Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

E. Kirby Smith
General Edmund Kirby Smith
(16 May 1824    28 March 1893)

Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick,
Assistant Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU)

The UNC Herbarium seeks more information on General E. Kirby Smith’s botanical activities.
Please email Carol Ann McCormick


The University of North Carolina Herbarium has only a handful of specimens collected by E. Kirby Smith.  All were collected in Tennessee, and date from 1874-1883.  As more of NCU’s collection is catalogued, it is possible that more will be found.  It is unclear whether the Herbarium at University of the South (UOS) in Sewanee, Tennessee has retained any of E. K. Smith’s specimens. 


Edmund Kirby Smith in uniform of United States Army
date unknown, probably 1845-1861

The Gray Herbarium at Harvard University holds specimens collected by E.K. Smith ca. 1855 in Mexico and Texas for the Mexican-American Boundary Survey.  This survey set the boundary between the US and Mexico as established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War.

     On the 25th of October [1854] I [William H. Emory] had succeeded in enlisting and equipping sixty or seventy men for the service, and in purchasing the necessary number of animals.
     The escort, consisting of a company of the 7th infantry, commanded by Brevet Capt. E.K. Smith, reported itself in readiness on the same day, and on the next we took up the line of march
[from Indianola, Texas] for El Paso.    
[Vol. 1, page 23, Report on the US & Mexico boundary survey…]


January 31, 1855

The commission met, according to agreement, at meridian.
The chief officers of the vicinity, military and civil, from both sides of the line, being present, the foundation of the monument was laid.  The following paper – one copy in English, other in Spanish – was signed by the two commissioners and by the persons aforesaid, placed in a glass bottle, and deposited, at the depth of five feet, under the centre of the monument:

 “We, the undersigned, have this day assembled to witness the laying of the foundation of the monument which is to mark the initial point of the boundary between the United States and the Republic of Mexico, agreed upon, under the treaty of Mexico, on the part of the United States by William Hemsley Emory, and on the Part of the Republic of Mexico by Jose Salazar y Larregui, latitude 31degrees47’.
W.H. Emory, U.S. Commissioner
Jose Salazar y Larregui
C. Radziminski, Sec’y U.S.B.C.
[United States Border Commission]
Joel S. Ankrim
E.B. Alexander
Caleb Sherman
E.K. Smith
Juan Jose Sanchez
Antonio Zepeda
Guadalupe Miranda
Vincente Aguirre                            
[Vol. 1, page 28, Report on the US & Mexico boundary survey…]

The details of the expeditions that performed the survey can be found in: United States Department of the Interior (1857-59). Report on the United States and Mexican boundary survey, made under the direction of the secretary of the Interior by William H. Emory. Washington, D.C.: C. Wendell, printer; volume 2 of the three volume set deals with the botany and zoology of the region. In addition to E.K. Smith, Bigelow, Thurber, Parry, Schott, and Wright collected botanical specimens on the US-Mexican boundary expedition.   

According to the Harvard University Herbaria database of botanists, Florida Museum of Natural History (FLAS) in Gainesville and the National Herbarium (US) in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. also hold specimens collected by Smith.


Edmund Kirby Smith in Confederate State of America uniform
date unknown, probably 1861-1865


Ramseur, George (1997 ) Botany at Sewanee:  A brief look back.  The Plant Press:  Newsletter of the Friends of the Sewanee Herbarium 1(1):  2.  Accessed  27 Jun 2011 <> 

