The University of North Carolina Chapel
Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates about a dozen fungal specimens collected by
Ellsworth Bethel. It is likely that we
will find more as we continue to catalog our collections.
Ellsworth Bethel’s specimens are
distributed widely in herbaria across North America. He was interested in all aspects of natural
history, so collected not only fungi, but also lichens, bryophytes, algae and
vascular plants. According to
mycologist Fred Seaver, Bethel was “an omnivorous
Among non-scientists, Bethel’s most lasting
contribution is the names of several peaks in the Rocky Mountains:
Ellsworth Bethel (1863-1925) was a
Denver high school teacher who championed the cause of naming area peaks for
Native American tribes. In 1914 he sketched a map of northern Colorado,
complete with his recommendation for names of mountains at the time unnamed.
He sent it to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in Washington, D.C. His main goal was to represent 10 tribes
connected with Colorado history by peaks visible from Denver. The board
accepted some of his recommendations (such as the one for Mount Acoma) but
rejected others. Bethel was angry and disappointed by the board’s decision to
throw out some of his ideas, but they accepted enough of his suggestions that
his influence still lives today in the mountains of the Indian Peaks
Foster, Lisa. 2005. Rocky Mountain National Park: The Complete Hiking Guide. Englewood, Colorado: Westcliffe Publishers. Page 315.
Mount Acoma, Grand
photo by Mike Offerman, 20109
Ellsworth Bethel was born on 20 June, 1863
in Ohio. His father, William Smith
Bethel, was a farmer. His mother was
Phebe Ann Price Bethel, and his sister, Sarah, was two years his junior. Bethel attended Scio College (now University
of Mount Union), though it is unclear for how long.13 Bethel was a
Senior Student of Science at Grant Memorial University (now Tennessee Wesleyan
University) in 1885-86.14
He was awarded an honorary Masters degree
from the University of Denver in 1905.1
According to Fred Seaver,
Bethel moved to Colorado in 1890 to teach high school (both the 1900 and 1910
Federal Census list Bethel’s occupation as “school teacher”). In 1917 he joined the United States
Department of Agriculture’s Forest Pathology laboratory and stayed in that
job until his death in 1925.1
On October 3, 1924, at age 61 Ellsworth
Bethel married 31 year old Dorothy Stokley [or Stokeley].1,7 Ellsworth Bethel died on the 8th
of September, 1925 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Wheat Ridge,
Jefferson County, Colorado.
described by Bethel:
Bethel (in Blasdale, University of Calif. Publ.
Bot. 7: 119. 1919.)
Hedgc., Bethel & N. R. Hunt (J. Agric. Res.,
Washington 14: 415. 1918.)
named in Bethel’s honor:
Betheliella Cockerell, 1924 (type species is Betheliella calocharti Cockerell, 1924):
a genus of bees, now considered to be in the genus Dufourea Lepeletier
Asphondylia betheli Cockerell : prickly pear fruit gall midge – Bethel
collected the larvae for Cockerell (http://bugguide.net/node/view/1214747
Felt: Juniper tip midge, host plant is
Rocky Mountain juniper, Juniperus scopulorum
Rhopalomyia betheliana Cockerell: a midge
causing galls on Artemisia (Asteraceae)
Harold St. John (Gentianaceae) : holotype collected by Ellsworth Bethel 17
May 1923 in California, Shasta County, Fall River Mills ; “The new species S. bethelii
occurs in the Sierra Mountains along the Pitt River, California.” p. 22 of
St. John, Harold. 1941. Revision of the genus Swertia (Gentianaceae)
of the Americas and the reduction of Frasera. The American Midland Naturalist
26(1): 1-29. This species is now considered as Frasera albicaulis
(H. St. John) N. H. Holmgren
Physarum bethelii T.
Macbr. Ex G. Lister (Monogr.
Mycetozoa, Edn 2 (London): 57 (1911) – a slime mold
Roestelia bethelii F. Kern (Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 34: 461.
1907.) – a fungus
Arthur (Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 47:
476. 1920.) – a fungus
Uromyces bethelii Arthur (Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 51: 58.
