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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Information for this page compiled by Carol Ann McCormick. 
Special thanks to Charlotte Jones-Roe of the North Carolina Botanical Garden
and Helen Smith Massey for biographical information,
as well as to Kirk Ross and the Carrboro Citizen for the
photograph of the Haywood Gardens & Folk Art Museum.

Jimmy R. Massey
(b. 1940)

“My teaching philosophy:  be prepared, be honest, be energetic & enthusiastic,
and have high expectations for all students.”

The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued about 900 specimens collected by Jimmy Massey.  As only approximately 10% of the collection has been catalogued, without doubt there are thousands more Massey specimens to be found and catalogued.  Most specimens were collected from the Southeastern United States, though plants from Texas and Oklahoma collected during Massey’s student years are also numerous.  Other herbaria holding Massey’s specimens include BRIT, OKL, and UNCC.

A native of Mart, Texas, Massey was an honor graduate of Mart High School in 1958.  He attended Tarleton State College from 1958-1960, and graduated with a B.S. from North Texas State University in 1962.  Massey earned a M.S. in botany at Texas A & M in 1965.  Massey’s advisor was Dr. John Sperry and his thesis was titled “A study of the vascular hydrophytes in eight central Texas counties.”  After spending a year at the Claremont Graduate School in Rancho Santa Ana in California, and a summer at the University of Oklahoma Biological Station, Massey studied with George Goodman at the University of Oklahoma, and completed his Ph.D. in 1971 with his dissertation “Pollination biology of Polygala alba Nutt. (Polygalaceae).”

Massey was the Curator of the University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU) from 1971 to 2000 and Director of the Herbarium from 1983 to 1990.  He became Curator at a time when the NCU Herbarium was piled high with decades of un-mounted specimens, many collected for the Flora of the Carolinas Project, which had culminated with the publication of the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas in 1968.  With Curatorial Assistant Mary Felton and a team of students & volunteers, Massey processed and filed hundreds of thousands of specimens.  In addition, during that era duplicate specimens that had been collected for the Flora of the Carolinas Project were exchanged with herbaria across the United States. 

In addition to his curatorial duties, Massey was an influential teacher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- first in the Botany Department, then the Biology Department, and finally at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.  He taught many botany classes, including Local Flora and Plant Taxonomy, as well as guiding and instructing dozens of graduate students.  In recognition of his service to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massey was awarded the “Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement” on February 4, 2006.  This award “acknowledges a lifetime of contributions to teaching and learning, particularly mentoring beyond the classroom.  It rewards those who help students to develop and attain their full potential during and after their departure from campus.” 1


Jimmy R. Massey, ca. 1974.  Photo courtesy of Helen Smith Massey.

Jim Massey skillfully shepherded the UNC Herbarium’s transition from being part of the Biology Department of UNC-CH, to being part of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in 2000.  Massey’s efforts ensured that two state-funded positions (Curator and Asst. Curator) would be transferred with the Herbarium to the Botanical Garden.  Jim Massey and long-time Herbarium colleague Mary Felton retired in July, 2000.  In recognition of Massey’s contributions to the students of UNC-CH and to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, former students and Garden staff created and presented “The One and Only Jimmy Massey Award” to Massey at the retirement party at the Garden for Dr. Massey and Mrs. Felton.

Jim Massey is the creative force behind The Mary McKee Felton Herbarium Internship at the University of North Carolina Herbarium.  Hundreds of friends, students, and colleagues honor Mrs. Felton’s years of service to the Herbarium and University community by contributing to the endowed fund that employs a student for a semester to learn the art & science of Herbarium curation.  To contribute to this on-going program in the Herbarium, please contact Charlotte Jone-Roe, Associate Director for Development at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, at (919)  962-9458. 

After retiring from UNC-CH and the Herbarium in 2000, Massey devoted his time and creative energies to Holly Hill Daylily Farm in Chatham County, North Carolina.  “What draws folks by the hundreds out to Holly Hill in early June are the thousands of unique lilies and crinums Massey has so carefully cultivated over the years.  Many a garden around here has a Massey original.  His farm is a work of art as well, with a unique assortment of garden art and unusual poultry.  In addition to the blooms, the big attraction at Holly Hill is Massey’s growing collection of folk art, housed in the former Haywood post office, which was moved to the farm a few years ago and refurbished… When you see the giant Elvis, you’re at the right place.”2


