Library Digitization Homepage
OAS Homepage
Volume 58—1978

{Page 144}


George J. Goodman, Cheryl A. Lawson, and Jimmy R. Massey*

Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

*Present address: Department of Botany, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

George Walter Stevens (1868-1936) became one of the early teachers and botanical explorers in Oklahoma. Between 1904 and 1912 he was a biology teacher at the State Normal School (now Northwestern Oklahoma State University) at Alva. In 1913 Stevens directed the State Botanical Survey (1). At this time Stevens traversed the state, compiled a list of over 1600 species, and accumulated thousands of specimens, over 4500 of which were later deposited at the Bebb Herbarium at the University of Oklahoma. The plants found during these major collecting explorations in 1913, along with those collected by Stevens in 1914, and by others, were later used as data for Stevens' doctoral dissertation on the flora of Oklahoma completed in 1916 at Harvard University. Although Stevens' lengthy dissertation was never published, this work was a very comprehensive study of the flora of the state, far more so than any before it. Upon completion of his graduate work, he joined the Department of Biology at Missouri State Teachers College in Warrensburg, where he stayed the remainder of his career.

Our interest was in Stevens' collecting trips made in Oklahoma. We were interested not only in what he collected, but when and where. Inasmuch as neither of the schools where Stevens taught had any knowledge of his collecting books, nor did his family, the labels on the over 4500 herbarium specimens constituted the main source of information to reconstruct his itineraries. A few additional references to specimens not in the herbarium were found in the taxonomic literature. Helpful clues were also found in the original copy of Stevens' dissertation now on deposit at the Widener Library at Harvard University.

Stevens (2) stated that he was in the field almost continuously from April 6, 1913 to September 20, 1913. Mr. R. W. Chesnut, then of Waynoka, Oklahoma, accompanied him from April 6 to June 25. From July 1 to September 15, Mr. S. C. Brooks, then of Amherst, Massachusetts, was in the field with Stevens. Both men, Chesnut and Brooks, assisted Stevens the latter part of August. During these months Stevens and his companions collected extensively throughout the state, with the exception of the extreme southeastern group of counties. Stevens was frequently in little-known territory where few or no collectors had preceded him. For example, Stevens was probably the first collector to explore the Red Rock Canyon near Hinton. Likewise, he was the first or second to collect in the Black Mesa area in the extreme northwestern corner of the Panhandle and the second or third to collect at the Glass

{Page 145}

Mountains near Orienta in Major Co. and the Great Salt Plains near Jet in Alfalfa Co. M. A. Carlton (3), in 1891, collected near Black Mesa and very possibly ascended it. In the same year Carlton also collected at the Great Salt Plains and in an area which may have included the Glass Mountains. Albert H. Van Vleet (4) collected at the Salt Plains and the Glass Mountains in 1900.

The various collecting trip itineraries and routes made by Stevens in 1913 have been recreated in the tables and maps that follow:

Later in the fall of 1913 and the summer of 1914 Stevens made local collecting trips into Ellis, Harper, Creek, Tulsa, Woodward, Logan, and Pontotoc Counties. Some duplicate specimens from these counties, with the exception of the latter three, are deposited at the University of Oklahoma. From his own collecting trips Stevens (2) stated, "We secured altogether of "sic" 3213 numbers, from 52 counties."

As a basis for his flora, Stevens relied also upon collectors who sent in specimens and upon Oklahoma collections already available at the herbarium of the University of Oklahoma, the Gray Herbarium, and the U.S. National Herbarium. Stevens (2) cited the following collectors as those who sent him specimens: J. S. Westhafer, Harper Co.; Vesta Young, Kingfisher Co.; R. L. Clifton, Ellis Co.; Quintin E. Neale, Osage Co.; O. W. Blakeley, LeFlore Co.; H. W. Houghton, Johnston Co.; T. C. Carter, Woods Co.; W. A. Gardner, Cherokee Co.; and W. T. Scott, Cherokee Co. As these specimens were received by Stevens, he evidently gave them a collecting number in his own series. The labels for these plants were further identified by a large letter "B" printed on them. A large "A" very usually appeared on the labels of the plants collected by Stevens himself. There were tangles occasionally in the use of the

{Page 146}

"A" and "B" labels, but mostly the procedure was consistent.

