Botanist Erwin Frink Smith’s Memories of His Dear Wife Charlotte

"Had she cared for classification, which she did not, and been willing to make careful records, she might have become an expert naturalist."

May 9, 1888

On this day, the Peach Blossom was voted in as the Delaware State Flower.

Peach blossoms are beautiful.

The fruit is botanically known as a drupe. 

By 1875, Delaware was the country's top peach producer... until the yellows.

The yellows were a blight that destroyed Delaware's orchards. In the late 1800s, Delaware was knocked from the top spot as a peach producer.

The botanist Louis Otto Kunkel discovered that a type of leafhopper was carrying the disease.


While researching the yellows, I ran across a botanist named Erwin Frink Smith, who unsuccessfully attempted to solve the problem of the peach yellows. 

In researching Erwin, I discovered a rare combination of kindness and intellect.


Erwin married the pretty Charlotte Mae Buffet on April 13, 1893. They were quite happy together. They shared a love for reading and poetry.


Tragically, Charlotte was diagnosed with endocarditis and died eight months later, on December 28, 1906.


Erwin dealt with his grief by putting together a book of poetry, stories, and a biography of Charlotte. The book is called For Her Friends and Mine: A Nook of Aspirations, Dreams, and Memories. There is a photo of Charlotte in the first few pages of the book.

Erwin wrote,

This book is a cycle of my life— seven lonely years are in it. The long ode(on page 62) is a cry of pain.


There are many touching passages in Erwin's book – too many to share here now.

But there's one passage that describes Charlotte's fantastic ability to see the world with profound clarity, and I thought you'd like it:

Her visual powers were remarkable.

They far exceeded my own.


Out of doors her keen eyes were always prying into the habits of all sorts of living things: ants, spiders, bees, wasps, fish, birds, cats, dogs.

Had she cared for classification, which she did not, and been willing to make careful records, she might have become an expert naturalist.


Form in nature seemed to interest her little, or at least comparative studies of form.


What did interest her tremendously was the grade of intelligence manifested in the lower forms of life.

She would spend hours watching the habits of birds and insects, and never without discovering new and interesting things.

Whether she looked into the tops of the tallest trees, or the bottom of a stream, or the grass at her feet, she was always finding marvels of adaptation to wonder at, and links binding the world of life into a golden whole.


She made lists of all the birds that visited her neighborhood.

She knew most of them by their songs, and some times distinguished individuals of the same species by little differences in their notes, as once a song-sparrow at Woods Hole, which had two added notes.

She knew when they nested and where, how they made their nests, and what food they brought to their young.


In studying birds she used an opera glass, not a shotgun.

She was, however, a very good shot with the revolver.

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Erwin Frink Smith
Erwin Frink Smith
Charlotte Mae Buffet Smith
Charlotte Mae Buffet Smith

Leave a Comment