Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Compiled by Carol Ann McCormick, Asst. Curator, NCU
Special thanks to Dr. Jeff Nekola for photograph of Helicodiscus.

Bohumil Shimek
(25 June 1861-- 30 January 1937)

The University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU) has catalogued half a dozen specimens collected by Dr. Shimek. Given that plants of Iowa are not a high databasing priority for the UNC Herbarium, it may be quite a while before all his specimens in our collection are catalogued.

Shimek’s vascular plant herbarium, numbering 20,000+ was at IA and was transferred to ISC in 2004.  Shimek’s lichen herbarium (estimated to be between 5,000-8,000 specimens) has been on permanent loan from IA to MIN since the early 1970’s.  Other herbaria that have Shimek’s specimens include F, GH, ILH, SIU, US and WET. 1

Bohumil Shimek
Oil on Canvas byCloy Kent, 1969

©University Relations, University of Iowa. This photograph may be used for non-commercial purposes providing the holder of the copyright and University of Iowa Herbarium are credited.


Bohumil Shimek was born to Maria Theresa and Francis Joseph Shimek near Shueyville, Iowa.  His parents had immigrated to America from Bohemia in 1848 as refugees from political strife.  In 1866 the family moved to Iowa City.  Shimek graduated from the University of Iowa in 1883 with a degree in Civil Engineering, and worked as a surveyor for several years.2  In 1887 he married Anna Elizabeth Konvalinka (b. August, 1864), and together they had five children:  Ella (b. July, 1887), Bertha (b. May, 1888), Anna (b. March, 1893), Vlasta (b. October, 1895), and Frank J. (b. ~1901). 4, 5, 6  From 1888 to 1890 he taught Zoology at the University of Nebraska, then became an instructor in botany at the University of Iowa in 1890.  In 1895 he became an assistant professor and curator of the herbarium. In 1914 Shimek was an exchange professor of botany at the Charles University of Prague, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by that institution.  Upon the death of his wife, Anna, Shimek married Marjorie Meerdink in 1924.4  Prof. Shimek retired from the University of Iowa in 1932. 2

“Prof. Shimek was the most prolific collector of the flora that [Iowa] has seen.  His many thousands of collections are represented among the [Iowa State University’s] holdings of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, fungi and slime molds.  His extensive travels across the United States, to Nicaragua, and to Czechoslovakia added to the diversity of the herbarium’s holdings, but we are especially grateful for his contributions to our knowledge of Iowa’s flora through specimens he collected in every county in Iowa.” 3

“Professor Shimek’s botanical contributions were in the field of ecology in relation to prairies.  He strongly championed the concept that prairies were definite associations of species with common tolerance of intense light and raped evaporation and that their treelessness was attributable to the high summer temperatures and drying winds.  His notes comprise over fifty years of meticulous, quantitative observations which have followed the transitions of Iowa [and] surrounding prairies from pioneer time to the year of his death… Few scholars were able like Prof. Shimek to knit together vividly and accurately the whole story of natural history.  His was a life spent largely out-of-doors in direct contact with the things about which he wrote.  He was known for his insistence upon study in the field and the synthesis of the entire natural environment.  In 1901 Prof. Shimek took his first class of students to Lake Okoboji where in 1909 the Lakeside Laboratory was established.” 2

“As a zoologist Prof. Shimek found his chief interest in the study of snails and from his original interest along these lines developed his well known work on fossil forms for which he has long been recognized throughout the world.  His study of fossil malacology gradually developed into a broad interest in the Pleistocene geology of Iowa.  He published a number of papers on loess and its fossils and he is the author of the term Nebraskan, applied to the till sheet which underlies the Aftonian interglacial deposits.” 2  Shimek’s collection of 2.4 million shells was sold to the Smithsonian Institution upon his death.4

helicodiscus shimeki - top.jpg

Helicodiscus shimeki  Hubricht
Terrestrial snail from northeastern Iowa, photograph by Dr. Jeff Nekola

“Professor Shimek labored ardently in behalf of the independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and with his personal friend, Thomas G. Masaryk, the historian, he planned during the latter’s exile in America, much of the strategy which finally [resulted] in Czech independence and Masaryk’s election as the first president of Czechoslovakia… As a testimonial to [Shimek’s] patriotic services, he was awarded a special Czech medal of honor in 1927.” 2

Discus shimekii and Helicodiscus shimeki are land snails named in his honor.  In addition,  Bohumil Shimek Elementary School (Iowa City, IA), Shimek State Forest (Lee and Van Buren Counties in southeastern IA), and the Bohumil Shimek Environmental Educator Award (for outstanding efforts by a formal or non-formal environmental educator) all honor this son of Iowa.


1.  Harvard University Herbaria Index of Botanists.  accessed 5 December 2012.
2.  Macbride, Thomas Huston  (1934)  In Memoriam:  Dr. Shimek (1861-1937).  J. of the Iowa Acad. Science 44:  31-33.  Accessed electronically via on 4 December 2012.
3.  Lewis, Deb (undated)  Ada Hayden Herbarium History:  Timelines and People.  accessed on 5 December 2012.
4.  Conard, Rebecca. "Shimek, Bohumil" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 4 December 2012
5.  1900 US Census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Iowa City, Johnson, Iowa; Roll: 440; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0084; FHL microfilm: 1240440.  Accessed via 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. 5 December 2012.
6.  1920 United States Census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Iowa Ward 3, Johnson, Iowa; Roll: T624_408; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0089; ; FHL microfilm: 1374421.  Accessed via 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.  5 December 2012.



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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: 5 December 2012