Historical Figures in KY Botany


A History of Floristic Botany in Kentucky

(Excerpts from Plant Life of Kentucky by Dr. Ronald L. Jones)

Floristic botany is the branch of science that deals with the occurrence and distribution of plant species in a region. These studies typically involve field surveys, collection of voucher specimens, listing of known species, and description of new species. Formal botanical investigations in Kentucky did not begin until the late 18th century, with the studies of the great French botanist André Michaux. In the first half of the 19th century Kentucky was actually a hotbed of botanical activity, involving C.W. Short, C.S. Rafinesque, and others. Studies conducted in the region contributed to some of the major floristic publications of the day. The period between the Civil War and the World War I was a time of stagnation in the botanical sciences, and little progress was made in Kentucky. Botanical activity increased in the 1930’s and 1940’s, but a major catastrophe in 1948 sent Kentucky field botany into a downward spiral from which it is only now recovering.
The following is an account of significant individuals and major events in the botanical exploration of Kentucky, from the late 1700’s to the present. It is divided into the following periods: Antebellum Period, prior to 1860; the Postbellum Period, 1860–1900; the Beginning of Modern Field Botany, 1900–1948; and the Recovery Period of Kentucky Botany, 1948–present.

  • The Antebellum Period (Prior to 1860)
  • The Civil War and the Postbellum Period (1860-1900)
  • The Beginning of Modern Field Botany (1900-1948)
  • The Recovery Period of Kentucky Botany (1948-Present)
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