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Monroe Birdsey


		Notes on Monroe Birdsey by Tom Croat (1967-1999):

	I first learned of Monroe Birdsey back in the late 1960's when I was 
commuting back and forth to Panama for work on the Flora of Barro 
Colorado Island.   I had corresponded with him for for over 30 years 
despite the fact that in recent years he prefered to telephone than to 
write.   In his first letter to me in 1968 he writes "While my time is very 
limited due to extensive teaching duties, I will try my best to help in 
identifying the aroids."   I was naturally asking him for help in determining 
the Araceae I was finding on Barro Colorado Island and he was the only 
authority known to me at the time.  

	Having told him that I was working on Barro Colorado Island and in 
Panama in general he continued "I hope that you will do a better job than 
Standly, especially in respect to illustrations.  I am a firm believer in the 
old cliché about the value of  a picture to many words.  What I have in 
mind is something like "Plantas Indeasables" of Puerto Rico"

	Finally, always on the lookout for another living plant he asks "Are 
you in a position to collect living plants of the Araceae (I have a USDA 
permit) for my collection?"

	We corresponded extensively through the 1970's mostly on 
Syngonium, Typhonium and the Schott plates in Vienna.  Monroe had an 
extensive collection of negatives (numbering 
5000) of pictures he had taken in European 
herbaria and he eventually contributed these to 
the Herbarium of the Missouri Botanical Garden.   
His microfiche of his thesis came here as well as 
the result of the correspondence.  

	In 1975 he wrote that his collection 
consisted of "50-60 genera and at least 300 
species"  I wonder if anyone knows of a card file 
that he might have kept over the years detailing 
his collections.

	In December of 1976 he reported that he was 
going to go on sabbatical for six months and he 
took several trips during this time to foreign 
countries.  It was also in 1976 that I first 
tried to meet him and this was one of the more 
memorable events in my involvement with him. On 
November 4, 1976 he wrote in a letter "Can you 
not manage, in you "comins and goins" to Central 
America, to stop over in Miami? I would be more 
that willing to share any plants in my collection 
with the garden." (Missouri Botanical Garden).  
Later on my return from Panama I wrote to him on 
December 2, 1976 "I was amused by your comment 
that I should come to visit you and to see your 
Araceae.  The last time I was in Miami, I called 
your home one evening in hope that I could make 
arrangements to see your collection. You were 
apparently out that evening, so I tried it again 
the following morning at about 8:00 AM, and when 
you answered the phone, I don't believe you that 
you were actually awake, because I recall your 
conversation was rather unintelligible".   Later, 
when I  mentioned this to Monroe in person he 
claims not to remember this incident at all!  I 
guess it was just too early in the morning.  I 
finally  managed to meet him for the first time 
on my way to Panama in 1977 and regularly visited 
him almost every year since that time.  

	In 1980 I sent him a copy of my revision of 
Syngonium which I had been somewhat reluctant to 
do since in fact Monroe had done a revision of 
sorts of most of the species of Syngonium, 
stressing anatomical work and I thought he might 
be annoyed with me for going ahead with a full 
revision of the genus.   His thesis was an 
excellent peice of work but it was also apparent 
that he did not intend to publish it and others 
were in need of a revision of the genus.  He 
gratiously accepted to review my unpublished 
manuscript and gave me instructive comments. 

	Further correspondence throughout the 1980's 
dealt with a wide variety of topics and was even 
more extensive than in the previous decade and 
for the first time I notice that I am not asking 
all the questions. We always exchanged a lot of 
plants and a lot of information about aroids 
throughout my career.  In the 1990's we sent a 
lot of plants to him and correspondence was 
mostly about this, the questions and answers had 
pretty much been discontinued.  One of my last 
letters to him was in September 8th, 1997 when I 
wrote asking him if I could bring Pete Boyce to 
visit his collection on our whirl-wind tour from 
St. Louis through Nashvillle, Atlanta, Tampa, 
Sarasota, Alva, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale to  
Orlando.  My very last letter was an invitation 
for him to come to the VIII International Aroid 
Conference to give one of the evening lectures.  
He did not respond.

	Monroe Birdsey was a wonderfull yet an 
anomalous individual and one whom  I must admit I 
never fully understood.  He would scold you if you did not 
come visit him but scold you again if someone else happened to come 
along. At the same time he was generous to a fault  with his 
plants, often recklessly jerking a plant out of 
the ground to give it to you at the slightest 
hint that you would like it.  Yet, on the other 
hand he could scold you like an errant school 
child if you step off the path in the wrong way 
and threatened to endanger one of his plants.   
He was always full of information and his library 
was extensive and wonderful.  Some of his books I 
had otherwise seen only in the rare book room at 
the Missouri Botanical Gardens or at Kew.  He had 
an amazing memory of where his plants came from 
and knew them all by heart.  Which of us does not 
remember his sweeping tours through his back and 
front yard  (for his modest house is literally 
buried within his garden).   I for one will truly 
miss having those tours and would even put up 
with  listening to his many puns if I could do it 
just once more.  

	Tom Croat
	P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany
	Missouri Botanical Garden
	St. Louis, Missouri 63166





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