Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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

Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

Lars Romell

(4 December 1854 – 12 July 1927)

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued 101 specimens collected by Lars Romell.  Collected between 1885 and 1924, all are fungi of Scandinavia.  Romell and William Chambers Coker corresponded and exchanged specimens, including many specimens collected by Bresadola that Romell catalogued in the Riks Museum in Stockholm.  “In 1920 I [William Chambers Coker] visited Stockholm for the purpose of studying fungi in Fries’ own district, and at once looked up Dr. Romell, with whom I had previously corresponded.  He immediately placed everything he had at my disposal and with unparalleled generosity both in time and materials gave me assistance for the entire month I was in Stockholm.” 1    

Excerpts from Coker, William Chambers (1927)  Lars Romell.  J. Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 43 (1-2):  146-151.  A list of Romell’s publications is found on pages 149-151. 

     Lars Romell, noted mycologist of Stockholm, Sweden, died suddenly of heart failure on the night of July 12, 1927.    He was born on December 4, 1854, at Kumla in the province of Marke, Sweden.  He finished at the Orebro Iaroverk (high school) on May 29, 1876, and took his bachelor of arts degree at the University of Upsala in May 1885.  Shortly before his death he was voted the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Upsala.  As this honor was to be bestowed on him in September, he died without receiving it, but the faculty brought the laurel wreath to his funeral.  Before graduating in 1885 he was assistant master at the seminary or training school for teachers at Falun (1878-1882).  After graduating from Upsala, in order to further prepare himself for teaching, he spent one year (1886) at the College of Hogre Reallaroverket (science school), Stockholm.  He then taught for a year at the College of Norra Latinlaroverk, Stockholm.  For the following three years (1887-1890) he was adjunct master at Ostermalms Laroverk, Stockholm. 
     In 1890 he gave up teaching and went into the practice of patent law, by which profession he lived until his death.  … During five of his later years (about 1915 – 1920), Dr. Romell was engaged for part of his time in organizing and systematizing the fungal collections in the Riks Museum of Natural History near Stockholm.
     As a botanist Romell’s fame rests upon his contributions in the field of mycology.  His interest in fungi was first aroused by Hampus von Post of Upsala, with whom he kept up a very close friendship until the death of the latter in 1911.  As von Post had been associated with Elias Fries in the study of fungi, Romell had the great advantage of having an intimate personal connection with the knowledge and traditions of this great man.  Romell has for years been recognized as the greatest living authority on the Friesian species of higher fungi.  Just before his death he was planning an edition of some of the unpublished color plates of Fries, with critical notes of his own.
     Romell left large collections of fungi, many thousand photographs of fungi and their spores, several thousand prepared slide of spores, voluminous paintings and written notes. In 1920 he added his already large herbarium to the very fine and valuable herbarium of Abbe Bresadola of the Trentino, for which he paid about 18,000 Swedish crowns, an outlay which made necessary the most severe economies on his part.  His extensive correspondence with mycologists all over the world is preserved intact, both the originals and copies of his replies.
     In addition to the above facts, Dr. L. R. Romell furnishes me with some interesting personal interpretations of his father’s character and habits.  With slight changes in wording and phraseology, I give in the next three paragraphs the main part of this estimate.
     Dr. Romell was a very original man who sacrificed everything that ordinary mortals hold dear for the sake of his ideas and interests, among which spiritualism, occultism, and such things took perhaps as large a place as mycology.  He worked every minute when he was not sleeping or eating, and he made it a duty to eat as simply and cheaply as possible, even refusing to sit down while eating in order to save time.  … He ate practically no fungi except those which were poisonous, and these he ate in order to test the truth of this opinion.  He gave up this practice, however, some years ago after being made very ill by eating Entoloma lividum. 
     He was a typical enthusiast, always more or less obsessed by his ideas, and, in spite of his great modesty, with a certain tendency to do missionary work.  His first plan on leaving home was to study to be a preacher or missionary.  Having lost in Upsala his Christian faith, he became an ardent free-thinker, and his withdrawal from the teaching profession in 1890 was caused by a conflict he had with the parents of his scholars and the rector of the school because of his propagating anti-Christian opinions in his classes.  During the great war [World War I] he bought and distributed masses of pamphlets of the well known type in order to combat the “wrong” ideas prevailing in Sweden as to the “right” in the war, and he was absolutely blind to the underlying aims and purposes of the pamphlets. He tried also to stop the war by writing to the Queen of Germany and to the Pope!  He had, alas, too great a belief in the power of reason, truth and right in the world.
     Dr. Romell had a rich, all-around intelligence, though his obsessions hindered the complete unfolding of his spiritual personality.  He never read a novel or light literature because he liked only “truth,” not “invention.”  … He had a fine sense for colors, of which his water-color paintings of fungi bear witness, but he never saw the bluish tint on mountains because he knew that in truth, when viewed from near at hand, they were gray.  The ease with which he seized a new thought or invention, for example in technical things, his good style, and his facility for learning written languages were of great practical use to him in his work as a patent attorney
     I had a warm affection for the man.  To a mind of unusual power and accuracy, he added an elevation of character and beauty of spirit that deeply impressed all who knew him.



Entoloma lividum

1.  William Chambers (1927)  Lars Romell.  J. Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 43 (1-2):  146-151.


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University of North Carolina Herbarium
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University of North Carolina
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Last Updated: 13 March 2015