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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00014

Henry Nicholas Bolander California Geological Survey field notes

Scope and Content

The Bolander field notes contain field notes pertaining to plants he collected in California from around 1865 to 1867. The collection also includes identifications and descriptive notes by George Thurber.


  • circa 1865-1867


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available by appointment for research. Researchers must register and provide one form of valid photo identification. Please contact for additional information.


0.1 linear feet (3 folders in file cabinet #11)


Henry Nicholas Bolander was born in Schlüchtern, Germany, in 1831 and immigrated to the United States in 1846. At the encouragement of his uncle, he entered the Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, where he completed his course of study and was ordained as a minister. Rather than practicing he began teaching in the Ohio German-English schools in 1851. Around this time Bolander was introduced to botany by his neighbor, paleobotanist and bryologist, Léo Lesquereux. Bolander was inspired to study and collect specimens in Ohio and nearby states.

Bolander married Anna Marie Jenner, a widowed mother of three, in 1857. That same year he began working with John Hancock Klippart to compile a catalogue of the plants of Ohio. Bolander worked on the catalogue until 1860 when poor health forced him to return to Germany to recuperate. The catalogue was never published.

Bolander moved with his family to California in 1861 at his doctor’s urging. He taught for the San Francisco School District and met members of the California Academy of Sciences and the California Geological Survey. He eventually succeeded William H. Brewer as State Botanist in 1864. From that time until around 1873 he traveled and collected extensively in California. His discoveries included dozens of new species and prompted Asa Gray to write in 1868 that, "For the last few years no one has done so much as Mr. Bolander for developing the botany of his adopted State, and perhaps no one is likely to do so much hereafter."

From 1871 to 1875 Bolander served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an office which enabled him to collect in many new localities. He did not seek re-election but successfully ran for Superintendent of Schools in San Francisco. He held the position for two years, then spent the next five years traveling in Central and South America, Africa, and Europe. Upon his return in 1883 he settled in Portland, Oregon, to teach modern languages and botany in St. Helen’s Hall and at Bishop Scott Academy.

Bolander died on August 28, 1897. His name appears in the specific epithets of many western North American species. The genus Bolandra was named in his honor by Asa Gray.


Gray A. 1868. Characters of new plants of California and elsewhere, principally of those collected by H. N. Bolander in the State Geological Survey. Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 7:327-401.

Jepson WL. 1898. Dr. Henry N. Bolander, botanical explorer. Erythea. 6(10):100-107.

Stuckey RL. 1984. Early Ohio botanical collections and the development of the state herbarium. Ohio J. Sci. 84(4):148-174.

Series Description

The collection is arranged in two series reflecting authorship: Field Notes by Bolander and George Thurber notes.


These materials were likely used by Sereno Watson during the preparation of "Botany of California" (Geological Survey of California, 1880) and most likely remained with Watson's papers at the Gray Herbarium. Additional materials authored by William H. Brewer were separated to create the William Henry Brewer California Geological Survey field notes.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria:

  1. Asa Gray correspondence files, 1832-1892
  2. Carleton Watkins photograph collection
  3. Field notes and plant identification records, approximately 1804-2000
  4. Botany Libraries photograph collection
  5. Jane Gray autograph collection, 1563-1908

Processed by

Lynn McWhood

January 1982

Bolander, Henry Nicholas, 1831-1897. Henry Nicholas Bolander California Geological Survey field notes, circa 1865-1867: A Guide.
Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University Repository

The Harvard University Herbaria houses five research libraries that are managed collectively as the Botany Libraries. The Gray Herbarium Library specializes in the identification and classification of New World plants with emphasis on North American plants. The Archives of the Gray Herbarium houses unique resources including personal papers, institutional records, field notes and plant lists, expedition records, photographs, original artwork, and objects from faculty, curators, staff, and affiliates of the Gray Herbarium.

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