles.

  New Haven, January 3d, 1876. D. C. Eaton.