Moses Ashley Curtis     (1808 - 1872)

Image of Cyptotrama asprata from Abbé Giacomo Bresadola (1927 - 1960) Iconographia mycologica
Cyptotrama asprata

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Further Sources
Selected publications


1808     May 11, born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts

1827     graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts

1830     moves to Wilmington, North Carolina, to be a tutor for Governor Dudley's children

1833     returns to Massachusetts to study for ministry

1834     marries Mary de Rosset

Photo of Entoloma abortivum by Leon Shernoff
Entoloma abortivum1835     ordained

1837     moves back to North Carolina to teach in an Episcopal school at Raleigh

1841     becomes rector of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Hillsborough, North Carolina

1847     in charge of a parish at Society Hill, South Carolina

1857     returns to the P.E.C. at Hillsborough

1872     April 10, died in Hillsborough, North Carolina

Both Weber & Smith and Gray mention his conviction of the importance of wild fungi as a food source, particularly during the devastation following the Civil War, during which

"he turned his knowledge of them to useful account for his family and neighborhood; and he declared that he could have supported a regiment upon excellent and delicious food which was wasting in the fields and woods around him." (Gray)

Curtis was the son and grandson of ministers. He was named for his mother's father, Gen. Moses Ashley, who was chaplain of the Massachusetts state prison for many years.
Curtis was mainly a wonderful collector. Gray notes that he "was among the first to retrace the steps and rediscover the plants found and published by the elder Michaux, in the higher Alleghany [sic] Mountains." However,

"when he had exhausted the limited field in Phaenogamous botany within his reach, he entered upon the inexhaustible ground of mycology, which had been neglected in this country since the time of Schweinitz. ... For the last twenty-five years his scientific studies were mainly given to mycology, in which he became a proficient, and the highest American authority." (Gray)

His collections enriched the herbaria of Peck, Farlow, Berkeley, and Charles Edwin Bessey.
He also carried on a fruitful correspondence with his colleagues: around 1845, he started collecting lichens for Edward Tuckerman, and started corresponding with Fries. In 1847, he started corresponding with Berkeley, and sent him many specimens with descriptions and notes. The depth of their association can be seen from the fact that most of Curtis' species were actually published by Berkeley in his series "Notices of North American Fungi", which was begun in 1872, after Curtis had already died.
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Dr. Asa Gray (1889) Scientific Papers of Asa Gray

Harry Baker Humphrey (1961) Makers of North American Botany

Nancy Smith Weber & Alexander Hanchett Smith (1985) A Field Guide to Southern Mushrooms

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Further Sources

Cornelius Lott Shear & N. E. Stevens (1919) "The mycological work of Moses Ashley Curtis" in Mycologia

W. J. Youmans (1889) "Sketch of Moses Ashley Curtis" in Popular Science Monthly

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Selected Publications

Moses Ashley Curtis (1843) "Enumeration of Plants Growing Spontaneously Around Willmington, N.C." in Boston Journal of Natural History May
This paper is interesting because, although the Curtis clearly didn't know much about taxonomy or how to describe his plants, he managed to record "as many phanerogamic species as had been recorded for the state up to that time." Makers of North American Botany, p.64
Gray notes that in this work,
Dr. Curtis corrected the account of the mode of its wonderful action which had prevailed since the time of Linnaeus, and confirmed the statement and inferences of the first scientific describer, Ellis, namely, that this plant not only captures insects, but consumes them, enveloping them in a mucilaginous fluid which appears to act as a solvent.

Miles Joseph Berkeley & Moses Ashley Curtis (1849 - 1850) "Contributions to the mycology of North America" in American Journal of Science and Arts
Series 8-10
Publication of species co-determined by Berkeley and Curtis (probably mostly Berkeley, actually)

Miles Joseph Berkeley & Moses Ashley Curtis (1860) "Characters of new fungi, collected in the North Pacific exploring expedition by Charles Wright" in Proceedings of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, USA 4 pp. 111 - 130
The "North Pacific" in the title refers to the area of the country that we now call the Pacific North-West. If Wright was at all a good collector, I imagine that they got some great things out of this trip.

Miles Joseph Berkeley & Moses Ashley Curtis (1869) "Fungi Cubenses" in The Journal of the Linnean Society. Botany 10 pp. 280 - 392
Part 1 of the article, on the Hymenomycetes, is co-authored; part 2, starting on page 341, covering a variety of non-basidiomycetous fungi, is by Berkeley.
I'm not sure what this is a flora of.

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Abortiporus fractipes (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Ryvarden & R. L. Gilbertson
Aleurodiscus oakesii (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Höhnel & Litschauer
Boletus retipes M. A. Curtis & Berkeley
Bovista pila Berkeley & M. A. Curtis
Callistosporium luteoolivaceum (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Singer
Cheimophyllum candissimus (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Singer
Cortinarius iodes M. A. Curtis & Berkeley
Cyptotrama asprata (Berkeley & M. A. Curtis) Redhead & Ginns
Cyptotrama chrysopeplum (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Singer
Entoloma abortivum (M. A. Curtis & Berkeley) Donk
Hygrophorus nitidis M. A. Curtis & Berkeley
Lactarius hygrophoroides M. A. Curtis & Berkeley
Laetiporus persicinus (Berkeley & M. A. Curtis) R. L. Gilbertson
Lycoperdon pulcherrimum Berkeley & M. A. Curtis
Nolanea murraii (Berkeley & M. A. Curtis) Saccardo
Nolanea quadrata M. A. Curtis & Berkeley
Phallus ravenelii Berkeley & M. A. Curtis

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Wynnea M. A. Curtis & Berkeley

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