After more than thirty years of continuous operation and offering Hemerocallis and Crinum to the public, Holly Hill Daylily Farm closed in July, 2011.  Massey is now devoting his creative talents to Haywood Gardens and Folk Art Museum in greater metropolitan Moncure, North Carolina.  According to Kirk Ross of the Carrboro Citizen, “Walking in the place [Haywood Gardens & Folk Art Museum], the first thing that strikes you is, well, everything.  It’s not a place of subtlety, at least at first.  Colors and patterns leap off the walls.  Angels are everywhere.  There are, of course, things you’d expect around here from such a museum – prints by the late Rev. Howard Finster, patron saint of the folk art universe; works by regulars at the annual folk art show at Fearrington; and Bynum’s own Clyde Jones (in this case, belted galloways frolicking).    But there’s more to take in – from memory jugs embedded with mementos and everyday objects like poker chips and marbles to Jimmie Lee Sudduth’s plywood paintings done with mud and crushed flowers and plants.  There are whirligigs by Vollis Simpson and R.A. Miller; large, striking portraits – including one done in Finster-like fashion of Massey himself – by Big Chief; and painted saws and other works by Eric “Preacherman” Pace.  As you might expect from a man with 1,700 varieties of daylilies and who collected, catalogued and curated one of the largest herbarium in the South, once he got into it, the art collection grew rapidly.”3



Jimmy Massey at Holly Hill Daylily  Farm, ca. 2011


Massey, J.R., K.K.S. Otte, A.T. Atkinson, and D.R. Whetstone (1983)  An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.  US Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, General Technical Report SE-20, Asheville, NC.

Radford, A.E., D.K.S. Otte, L.J. Otte, J.R. Massey, P.D. Whitson (1981) Natural heritage:  Classification, inventory, and information.  University of North Carolina Press:  Chapel Hill, NC.  (ISBN 0-8078-1463-6)
Massey, J.R. and Paul D. Whitson  (1980)  Species biology, the key to plant preservation.  Rhodora 82: 97-103.

Goodman, George J., Cheryl A. Lawson, and Jimmy R. Massey (1978)  The Oklahoma botanical travels of G.W. Stevens.  Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 58:  144-150.

Massey, J.R., D.K.S. Otte, T.A. Atkinson and R.D. Whetstone (1983)  An Atlas and Illustrated Guide to the Threatened and Endangered Vascular Plants of the Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia.  Asheville, NC:  Southeastern Forest Experiment Station.

Massey, J.R. (1977)  Species biology:  definitions, data and decisions,” IN Conference of Endangered Plants in the Southeast Proceedings, U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report SE-11.  Asheville, NC:  Southeast Forest Experiment Sation.

Hardin, J.W. and J.R. Massey (1977)  Endangered plant species of North Carolina,” IN Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals of North Carolina.  Cooper, J.E, S.S. Robinson, and  & J.B. Funderburg, eds.  Raleigh, NC:  North Carolina State Museum of Natural History.

Massey, J.R., D.K.S. Otte, and R.D. Whetstone (1977)  Laboratory guide for an introduction to plant taxonomy.  Minneapolis:  Burgess Pub. Co.

Boufford, D.E., and J.R. Massey (1976)  Isopyrum biternatum (Raf.) T. & G. (Ranunculaceae) new to Virginia and its distribution east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Rhodora 78:  790-791.

Massey, J.R. (1975)  Fatoua villosa (Moraceae):  additional notes on distribution in the southeastern United States.  Sida 6(2):  116.

Massey, J.R. (1974)  The Herbarium:  a modern hortus siccus.    North Carolina Wildflower Preservation Society Newsletter.

Radford, A.E., W.C. Dickison, J.R. Massey, and C.R. Bell (1974)  Vascular Plant Systematics.  New York:  Harper & Row.

Massey, Jimmy Ray (1971)  Pollination biology of Polygala alba Nutt. (Polygalaceae).  Ph.D. Thesis, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.

Massey also served on the editorial boards of the Flora of the Southeastern United States and the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society.  He was a frequent reviewer for Harper & Row, University of North Carolina Press, Brittonia, Castanea, Rhodora, and the World Book.




1.      North Carolina Botanical Garden Newsletter (2006) 34(2).

2.      “Mill Works:  Jim Massey  The Carrboro Citizen June 2, 2008.  Carrboro, North Carolina.

3.      Ross, Kirk (2007)  A visit with the lily man.  Carrboro Citizen, June 14, 1007.  Carrboro, North Carolina.



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:  19 September 2011