Front Page Titles (by Subject) Observations on Isatis Tinctoria and Other Plants MAY 1856 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings
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Observations on Isatis Tinctoria and Other Plants MAY 1856 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXXI - Miscellaneous Writings, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1989).
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Observations on Isatis Tinctoria and Other Plants
Phytologist, n.s. I (May 1856), 331-2. The first entry under the heading “Botanical Notes, Notices, and Queries,” which is also the running title. Signed “J.S.M.” Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography only in the general note, “Botanical Notes signed J.S.M. in the second series of the Phytologist, No. 13, for May 1856, and in many subsequent numbers”
(MacMinn, p. 88).
in the “Descriptive British Botany,” publishing in the Phytologist, it is stated, under the initials of Mr. Irvine, that he has never observed Isatis tinctoria (except an occasional straggler) on the west side of the river Wey.1 It will be agreeable to this accurate and trustworthy investigator of localities (by whose indications many others as well as myself must have been often guided to rare plants) to be informed that this fine plant grew in the utmost profusion in 1849 (and doubtless grows still) in the great chalk-quarry near Compton, on the south side of the Hog’s Back, a place easily overlooked by a passing botanist from being masked by a Larch-wood in front.
It is also stated that Iberis amara grows in fields in Berkshire—Pangbourne and Streatley.2 The range of this very local plant is considerably wider than these words would import, as it is also found in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire; especially, and most plentifully, in the range of country north of the Thames, from Henley to Maidenhead.
My experience agrees with that of your Tring correspondent (p. 105) as to the botanical poverty of the Chiltern Hills,3 a fact the more remarkable as the southern portion of the same chalk district is one of the richest in the midland counties. Alchemilla vulgaris however grows in the woods of Chequers; and I have found Paris quadrifolia in a woody ravine adjoining Stokenchurch Common. Buxus sempervirens helps to adorn the steep chalky declivities near Ellesborough, and grows also on the hills between Tring and Dunstable. Pyrola minor I have gathered on the same range of hills, further south, near Nettlebed; and in great profusion in various parts of the woody region towards Wycombe and Marlow.
As you have thought it worth while to print a new Surrey locality for Lycopodium Selago,4 which has been found in that county by several botanists, you will perhaps allow me to mention one which I believe not to be generally known. The Lycopodium grows in considerable abundance on the east side of a sort of pass through and over Chobham Ridges, leading in the direction of Frimley. The path goes directly through the large field which Mr. Watson, some years ago, pointed out as a habitat of Arnoseris pusilla;5 and in the same field I found, in October, 1849, a moderate quantity of Linaria purpurea, a plant of which the indigenousness has been doubted, but this situation closely resembles the continental localities of the plant.
The Phytologist very judiciously directs much of its attention to the geographical distribution of plants. On this subject much may be learnt by the careful examination of a single county, and there are counties and even smaller districts in England which deserve particular notice as forming the transition between two distinct botanical regions, or combining portions of both. The Isle of Wight is an example of the first kind, Surrey of the second. That county, besides its great variety of geological structure and of vegetation as thereon dependent, contains within its narrow limits an eastern and what may be termed a sub-western flora. The domain of the latter is the tract of heath and sand extending from Esher and Moulsey diagonally to Hindhead and Haslemere. While a great proportion of the plants of the eastern region are wanting in this, it possesses many which are not found further east, and is still more distinctly characterized by the abundance of several, of which only stragglers are found in the region of Croydon, Godstone, Reigate, and Dorking. It is the chosen seat of Apera Spica-Venti; Silene anglica; Hypochoeris glabra (which abounds there, while I have seen it nowhere else in Surrey except a few straggling plants on Reigate Heath); Erysimum cherianthoides and Marrubium vulgare (both found near Reigate, but in no similar abundance); Athyrium Filix-foemina, more profuse there than elsewhere; Myrica Gale; Senecio sylvaticus; Geranium lucidum; Rhynchospora alba; I believe I might add Hieracium rigidum, but the Surrey Hieracia, though less numerous, require revision as much as those of Yorkshire. Campanula Rapunculus is plentiful in one corner of the district. Among its varieties are Campanula patula; Comarum Palustre; the two Elatines, Hydropiper and hexandra; Chaetospora nigricans, which I had the good fortune to rediscover in its old recorded locality, Bagshot Heath; Hippuris vulgaris; Utricularia minor; Arnoseris pusilla; Linaria purpurea; Leonurus Cardiaca; Allium vineale; Zannichellia palustris; Ceterach officinarum.
Has Calamintha Nepeta been ever really found in Surrey? Several botanists have thought they had found it, but by no search in the localities indicated have I discovered anything nearer to it than Calamintha officinalis. A Calamintha taller than officinalis, but with much smaller leaves, resembling those of Origanum vulgare, and with a stem not erect, but ascending from a bend near the root, which I believe to be C. Nepeta, I have seen in various places on the Continent, among others especially near Rouen; and this plant grows, or did grow in 1843, by the side of the road from Marlow to Hedsor and Clifden. I last year recognized what seemed the same plant (but did not botanically examine it) between Eynsford and Farningham, in Kent. Perhaps some one among your correspondents, who has attended to the subject, would give your readers the benefit of his experience.
[1 ]Alexander Irvine (1793-1873), who accompanied Mill on botanical field trips, editor of the Phytologist 1855-63, issued eight-page consecutively numbered fascicles as supplements to the journal from 1855 to 1858; these are gathered under the title British Botany. The reference actually derives from information supplied in an article by Edward Newman in the Phytologist, I (Nov. 1841), 82.
[2 ]Irvine, “Fields in Berkshire (Pangbourne and Streatley), and Kent (Greenhithe),” British Botany, p. 57.
[3 ]Anon., “Notes of a Day’s Botanizing about Tring, Herts, June 29, 1855,” Phytologist, n.s. I (Sept. 1855), 105-8. Mill is responding partly to Irvine’s questioning (ibid., p. 108) of the correspondent’s finding.
[4 ]Not located.
[5 ]Not located.