BLANCHE TRASK
acknolwedged five times by
ALICE EASTWOOD:
1898 to 1941
in Scientific Papers Published with the
California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco, California

1. "To name this in honor of the discoverer, the zealous collector Mrs. Trask, is a small tribute to her courage, and enthusiasm.
The quote is from 1898 for the discovery of Astragalus traskiae on San Nicolas Island.

2. "This, the most beautiful of the Pacific Coast Cercocarpi, was discovered by Mrs. Blanche Trask at the southern part of the island in a volcanic region known as 'Salte Verded.' It is a wild place, too rough for men on horses, with no trails but those made by the goats. Even in winter teh heat is great. She writes as follows concerning the place and the trees; 'There are about forty or fifty trees in an arroya so small that there is but room to squeeze through, a southern exposure where Ruin and Earthquake have passed and in whose footprints but few plants have dared to rise.' The sea dashes at the base of this arroya, the walls of which rise to a height of from 100 to 500 feet. The trees are all isolated, not at all forming thickets.
That any one should have found a new tree on an island that so many botanists have visited is surprising; but it is due to the great enthusiasm, the wonderful power of exploration, and the intense love for Santa Catalina Island and its flowers which Mrs. Trask possesses. It is with pleasure that I give her name to this tree."

The quote if from 1898 for the discovery of Trask Mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae) on Catalina Island.

3. "... Many additions have come from the collections of Mrs. Blanche Trask. She lived at Avalon for many years and walked over all parts of the island, even sleeping out in the open if night overtook here when she wandered too far. Her most complete collection was in the Herbarium of the California Academy of Sciences. It, togethe with all the other island collections, were better represented in the Academy herbarium than in any other, but all were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. Only the types were saved. Some specimens were distributed by Mrs. Trask to other herbariums and from these at least 30 have been described as new, most of them endemic to Santa Catalina Island. Undoubtedly as revisions of Californian genera appear, the number of new species will increase.
The most important and latest work on the flora of Santa Catalina Island is that of Millspaugh and Nuttall published in 1923 as one of the botanical publications of the Field Museum, Chicago. The description of the island has been my source of information, added to my own knowledge gained many years ago by several trips with Mrs. Trask."

The quote is from 1941 (Catalina) for Eastwood's Channel Islands Flora.

4. "Mrs. Trask describes the descent into any of the canyons leading to the sea as hazardous. The sharp volcanic rocks are completely hidden by dense vegetation. Trifolium tridentatum grows 4 to 6 eet high and the long thick stems spread vine-like so that to avoid being tripped, hands and feet are both needed to crawl down the steep defiles. Sailing around the island, Mrs. Trask could count the groves of Lyonothamnus up the canyons, and, near the summits, the oaks."

"Mrs. Trask spent three months on San Clemente Island in 1903. Here specimens were sent to me for identification, but both specimens and list were lost in the earthquake and fire of 1906. However, a fine descriptive account which was published in the Proceedings of the Southern California Academy of Sciences in 1904, described the appearance and habitat of some important species that Lyon did not list. Among these weree the two oaks, Quercus chrysolepis and Q. tomentella, Crossosoma californicum, heretofore listed only from Guadalupe and Santa Catalina islands, and Lavatera assurgentiflora, the tree or bush mallow restricted apparently to San Miguel, San Clemente, and Anacapa islands."

"The caves were evidently used as homes by the Indian inhabitants, as indicated by the traces that they have left."
The quote is from 1941 (San Clemente) for Eastwood's Channel Islands Flora.

5. "Mrs. Blanche Trask was the first to make a botanical collection on this island, and April, 1897, she spent some time there collecting the plants and relics of the former Indian inhabitants. Her account with list of plants was published by the author in the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (ser. 3, 1:89-120, - 1898)."

"...Mrs. Trask found no soil on the broad uplands but tons of pebbles, round as shot and about the same size, supporting only the ice-plant and some common weeds. A small lake was discovered where Eleocharis grew. The only fresh water comes from dripping rocks at the west end, wehre also the most abundant evidences of the former inhabitants can be found."

