Carl Purpus, Plant Collector in Western America The Botanical Collections of C. A. Purpus in Mexico: The Years 1893 - 1925 (Continued)  

by Mario Sousa Sanchez

English translation by Lauramay T. Dempster  

Home Page Published Biographies Travelogues and Other Articles Publishes by C. A. Purpus Collected Letters of C. A. Purpus Bibliography Site Administration
Topics in this Article:
Literature Cited
Original Title:
Sousa, M., Las colecciones botanicas de C. A. Purpus en Mexico,
Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot., 51: 1-36, 1969.

Republished on the World Wide Web by Permission of
University of California Press

      In 1913 he made a series of trips to Chiapas, a state in which there are data until 1925. His localities in Chiapas are always related to coffee plantations, property of Germans who emigrated from Guatemala during the 1890's, especially to the region of Soconusco. The plantations are: Covadonga, Mexiquito and Irlande, where he collected from 1913 to 1914. There are also Purpus collections from the Cerro del Boquerón in the same zone, and from the Sierra of Tonolá. On the same expedition he collected in the Pichacho de San Jerónimo, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.
      In 1915 a period of recession begins, owing to lack of communication, and to the dangers implicit in the Revolution. During this period the letters of Purpus are a series of hopes that the normal lines of communication will return soon, of unrealized plans of future visits to Chiapas and even to South America. This state of things did not prevent him from continuing to collect in the area of Zacuapam, and from continuing to interchange correspondence with all sorts of people who were interested in one way or another in plants. Despite the fact that the situation in Mexico was well known and disseminated through the international press, that did not prevent Mrs. Brandegee from taxing Purpus with being "indolent," as his trips and collections diminished, an adjective that Purpus never forgot.

      During these dates of enforced quiet, it is very possible that Purpus recurred to his old profession of pharmacology. There are indications (data from M.A. Acosta) that he established with Mr. Maximino Stein a small business in essences of perfume, for which purpose they planted nard. Purpus brought the ideas and Stein the manual skill. It is difficult to evaluate the success of the enterprise, since for all we know, they were never able to achieve the special still that they needed.

Literature Cited:
- Diehl, C., 1933.
- Kesselring, W., 1933a.
- Kesselring, W., 1933b.    

The area of Zacuapam (see letter of December 15, 1918) was the object of exhaustive collections, and on nearly all of the ranches to the east of Zacuapam, from 1000M of altitude to sea level, he made constant and prolonged stays from 1915 to 1923. During this epoch, Joseph Anton Purpus returns again to Mexico, and the last time in 1920-1921, as on the former occasion, under the auspices of the Botanic Garden of Darmstadt. His collecting trip had as its object the recollection of tropical epiphytes: Bromelias, orchids, ferns and some Cactaceae (Kesselring, 1933a, Kesselring, 1933b), and in general useful plants (Diehl, 1933). With the material acquired he gave a number of conferences, at the same time publishing various articles in German gardening magazines. It is doubtful that Carlos Alberto would have accompanied his brother on this five to six month trip; by this time the fraternal relations had cooled.
      The year 1923 is perhaps one of the most active in the life of Purpus, considering that he was 72 years of age. He began the year, as he had always done, collecting in the area of Zacuapam, especially in the deciduous forest in Remudadero, Camarón, Mata Zarza, Los Conejos and Las Cantarranas. In April he departs in the direction of Chiapas and visits Santa Lucrecia on the Isthmus, belonging to the state of Veracruz. This time his collections in Chiapas are from April to May in Jalisco or Jalisco Arriaga, which is now known as Arriaga.
      Returning from Chiapas he knew the owner of the Hacienda Monserrate, Javier Delpino, who invited him to stay as long as he wished on his property.
      In August, Purpus returned to Chiapas, first to Jalisco Arriaga, then to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and on the 7th of September he arrived at the Hacienda Monserrate, La Providencia, situated southeast of Cintalapa, almost on the border with Oaxaca. By the 8th of October we have Purpus returning to Zacuapam, and in a letter of this date, directed to Brandegee, he says: "Unfortunately, on the road here a torrent fell on us, and I lost all my specimens in press, collected in Jalisco and Salina Cruz, on the Pacific Coast."
      In 1924 he collects in Zacuapam and surrounding areas. Although I did not find examples in Berkeley, there are indications of such collections in his letters.

Literature Cited:
- Standley, P. C, 1926.    

In 1925 Brandegee dies and the contact with Berkeley is lost. Nevertheless, he returns to the Hacienda Monserrate in Chiapas, where he collects specimens from March to July which were sent to the U.S. National Herbarium. Paul C. Standley worked on these, publishing what would be a brief continuation of Brandegee's "Plantae Mexicanae Purpusianae," in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 1926, and describing nine new species (Standley, 1926).
      One sees his collections interrupted in May of 1927, on his being seriously wounded when he was the object of a robbery in his house, on the Hacienda de Zacuapam. As we are told by the current Sartorius family, Purpus suffered a blow from a machete on the forehead, and they wounded his breast with a pair of knives, with the idea of finding money on him, which he was completely without; he took hold of the sharp weapons and suffered deep wounds on his hands; in a careless moment an oil lamp was overturned, which immediately started a fire, giving alarm to the neighbors.

Literature Cited:
- Purpus, Carl Albert, 1911-1938.    

After the assault, Purpus writes to Setchell, "I stayed in bed two weeks recovering slowly; presently (five months later) I find myself as well as usual" (Purpus, C. A., 1911-1938).
      It is unquestionable that Purpus continued collecting until his death. A letter to W.A. Setchell of October 20, 1938, testifies to this: "I am growing old and very forgetful and distracted. I am in the late 80's (he was 87) and not far from 90. Of course I cannot collect much, and must give up my botanical trips. Nevertheless, now and again I collect a little around here. The other day I found a very interesting Crotalaria."
      After a prolonged agony, C.A. Purpus dies in El Mirador, January 17, 1941, at the age of 90 years.
  [Previous Page] [Next Page]

Go to page: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

[Published Biographies] [Travelogues and Articles] [Letters]
[Plant Lists and Bibliography] [Site Administration]

[Home Page]

Date and time this article was prepared: 6/7/2002 7:32:29 PM