Thursday, September 24, 2020

Plant Lists - John Custis (1678-1749) & Peter Collinson (1694-1768)

Virginia's John Custis IV standing by a cut tulip blossom ca. 1740 attributed to Charles Bridges. (Courtesy of Washington and Lee University, University Collections of Art and History, Lexington, Va.)

John Custis (1678-1749) was a prominent citizen of Williamsburg with an apparently most impressive garden. John Bartram, the Philadelphia naturalist and botanist, commented to Peter Collinson that Custis’ garden was second only to that of John Clayton, the English born Virginia naturalist of Gloucester County.
Peter Collinson (1694-1768) was an English Quaker woolen merchant. Collinson traded in textiles from an office in Grace Street in the city of London, while he maintained an extensive correspondence with American naturalists. His famous garden at Mill Hill contained many American plants, often obtained from both John Bartram and John Custis. Custis’ correspondence with Collinson, the subject of Swemm’s Brothers of the Spade, depicts both the joys and trials experienced by early gardeners in their exchange of plants across the Atlantic. He used his commercial links with the world to introduce many new species of plants into Britain. His gardens at Peckham and, later, Mill Hill became sites of pilgrimage for 18C scholars in horticulture.

Plant List compiled by Peter Hatch from
Brothers of the Spade
Correspondence of Peter Collinson, of London, and John Custis, of Williamsburg, Virginia, 1734-1746
By E. G. Swemm, Director Emeritus, William and Mary College
Published by the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1949
Southern Garden History Plant Lists

Plants sent to Collinson by Custis
Botanical Name/ Common Name/ Date/ Custis’s Notes
?Arachis hypogaea peanut 1736 "Angola peas the pea grows in the
Ariseama triphyllum Jack-in-the-pulpit 1744 "Arum or Cuckow point, Lords &
Ladys, Skunk Weed or skunk Wort,
Indian Turnips"
?Asclepias tuberosa butterfly weed 1736/7 "Mountain or Orange [Clove?] Flower,
Dogs Bane, Apocinon"
Asimina triloba pawpaw 1743/4 papa, papaw
Canna indica Indian-shot 1735 "Indian frill, Cana Indica or Wild
Plaintain or Bonana”
Carya sp. 1735 "Hickerys"
Castanea pumila chinquapin PC 1735 "chinkapins"
Cercis canadensis 1735 "red bud"
Chionanthus virginicus 1735 "Fringe Tree"
Cornus florida 1735 "Dogwood Tree"
Cornus florida rubra 1736/7 "Red flowering Dogwood,” "peach
colour’d dogwood"
Cucumis melo 1738 "sweet smelling Mellon"
Cucumis sativus 1738/9 "long cucumber"
Curcurbita pepo melopepo 1741 "Bush squash that does not Run &
Ramble, eating squash”
Cypripedium acaule or Orchis
pink lady slipper or showy
1736/7 "Red [or?] White Moccasin flower"

Delphinium exalatum or D.
 1737/8 "Wild Larkspur"
Diospyros virginiana 1735 "persimmons or Indian plumb"
Gillenia stipulata or G. trifoliata 1736/7 "Ipacacuana”
Gleditsia triacanthos 1735 "sweet locust pods," "Locus," "Honey
Ilex vomitoria yaupon holly 1735 "yoppon or Carolina tea,” "cassenna”
Custis and Collinson
Iris verna or versicolor 1735 "Indian iris"
?Kalmia angustifolia sheep laurel 1735 "laurells,"[?]
Kalmia latifolia or K. angustifolia mountain laurel or sheep
1735 "ivy"
Lagenaria siceraria "pretty little gourd" 1741 "Little pear or snuffbox Gourd,"
Liquidambar styraciflua 1738 "sweet Gum"
Liriodendron tulipifera 1738 "Flowering poplar or Tulip Tree,"
?Magnolia grandiflora southern magnolia 1735 "laurells”
Magnolia tripetala Umbrella Magnolia 1737 "Umbrella," "umbrella tree"
Magnolia virginiana sweet bay magnolia 1736/7 "sweet White Flowering swamp Bay,"
"swamp flowering Bay smaller sort[of
magnolia that] grows with You in the
Swamps," "sweet flowering bay"[?]
Mertensia virginica Virginia blue-bells 1734 "mountain cowslip"
Morus alba 1736 "white Mulberry"
Myrica cerifera wax myrtle 1741 "candle myrtill berrys"
Oenothera biennis Virginia evening Primrose 1737/8 "anagra,” "Virginia Tree primerose”
Oxydendron arboreum sourwood 1736 “sorrellTree”
Panicum maximum or Sorghum
 1742/3 "Guinea Corn"
Passiflora incarnata and/or P.
1737/8 "Passion flower 2 sorts," "Virginia
passion flower"
Physalis sp. 1739/40 "Ground Cherry"
Polygala senega Seneca snakeroot 1736/7 "Rattle Snake Root"
Prunus americana or P. angustifolia American or Chickasaw
1742/3 "your Wild Scarlet plum"
Prunus Persica 1738/9 "peaches"
Prunus serotina 1739 "wild cherry"
Quercus phellos 1736/7 "narrow or Willow Leafed Okes"
Quercus virginiana 1736/7 "live oak acorns"
Rhus typhina staghorn sumach 1738 "sumach that produced Tufts of a Very
Bright scarlet," "Shomake"
Sanguinaria canadensis bloodroot 1735 "pocoone,” "pecoone”
Sassafras albidum 1737/8 "Sarsifrax,” "sassafras"
Taxodium distichum bald cypress 1736/7 "swamp Cypress Cones or Balls"
Viburnum prunifolium "Black Haws" 1737/8
Yucca filamentosa 1735 "silk Grass”
Zanthoxylum americanum 1736 "Toothache Tree"
Zea mays 1741 "Rair Ripe or Early Ripe Indian Corn"