"Other species have been described from specimens that Mrs. Trask distributed to other herbariums. Altogether about 95 species and varieties have been listed from San Nicolas. Among the shrubs found by Mrs. Trask are Heteromeles arbutifolia, Lycium californicum, Lycium verrucosum, Artemisia californica var. insularis, Baccharis consanguinea, Coreopsis gigante, and two species of Opuntia."
The quote is from 1941 (San Nicolas) for Eastwood's Channel Islands Flora.


OBSERVATIONS OF A NATURALIST FROM THE 21st CENTURY
Robert Roy van de Hoek
December 2000

Blanche Trask, poet-explorer-naturalist, did most of her "California wild nature" exploration and writing on the Channel Islands of Southern California. She was a resident of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, California from 1895 to 1915 (spanning 20 Years). Her winter home was located adjacent to the Tuna Club in Avalon, but she also had a summer home at the Isthmus where the Institute of Environmental Studies of USC is currently located.

Blanche Trask also explored some of the desert mountains of the west, such as the San Jacinto Mountains, Colorado Desert, Death Valley, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Yellowstone. Many people have acknowledged her contritubitions over the last 100 years. Scientists, in particular, have noted her contributions, such as Alice Eastwood, Curator of the Herbarium for the California Academy of Sciences at San Francisco.

Alice Eastwood recognized the botanical exploration accomplishments of Blanche Trask by dedicating new plant names to her and writing profusely about her accomplishments, discoveries, and explorations. The only error by Alice Eatwood is her persistent use of "Mrs." since Blanche Trask was divorced by 1897. Blanche Trask and Alice Eastwood were a kind of "mutual admiration society." Both women respected each other tremendously. Both were independent explorers in their own right. Both loved "wild"flowers and the wilds of the west, including high "wild" places of the mountains. Both loved trees especially. Today, we would most certainly call them ecofeminists. I would term myself an ecofeminist as well. Eastwood and Trask travelled together, as noted by Eastwood, but not verified yet in Trask writing. There is probably a treasure trove of letters and notes between the two women, in the archives of the California Academy of Sciences. Alice Eastwood did an inspiring eulogy of Blanche Trask, that was noted by Willis Jepson in 1916. Jepson noted that Alice placed sprigs and branches of Trask Mahogany on the casket of Blanche. A few months after the funeral, Alice Eastwood visited Catalina in the spring of 1917. Was this visit to Catalina, apparently Eastwood's visit, a "kind of good-bye to Blanche," and were ashes distributed on Catalina? Did Alice travel to Catalina to visit people who would have known Blanche Trask?

Blanche Trask appreciated the desert landscapes of the southwest, as noted in her letters to Willis Jepson, but the California Channel Islands was her "sense of place." Indeed, the Channel Islands have a "desert feel" to them, if one spends some time on them. The Geography of Hope for Blanche Trask is undoubtedly Santa Catalina Island.

The above narrative was written and compiled by Robert Roy van de Hoek, December 7, 2000, for educational and inspirational purposes in the hope of someday adding the last three "southern" islands (San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina) to the five islands that already make up Channel Islands National Park. Both Blanche Trask and Alice Eastwood would whole-heartedly approve of a "All Eight Channel Islands" National Park. It is only fitting that these three "southern" islands be added to the "name-sake" of the National Park. If not, I propose that we change the National Park name to more accurately reflect truth: "Five Channel Islands." My point is that this "great" National Park is not "greater" but "lesser" as the current name would suggest. The northern Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) are a much greater distance from Santa Barbara Island than the three in question. These three "southern" islands are not far from Santa Barbara Island, which, by the way, already is in the National Park. Each of the three "southern" islands is roughly 20 miles from Santa Barbara Island but in different compass directions. San Clemente is "South," San Nicolas is "West," and Santa Catalina is "East."




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