The Botanical Pursuits of John Samples, Pioneer Ohio Plant Collector (1836-1840)

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From 1836 to 1840, John Samples, an Urbana, Ohio, school teacher and self-taught botanist, assembled one of the earliest collections of vascular plants from southwestern Ohio. Today his collection is preserved in the University of Michigan Herbarium. Of Samples' personal life, little is known except of his teaching. He conducted a private school in Urbana from 1833-1838 and taught briefly in Cincinnati in 1839. More is known of his botanical studies since he corresponded with John Torrey and Charles W. Short, two well-known botanists of the day. From these letters we learn that without the aid of "an instructor or anything indeed" he began his herbarium in the spring of 1836. The record of his botanical work ends abruptly in June of 1840. Cedar Swamp, the Mad River and its tributaries, Wisham's Pond, Dougan Prairie, and the "barrens" were among his favorite collecting sites in Champaign County. Here he not only secured most of the common plants of the region, but also some plants which have either never or rarely been collected in the area since. He also gathered plants in Hamilton, Logan, Madison, Miami, and Scioto counties. Plants from his friends' gardens indicate that he had an interest in gardening. In this study, 490 of his specimens have been located. A list of these plants with his original notes serves to document the natural flora of the Mad River valley as it was known in his day.


Author Institution: Department of Botany, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan



The Ohio Journal of Science. v66 n1 (January, 1966), 1-41