The plant genus Collinsia is named after Zaccheus Collins (1764 – 1831) who was known to William Bartram and likely, his niece Ann Bartram Carr. We asked our curator Joel Fry to share some insights on Collins.

Says Joel, “Zaccheus Collins was a well-known amateur botanist and plant collector in Philadelphia. He never seems to have published anything, so most of the references we have are when Collins mentions the Bartrams or the Garden in letters to others. In later Bartram catalogues, Robert Carr (Ann’s husband) mentioned Collins as a source for plants, seeds and botanic information.”

“The genus was named by Thomas Nuttall (a friend of William Bartram and Ann and Robert Carr) in 1817, based on plants Nuttall had seen in the Ohio River valley and midwest in 1810 and 1816. The species Nuttall first collected and described as Collinsia verna, which is called ‘spring blue eyed Mary’.”

Joel also shared with us several letter fragments Zaccheus Collins wrote, each making reference to William Bartram:

Zaccheus Collins to Henry Muhlenberg, September 24, 1812. [HSP, Muhlenberg Letters: 183]

“Your friend W. Bartram whom I visited last week reciprocated in warm terms your expressions of esteem and remembrance. He showed me for Pinus serotina Mich. An examination could only be made by throwing stones at a considerable height, which produced no pine leaves nor any cone. One or two poor cones laid on the grass not worth sending to you. And yet Mr. Bartram calls this tree Mountain Pine and Pinaster Pine.”

Collins to Henry Muhlenberg, November 18, 1813 [HSP: Collins Correspondence, 26.]

“I crossed the Schuylkill to your old frd. W. Bartram. We spoke of Athamanta Chinensis Willd. He had not his father’s journal the last copy of which I think he said was in possession of Dr. Barton, but his father was among the smaller southern lakes… Returning from W. B’s I stopped at Mr. Lyon’s… If [your son] has not forwarded the Catalogue to W. B. will offer to do so, as I am about to send him something.”

Collins to Jacob Bigelow, Boston, Philadelphia, October 11, 1818. [private collection]

“…. The Schooner Hero, Capt. Daggett left this on the 8th and may be at Boston as soon as the present letter. Apply on board for a little open box containing a growing plant of Aristolochia serpentaria, roots of Euphorbia ipecac, Spiraea trifoliata & Convolvulus panduratus. These were put up under the direction of the worthy Mr. Bartram, my friend, still living at the old Bot. gardens, home of the father of Amer. Botany. You will only have to pay the freight.”