Roberts, Edith A. & Elsa Rehmann | American Plants for American Gardens

  • First edition, first printing of this rare work by a pioneer of modern ecology, Vasser professor Edith A. Roberts (1881-1977). Presentation copy inscribed by the author on the front free endpaper, “To a very interesting student, Edith Terry, Edith A. Roberts”.

    Roberts attended Smith College and earned her doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1915, then worked as an associate professor at Mount Holyoke. During the First World War she travelled throughout the US as a field representative of the US Department of Agriculture, “advising women who were managing farms while their men were away in the service. But Roberts once told an interviewer that she thought ‘all women [who are] going to run a family should have plant science. It is basic to living’” (Ringel, “Edith Roberts: A Haven for Native Plants”, The Vassar Alumnae/i Quarterly, fall 2012).

    After the war Roberts was appointed professor botany at Vassar, where she created the Duchess County Outdoor Ecological Laboratory, “one of the first of its kind in the world”, a plot on which more than 2,000 species of native plants were studied (Ringel). She conducted research on seed germination, propagation of native plants, the development of starch in potatoes grown under different environmental conditions, and, together with colleague Mildred Southwick, made the important discovery that the original source of vitamin A is young green and yellow plants.

    Roberts worked closely with Vassar landscape architect Elsa Rehmann, who interpreted her ecological work for garden design purposes. Together they became advocates of natural landscaping and wrote a series of articles on plant ecology for House Beautiful magazine that were collected and published as the present work in 1929 (Wayne, American Women of Science Since 1900). Each of the eleven chapters discusses a different North American ecological zone, including open fields, birch forests, oak woods, stream-sides, ponds, bogs, and the seaside.

    Bibliography: Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 1107

  • ...Plant Ecology–The Study of Plants in Relation to Their Environment. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929.

    Octavo. Original red cloth, titles to spine gilt. 11 plates from black and white photos. Wear at the ends of the tanned spine, contents lightly foxed. A very good copy.