"laurells" [1735] possibilities: Magnolia grandiflora,
Kalmia, Prunus caroliniana
"pearl tree” [1735]
"pellitory" [1742/3] Ptelea trifoliata?
Custis and Collinson
Plants sent to Custis by Collinson
Botanical Name Common Name Date Collinson’s Notes
Abies alba 1738 "silver fir"
Abies sp. 1741 "gilded firs ... which are natives of the
Aesculus hippocastanum 1734 "horse chestnuts"
Alcea rosea 1735 "Hollihocks"
Allium neapolitanum lily leek 1737 "white moley"
Amaranthus tricolor Joseph’s coat 1742/3 "Amaranthus Tricolor"
Arbutus unedo 1737 “strawberry tree,” "Arbutus"
Asphodeline lutea 1737 "yellow asphodel,” "yellow asphodill"
Asphodelus albus 1739/40 "white Asphodills"
Brassica oleracea 1736 "cabbage"
Buxus sempervirens cv. 1736 “striped box"
Callistephus chinensis 1736 "China Aster"
Cedrus libani 1735 "Cedar of Lebanon"
Celosia cristata 1738 "tall coxcombs"
Chamaecyparis thyoides 1739 "white cedr"
Citrullus lanatus 1736 'Astrican Water Mellon"
Convallaria majalis 1738 "lilly of the valley"
Cucumis melo 1736 "Affrican Mellon," "Calmuc Mellon
with fruite 2 feet long," "Italian
Melon," "Muscovy Mellon 3 sorts,"
"Sir Charles Wagers Melon,"
Cucumis sativis 1736 "Muscovy Cucumber,” "cucumber,"
"long cucumber"
Cupressus sempervirens 1735 "cypress"
Cyclamen sp. 1739/40 "Cyclamens"
Cyclamen coum 1742/3 "spring cyclamen"
Dianthus chinensis 1738 "Double Flowering China or India
pink," "India pinks"
Dictamnus albus gas plant 1742/3 "White Fraxinelloes"
Dictamnus albus ‘ruber’ 1742/3 "Red Fraxinelloes"
Digitalis purpurea 1738 "rose colored foxglove"
Digitalis purpurea ‘alba’ 1737 “flatt?] stalk full of white long hollow
blossoms," "White Fox Glove"
Echinops sphaerocephalus or E.
 1738 "globe [thistle?]"
Eranthis hyemalis 1739/40 "spring Acconite”
Fragaria chiloensis 1736 "Chili strawberry"
Fragaria vesca hautboy strawberry 1736 "Houtboye”
Fritillaria imperialis crown imperial lily 1739 "orange colord"
Fritillaria imperialis lutea 1737 "yellow ones," "lemon colord crown
Fritillaria imperialis cv. 1738 "striped"
Gomphrena globosa globe amaranth 1737 "Amarantheodes,” "Amaranthoides"
Helichrysum orientale 1736 "yellow everlasting flower"
Hesperis matronalis cv. dame's rocket 1735 "Double Rockketts,” "white double
Custis and Collinson
Hibiscus syriacus rose-of-Sharon 1736 "althea”
Ilex aquifolium cvs. 1738 "[gilded?] hollys," "silver holly," "gold
Ilex aquifolium "Ferox” 1736 "Hedge Hog Holley"
Jasminum sambac 1738 "Arabian jessamins"
Juniperus communis 1735 "juniper berrys"
Laburnum anagyroides golden chain-tree 1735 "laburnum"
Larix decidua 1736 “larch tree”
Laurus nobilis English laurel 1736/7 "Bay Berries,” "bays"
Lavandula stoechas French lavender 1735 "crysanthamum arabian stecus,”
?Lilium bulbiferum or
 1742/3 "fiery lily"
?Lilium martagon or chalcedonicum martagon lily? 1739 "red,” "scarlet," "sorts of martigons"
Lilium sp. 1736 "striped Lilly's”
Lonicera sp. 1740 "honey suckles"
Lonicera sp. 1735 "double honysuckles"
Lonicera periclymenum belgica Dutch Woodbine1740 "dutch [honeysuckles]"
Lycospersicon lycopersicon tomato 1742/3 "Apples of Love," "Tamiata”
