Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
Assistant Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium.

Ronald Leighton McGregor
(4 April 1919 – 21 April 2012)

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued about 50 specimens collected by R.L. McGregor.  All are from the Great Plains of the United States of America.  As more of NCU’s collection is catalogued, it is without doubt that more will be found.

McGregor’s specimens are widely distributed to herbaria across North America, but KANU was his prime repository.  In 1990 the botanical collection at the University of Kansas was named the Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium.


Ronald L. McGregor, undated 
Photograph courtesy of the Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium, Kansas University

Freeman, Craig (2012)  Ronald Leighton McGregor 1919-2012.  Flora of North America Newsletter 26(1):  14.


Ronald Leighton McGregor, Curator Emeritus of the Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium at the University of Kansas, died April 21, 2012, at the age of 93.  Born in Green, Kansas, on April 4, 1919, he graduated from high school in Oregon, Missouri, in 1937.  He received his B.S. degree in botany from the University of Kansas in 1941 and started graduate studies at KU that same year.  He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, stationed most of that time in the Pacific Theater.


Ron resumed his graduate studies at KU in 1946, completing his M.S. in 1948 and Ph.D. in 1954.  He was promoted to Assistant Professor at KU in 1954, when he also took over directorship of the herbarium, then with about 70,000 specimens.  He was promoted to Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Botany in 1957 and to Professor in 1961.  He administered the construction of a new botany greenhouse and a new herbarium building on KU’s West Campus in the early 1960s.  Around that same time, he initiated systematic efforts to document he plants of the Great Plains with financial support from the Bridwell Foundation.  The Foundation helped underwrite field expeditions to every county in the Great Plains, garden plot studies of range grasses, and specimen preparation into the 1980s. 


Ron continued to serve as Chair of Botany until 1969, when he became the first Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.  He continued in that capacity until 1973.  From 1955 to 1973, he advised 21 M.A. and 19 Ph.D. students, many of whom went on to careers in academia and science.  In 1971, he helped convene a meeting of Great Plains botanists.  That group formally organized as the Great Plains Flora Association in 1973, with Ron serving as the coordinator.  The Association published the Atlas of the Flora of the Great Plains in 1977 and the Flora of the Great Plains in 1986.


From 1973-1983, Ron served as the Director of the Kansas Biological Survey.  In 1984, with funding from the Bridwell Foundation, he oversaw construction of an annex to the herbarium building; the entire building was named the Joseph S. Bridwell Botany Research Laboratory in 1985.  Ron continued to serve as Professor and Curator until 1989.  At his retirement in 1989, the herbarium had grown to nearly 300.000 specimens.  In 1990, the collection formally was named the Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium and “dedicated to the study of the Great Plains flora.”


Ron authored nearly 200 papers and books during his career and collected nearly 42,000 specimen numbers in the U.S. and Mexico.  His duplicate specimens are widely distributed among North American herbaria and frequently cited in the literature.  He served as a regional reviewer for the Flora of North America project, putting his prodigious knowledge of Great Plains plants to good use.  He also authored treatments for five genera in Hydrangeaceae; those will be published posthumously in Volume 12.  He was active at various times in more than a dozen professional organizations.


Ron continued to work in the herbarium nearly every day after retirement until April 2009.  On rare occasions when he took time off from the herbarium, he enjoyed fishing and working in his garden.  Ron was keenly interested in Kansas history, and he had an encyclopedic memory for dates, places, people, and events.  He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Dorothy M. McGregor.


[Dorothy Nuffer and Ronald McGregor were married 13 February 1942.    R.L. McGregor is buried in Pioneer Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas.  The family requests that memorials be made to the Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium at the University of Kansas.]

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

Last Updated: 25 July 2012