1924.) – a fungus
Peridermium bethelii Hedgc. & Long (Phytopathology 3(4): 251.
1913.) – a fungus
(H. St. John) N.H. Holmgren
(synonym: Swertia bethelii)
photo by Keir Morse,
2009, courtesy of CalFlora10
Seaver, Fred J. 1926.
Ellsworth Bethel. Mycologia
Although not exclusively a mycologist
[Ellsworth Bethel] was sufficiently prominent in this field to deserve more
than a passing mention. Born in Ohio, June 20, 1863, he migrated to Colorado
in 1890, where he soon attained prominence as a teacher and in all-around
naturalist. He was a graduate of Scio College and of East Tennessee Wesleyan
University, and in 1905 he received an honorary degree of M.A. from the
University of Denver.
My own personal acquaintance with Mr.
Bethel is almost coextensive, in point of time, with my interest in mycology.
From about 1904 until the day of his death (September 8, 1925) we were rather
closely associated in things mycological and it is difficult to go far in the
herbarium without encountering fungi collected in Colorado by Bethel.
When I first visited Colorado in 1910, Mr.
Bethel’s company on a number of trips into the mountains was a great help and
inspiration. Several days were spent together at Tolland; also in Geneva Creek
Canyon and in the vicinity of Boulder.
On all of these occasions he seemed to have unlimited physical energy
and boundless enthusiasm for the work. He was an omnivorous collector.
While the number of mycological titles
accredited to him is surprisingly small, his collections have furnished
groundwork for a number of articles contributed by other mycologists. In “The Myxomycetes
of Colorado. II” Dr. W. C. Sturgis states: “Up to 1907 I had the invaluable
assistance of Mr. Bethel, of Denver, and able and tireless collector,
thoroughly acquainted with all parts of Colorado.” Of the 94 species of
slime-moulds reported from Colorado in the first
paper by Dr. Sturgis a very large percent represented the results of the
field work of Mr. Bethel in this particular group. One species of slime-mould, Physarum bethelii (Macbr.) Lister, has been dedicated to him and a fine colored
illustration published by Miss Lister, the English authority on the slime-moulds.
He was especially interested in plant
rusts, beginning their collection shortly after going to Colorado,
and here again contributed much field information for other workers as well
as several articles on his own account. One species, Gymnosporangium betheli (Roestelia betheli Kern),
has been dedicated to him by Dr. F. D. Kern now of the Pennsylvania State
College. Also Aecidium betheli and Uromyces betheli by
Dr. J. C. Arthur and Peridermium
by G. G. Hedgcock and W. H. Long, the latter
species now regarded as a synonym of Cronartium comandrae.
And in other fields of mycology he showed
similar interest. Many interesting specimens of discomycetes
have been sent to us in the course of the years. One cup-fungus, Godronia betheli, named
for him by the writer, was found to have an earlier name so must be relegated
In 1917 he began work for the United States
Department of Agriculture in the office of Forest Pathology and was connected
with this office until the time of his death. On October 3, 1924, he married
Miss Dorothy S. Stokeley of Philadelphia.
He has been a subscriber to MYCOLOGIA and a
loyal supporter of this periodical from its earliest inception. His loss will
be keenly felt by mycologists.
Cockerell, T. D. A.
1926. Ellsworth Bethel. Science 63(1625): 201-202.
ELLSWORTH BETHEL was born at Smyrna, Ohio
in 1863. In 1890 he became instructor in biology in the Eastside High School,
Denver, a position which he held until 1917. During
this long period he enthusiastically studied plant and animal life of
Colorado, paying special attention to those obscure and difficult groups,
such as the fungi and slime molds, which had been little investigated in the
West. Many hundreds of pupils passed through his hands, and to the great
majority he was able to communicate a fair measure of his own interest in
nature. Some eventually became competent investigators, and all spoke of him
with affection and respect. As a collector, Bethel was extraordinarily
active, by no means confining himself to those groups which he personally
studied. He was continually calling attention to the facts and problems in
such fields as entomology and conchology, in which he did not pretend to be
an expert. The great accumulation of plants, especially fungi, in the State
Museum at Denver, ran far ahead the possibility of critical study with the
available resources. It was always Bethel’s hope that he would be able, in
his later years, to thoroughly revise many of these materials. Unfortunately,
the state of Colorado could not appreciate the importance of work on the
native fauna and flora, and in the absence of financial support progress was
difficult. Thus Bethel was led to take
up work on economic mycology with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in
this field has left a distinguished record.