The herbarium at the University of Oklahoma has specimens collected for Stevens by Blakley in 1914 and 1915, Clifton in 1913 and 1914, Houghton in 1916, and Young in 1914. Additional collectors include O. S. Coble, Pittsburg Co. in 1913; Florence Griffith, Johnston Co. in 1915 and 1916; and M. Keyser, Logan Co. in 1916. These latter collectors were perhaps those Stevens (2) mentioned as having "sent in a few specimens each..."

From these collectors and the three herbaria mentioned previously, Stevens had access to an additional 1447 specimens from Oklahoma.

In his dissertation remarks were made concerning the abundance and distribution of several species. Many of these species which Stevens said were "to be expected" have either since come into the state or been found as natives. For example, Stevens (2) stated that Lamium amplexicaule "should be expected in waste places, eastern half of the state." Interestingly, this species' first documented collection in the state was made in April, 1916 from Cleveland Co., according to specimens in the herbarium at the University of Oklahoma. By 1927 the species had been collected in the eastern

{Page 147}
[Page 147 consists entirely of Figure 4, Figure 5 and Table 3.]

{Page 148}

part of the state. Its present known distribution is now as far west as Greer Co. in southwestern Oklahoma. Stevens' comments, such as the one on Lamium, are of historical value in dating the introduction of a species into the state.

A few native species which Stevens collected such as Bartonia paniculata and Veratrum woodii have only been collected once since in Oklahoma. These were collected in the 1970's by Drs. John and Connie Taylor. Other species have only been collected a few times since Stevens found them. For example, Amianthium muscaetoxicum has only been documented in the herbarium at the University of Oklahoma three times since 1913: twice in 1914 and once in 1930.

Stevens commented that he had found two new species during his collecting trips. The two novelties referred to are Aphanostephus pulchellus and Nama compactum. Neither name was ever published except as nomina nuda by Jeffs and Little (5). According to Shinners (6), Stevens' Aphanostephus proved to be Buckley's Aphanostephus pilosus. Hitchcock (7) later named Stevens' Nama for him, giving it the valid name Nama stevensii. In addition to the plant upon which Nama stevensii is based, Stevens collected at least five more plants which too became type material. These are Erigeron bellidiastrum Nutt. var. robustus Cronquist, Forsellesia planitierum Ensign,

{Page 149}

Lactuca canadensis L. forma stenopoda Wieg., Lechea villosa Ell. var. macrotheca Hodgdon, and Monarda punctata subsp. occidentalis Epling.

Little is known about Stevens' collecting activities except for those described above. After going to Missouri State Teachers College, it is known that he collected at least a few plants in the immediate area. An interesting item, of which we know no more, is the statement that he collected plants for Oklahoma in Alaska in 1908 (1).

In the slightly over three years of botanizing in Oklahoma, Stevens' contributions to our knowledge of the flora of the state were remarkable.


Mr. Michael Canoso of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University, provided us with much valuable information from the copy of Stevens' dissertation in the Widener Library.

{Page 150}


1.   J. M. CATTELL and D. R. BRIMHALL, eds., American Men of Science, ed. 3, The Science Press, Garrison, New York, 1921.

2.   G. W. STEVENS, The Flora of Oklahoma, unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1916.

3.   J. M. HOLZINGER, Contr. U. S. Nat. Herb. 1: 189-219 (1892).

4.   C. N. GOULD, Covered Wagon Geologist, Univ. of Okla. Press, Norman, 1959.

5.   R. E. JEFFS and E. L. LITTLE, JR., Publ. Univ. Okla. Biol. Surv. 2: 39-101 (1930).

6.   L. H. SHINNERS, Wrightia 1: 95-121 (1946).

7.   C. L. HITCHCOCK, Am. J. Bot. 20: 518-534 (1933).