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COLLECTION Identifier: gra00071

Edward Palmer plant lists

Scope and content

This collection consists of collecting lists and field notes, primarily from Palmer’s time in Mexico. Lists pertain to collections made from 1880-1897. Field notes are mostly from Acapulco in 1894-1895 and Durango in 1896.


  • 1879-1908


Conditions Governing Access

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


.5 linear feet (1 box, 4 folders in Shared Oversize Box 1)

Biographical note

Edward Palmer was born in Norfolk, England, on January 12, 1831, and immigrated to the United States at the age of 18. He settled in Cleveland, Ohio, and became acquainted with naturalist Jared Potter Kirtland under whose tutelage he developed an interest in collecting natural history specimens. In 1853 he was appointed naturalist and assistant to the surgeon on the USS Water Witch under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Jefferson Page. The surveying expedition was cut short in 1855 after the ship was fired upon by a Paraguayan fort and Palmer returned to Cleveland. He spent the winter in England where he married Dinah Riches before traveling back to Cleveland in early 1856. His wife accompanied him to Ohio but her name disappears from the record soon after.

Palmer moved several times over the next few years. He briefly studied at the Cleveland Homeopathic College and practiced medicine in Kansas. From 1859 to 1861 he joined the gold rush in Colorado, then worked for the Geological Survey of California until enlisting in the Union Army in 1862. Palmer continued to collect while traveling and working in Army medical facilities in the Midwest and West. In 1869 he transitioned to full time collecting. He devoted most of the rest of his life to making archaeological, zoological, and botanical collections in the American South and Southwest and in Mexico.

In his later years Palmer lived primarily in Washington, D.C. where he worked for the United States Department of Agriculture in various capacities. His last collecting trip was to Mexico in 1909-1910. Palmer died in Washington, D.C., on April 9, 1911. He was responsible for the discovery of numerous new species. The genus Palmerella was named in his honor by Asa Gray.


Jeter MD, editor. 1990. Edward Palmer's Arkansaw Mounds. Tuscaloosa (AL): University of Alabama Press.

Safford WE. 1911. Edward Palmer. Amer. Fern. J. 1(6):143-147.

Safford WE. 1911. Edward Palmer. Popular Sci. Monthly. 78(4):341-354.


Materials in this collection were likely sent by Palmer to Sereno Watson at the Gray Herbarium to be used in identification of Palmer’s plant specimens.

Related Materials

Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Administrative correspondence of the Gray Herbarium and Harvard University Herbaria; Asa Gray correspondence files of the Gray Herbarium; Field notes and plant identification records.

Palmer, Edward, 1829-1911. Edward Palmer plant lists, 1879-1908: 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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