Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/421

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407
SKETCH OF MOSES ASHLEY CURTIS.

Gray says that in this note he "corrected the account of its wonderful action that had prevailed since the time of Linnæus, and confirmed the statement and inferences of the first scientific describer, Ellis—namely, that this plant not only captures insects, but consumes them, enveloping them in a mucilaginous fluid which appears to act as a solvent." The journeys which he had to make in pursuing his mission-work in the mountainous region were turned to the advantage of his botanical studies. He kept a portfolio under the cushion of his sulky, ready to receive any specimen which he might find; so that, when he reached the end of his journey, he had collected a considerable number of specimens to study during his leisure hours, or to mount permanently in his herbarium. Dr. Gray acknowledged himself greatly indebted to him for local information concerning the flora of this region, and said, in a paper in which he sketched the tours of the botanists who had visited the mountains of North Carolina in 1841, that no living botanist was so well acquainted with the vegetation of the Southern Alleghany Mountains, or had explored that of the State so extensively, as he. A half-century after the publication of the Wilmington catalogue, only about fifty species had been added to Mr. Curtis's list. One of these was the true maiden-hair fern (Adiantum capillus-Veneris), which was found by Mr. William M. Canby, of Wilmington, Del., in 1867, at Hilton Ferry. Specimens were immediately sent to Mr. Curtis, and he improved the first opportunity to visit the locality and see the plant in situ for himself.

Dr. Curtis's labors on the fungi began at least as early as 1846, when he became engaged in a correspondence with Mr. H. W. Ravenel, of South Carolina, a large collector in this department. About two years after this he entered into correspondence with the Rev. M. J. Berkeley, of England, concerning which we learn that that very distinguished authority on this subject became greatly attached to him "by reason of the ardor and accuracy with which he pursued the investigation of new species. ... Correspondence between these gentlemen continued for a number of years, and a scientific copartnership was formed which resulted in the addition of nearly five hundred new species (besides more than twelve hundred identified by De Schweinitz, chiefly in North Carolina) to the list up to 1867; and since Dr. Curtis's death a number of new species appeared in 'Grevillea,' under the joint authorship of Berkeley and Curtis." This new field of study was greatly to Dr. Curtis's liking, and he became very skillful in the microscopic work necessary to the determination of species. He became too devoted to it, perhaps, for his health was undermined in consequence of the close attention he gave to it. It was a genuine case of pure love of the work; for the stimuli and temp-