Edward Willis Graves

(24 February 1882 – 1936)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged to date 8 specimens collected by Graves, who signed his specimens “E.W. Graves.”  Most were gifts to NCU in 2002 from the Jesup Herbarium of Dartmouth College (HNH).  Six specimens are ferns, two are orchids.  The specimens were collected between 1915 and 1918 from Alabama and Tennessee.

Graves had a peripatetic nature.  He was born in Clearmont, Nodaway County, Missouri to John T. and Martha Graves on 24 February 1882.2  As an adult he lived in Clay County, Kansas; Long Island, Jackson County, Alabama; and Bentonsport and Stockport, Van Buren County, Iowa.  He was married to Lillie B. (b. 5 August 1881 at King City, MO) and had two sons, Harold L. (b. 19 October 1907 at Clay Center, KS) and Ralph M. (b. ca. 1919).  The 1930 census lists his profession as “farmer.”2,3

His interest in the outdoors developed at an early age and his interest in botany, ferns in particular, somewhat later.  “In August [1908] I made a trip to northwest Missouri to visit my old home of my boyhood days.  I remembered I had seen growing in the woods the maidenhair and two other ferns, which at the time I did not know the names of.  While in Missouri I hunted the woods and dug up clumps of the maidenhair and the two others which proved to be Cystopteris fragilis and Athyrium filix-femina, and by the help of a friend I found Onoclea sensibilis.  These four ferns are the only ferns I have found in Nodaway Co., Mo., and I have searched the woods carefully during my boyhood days…  I took good roots of all four of the ferns from Missouri with me to Kansas and set them in my fern bed.  This was my beginning of a fern garden, also my beginning of the real study of ferns… In December [1908] I moved from Kansas to Long Island, Ala., taking all my ferns with me.  I located on Sand Mountain plateau, the soil of which is very sandy, and is covered principally with heavy timber.  To my delight I found the woods were full of ferns of different kinds.  Before the spring I had made out about a dozen different kinds from the dead fronds…  I derive much pleasure from my fern garden as I have many ferns growing near at hand for study, that otherwise I would have to go several miles to see.” 

E.W. Graves was a member of the American Fern Society, and the 1917 membership roll lists his address as Long Island [Jackson County], Alabama.  Both his registration for the draft (dated 12 September 1918)and his 1919 paper on Botrychium give his address as Spring Hill [Mobile County], Alabama.

In his paper, “The fern flora of Alabama,” Graves states, “I have spent ten years in [Alabama], collecting in the following Counties:  Jackson, DeKalb, Marshall, Madison, Morgan, Etowah, Blount, Jefferson, Walker, Winston, Culman, Colbert, and Lauderdale, in the mountain district of the north part of the State; Baldwin, Clark, and Mobile, of the southwest; and Perry and Hale counties in the central district of the States.”  He continues, “Jackson and DeKalb counties within whose borders are some of the highest and roughest mountains of the State, and which extend farthest north, and Mobile county, where is found the lowest swampy ground and which extends farthest south, is where I have done most of my collecting… I have sent duplicates of almost all the ferns I have collected in Alabama, to the Herbarium of the American Fern Society.”  His address at the end of this article from 1920 is Bentonsport, Iowa.  Graves’ 1922 paper on botanizing in Cuba gives his home as Stockport, Iowa.

In 1919 Graves traveled to Cuba to botanize.  He was accompanied by his wife and son, Harold.  “For a number of years it had been my great desire to make a trip to the tropics, and see for myself some of the beauties of tropical verdure.  Not until the fall of 1919 was this privilege given me.  Two years before I had tried for a passport, but as the war was on, and as all ablebodied men were needed at home, it was refused me.  But in October, 1919, I succeeded in getting Lansing’s signature to the necessary papers … I have presented a set of the ferns collected by me to the National Museum [US] and a set, with a few exceptions, to the [American Fern] Society.  Of some very scarce species I collected only a very few specimens.  In the short time I was on the island [of Cuba] I found only fifty-two species.”

In 1918 pteridologist William R. Maxon named a hybrid of Asplenium  bradleyi and A. pinnatifidum in E.W. Graves’ honor.  The type specimen of Asplenium x gravesii is in the National Herbarium (US) in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.  NCU has a single specimen of Asplenium x gravesii.  It was collected on 16 July 1959 on Battleship Rock, Natural Bridges State Park in Powell County, Kentucky by R. Haven Wiley.


A new hybid Asplenium [excerpts]
by William R. Maxon
American Fern Journal 8(1):  1-3. (1918)

Among the ferns forwarded to the National Museum for identification during the past year are the very interesting specimens forming the subject of this article.  They were collected from sandstone cliffs of Sand Mountain, about two and one-half miles west of Trenton, Georgia, by Mr. E.W. Graves.  The first ones sent in were regarded doubtfully by Mr. Graves as an aberrant form or variety of Asplenium pinnatifidum.  In the light of further field study, however, and from examination of the additional specimens secured, it appears nearly certain that this form is instead a natural hybrid between Asplenium bradleyi and A. pinnatifidum, with which it habitually grows.

At the request of Mr. Graves the hybrid is described below.  It is a pleasure to commemorate in this connection the name of the persistent and discriminating collector.

Asplenium gravesii Maxonhybrnov.

Type specimen in the U.S. National Herbarium [US], no.764407, collected on Sand Mountain, about 2 ½ miles west of Trenton [Dade County], Georgia, on sandstone cliffs, September, 1917, by Mr. E.W. Graves.  It was found growing singly in the middle of a clump of A. pinnatifidum.

That the hybrid here described has remained so long undetected may be owing partly to the comparative rarity of A. bradleyi and partly to the fact that it and A. pinnatifidum possibly do not often occur in close proximinty, in spite of their nearly coextensive ranges.  Asplenium gravesii is represented in the National Herbarium [US] only by Mr. Graves’ recent specimens.



Graves, E.W. (1911)  The Hart’s-tongue in Tennessee.  The Fern Bulletin 19:  70-71.
Graves, E.W. (1918)  My experiences with a fern garden.  American Fern Journal 8(3):  71.
Graves, E.W.  (1919)  The Botrychiums of Mobile County, Alabama.  American Fern Journal 9 (2): 56-58.
Graves, E.W. (1920)  The fern flora of Alabama.  American Fern Journal 10 (3):  65-82.
Graves, E.W. (1922)  A fern collecting trip in Cuba.  American Fern Journal 12(2):  46-53.

1.  Graves, E.W. (1918)  My experiences with a fern garden.  American Fern Journal 8(3):  71.

2.  National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C; Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Collection Number:  ARC Identifier 583830 / MLR Number A1 534; NARA Series:  M1490; Roll #: 422.

3.  Year:  1930; Census Place:  Washington, Van Buren, Iowa; Roll:  685; Page:  3A; Enumeration District:  25; Image:  603.0; FHL microfilm:  2340420.

4.  Ancestry.com  World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2005.  Original data:  United States, Selective Service System.  World War I Selective Serive System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.  Washington, D.C.:  National Archives and Records Administration.  M1509, 4,582 rolls.  Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.