Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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

Weakley's Flora



Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

Wilbur Howard Duncan
(15 October 1910 -- 25 March 2005)


This photograph of Wilbur Duncan (ca. 1983) appeared in the 2005 issue of Tipularia: The Journal of the Georgia Botanical Society (volume 20, page 2). The entire issue was dedicated to Dr. Duncan.

With approximately 10% of the UNC Herbarium's 750,000 specimens catalogued to date, we have found over 200 specimens collected by Wilbur Duncan. Most are from the southeastern United States. The earliest specimen of his so far catalogued in NCU's collection -- Cypripedium parviflorum from Pinnacle Mountain in Sevier County, Tennessee -- dates from 1938. The most recent specimen -- Commelina diffusa -- was collected in a cornfield near Gardi in Wayne County, Georgia in September, 1979. As we continue to database our collection, no doubt more specimens collected by Wilbur Duncan will be found. Duncan collected over 30,000 specimens, often in multiple sets, that he distributed to herbaria around the southeastern United States. He and his botanist wife, Marion Bennett Duncan, wrote several botanical field guides for the general public.

Besides NCU, other herbaria that have significant numbers of Wilbur Duncan's specimens include:
GA University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, U.S.A.
A & GH Arnold Arboretum and Gray Herbaria, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
IA University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A. (transferred to ISC in 2004)
MO Missiouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
US Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Selected single author publications
Duncan, W. H. 1933. Root systems of certain woody species of old fields. A. M. Thesis, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.
Duncan, W. H. 1933. Ecological comparison of leaf structures of Rhododendron puctatum Andr. and the ontogeny of epidermal scales. Amer. Midland Naturalist 14: 83-96.
Duncan, W. H. 1940. A study of root development in three soil types in the Duke Forest. Ph.D. thesis, Duke University, Durham, NC.
Duncan, W. H. 1940. A new species of oak from Georgia. Amer. Midland Naturalist 24: 755-756.
Duncan, W. H. 1941. Guide to Georgia Trees. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
Duncan, W. H. 1944. A new species of Baptisia. Rhodora 46: 29-31.
Duncan, W. H. 1948. Preliminary reports on the flora of Georgia -- 1. The distribution in Georgia of spermatophytes new and rare to the state. Castanea 13: 70-83.
Duncan, W. H. 1950. Preliminary reports on the flora of Georgia -- 4. Notes on the distribution of flowering plants including species new to the state. Castanea 15: 145-159.
Duncan, W. H. 1950. Synonymy in Viburnum obovatum and V. cassinoides. Rhodora 52: 179-182.
Duncan, W. H. 1950. A new variety of Arenaria. Phytologia 3: 282.
Duncan, W. H. 1950. Stamen numbers in Cuphea. Rhodora (volume number ?) 185-188.
Duncan, W. H. 1950. Quercus oglethorpensis -- range extensions and phylogenetic relationships. Lloydia 13: 243-248.
Duncan, W. H. 1954. Polypodium aureum in Florida and Georgia. Amer. Fern J. 44: 155-158.
Duncan, W. H. 1954. More and more weeds in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 12: 99-102.
Duncan, W. H. 1955. New records for Georgia ferns. Amer. Fern J. 45:1-10.
Duncan, W. H. 1957. Asimina (Annonaceae) in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 15: 9-15.
Duncan, W. H. 1959. Leaf variation in Liquidambar styraciflua L. Castanea 24: 99-111.
Duncan, W. H. 1959. A naturally occurring F1 hygrid of Monarda media and M. fistulosa. Rhodora 61: 301-305.
Duncan, W. H. 1960. Azolla caroliniana Willd. in Georgia. Amer. Fern J. 50: 266-267.
Duncan, W. H. 1962. Stemmed white violets of Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 19: 75-76.
Duncan, W. H. 1962. Data on sessile-flowered Trillium (Liliaceae). Castanea 27: 165-173.
Duncan, W. H. 1964. New Elatine (Elatinaceae) populations in the southeastern United States. Rhodora 66: 48-53.
Duncan, W. H. 1966. Disjuncts in the southeastern United States. Amer. J. Bot. 53: 633.
Duncan, W. H. 1966. Asplenium X kentuckiense on granitic gneiss in Georgia. Amer. Fern J. 56: 145-149.
Duncan, W. H. 1967. Woody vines of the southeastern United States. Sida 3: 1-76.
Duncan, W. H. 1969. Celastrus (Celastraceae) in the southeastern United States. Sida 3: 309-310.
Duncan, W. H. 1971. Angelica triquinata (Umbelliferae) southward and Lotus helleri (Leguminosae) westward into Georgia. Castanea 36: 163-164.
Duncan, W. H. 1975. Woody vines of the southeastern United States. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
Duncan, W. H. 1977. A new species of Galactia (Fabaceae) in the southeastern United STates. Phytologia 37: 59-61.
Duncan, W. H. 1979. Changes in Galactia (Fabaceae) of the southeastern United States. Sida 8: 170-180.
Duncan, W. H. 1979. Zamia (Cycadaceae) new for Georgia. Sida 8: 115-116.
Duncan, W. H. 1984. Additions to the vascular flora of Georgia. Castanea 50: 52-54.

