Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

George L. Fisher
(8 January 1868 – 21 September 1953)

Information compiled January 2011 by Carol Ann McCormick,
Assistant Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium.
Special thanks to Ross Mowrey for providing family photographs.

“George L. Fisher represented a type of vanishing American:  the amateur naturalist who makes contributions of lasting value to the science of his avocation.  Wholly without technical training in the subject to which he devoted so much of his time, his unselfish interest led to the enrichment of scores of herbaria, large and small, and especially to the increase of our still too meager knowledge of the immense and complex flora of Mexico.  In a more sophisticated but surely not civilized age, there is no one to fill the niche he occupied to usefully.”
Lloyd H. Shinners (1954)  George L. Fisher.  Field & Laboratory 22(1):  24-26

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has only a handful of specimens collected by George Fisher.  As more of NCU’s collection is catalogued, it is possible that more will be found.

As the proprietor of American Botanical Exchange, George Fisher’s specimens can be found in many herbaria, including B, F, G, GB, GH, ILL, L, LCU, MANCH, MICH, MIN, MO, NH, NO, NY, PH, S, SI, TAES, UC, US, W, as well as NCU.


George Lewis Fisher, ca. 1950 
Photograph courtesy of Ross Mowrey, G.L. Fisher’s great-grandson

Shinners, Lloyd H. (1954)  George Lewis Fisher.  Taxon 3(3):  93.

GEORGE L. FISHER (1867 [sic] – 1953) 
George L. Fisher was born at St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, 8 January 1867 [Shinners corrects date to 1868 in Taxon 3(8): 247. 1954], and died at his home in Houston, Texas, 21 September 1953.  A teacher of instrumental music by profession, Mr. Fisher maintained an enthusiastic interest in botany from his early years, though he never formally trained in the science.  He collected herbarium specimens in Europe while a music student in the 1890’s, in Germany and England.  After settling in Houston in 1912, he made numerous trips to Mexico, as well as collecting widely in the United States.  From quarters in his garage, he operated the American Botanical Exchange, selling and exchanging plants with individuals and institutions throughout the world, but especially in Europe and in North and South America.  He did not maintain a permanent herbarium of his own:  any specimens he acquired might be sold or re-exchanged at any time.  Occasional price lists were printed from type which he set up himself.  In accordance with his own request, specimens and reprints on hand at the time of his death were presented to Southern Methodist University [SMU herbarium is, as of 1987, on permanent loan to BRIT].

The specimens total in excess of 10,000, mostly phanerogams, and are in addition to some 7,500 which the University acquired earlier by purchase.  They have been moved to Dallas, but are as yet unsorted and unmounted.  There are no plans to continue the American Botanical Exchange.

William G. Stewart has written a 100 page, illustrated book entitled George Lewis Fisher (1868-1953):  director of music and botanist extraordinaire of St. Thomas, Ontario [published St. Thomas, Ont.:  W.G. Stewart, 1983].  This book is in the collection of McMaster University, Hamilton Ontario.

Lloyd Shinners wrote a longer tribute to George L. Fisher in Field & Laboratory 22(1):  24-26.  It is from this work that the quote at the top of this page is from; Shinners tribute includes 2 photographs of Fisher.


Fisher, George L. (1926)  Fern collecting in Mexico.  American Fern Journal 16(2);  57-59.

In 1924 my vacation was spent and my plant collecting done in southern Mexico.  As for ferns, the trip was very interesting, resulting in the finding of many different species growing in many peculiar places.  A short description of three of the locations where ferns were plentiful may be of interest to readers of the JOURNAL.

The Pedregal is a lava flow from Mt. Ajusco about twelve miles to the south, is two or three miles wide at the end of the flow, and fills the entire valley to a depth of five to thirty feet.  The lava in coming down the mountain side and on the more level valley floor must have encountered pools of water because in many places there are blow holes eith to fifteen feet across and twenty feet deep.  On the edges of the lava flow, on the walls, and in cracks of the rocks are the homes of the ferns.

Those most plentiful, and about equal in numbers are:  Pellaea arsenei Christ, P. cordata J. Sm., Cheilanthes myriophylla Desv., Polypodium thyssanolepis A. Br., P. araneosum M. & G., Notholaena sinuata Kaulf., and N. bonariensis C. Chr.  Others less frequent, but still present in thousands to the acre, are:  Cheilanthes kaulfussii Kunze, Adiantum poiretii Wikstr., Asplenium praemorsum Sw., Bommeria pedata Fourn., and perhaps fifteen other species.

Under the lava at San Angel in an excavation is to be seen, in its original position, a human skeleton together with pottery, etc., pronounced by specialists to date from the Neolithic Age, a division of the Stone Age 4,000, 4,000, or some say 10,000 years B.C.  The electric car line from Mexico City to San Angel or Tlalpam, 12 miles, is the best way to go out.

Amecameca, at the foot of the volcano Popocatepetl, from which now only water and sulphurous gases are thrown out (the last fire and hot lava flow was over 100 years ago), is also a good location for fern collecting.  It is forty miles from Mexico City and has a couple of small hotels.

One mile up the small river, on a rock wall 200 feet long and 10 feet high, I collected 15 species.  Those most common were:  Polypodium polylepis Roem., Cheilanthes pyramidalis Fee, Woodsia mollis Sm., Pellaea ternifolia Link, Woodsia mexicana Fee, and the very beautiful Notholaena nivea Desv., with fronds four inches long, the under side snow white, as the name indicates.  Farther up the mountain are to be found:  Polypodium subpetiolatum Hook., Adiantum adnicola Liebm., Asplenium commutatum Mett., A. monanthes L., A. melanorachis C. Chr., about ten other species, and last that well-known Cystopeteris fragilis Bernh.

Orizaba in the State of Vera Cruz was another good fern center visited.  The altitude here is 4,000 feet, while the preceding stations were 7,000 to 9,000 feet.  The climate at Orizaba in July is like a New England June.  In the same month the higher altitudes are as the middle of May in New York, if not cooler.

With the temperature the species change, and at Orizaba we have:  Polypodium brasiliense Poir., P. angustifoilum Sw., P. aureum L., P. furfuraceum S. & C., Phanerophlebia remotisora Fourn., Asplenium pumilum Sw., Pellaea rigida Hook., P. flexuosa Link, Lycopodium reflexum Lam., Adiantum amplum Presl, A. concinnum H. & B., Dryopteris panamensis C. Chrs., a Nephrolepis, a Blechnum, two or three Cheilanthes, and about ten others, including a Selaginella.

At Cordoba, twenty miles on the way to Vera Cruz, tree ferns begin to make their appearance, and as one goes on to the south into the true Tropics, the workings of nature are going on in the semi-Jurassic Geological Age, so to speak; that is, relics of that distant age in the animal and plant life are here reproducing themselves.  This I will leave for a later article.

As already noted in the JOURNAL, the writer will make a collecting trip to the stations mentioned, leaving in July, and Fern Society members wishing to make the trip will be welcome.  – GEORGE L. FISHER, Houston, Texas.



  1. Fisher, George L.  (1926)  Fern collecting in Mexico.  American Fern Journal 16(2):  57-59.  Stable URL:


The UNC Herbarium would appreciate receiving more information about George Fisher. Please contact Carol Ann McCormick, Assistant Curator, by email or by phone at (919) 962-6931.

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University of North Carolina Herbarium
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University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930

Last Updated: 7 February 2012