Tennessee Botanist Hall of Fame
The TNPS Hall of Fame was established to give recognition to those who have made lifetime contributions to the scientific knowledge and understanding of Tennessee’s native flora. This award includes a lifetime membership in TNPS.
Dennis Horn was a charter member on the Tennessee Native Plant Society when the society was established in 1978, and was instrumental in the early years of shaping what we now recognize as our society and what it does. Whether it was leading a field trip or sharing his knowledge of our native flora at a garden club meeting, Dennis quickly became one of the go-to people in TNPS.
Hailing from southern Illinois, Dennis moved to Tullahoma to take a position at Arnold Engineering Development Complex. He enjoyed a distinguished career as an engineer there, but soon began to explore his adopted Tennessee landscape and became fascinated with the diversity of plants he encountered. Although not a trained botanist, Dennis used his engineering skills to plunge into a scientific study of our native plants. In short order, he became an almost encyclopedic store of botany knowledge, whether it was the scientific name for a species, the distinguishing characteristics for identification, or a location where it could be found.
When the state proposed to establish a rare plant list, Dennis was invited to participate on the Tennessee Rare Plant Scientific Advisory Committee as part of the Rare Plant Protection Act of 1985. The Committee is composed of 12 botanists from across the state which meets at least once every three years to review the list and propose listing new species or delisting those that are determined to have become more secure.
Dennis is probably known to most wildflower enthusiasts in the state as one of the authors of the Society’s illustrated field guide, “Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and Southern Appalachians.” Over a decade in the making, Dennis worked with the other authors on all aspects of the book from the text to the photographs to fundraising.
As co-author David Duhl observed, “When Dennis and I worked together co-editing the Wildflowers of Tennessee book, I tried to be prepared, but that paled in comparison to Dennis. Dennis’ notes were such that photographers, photos, and locations were all cross-referenced and dated. I was dumbfounded until I remembered that Dennis was an engineer! It was that attention to detail that led to the success of the book. I’ll always remember those long days of working together and I’ll always appreciate Dennis’ commitment, dedication, and friendship.”
Dennis has dedicated himself to sharing his love of Tennessee’s botanical heritage and desire to preserve it for future generations. To those of us who have been lucky enough to spend hours in the field and in discussion with him, Dr. Edward Chester best sums up how we all feel about Dennis. As Dr. Chester recounts, “Only a few times in one’s life will they know a person whose friendship is staunch and everlasting, even when they know about your failures, shortcomings, and dark hours. Such friends are doubly important when they are colleagues, eager to collaborate, but not afraid to quietly point out errors and suggest improvements. Dennis has been (and remains) just such a friend and colleague. He has always been ready and willing as we have sought to present and archive information gleaned from our concepts of the botanical world. Early on I realized, with his help, that our efforts, whether in the field or with pen or computer, were not for our self-glory, gratification, or to put our name on a page. Instead, our work had the primary purpose to share our often meager knowledge, accumulated over decades, with peers, and perhaps more importantly, to make it easier for those who will follow these paths and expand, and correct if necessary, our efforts.”
We welcome Dennis Horn to our TNPS Botanists Hall of Fame.
Dr. B. Eugene Wofford
Dr. Eugene Wofford is probably best known as the Director/Curator of the University of Tennessee herbarium in Knoxville where he mentored both graduate and undergraduate students, instilling them with the importance of documentation and conservation.
Always interested in rare plants and their conservation, Dr. Wofford was part of the committee that formulated the first statewide list of Tennessee rare plants in 1978. Later, in 1980, he was one of eleven botanists appointed to develop an official list and work with the Natural Heritage Program to facilitate the list. He remains a member of the Tennessee Rare Plant committee.
Over the years Dr. Wofford has published numerous papers, atlases, and keys to our state flora, including (with others) the “Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee” and the “Woody Plants of Kentucky and Tennessee” (with Ron Jones).
Dr. Hal DeSelm
His colleagues at the University of Tennessee note that before his death in July 2011, Professor DeSelm “compiled the most comprehensive sample of the natural vegetation communities of Tennessee in existence. As a distinguished conservation biologist and professor of botany and ecology… he was responsible for the conservation of some of Tennessee’s rarest ecosystems…. He sampled over 3,000 sites, primarily in old growth forests, but also in wetlands, floodplains, barrens, and glades.”
“He catalogued many reference sites that no longer exist in their natural state. Remarkably, this work was largely funded by Dr. DeSelm and his wife…. It was a labor of love. These data are a treasure to the state of Tennessee, as was he.” (Tree Improvement Program, DeSelm Papers: treeimprovement.utk.edu
DeSelm envisioned using his data to compose a book, “The Natural Terrestrial Vegetation of Tennessee,” but his death kept him from realizing his dream. A plan has been developed to organize the data and to prepare for publication.
Ed Schell worked as a physicist in his home state of Ohio, in D.C. and in Tennessee. He published a book “POTOMAC-The Nation’s River” in 1976. He later moved to Johnson City, TN.
Ed first noticed native plants while bird watching. He wanted to learn what plants the birds were nesting in, feeding from, etc. He mentored Allen and Susan Sweetser and many other folks with his vast knowledge of our native plants. Many thought Ed was a trained botanist when in the field. Some of the most mentioned field trips are when Ed lead his group. There was always something special to see. He explored the Mountains of Roan and collected many species for the State of Tennessee. He was a field trip leader for TNPS, Southern Highlands Conservancy, TN Nature Conservancy, Roan Mountain Naturalist Rally, Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage, and Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia, to name a few.