Selected multiple author publications
Duncan, W. H. and C. L. Brown, 1954. Connate anthers in Gentiana (Gentianaceae). Rhodora 56: 133-136.
Duncan, W. H., P.L. Piercy, S. D. Feurt, and R. J. Starling. 1957. Toxicological studies of southeastern plants. II. Compositae. Econ. Bot. 11: 75-85.
Duncan, W. H., P.L. Piercy, and R. J. Starling. 1957. Toxicological studies of southeastern plants. I. Leguminosae. Econ. Bot. 9: 243-255.
Duncan, W. H. and T. Pullen. 1962. Lepidote rhododendrons fo the southern United States. Brittonia 14: 290-298.
Duncan, W. H. and D.W. DeJong. 1964. Taxonomy and heterostyly of North American Gelsemium (Loganiaceae). Sida 1: 346-357.
Duncan, W. H. and D. Blake. 1965. Observations on some ferns in Georgia. Amer. Fern J. 55: 145-153.
Duncan, W. H., J. F. Garst, and G. A. Neece. 1971. Trillium persistens (Liliaceae), a new pedicellate-flowered species form northeastern Georgia and adjacent North Carolina. Rhodora 73: 244-248.
Yates, I. E. and W. H. Duncan. 1970. Comparative studies of Smilax, Section Smilax of the southeastern United STates. Rhodora 72: 289-312.
Gibbs Russell, G. E. and W. H. Duncan. 1972. An annotated checklist of Carex (Cyperaceae) in Georgia. Castanea 37: 200-214.
Duncan, W. H. and L.E. Foote. 1975. Wildflowers of the soutehastern United States. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
Duncan, W. H. and J.T. Kartesz. 1981. Vascular flora of Georgia: an annotated checklist. The University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
Duncan, W. H. and M.B. Duncan. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
Duncan, W. H. and M.B. Duncan. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.
Duncan, W. H. and M.B. Duncan. 1999. Wildflowers of the eastern United States. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia.

Upon his death, Wilbur Duncan's family established the Wilbur and Marion Duncan Publishing Fund, a charitable trust established with the University of Georgia Foundation (394 South Milledge Avenue, Suite 100, Athens, GA 3062-5582) to ensure the publication of the Duncans' last manuscript, Shrubs of the Southeastern United States.

See Zomlefer and Giannasi (2005) Wilbur Howard Duncan 1910-2005. Sida 21(3): 1941-1950 for an excellent summary of Duncan's life and work.
See Martin, W. H. (1990) 1990 Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Award recipient -- Wilbur H. Duncan. Castanea 55: 137-139 for a description of Duncan's lifetime contributions to botany of the southeastern United States.


The following information was excerpted from the Athens Banner-Herald

Athens - Wilbur H. Duncan, 94, of Athens, UGA Professor Emeritus of Botany and retired Curator of the Herbarium, died at home with his family on March 25, 2005. Dr. Duncan is survived by Marion, his wife of 64 years; three children and a daughter-in-law, Mack and Julie, Lucia, and Douglas Duncan; four grandchildren, Laramie, Amber, Laura, and Ross Duncan; a brother and sister-in-law, Frank and Barbara Duncan; a brother-in-law, James Melton; and four nieces and four nephews.

