The University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU)
has cataloged about 1,800 specimens collected by Robert Kral.† Without doubt many more will be found as
NCU continues to catalog.
Todd (2012) Vanderbiltís Robert Kral Fifth Member
of TNPS [Tennessee Native Plant Society] Hall of Fame.† Newsletter of the Tennessee Native Plant Society† 36(4):† 5.
Robert Kral grew up
on a dairy farm in Iowa and became inspired by his fatherís large library of
Luther Burbankís 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 100 papers and two books. A two-volume tome with detailed
information on rare plants of the Southeast amounts to over 1000 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 is 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
[University of Tennessee - Knoxville] described resides. The Cumberland
sandwort, Minuartia cumberlandensis,
is found in sandstone rock houses near the Tennessee/Kentucky border.
In the decade or so since retiring 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 botanist, are now housed a
facility in Texas. Thatís a long commute from southern Georgia, where he now
resides, and just one example of the dedication that made this man one of the
giants in botany in Tennessee and beyond.