“George L. Fisher represented a type of vanishing
American: the amateur naturalist who
makes contributions of lasting value to the science of his avocation. Wholly without technical training in the
subject to which he devoted so much of his time, his unselfish interest led
to the enrichment of scores of herbaria, large and small, and especially to
the increase of our still too meager knowledge of the immense and complex
flora of Mexico. In a more
sophisticated but surely not civilized age, there is no one to fill the niche
he occupied to usefully.”
– Lloyd H. Shinners (1954) George L. Fisher. Field & Laboratory 22(1): 24-26
The University of North Carolina Herbarium has
only a handful of specimens collected by George Fisher. As more of NCU’s collection is catalogued,
it is possible that more will be found.
the proprietor of American Botanical Exchange, George Fisher’s specimens can
be found in many herbaria, including B, F, G, GB, GH, ILL, L, LCU, MANCH,
MICH, MIN, MO, NH, NO, NY, PH, S, SI, TAES, UC, US, W, as well as NCU.
Fisher, ca. 1950
Photograph courtesy of Ross Mowrey, G.L. Fisher’s
Shinners, Lloyd H. (1954) George Lewis Fisher. Taxon 3(3):
GEORGE L. FISHER (1867 [sic] – 1953)
George L. Fisher was born at St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, 8 January 1867 [Shinners corrects date to 1868 in Taxon 3(8): 247. 1954],
and died at his home in Houston, Texas, 21 September 1953. A teacher of instrumental music by
profession, Mr. Fisher maintained an enthusiastic interest in botany from his
early years, though he never formally trained in the science. He collected herbarium specimens in Europe
while a music student in the 1890’s, in Germany and England. After settling in Houston in 1912, he made
numerous trips to Mexico, as well as collecting widely in the United
States. From quarters in his garage,
he operated the American Botanical Exchange, selling and exchanging plants
with individuals and institutions throughout the world, but especially in
Europe and in North and South America.
He did not maintain a permanent herbarium of his own: any specimens he acquired might be sold or
re-exchanged at any time. Occasional
price lists were printed from type which he set up himself. In accordance with his own request,
specimens and reprints on hand at the time of his death were presented to
Southern Methodist University [SMU herbarium is, as of 1987, on permanent
loan to BRIT].
specimens total in excess of 10,000, mostly phanerogams,
and are in addition to some 7,500 which the University acquired earlier by
purchase. They have been moved to
Dallas, but are as yet unsorted and unmounted. There are no plans to continue the American
William G. Stewart has written a 100 page,
illustrated book entitled George Lewis Fisher (1868-1953): director of music and botanist
extraordinaire of St. Thomas, Ontario [published St. Thomas, Ont.: W.G. Stewart, 1983]. This book is in the collection of McMaster
University, Hamilton Ontario.
Lloyd Shinners wrote a
longer tribute to George L. Fisher in Field & Laboratory 22(1): 24-26. It is from this
work that the quote at the top of this page is from; Shinners
tribute includes 2 photographs of Fisher.
Fisher, George L. (1926) Fern collecting in Mexico. American Fern Journal 16(2); 57-59.
In 1924 my vacation was spent and my plant
collecting done in southern Mexico. As
for ferns, the trip was very interesting, resulting in the finding of many
different species growing in many peculiar places. A short description of three of the
locations where ferns were plentiful may be of interest to readers of the
The Pedregal is a lava
flow from Mt. Ajusco about twelve miles to the
south, is two or three miles wide at the end of the flow, and fills the
entire valley to a depth of five to thirty feet. The lava in coming down the mountain side
and on the more level valley floor must have encountered pools of water
because in many places there are blow holes eith to
fifteen feet across and twenty feet deep.
On the edges of the lava flow, on the walls, and in cracks of the
rocks are the homes of the ferns.
Those most plentiful, and about equal in numbers
are: Pellaea arsenei Christ, P. cordata J. Sm., Cheilanthes myriophylla Desv.,
A. Br., P. araneosum
M. & G., Notholaena sinuata Kaulf., and N. bonariensis C. Chr.
Others less frequent, but still present in thousands to the acre,
are: Cheilanthes kaulfussii Kunze,
Adiantum poiretii Wikstr.,
Sw., Bommeria pedata Fourn., and perhaps fifteen other species.
Under the lava at San Angel in an excavation is
to be seen, in its original position, a human skeleton together with pottery,
etc., pronounced by specialists to date from the Neolithic Age, a division of
the Stone Age 4,000, 4,000, or some say 10,000 years B.C. The electric car line from Mexico City to
San Angel or Tlalpam, 12 miles, is the best way to
Amecameca, at the foot of the volcano Popocatepetl, from which now
only water and sulphurous gases are thrown out (the
last fire and hot lava flow was over 100 years ago), is also a good location
for fern collecting. It is forty miles
from Mexico City and has a couple of small hotels.
One mile up the small river, on a rock wall 200
feet long and 10 feet high, I collected 15 species. Those most common were: Polypodium polylepis Roem., Cheilanthes pyramidalis
Fee, Woodsia mollis Sm.,
Link, Woodsia mexicana
Fee, and the very beautiful Notholaena nivea Desv., with fronds
four inches long, the under side snow white, as the
name indicates. Farther up the
mountain are to be found: Polypodium subpetiolatum
Hook., Adiantum adnicola Liebm., Asplenium commutatum Mett., A. monanthes
L., A. melanorachis
C. Chr., about ten other species, and last that well-known Cystopeteris fragilis Bernh.
Orizaba in the State of Vera Cruz was another
good fern center visited. The altitude
here is 4,000 feet, while the preceding stations were 7,000 to 9,000
feet. The climate at Orizaba in July
is like a New England June. In the
same month the higher altitudes are as the middle of May in New York, if not
With the temperature the species change, and at
Orizaba we have: Polypodium brasiliense Poir.,
Sw., P. aureum
L., P. furfuraceum
S. & C., Phanerophlebia remotisora Fourn., Asplenium pumilum Sw., Pellaea rigida Hook., P.
flexuosa Link, Lycopodium reflexum Lam., Adiantum amplum Presl,
H. & B., Dryopteris panamensis
C. Chrs., a Nephrolepis, a Blechnum, two or three Cheilanthes, and about ten
others, including a Selaginella.
At Cordoba, twenty miles on the way to Vera
Cruz, tree ferns begin to make their appearance, and as one goes on to the
south into the true Tropics, the workings of nature are going on in the
semi-Jurassic Geological Age, so to speak; that is, relics of that distant
age in the animal and plant life are here reproducing themselves. This I will leave for a later article.
As already noted in the JOURNAL, the writer will
make a collecting trip to the stations mentioned, leaving in July, and Fern
Society members wishing to make the trip will be welcome. – GEORGE L. FISHER, Houston, Texas.
- Fisher, George L.
(1926) Fern collecting in
Mexico. American Fern Journal
16(2): 57-59. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1544213