Wilbur Duncan was born on October 15, 1910, in Buffalo, NY. The family returned to Monroe County, IN, where Wilbur attended Bloomington High School, then acquired Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Indiana University in 1932 and 1933, respectively. While working on his Ph.D at Duke University in Durham, NC, he served as a summer naturalist in Indiana, and also worked in the Smoky Mountains.

After earning his Ph.D in Botany from Duke in 1938, Dr. Duncan began a distinguished 40-year teaching and research career at the University of Georgia. In 1941, he married Marion Bennett, originally of Jesup, GA, who earned her Masters degree in Botany at UGA. They were able to stay together through several Public Health Service assignments during World War II. At the end of the war, he left the Service with the rank of Major, returning to UGA where he resumed not only his teaching and research, but also his direction and enlargement of the Herbarium. This was a major role he assumed on his own time in 1939 and continued until he retired in 1978 with Emeritus status.
Notable honors and accomplishments include the Wilbur Duncan Award, initiated in 1998 and granted on merit only to the Outstanding Graduate Student in the UGA Botany Department; the 1990 Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Service Award presented by the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club; and the 1975 publication of one of UGA Press' best selling books, Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States.

Dr. Duncan belonged to 18 professional Societies and Associations. He was accepted to membership in Sigma Xi in 1947, and designated an Emeritus Life Member of Phi Kappa Phi in 1977. He was a charter member of the Association of Southeast Biologists and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held several offices with the Botanical Society of America, and was twice elected President of the Georgia Academy of Science. During one such presidency, he engineered the permanent holding of the State Science Fair at the University of Georgia. Other organizations in which Dr. Duncan was especially active include the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, serving four years as a member of the council; the American Institute of Biological Sciences; the International Association of Plant Taxonomists; and the Georgia Botanical Society.

Retirement was a time of great activity and enjoyment for Dr. Duncan and his family. He and his wife Marion, also a professional botanist, co-authored many publications, including three major botany field guides: Seaside Plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts (Smithsonian Institution Press), Trees of the Southeastern United States (UGA Press, 1988), and Wildflowers of the Eastern United States (UGA Press, 1999). All three books are still in print, and Wildflowers continues to be a best-seller. A fourth manuscript is in advance stages for publication (see last paragraph below). Dr. Duncan continually attributed his success to his professional and personal partnership with his wife. In a personal journal describing his long and illustrious career, he wrote: "Marion's botanical knowledge and her amazing ability in written and spoken English made possible the quality of books and papers we published."

Dr. Duncan's interests extended far beyond his Botany career. The love of nature, geography, history, music, and art that he and Mrs. Duncan enjoyed was shared continuously and enthusiastically with their children, Mack, Lucia, and Douglas, and later with their four grandchildren. He was an avid sports fan, although his participation was limited to ballroom and square dancing, and to horseshoes - he was the 1932 Indiana Intramural Champion. He especially enjoyed the world-class women's gymnastics and basketball at UGA, attending regularly with his wife after retirement.

Integrity and ethics in his personal and professional life were of paramount importance to Dr. Duncan. His personal code of honor was of a caliber some would describe as old-fashioned, but it transcended generations, and profoundly influenced his children and their choices in life. He was a true egalitarian, judging only by one's character. An example is his bold signature on the 1961 Faculty Petition in Support of Desegregation. People of all backgrounds and capabilities felt comfortable and welcome with him. Through his insightful and gentle coaching, students, colleagues, mechanics, carpenters, and countless others found a better way to use their talents and to enhance their lives. Many people hope to leave this world a better place than they found it. Wilbur Duncan achieved this goal in more ways than this small tribute can possibly express, and his family is immensely proud of how much of himself he gave to so many.

   Curriculum in Ecology                 North Carolina Botanical Garden               Biology Department
       Curriculum                               North Carolina                                 UNC
In Ecology Botanical Garden Biology Department

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: 6 April 2006