(Hardcover, 1,236 pp.)
By Charles C. Deam, M.A., D.Sc., LL.D.
"I’ll leave my obituary in the books I create." Charles C. Deam (1865-1953)
"Prophetic to his word, the books of Charles Clemon Deam – or simply "Charlie" as he was known to his friends – do indeed reveal much about the man. A druggist, forester, and botanist from Bluffton, Indiana, Charlie Deam was meticulous, opinionated, studious, disciplined, driven, and even, shall we say, eccentric. Simply put, he was a character. But that character produced a collection of some of the most thorough botanical works ever published. His standards were high, as perhaps is best revealed in his magnum opus, Flora of Indiana (hereafter, the Flora). Published in 1940, with reprintings in 1970 and 1984, the Flora has served as the standard by which other state floras must be compared. Now over 60 years old, it has clearly withstood the test of time, and continues to be a primary source of information for any serious student of field botany.
Deam insisted upon the highest standards for his work, and strove to make the Flora as accurate as possible. That was clearly the policy when considering a species for inclusion in the book; it was his rule that every species included must be vouched for by at least one collected specimen. He examined over 84,000 specimens in preparation for the book, and from these he prepared keys, species accounts, and range maps showing species’ occurrence by county. Although these maps reflect the knowledge only as it existed in 1940, they continue to be useful today in determining a species’ general range in the state. This is especially helpful for the beginner, or one not familiar with Indiana’s flora, as it can reduce the field of options when trying to determine an unknown plant’s identity.
The Flora continues to be one of the first choices to consult when gathering information on wild plants. However, the utility of the Flora extends beyond species identification, range, and habitat. In our efforts to protect Indiana’s natural landscape we often find ourselves retracing Deam’s footsteps. In one example, information found in the Flora’s account of bog bluegrass (Poa paludigina) revealed the existence of an unusual habitat for southern Indiana, resulting in the discovery not only of the rare bluegrass, but a site that would become a state-dedicated nature preserve.
Information in Flora has also been very useful in the restoration of landscapes. Because Deam collected plants in every township of the state, we have an excellent record of what occurred in an area historically. This has been especially helpful when attempting to restore areas that no longer possess their native vegetation. A prime example involves an area in Daviess County, Indiana, where a major restoration project conducted by the Division of Nature Preserves has relied heavily on the Flora and Deam’s plant collection for guidance. Landscape restorationists throughout the state would do well by utilizing the Flora in similar fashion.
The Flora is clearly more than a list of plants. Many treasures are found within its pages, ranging from topics on early 20th century agrarian culture to herbal cures. There are frequent references to discussions with "old timers," including some of whom were the first European settlers in the state. Also mentioned are accounts of Deam’s own early activities on the family farm, such as when he used scissors to cut cockle and rye in a wheat field, or pulled common purslane by the bushel and fed it to the hogs. One of the most exciting bits of information, at least for me, was Deam’s statement that he had in his possession two books owned by Dr. Asa Clapp, a pioneer botanist who lived in New Albany in the early 1800’s. Dr. Clapp was Indiana’s first resident botanist, and his records of the state’s early flora are extremely important. Deam commonly referenced Dr. Clapp’s records in the Flora, but their source was never clear to me. Then, during a cozy, armchair reading of the Flora (yes, I enjoy reading the Flora like some read novels), I learned that Deam had owned Dr. Clapp’s books, and that Clapp’s records were written in them! That revelation, found specifically in Deam’s accounting of Trautvetteria, ultimately led to the current location of the books.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Deam – I was born the year that he died – but I often sense his presence whenever I see one of his plant specimens, retrace his footsteps into a natural area, or better yet, open a copy of the Flora. It should come as no surprise that I have a special reverence for the man and his work. Thus it brings me great pleasure that the Flora is available again, allowing others to share in the pursuit of understanding, and ultimately the appreciation and protection of our native plants and natural areas. So whether you’re a professional botanist, ecologist, teacher, wildflower enthusiast, naturalist, forester, wildlife biologist, soil scientist, landscape architect, horticulturist, or just someone wanting to know what that plant is in your backyard, this book is for you."
From the preface to this reprinting by Michael Homoya, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Nature Preserves