Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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



Collectors of the
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU)

Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
Curator, NCU

Paul James Philson
(20 August 1905 – 14 Feb 1998)


The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has catalogued about 50 specimens collected by Paul James Philson, who always signed his specimen labels as “P. J. Philson.”   All specimens at NCU are vascular plants, and most were collected in New Zealand.  As more of our collection is catalogued and databased, no doubt more specimens collected by Philson will be found. 

Other herbaria curating specimens collected by P. J. Philson include:
University of Arizona (ARIZ; vascular plants)
Brigham Young University (BRY; vascular plants)
Campbell University (CAU; vascular plants)
Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM; vascular plants)
Field Museum (F; algae)
University of Michigan (MICH; algae)
Missouri Botanical Garden (MO; vascular plants)
New York Botanical Garden (NY; algae)
Drexel University (PH; algae)
San Diego State University (SDSU; vascular plants)
University of California, Berkeley (UC; algae)
University of South Florida (USF; algae & vascular plants)
University of South Carolina, Columbia (USCH)
University of Wisconsin (WIS; vascular plants)
Swedish Museum of Natural History (S; fungi)

Paul James Philson was born on 20 August 1905 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.1  His family must have moved to Greer, South Carolina when he was young as his obituary lists him as a native of that city.2  He earned a B. S. from Furman University (Greenville, South Carolina) in 1928, M.A. from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) in 1931, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minnesota) in 1935.  The title of his thesis was “The freshwater algae of North and South Carolina, Part I.  Cyanophyceae,” and his advisor was Dr. Josephine Tilden.3

On 9 October 1934 Philson arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia aboard the “Moldavia” as a member of a botanical expedition to New Zealand and Australia in 1934-1935.  His profession, according to the ship documents, was “Phycologist & Taxonomist.”4  Many of the plants collected were distributed in “Josephine E. Tilden.  South Pacific Plants, Second Series, 1934-35” exsiccatae.  Sometimes Philson incorporated plants collected on the Tilden expedition into his collection, and he usually retained the exsiccatae number as his collection number (see below).

NCU accession #364734 (above), NCU accession #93979 (below).

The 1940 census lists P. J. Philson as living in Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina and working as an instructor at the University of South Carolina in that city.  His wife, Ruby Austin (1909-1999)5 and three year old daughter, Camilla are listed as living at the same address.1 (A son, Robert Austin Philson was born after 1940.2)  Philson served as the Curator of the University of South Carolina Herbarium (USCH) upon the death of Dr. Andrew Charles Moore.6

Philson died at age 92 in Georgia, and his obituary says that in addition to working for the University of South Carolina, he worked for the Columbia Waterworks.2  He and his wife Ruby are buried in Westover Memorial Park, Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia.5


PUBLICATIONS (probably a partial list)
Philson, P. J. 1935.  The freshwater algae of North and South Carolina, Part I.  Cyanophyceae.  Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota, Dept. of Botany. 
Philson, P. J. 1939.  Freshwater algae of North and South Carolina, Part I., Cyanophyceae.  Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 55(1):  83-116.
Philson, P. J. 1940.  Species of Oedogonium new to South Carolina.  Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 56(1):  106-110.


1.  Year:  1940; Census Place:  Columbia, Richland, South Carolina; Roll: m-t0627-03833; Page:  18B; Enumeration District:  40-30.  1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.  Accessed on 7 February 2019.

2.  Obituary notice for Paul J. Philson.  The Augusta Chronicle (GA) 16 Feb 1998. .  Accessed on 7 February 2019.

3.  63rd Annual Commencement, 1935.  University of Minnesota.  Page 45.;jsessionid=F6E0C566EB7D0F65E073D66F6740B7E6?sequence=1 .  Accessed on 7 February 2019.

4.  National Archives of Australia; Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600.; Inward passenger menifests for ships and aircraft arriving at Fremantle, Perth Airport and Western Australian outports from 1897-1963; Series NumberK  K 269; Reel Number:  76.  Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.,%20USA&msypn=26&msbdy=1905&_83004003-n_xcl=f&catbucket=rstp&MSAV=1&uidh=yn9&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=1258328&recoff=6%207&dbid=5378&indiv=1&ml_rpos=17  accessed on 7 Feb 2019.

5. Find A Grave Memorial #23228285.  .  Accessed on 7 February 2019.

6.  Personal communication, John B. Nelson, Curator, USCH via email to McCormick 7 February 2019. 



University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium
CB# 3280, 401 Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931


Last Updated: 10 February 2019