Bethel’s scientific discoveries were
numerous. In the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, close to the trail where
hundreds of tourists pass every year, his keen eyes detected a peculiar
snail, which proved entirely new to science, and was named after him by
Professor Junius Henderson.* In California, one April day in
1923, Bethel picked a mariposa lily, and noted an unusual looking bee in the
flower. It turned out to be a new
genus, which received the name Betheliella. Among
insects, those forming galls came in for special attention, and many new
species were discovered. There are very few whose natural history interests
are so wide, and fewer still who have the sort of intuition which leads them
to collect unknown or little-known species in groups they do not personally
study. In these respects Bethel combined the qualities of a naturalist of the
old school with aptitudes more characteristic of modern times. He was a pioneer of the West, and although cut
short in his prime, and variously handicapped during his life, he left a name
which will not be forgotten.
Mr. Haven Metcalf, Bethel’s chief in
Washington, sends me the following statement, with permission to quote:
1917 Bethel was appointed to the office of Forest Pathology as an associate
pathologist, at the time we were in confusion over the question whether the
white pine blister rust was or was not a native of America. A rust had been
collected in Kansas many years ago, which was passing in the literature as
blister rust. Suspicion pointed to the probability that this was a rust having its alternate stage on some pine other than
a white pine, and Bethel was the only man to whom we could turn for help on
this particularly complicated matter. His work played the dominant part in
leading to the demonstrations at the Western rust was a new species, Cronartium occidentale,
with its alternate stage on pinon pine, thus disposing of the fear that the
white pine blister rust might be native. Upon this conclusion rests the value
of the fall campaign against the white pine blister rust. Bethel’s knowledge
of the rusts of the Rocky Mountain region, or indeed of the whole West, was
prodigious. He was the best collector that I ever saw in action… He is
profoundly missed by a large group of coworkers and correspondence. There is
no one to take up his work.
Other botanists express themselves in
similar terms, all emphasizing Bethel’s tremendous industry and enthusiasm,
and readiness to assist others working in the same field. Ellsworth Bethel
died suddenly at Denver, Colorado, September 8, 1925.
*In regards to the new species of snail
discovered by Ellsworth Bethel, consider this information from Dr. Jeff Nekola of the Department of Biology, The University of
New Mexico, Albuquerque: “The
‘species’ [Bethel’s] obituary was referring to is Sonorella betheli Henderson, 1914. This turns out to be a total [error]. From Pilsbry
(1939): “Misled by a mistaken locality
given by the collector [Ellsworth Bethel], Junius
Henderson described rather small specimens (diameter 20.5 to 21.5 mm) as Sonorella betheli. In 1913 after visiting the Grand Canyon,
where the thought that shell was picked up, the late Prof. Ellsworth Bethel
spent some time in California. His
chief interest was botanical. Probably
these shells were taken near Los Angeles; the type in the University of
Colorado Museum and a cotype, 109733 A.N.S.P., both
of which I have seen, agree fully with [Helminthoglypta] traski from
that vicinity.” Nekola
adds, “H. traski
is the common Helminthoglypta
of the Santa Monica mountains, though it extends in to eastern and central
parts of the Santa Ynez as well. There
is also Oreohelix haydeni betheli Pilsbry & Cockerell,
1913. It’s from Glenwood Springs,
Colorado along steep bluffs north of the Grand River.”11 So… in the end, Bethel gets a snail…
but a different animal from that the one described in Cockerell’s
obituary in Science.
