The University of North Carolina Herbarium
(NCU) has catalogued about two dozen fungal specimens (all micro-fungi) and
several vascular plant specimens collected by Charles Wright. As our
collections continue to be cataloged, it is likely that more specimens
collected by him will be found. It is possible that NCU also has macrofungi collected by Charles Wright from his
explorations in Cuba, but these specimens only have the collector’s surname
and are not dated. Thanks to grants
from the National Science Foundation, all the mycological collections at NCU
are searchable via www.mycoportal.org and our vascular plants are searchable via www.sernecportal.org
Other herbaria that curate
Charles Wright’s specimens include the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University
(GH), the Farlow Herbarium also at Harvard University (FH) and the United States
National Herbarium (US) in Washington, D.C.
Charles Wright was born in
Wethersfield, Connecticut. While as an
undergraduate at Yale (1831-1835) he developed an interest in botany. He taught school for a year in Natchez,
Mississippi, then in 1837 moved to Texas where he taught, did survey work,
and botanized. He had a life-long
relationship with Asa Gray, botanist at Harvard, and Wright sent many of the
plants he collected to Gray.1
“In 1849, he joined an army
expedition (with [Asa] Gray’s help) through Texas, botanizing from Galveston
to San Antonio and then on to El Paso.”2
“When Col. J. D. Graham was
commissioned by the United States to establish a boundary line between the
United States and Mexico, in 1851, Wright was appointed Official Surveyor and
The United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (1848-1855) was
charged with determining the boundary between the US and Mexico as defined in
the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the Mexican-American
War. “In addition to its documentation
of the new boundary, the survey report was notable for its natural history
content, including paleontology, botany, ichthyology, ornithology and
his return home in 1852 he presented his collection to Harvard College.”1
“Between 1853 and 1856,
[Charles Wright] took part in the Rodgers-Ringgold North Pacific Exploring
and Surveying Expedition, collecting plants in Madeira, Cape Verde, Cape Town
[South Africa], Sydney [Australia], Hong Kong [China], the Bonin Islands,
Japan (at Hakodate, Tangeshima, the Bonin Islands
and the Ryukyu Islands including Okinawa) and the western side of the Bering
Strait... Wright left the expedition at San Francisco in February 1856 and
went south to Nicaragua...Between 1856 to 1867 he
led a scientific expedition to Cuba…In 1871 he went…to Santo Domingo.”2
Charles Wright returned to
Wethersfield, Connecticut after the trip to Santo Domingo.
“[Charles Wright] spent the
last 13-14 years of his life tending the family property in
Wethersfield. He did, however, spend
short periods of that time at Harvard, one such being the six months of
1875-1876 that he spent as acting librarian of the Bussey
(1759-1842) created an endowment at Harvard for the establishment of an
undergraduate school of agriculture and horticulture to be called the Bussey Institution.
Also included in his 1835 will was the grant of his estate, “Woodland
Hill” in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts to the President and Fellows of Harvard
College which would be the site of the school… Enrollment in the program was
never very large, averaging about eight students during the years 1880-1895,
and only ten undergraduate degrees were ever granted…In 1930, the Bussey faculty was merged with the faculty of Arts and
Sciences and in 1936 the Bussey staff was
transferred to the Biological Laboratories in Cambridge. The Bussey
Institution remained as a holding agency and its funds were used to support
the Arnold Arboretum… The histories of the Bussey
Institution and the Arnold Arboretum are often intertwined. The Arboretum was established on what had
been Bussey Institution land, and at different
periods the two institutions shared staff, including administrators, and
“[Charles Wright] died
suddenly at home in Wethersfield [on] August 11, 1885.”1
Charles Wright Elementary
School in Wethersfield, Connecticut is named in his honor.5
PUBLICATIONS by (or about) Wright’s collections:
Gray, Asa. 1852.
Plantae Wrightianae Texano
An account of a collection of plants made by Charles Wright, A. M. in
an expedition from Texas to New Mexico in the summer and autumn of 1849, with
critical notices and characters of other new or interesting plants from
adjacent regions, etc. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Grisebach, A., Asa Gray, and Charles Wright. 1860-1862. Plantae Wrightianae
e Cuba orientali.
American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Muller, J. 1894.
Arthoniae et Arthothelii,
species Wrightianae in insular Cuba lectae. Bulletin
de l’Herbier Boissier. II:
“Charles Wright, Botanist” Wethersfield
Historical Society document.
“Charles Wright (botanist).”
Wikipedia accessed on 7 March 2016.
3. “United States and Mexican Boundary
Survey.” Wikipedia accessed on 7 March
5. Martha Smart, pers. comm.
6. http://mssa.library.yale.edu/obituary_record/1859_1924/1885-86.pdf page 303.