Saturday, March 11, 2017

1920 - Chapman's Honey-plant Postmortem by Dr. C. C. Miller

(His first name was Charles, but he was known as C.C..)

This brief summary of the rise and fall of the Chapman Honey Plant was written by Dr. C. C. Miller.  While he slams it for bee pasturage, it will still make a great plant in the garden for you to observe the nectar gathering of honeybees and other local pollinators.  

By chance I just learned who he was in the history of beekeeping this morning. His Fifty Years Among the Bees, is a well-known memoir/bee how-to book that documents the life of a man who found his bliss was to follow honeybees for his life's work rather than be a physician. 

I don't know why people thought Echinops sphaerocephalus was introduced to the United states so late as Grant Thorburn had it in his seed catalog in 1827.  

CHAPMAN HONEY PLANT (Echinops sphaerocephalus).

The Chapman honey plant was introduced from France about 1885.    The bee journals of 1886 and 1887 devote a large amount of space to a discussion of this plant. It was brought prominently to the attention of American beekeepers by Hiram Chapman, of Versailles, New York, who planted about three acres of it at that place. He made such glowing reports of the plant at the National Beekeepers' Convention that a committee of prominent men was appointed to visit the Chapman home and report on the new plant at the convention of the following year. They made a lengthy and very favorable report, which is published in full on page 28 of the American Bee Journal for January 5, 1887.

Numerous beekeepers secured seed, and so attractive did the plant prove to the bees that favorable reports appeared frequently in the columns of the journals for the next few years. However, the great expectations were not realized, for it soon disappeared, and is seldom mentioned in current literature. 

The following quotation from Dr. C. C. Miller, which appeared in Gleanings, in December, 1918, is probably a correct estimate of the value of the plant:
"After reading the British Bee Journal of September 26, I should have made a vigorous effort to secure a supply of seed of Echinops Sphaerocephalus, if I had no previous experience with the plant. No bee plant that I have ever grown was so attractive to the bees. Whenever the weather was favorable the heads were crowded. I have counted fourteen or fifteen bees on one at the same time."
This is the Chapman honey plant that had a big boom in this country a number of years ago; but it is not heard of now, and is not included among the honey plants in the bee books. Upon its introduction I planted quite a patch of it, and like Mr. Harwood, I never saw the bees so thick on any other plant. But close observation showed that the bees were not in eager haste in their usual way when getting a big yield, but were in large part idle. It looked a little as if the plant had some kind of stupefying effect on them. At any rate, I should not take the trouble to plant it now, if land and seed were furnished free.