Ed Schell gave freely of his time and his beautiful photographs. He won the prestigious Ansel Adams Award in 1990 from the Sierra Club for his work in photography. He coauthored “Tennessee” with Wilma Dykeman. His pictures are on the walls of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, in the introduction of the TNPS wildflower book and on many notecards and items for sale by many environmental groups.
Dr. Robert Kral
Robert Kral grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa and became inspired by his father’s large library of Luther Burbank’s writings. After studying forestry and serving in World War II and Korea, he continued his education at Florida State University, where he earned his doctorate. He then began teaching and would eventually settle in 1965 at Vanderbilt University to teach for the next 30 years.
He has contributed to the botanical literature to the tune of over one hundred papers and two books. A two-volume tome with detailed information on rare plants of the Southeast amounts to over 1,000 pages. He even contributed illustrations for those volumes. While producing those documents he was diligently fleshing out the intricate details of botany in the southeastern United States. He was also fulfilling his duty teaching at Vanderbilt University and curating a growing collection of plant specimens. Along the way, he became the recognized authority on the genus Xyris and has discovered several new species in that group. He even discovered a new species of Xyris in Tennessee, Xyris tennesseensis.
His contributions to ongoing projects are significant. His work on difficult groups, like sedges, for the Flora of North America project, is proof of his extensive knowledge. Other botanists think so highly of Dr. Kral that they have named new species in his honor. The latest of these was just described by Dr. Dwayne Estes. Penstemon kralii is found in areas of limestone outcrop soils on the southern Cumberland Plateau. His influence also extends to the northern end of the plateau where the species that he and Dr. Eugene Wofford of UT described resides. The Cumberland sandwort, Minuartia cumberlandensis, is found in sandstone rock houses near the Tennessee/Kentucky border.
In the decade or so since he retired from teaching at Vanderbilt Dr. Kral has continued to curate the treasure trove of specimens he accumulated during his long career. These specimens, which were collected by Dr. Kral and numerous other botanists, are now housed in a facility in Texas. That’s a long commute from south Georgia, where he now resides, and just one example of the dedication that has made this man one of the giants of botany in Tennessee and beyond.
Dr. Elsie Quarterman
Elsie Quarterman was born in 1910 in Georgia. She completed her undergraduate work at Georgia State Woman’s College in 1932. Post-graduate studies were done at Duke University where she obtained her Ph.D. in 1949 under Henry J. Osting. She accepted a faculty position at Vanderbilt University and later became the University’s first female department chair, heading the Biology Department in 1964.
Dr. Quarterman is best known for her work on the ecology and plant communities of the cedar glades of the Central Basin. She is widely recognized for the re-discovery of the Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) in 1969, a plant once thought to be extinct and subsequently the first plant endemic to Tennessee to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. She has received many honors including our very own TNPS Conservation Award. The Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade State Natural Area was named in her honor in 1998.
Dr. Aaron J.(Jack) Sharp
Aaron J.(Jack) Sharp was born in 1904 in Plain City, Ohio. After completing a B.S. degree in Botany at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1927, he garnered a Masters from the University of Oklahoma and eventually a Ph.D. from Ohio State University in 1938. Sharp came to the University of Tennessee in 1929, but did not attain full professorship until 1946 and became the head of the Botany Department in 1951. He was associated with the UT Herbarium until 1973.
Dr. Sharp was an internationally-recognized expert in the field of bryology and wrote many seminal papers on the subject. Dr. Sharp was a champion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, serving as its first botanist, and was instrumental in starting the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. His love of the mountain wildflowers culminated in his authoring of the “Great Smoky Mountain Wildflowers” field guide. He was bestowed the Distinguished Service Award by the Tennessee Environmental Education Association in 1991 and was elected to the Linnean Society of London in 1992. Dr. Sharp died in 1997.
Dr. Augustin Gattinger
Augustin Gattinger was born in Munich, Germany in 1825. He studied medicine at the University of Munich. When time allowed him to be away from his medical studies, he pursued an interest in botany with a friend, Ferdinand Arnold, who went on to become a leading expert in mosses and lichens. While at university, Gattinger became involved in radical politics and was forced to leave the country.
He and his new wife immigrated to America in 1849, eventually settling in Kingston, Tennessee. Dr. Gattinger practiced medicine there and began exploring the flora of the area. He eventually moved to Ducktown where he worked as the doctor for the copper mines. From there he studied the plants of the Cumberlands and Smoky Mountains and all the ridges and valleys in between for fifteen years.
After the Civil War, he moved his family to Nashville and became the State Librarian, a position which allowed him free travel by freight and passenger train, of which he took advantage to visit other areas of the state to botanize. At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1877, several botanists in attendance convinced him to publish his studies as a flora which he did ten years later. The state commissioned an official Flora of Tennessee, an expansion of his original work, and his landmark scientific contribution was published in 1901. He died two years later in 1903.
In 1785 he traveled to North America accompanied by his 15-year-old son who was also a noted botanist. He initially constructed a garden in New Jersey and explored the New York/New Jersey area collecting plants along the way. Less than a year later he did the same thing, establishing a garden in Charleston, South Carolina from which he explored the southern Appalachians of North Carolina and Tennessee. Michaux returned to France in 1796, leaving over 260 species in Tennessee for which he was the scientific author. Three species in Tennessee bear the specific epithet of michauxii in his honor. Over 200 years later, André Michaux is still recognized for his accomplishments.