Nuttall named this species Virgilia grandiflora
(ver-JILL-ee-ah gran-DEE-floor-ah) in his 1813 listing of plants in Fraser's catalogue. Later in the year, Pursh proposed Gaillardia aristata
(guy-YARD-ee-ah air-eh-STAY-tah, pointed or sharp). If this had been noted long ago, according to our rules of nomenclature the specific epithet, "grandiflora" should have been transferred to the genus Gaillardia.
However, by the time this was discovered in 1956, there was already a species called Gaillardia grandiflora
(published in 1857), so Pursh's name is the correct name, although it was not the first name to be published for the plant.
Pursh was not the first botanist to propose a generic name to honor Barton. In 1801, Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812) proposed Bartonia
for a small genus of herbs in the gentian family. There were some botanists who felt that the genus was not worthy of recognition, so in 1812 Pursh proposed Bartonia
for a different genus of herbs in the loas family. Under our modern rules of nomenclature, the Pursh name was a later homonym--that is, there was an earlier use of the name. Constantin Rafinesque recognized this error and proposed Nuttallia
(nuttall-EE-ah; for Thomas Nuttall) in the American Monthly Magazine and Critical Review
in 1817. While most current taxonomists consider Pursh's species to be a member of Mentzelia
(described originally from specimens of a different species found in Mexico), a few recognize Nuttallia
This rare publication has been the source of some debate among those interested in botanical nomenclature. First, Thomas Nuttall's name does not appear on the printed copy; it is only found on the copy owned by Nuttall, and that was written in ink in his own hand. He listed numerous new species, but not all of the names were associated with descriptions--a requirement for valid publication according to the rules of botanical nomenclature. Some taxonomists in the mid-1950s questioned whether or not any of the names were correct according to the rules. The debate largely ended in 1968 when a young graduate student published a detailed review of the subject and concluded the names were valid. There is no evidence that Nuttall, in publishing his new species in 1813, was determined to discredit the efforts of Lewis and Clark, but he certainly made every effort to secure his names before Pursh described the same species using the specimens gathered by John Bradbury.
If one looks in the usual indices of botanical literature or compilations of scientific names, at least one person of note is missing, John Bradbury. His only claim to fame, and one he certainly objected to, is the long list of his 40 newly-found species described by Pursh in a last-minute supplement added to Flora americae septentrionalis
. Bradbury would always feel his discoveries were "pirated" by Pursh, but this may be somewhat of an overstatement. There is no doubt Bradbury knew nothing of Pursh's actions until well after December of 1813. Bradbury was born in 1768 near Stalybridge in Lancashire and had an early interest in botany, which he sandwiched in among his duties as an employee in a cotton mill. His avocation resulted in his being elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1792 at the age of 24. Living in Manchester in 1808, married and with a family, he petitioned the trustees of the Liverpool Botanic Garden for funding to visit America and collect plants. In this he was successful but not entirely as a result of his skills in natural history. His sponsors were also interested in having Bradbury work to improve the supply of cotton from America to Liverpool. Upon arriving in the United States, Bradbury met with Thomas Jefferson, who recommended that instead of setting up his base of operation in New Orleans, Bradbury should go to St. Louis. Jefferson wrote Meriwether Lewis on August 16, 1809, introducing Bradbury, little anticipating that Lewis would be dead two months later, so that when Bradbury reached St. Louis the last day of December in 1809, the letter's recipient was in no position to render aid.
During the follow year, Bradbury collected about the city, sending his dried plants and seeds to Liverpool in the late fall of the year. With the arrival of fellow Englishman Thomas Nuttall, the two took several collecting trips together. When Nuttall and Bradbury went up the Missouri River with the "Overland Astorians" in 1811, the two men were associated with different boats. Also, Manuel Lisa of the Missouri Fur Company and his men were traveling upriver as well and, having a friend with that party, Henry Marie Brackenridge, Bradbury often traveled with them. Bradbury's specimens from the upper Missouri were sent from New Orleans in December of 1811, being addressed to his son, John Leigh Bradbury. Instead of selling the collection, John gave the lot to William Roscoe of the Liverpool Botanic Garden. It was Roscoe who sent duplicates to William Jackson Hooker at the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, Sir Joseph Banks in London, and to Aylmer Bourke Lambert. Lambert, in turn, gave the specimens to Pursh, who described the new species.
Bradbury remained in the United States until 1816. In 1817 he published his Travels in the interior of America, in the years 1809, 1810, 1811
. A second edition appeared in 1819 with an accompanying map of the United States. In his book he wrote that Pursh deprived him "both of the credit and profit of what was justly due to me." Bradbury died in 1823 having accomplished nothing else in botany. Two final asides may be given. First, in April of 1842 the Bradbury specimens seen by Pursh were sold by Sotheby as part of the Lambert estate. A Dr. Thomas B. Wilson purchased the lot and presented them to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, where they may be examined today. Second, in 1817, Rafinesque proposed Bradburya
(brad-BURY-ah) and in 1842, John Torrey and Asa Gray established Bradburia
. Neither is used today.