Malus pumila var. paradisiaca paradise apple 1736 "dwarf apple trees [?] stocks"
Morus nigra 1738 "black mulberry"
Nerine sarniensis 1736 "Gurnsey Lillies"
Nicotiana sp. tobacco 1736 "tob: seed"
Phaseolus sp. 1737 "beans"
Phlomis tuberosa 1736 "Spanish sage trees"
Phoenix dactylifera 1735 "Dates"
Picea abies Norway spruce 1742/3 "spruce Firr"
Picea sp. 1738 "Spruces"
Pinus cembra Swiss stone pine 1738 “stone pines,” "Siberian Cedars"
Pistacia vera 1735 "Pistacioes Nutts, "Pistacios,"
Pisum sativum 1737 "peas"
Polianthes tuberosa 1735 "Tuberorse,” "Italian Tuberoses"
Polygonum orientale prince's feather 1736/7 "Oriental Persicary"
Primula x poliantha 1736 "polyanthus"
Prunus dulcis cvs. 1734 almonds: "green shell,” "brown shell,
"cornell,” "soft shell,” "hardshell,"
"thin shelld"
Prunus insititia damson plum 1736/7 "Bullice,” "Damosins"
Prunus padus or Cornus mas European bird cherry or
Cornelian cherry
1738 "cluster cherry"
Prunus persica cvs. 1737 "best peaches, "variety of peaches"
Prunus persica ‘Catherine’ 1740 "Catherine," "Katherine peach"
Prunus persica cv. 1734 "Double Blossome peach"
Prunus persica 'Nutmeg' 1736/7 "Nutmeg peach"
Prunus persica nucipersica 1737 "Nectarines"
Prunus sp. 1735 "chery seeds"
Prunus spinosa blackthorn plum 1736/7 "Sloes"
Pulmonaria officinalis lungwort 1735 "Jerusalem Cowslip"
Quercus suber cork oak 1736-37 "Evergreen Oke whose Bark is the
Cork wee use for Bottles"
Quercus ilex holly oak 1736/7 "Italian Evergreen Okes"
Ranunculus asiaticus Persian ranunculus 1741 "ranunculus"
Rancunculus ficaria 1737 "double yellow pile Wort"
Rhamnus cathartica 1742/3 "Buck thorn"
Ribes sativum 1738 'White Dutch'"White Currants,”
Custis and Collinson
 “dutch white currant bushes”
Rosa centifolia muscosa 1740 "Moss province"
Rosa x damascene var. 1740 "monthly rose"
Rosa x damascene versicolor 1742/3 "York & Lancaster Rose"
Rosa foetida Austrian briar rose 1736 "yellow rose"
?Rosa gallica versicolor Rosa Mundi 1740 “moonday rose"
?Rosa gallica 1736 "red rose"
Rosa x hemisphaerica 1735 "yellow province rose," "double yellow
rose," "other yellow rose"
Scilla peruviana 1737 "Blew & White Hyacinth of peru”
Spartium junceum 1736 "Spanish Broome"
Sternbergia lutea winter daffodil 1739-40 "Autumn Narciss with a yellow
Crocus Like flower"
Syringa vulgaris 1737 "lilacks" [other than "pale blew"]
Syringa persica 1738 "persian lilack, "persian lilock"
Tulipa cvs. 1735 "Double Tulips," "tulips," "early
Vigna unguiculata 1736 "Italian beans," "black eyed indian
Vitis vinifera 1736 "grape seeds," "Vines," "White Grape"

“mountain flax” [1742] Swemm says snakeroot but JC
requests this as a medicinal plant he
believes to be very common in
“Oriental [?], plant of
Spanish sage trees [1736] Phlomis tuberosa ?
“syringa[“?] [ 1741] listed among bulbs ?
Laurells [1736] "which I [JC] had very plenty of
before" Magnolia grandiflora, Laurus
nobilis, Prunus (Lauroceraus)
"The name of the flower white
on one side red on the other"
Possibly Asphodelus albus -- white
w/brown bracts
“Drassenis” 1741] Swemm indexes as "Dracaena”
"small bulbous roots like
 [1736] scilla?