Written by Rebecca Camfield, one of the members of our digitisation team.

During digitisation you come across many interesting treasures and stories. This is just one of them. It began with stumbling across a label that read “collected by Mrs Augustine Henry & Miss Henry”, dated 1894. I was intrigued as I thought it might be a mother and daughter at first glance. Yet it turned out to be a quite somber moment in time and of heartache.

Specimen of Hydrophyllum fendleri
Specimen of Hydrophyllum fendleri https://data.rbge.org.uk/herb/E01001553

Mrs Augustine Henry was in fact Mrs Caroline [Orridge] Henry, the first wife of esteemed plantsman Professor Augustine Henry. A renowned medical officer turned botanist and forester after he was tasked with studying medical plants in 1882, as an Imperial Customs medical officer. He collected over 15000 specimens in his lifetime.

On the 20th June 1891 he married Caroline Orridge, the daughter of a London Jeweller after his first year back in England after 8 years in China. They soon headed back to Shanghai, China. During the trip to China she caught tuberculosis and with her ill health could only help out a little when plant collecting. In the hope of improving her health they first moved to Taiwan and then to Japan, where she helped collect plants near Kobe. Unfortunately her health continued to degrade, so they planned to move to Denver, Colorado. She set off first with Henry’s sister Mary in 1894. He planned to follow after agreeing to sell his herbarium to Harvard. However, Caroline died September 1894.

The specimens we have in the herbarium are dated to that year. The two ladies were out collecting plants so that Henry would have a collection to work on upon arrival or perhaps just to pass the time. According to W.B.Hemsley the two ladies made quite a considerable collection.

They were only married for 3 years but a new genus of primulaceae was named after her, Carolinella henryi Hemsl. Collected by her husband, No. 10735.  Although today it  has been sunk back into Primula it still retains its link to her as Primula carolinehenryae S.O’Brien. Mostly due to the fact that Primula x henryi Hort existed so a new name was needed. The type collection is at Kew where most of Augustine’s collection were sent: http://apps.kew.org/herbcat/getImage.do?imageBarcode=K000732859

I am glad that this little dive into who a collector was resulted in the finding of the type for a species named in honour of them.

Specimen of Penstemon glaber
Specimen of Penstemon glaber https://data.rbge.org.uk/herb/E01046336


Primula World post on Carolinella henryi: https://primulaworld.blogspot.com/2016/04/sweet-caroline-section-carolinella.html

Protologue for Carolinella henryi: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/16049293#page/64/mode/1up

National Archive records for Augustien Henry: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C16386