Asa Gray and Goldenrod or Solidago

A Letter from a Friend

November 18, 1881
On this day, Asa Gray received a letter from his botanical friend and colleague George Engelmann. Asa wrote him back in December:

“My dear old Friend,
It is shabby of me to wait so long in response to your kindly greetings,
which were dated on my birthday, November 18.
But I was very busy when it came, and hardly less so since,
and so I let it get out of sight.
Accumulated collections, [from] Lemmon, Parish, Cusick…
have taken all my time up to now…
And now I can think of getting at my “Flora” work again.
First of all, I [need to finish] my manuscript for Solidago and Aster.
Solidago ("sol-uh-DAY-go") I always find rather hopeful.
Aster... is my utter despair!
Still I can work my way through - except for the Rocky Mountain Pacific species.
I will try them once more, though I see not how to limit species,
and to describe specimens is endless and hopeless.”

Since Asa’s lifetime, the Aster genus has been narrowed and now has around 180 species.
Solidago’s are commonly called goldenrods and there are nearly 120 species of them in the Aster family.
Finally here are two fun facts about Solidago or Goldenrod:

  • Medicinally, Goldenrod is extremely effective for treating Urinary Tract Infection.
  • Thomas Edison made his tires for a Model T, that was gifted to him by Henry Ford, using rubber extracted from the Goldenrod plant.

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Asa Gray
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