     Botany was not a prominent topic in the planning discussions among the founders of the school which was to become the University of the South.  They were more concerned with matters such as the absence of malaria and the isolation from the evils of city life.  While the site chosen, Sewanee, turned out to be a botanist’s dream, the natural beauty of this section of the Cumberland Plateau and its plant diversity (especially the beauty of the early spring wildflowers) attracted the attention of many of the early residents.  From the arrival of the first students in 1868 until the appointment of General Edmund Kirby-Smith as professor of mathematics and acting professor of biology in 1875 there was no instruction in botany.  A graduate of West Point, he had taught mathematics there for four years before the [American Civil] war.  General Kirby-Smith is best known as the last Confederate general to surrender his troops at the close of the war between the states.  He was president of the University of Nashville for five years before he came to Sewanee.  Dr. Augustin Gattinger, the pioneer Tennessee botanist who came from Germany in 1849, published The Flora of Tennessee in 1901.  Following a public appeal for information on Tennessee flora, Gattinger says in the introduction to his book, “I received valuable contributions from my esteemed friend, the late Gen. E. Kirby Smith, at Sewanee.”


     General Kirby-Smith’s dual appointment was not unique.  With only ten faculty positions, many held appointments in several schools.  Although two student enrollment records list botany in 1877, the catalog does not mention the school of botany until 1878.  The entire entry: “Gray’s Manual of Structural Botany   Systematic Botany are used as guides to the course.  Sach’s Morphological and Physiological Botany, and Lindley’s Vegetable Kingdom should be in the hands of students for reference,” was not changed until 1887.  At that time Baskin’s Elements of Botany was added and the botany course was extended to two terms: “1.  Vegetable physiology with lab work, and 2.  Lab work and collection of an herbarium.” 


     When the medical department (the relationship of school to department was the reverse of modern use) opened is [sic] 1892, Gen. Kirby-Smith’s botany course was one of thirteen courses offered.  The number of botany students for the earlier years is unclear, but from 1883 until he died in 1893 about 50 certificates of proficiency in botany were awarded.  This certificate represented completion of a one or two semester course.


Genson, Mark (undated) Edmund Kirby Smith.  Accessed on 27 June 2011.  <>

Confederate States Army General Edmund Kirby Smith was born on May 16, 1824, in St. Augustine, Florida.  Son of Joseph Lee and Frances Kirby Smith, His father Joseph Lee Smith was a lawyer and a judge [sic].  Enrolled in the United States Military in 1841, graduating in 1845, and was commissioned a Brevet Second Lieutenant in 5th U.S.  Infantry.  He served in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott and was brevetted for gallantry.  After the war he taught mathematics at the Military Academy [West Point] and served in the 2nd U.S. cavalry in Texas.  When Texas seceded, Smith, now a major, refused to surrender his command to the Texas State forces and expressed his willingness to fight to hold it.  In 1861 he resigned from the army to join the Confederate forces.  He served as chief of staff to General Joseph E. Johnston at Harper’s Ferry and helped organize the Army of the Shenandoah.  He was commissioned colonel of the cavalry and rose to the rank of general.  While commanding a brigade in the army, he was severely wounded at Manassas (Bull Run).  In January 1863, Smith was transferred to command the Trans-Mississippi Department (primarily Arkansas, Western Louisiana and Texas) and he would remain west of the Mississippi River for the rest of the war.  He surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy on May 26, 1865.  After the war he went to Mexico and Cuba to avoid prosecution for treason, but returned in November [1865] to take the Oath of Amnesty.  He was president of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company, co-chancellor of the University of Nashville from 1870 to 1875.  In 1875 he left to become a professor of mathematics at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.  He died on March 28, 1893, at Sewanee, the last surviving full general of either army.  He is buried University of the South Cemetery, Sewanee, Franklin Co., Tennessee.