haydeni betheli Pilsbry & Cockerell
photo courtesy of Bagni Liggia, Worldwide Mollusc Species Database
Herbaria which curate Bethel’s specimens include 2,3,4,5,6
ISC Iowa State University
vascular plants, fungi
BRY Brigham Young University vascular plants
CM Carnegie Mellon Museum of
Natural History vascular plants
COLO University of Colorado vascular
CS Colorado State
DBG:KHD Denver Botanical Garden vascular plants,
F Field Museum
vascular plants, fungi, bryophytes
IND Indiana University
USU:UTC Utah State University vascular plants
MIN J.F. Bell Museum of Natural
History vascular plants,
MO Missouri Botanical Garden vascular
NY New York Botanical Garden vascular
plants, fungi, lichens, algae,
NYS New York State Museum fungi
NCSC North Carolina State University vascular plants
OSC:OSU Oregon State
University vascular plants, fungi
RM Rocky Mountain Herbarium vascular plants
SUU Southern Utah University vascular
NO Tulane University vascular plants
ARIZ University of Arizona
UCR University of California,
ILL University of Illinois vascular plants, fungi
MICH University of Michigan
vascular plants, fungi, lichens, algae
RENO University of Nevada
WIS University of Wisconsin,
Madison vascular plants, fungi
PH Academy of Natural Science,
Drexel University fungi
BRU Brown University
CUP Cornell University fungi
FH Farlow Herbarium of Harvard
LSUM Louisiana State University fungi
MU Miami University
MSC Michigan State University fungi,
PUR & PUL Purdue University
CHRB Rutgers University
BPI United States National Fungi
ARIZ University of Arizona
UBC University of British
UC University of California,
CINC University of Cincinnati
FLAS University of Florida fungi
NEB University of Nebraska
NCU University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill fungi
TENN University of Tennessee,
VT University of Vermont
WTU University of Washington fungi
RMS University of Wyoming
CFMR USDA Forest Serv., Center for Forest
Mycology Research fungi
FPF USDA Forest Serv., Rocky Mt.
Research Station fungi
WSP Washington State
US United States National
YU Yale University
1899. Notes and News. The Plant World 2(9): 154.
-----. 1899. A new method of drying botanical
driers. The Plant World 2(12): 199-200.
Bethel, E. 1911. Notes on some Gymnosporangium
in Colorado. Mycologia
-----. 1917. Puccinia subnitens and its aerial hosts. Phytopathology 7: 92-94.
-----. 1919. Puccinia subnitens and its aerial hosts, II. Phytopathology 9: 193-201.
Hedgcock, G. G., E. Bethel, and N. R. Hunt. 1918.
Pinon blister rust. J. of
Agricultural Research 14(10): 411-424.
Fred J. 1926. Ellsworth Bethel. Mycologia 18(4): 187-188.
2. Sernecportal.org searched on 29
3. Mycoportal.org searched on 29
4. Lichenportal.org searched on 29
5. Bryophyteportal.org searched on 29
6. Macroalgae.org searched on 29
7. Ancestry.com. Colorado,
County Marriages and State Indexes, 18622006 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Original data: Marriage
Records. Colorado Marriages. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, UT.
T. D. A. 1926. Ellsworth Bethel. Science, New Series 63(1625): 201-202.
9. Acoma, Mount. https://listsofjohn.com/peak/2772 accessed on 29 August 2017.
10. Frasera alibcaulis Griseb. var. modocensis (H. St. John) N.
H. Holmgren. http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-calrecnum=11695 accessed on 29 August 2017.
11. Pers. comm. Email Nekola to McCormick 29 August 2017.
12. “Oreohelix.” WMSDB – Worldwide Mollusc
Species Data Base by Bagni Liggia,
Genova, Italy. http://www.bagniliggia.it/WMSD/HtmSpecies/4250000070.htm accessed on 30 August 2017.
13. Pers. comm.
Email Alan Zahorsky, University of Mount
Union, to McCormick 29 August 2017.
14. Pers. comm. Email Alexandra Sharp, Tennessee Wesleyan
University, to McCormick 30 August 2017.