My dear Sir
I thank you for your kind note & offer of plants –
The plants which you grow are mostly so good & uncommon that I shd be very glad to see a list of your duplicates whenever you have leisure to make one.
You may recollect once bringing me a very nice nosegay of flowers – From that nosegay I managed to strike plants of Candollea tetrandra, Beaufortia, & Fresenia manicata–<1>
I quite agree with your strictures on the Nurserymen – Two years ago I saw at [illegible]’s fine plants of the Saxifraga Lantoscana – The foreman evidently knew nothing of Lantosca, so he boldly named it Saxifraga Launcestoni – probably he was a Cornishman<2>
I am Yrs very truly
T. R. Ellacombe
1. Candollea tetrandra, a four-stamened evergreen shrub native to Australia; named after Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (1778–1841), Swiss botanist and Professor of Botany at Geneva. Mary, Duchess of Beaufort (1630-1715) was a famous plant collector. Beaufortia, a plant from S W Australia, was named after her and introduced into England in the early 19th c. Fresenia manicata was named after Johann Baptist Georg Wolfgang Fresenius (1808-1866), medical doctor and Curator of the Senckenburg Herbarium at Frankfurt am Main.
2. Saxifraga lantoscana Variety of rockfoil. Probably named after Lantosca, to the north of Nice, which at the time was in Italy. (Launceston, Cornwall, is not the natural habitat of Saxifraga lantoscana).
3. James Orchard Halliwell, later Halliwell-Phillips (1820-1889), literary scholar and antiquary. In his Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, he gives this definition: “Culver-keys The bunches of pods which contain the seeds of the ash. Also explained, the columbine” 2nd ed., 1850, v. 1, p. 286). Culver in culverkeys is cognate with latin Columba, a pigeon or dove. The pods on the ash are said to resemble a bunch of keys. But explaining the transition from Columba/dove to a plant/tree probably generates as much disagreement today as it did in the late 19th c.
4. Thomas Wright (1810-1877) lexicographer, scholar and antiquary. With slightly different wording, he gives the same explanation as Halliwell's in his Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English (1857, v. 1, p. 265). Halliwell and Wright cooperated on some publications, but not in this case.