Plants collected by Capt. E.K. Smith on the US-Mexico Boundary:
Vesicaria lasiocarpa Hook ; Ringold barracks
Cleomella longipes Torr.; Saline plains, Sonora, June
Ceanothus greggii Gray; San Luis mountains in the same State
Frangula californica Gray; Sonora
Polygala alba Nutt.  Gravelly hills on the Rio Grande from New Mexico to the lower river.  Valley of the Santa Cruz river, Sonora
Krameria lanceolata Torr.; Hill-sides along the Rio Grande, from El Paso to Laredo, April – July.  Canon of Guadalupe, Sonora
Dalea laevigata Gray; Dry rocky places, valley of the Santa Cruz, Sorora
Dalea wrightii Gray; Canon of the Guadaloupe river, Sornora, April
Hosackia puberula var. nana Gray; Sonora
Lupinus pusillus Pursh; Tucson, Sonora, and valley of the Santa Cruz, Sonora
Prunin capollin DC.; Sierra del Pajaritos, &c., Sonora
Epilobium coloratum Muhl. ; Canon of Guadaloupe, Sonora
Philadelphus serpyllifolius Gray; Sonora, April
Eryngium wrightii Gray; Sonora, June-September
Lonicera dumosa Gray; Santa Cruz mountains; Sonora
Malacothrix fendleri Gray; Guadalupe canon, Sonora
Dysmicodon perfoliatum Nutt.; Canon of Guadalupe, Sonora
Arctostaphylos pungens H.B.K.; Mountain sides and dry ravines, San Luis, etc., Sonora
Chilopsis linearis DC.; Hills and ravines along the Rio Grande, Santa Cruz river, etc., Sonora
Penstemon dasyphyllus sp. nov.; Valley of the Santa Cruz river on mountain sides, and in the valley of the San Pedro, Sonora
Penstemon puniceus sp. nov. ; In the Guadalupe canon, Sonora, June, 1851
Penstemon wrightii Hook.; Santa Cruz mountains and Los Nogales
Penstemon barbatus Nutt.; Santa Cruz mountain
Castilleja integra sp. nov.; Guadalouope canon, Sonora
Elytraria tridentata Vahl. Var. caulescens Nees ; Sonora
Calophanes oblongifolius D. Don ; Valley of the Santa Cruz river, etc., Sonora
Drejera thurberi n. sp.; Canon of Guadaloupe, April
Salvia coccinea L.; Los Nogales, Sonora
Tetraclea coulteri Gray; San Bernardino, Sonora, April
Heliotropium greggii n. sp.; Boca Grande, Caracalio, March – April
Lithospermum longiflorum Spreng.; Banks of streams, canon of Guadalupe, Sonora, April
Eritrichium jamesii Torr. ; Dry ravines, San Luis, Sonora, April
Eritrichium angustifolium Torr.; Canon of Guadalupe Mountain, Sorora
Phacelia ciliata Benth.; Hill sides, Sonora, March
Phlox speciosa Pursh; San Luis Mountain
Convolvulus lobatus Engelm. & Gray; Canon of Guadalupe, Sonora
Asclepias nummularia n. sp.; Santa Cruz, Sonora
Asclepias involucrata (Engelm. MSS.); San Luis mountain, Sonora
Oxybaphus coccineus n. sp.; Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonora
Polygonum pennsylvanicum L. ; Sonora
Polygonum amphibium L.; Santa Cruz river, Sonora
Gomphrena caespitosa n. sp.; Rio de Santa Cruz, &c., Sonora
Phoradendron pauciflorum Torr.; Yanos
Euphoria radians Benth.; Plains between San Bernardino and Santa Cruz, Sonora, April
Euphorbia Montana n. sp. var gracilior; San Luis Mountains, Sonora
Euphorbia esulaeformis S. Schauer; San Luis Mountains, Sonora

Plants collected by E.Kirby Smith in Tennessee, specimens held by NCU:
Mertensia virginica DC.; Nashville, Tennessee, April 1874
Kalmia latifolia; Tennessee, 1880
Sedum nevii Gray; Sewanee, Tennessee, 1883
Hydrophyllum canadense L.; Sewanee, Tennessee, undated


For more information about Edmund Kirby Smith, see:

Parks, Joseph Howard. General Edmund Kirby Smith, CSA. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1954. ISBN 0-8071-1800-1



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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: 30 June 2011