Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

Edward Read Memminger
(1856 - 15 June 1949)

Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1856, Edward Read Memminger was the son of Christopher Gustavus Memminger (1803-1888) and Mary Withers Wilkinson Memminger.  C. G. Memminger was a banker in Charleston, South Carolina and first Secretary of the Treasury of the Confederate States of America. In 1838, C. G. Memminger built a summer home in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where his family escaped the stifling heat of the coast.

In 1945 this home was bought by Lilian and Carl Sandburg, of literary fame, and re-named “Connemara.” Lilian Sandburg used the pastures around the antebellum house to raise champion goats, while Carl continued to write. Upon Carl's Sandburg death 1967, Connemara was acquired by the National Park Service and became a national historic site in 1968. In addition to managing the antebellum home, the National Park Service preserves the 264 acres of surrounding pastures, rock outcrops, forests and woodlands.

Edward Read Memminger was an avid botanist and built his own house, “Tranquility,” just down Little River Road from his parents’ home. Memminger married Ella Drayton in 1888, and built Tranquility in 1890 as a wedding present to her.1 Tranquility still stands today, and Edward was living there when the Sandburgs bought the old family home in 1945. Memminger gave Carl Sandburg an album filled with the history of the home and the Memminger family – this album is preserved in the collections of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site .2  For a photo of Tranquility, see page 36 of Terry Ruscin’s Hendersonville & Flat Rock:  An Intimate Tour (Charleston:  History Press, 2007).


Confederate States of America $5 bill bearing
Christopher Gustavus Memminger’s likeness in the lower right corner. 
C. G. Memminger was the father of botanist Edward Read Memminger.

Edward Read Memminger and Ella Grimke-Drayton Memminger (b. ?1853, d. 22 Feb. 1926) were married in 1888, and had two children, Marjorie Drayton Memminger (b.1890, d. 1957) and Edward De Vere Memminger (b. 1897, d. 1899).

Most of Memminger’s specimens deposited at NCU have scant location data – “Flat Rock, N.C.” is most common. To date 270 specimens collected by Edward Read Memminger have been found in NCU. Most of Memminger's specimens deposited at NCU were collected in North Carolina, though there are some from St. Andrew's Parish, Charleston County, South Carolina.

Other herbaria which curate specimens collected by Memminger include Carnegie Mellon (CM), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO),  New York Botanical Garden (NY), and University of South Florida (USF).

Senecio memmingeri Britton ex Small is named for Edward Read Memminger. Small writes in the original description of the species:

In dry soil or on cliffs in or near the mountains, North Carolina and Alabama. Spring and summer.
Most closely related to Senecio millefolium, but clearly distinguished by the coarse leaf-segments. The original specimens of this species were collected in Henderson county, North Carolina, by Mr. E. R. Memminger, in 1887. In 1891, in company with Mr. A. A. Heller, I found the plant on Blowing Rock Mountain in northwestern North Carolina. Prof. Underwood and Prof. Earle have given me specimens almost identical with the North Carolina plants from Auburn, Lee County, Alabama, where they collected it on May 16, 1896.

John K. Small. 1898. Studies in the Botany of the Southern United States -- XIII. i. Species Hitherto Imperfectly Understood. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 25(3): 147-148.

The Holotype of Senecio memmingeri can be found at the New York Botanical Garden, J. K. Small’s home institution. NCU has a topotype.

The Charleston Museum was organized in March, 1773, by the Charles Town Library Society. In 1850 it was tranferred to the College of Charleston, and in 1907 a building was provided by the City and the name was changed to The Charleston Museum. Edward Read Memminger was very involved with the mycological and botanical collections between the years of 1910 and 1914. Memminger was listed on the Bulletin's masthead as an honorary curator starting with Bulletin of the Charleston Museum, Volume VI in 1910.

At a meeting of the Trustees [of the Charleston Museum] on Friday, May 12th [1911], Mr. Edward R. Memminger was elected Honorary Curator of Fungi. Mr. Memminger has been a student of the botany of the southeast since 1882, devoting special attention to the higher fungi. During the past three months he has rearranged the Ravenel Herbarium and added to the biological survey more than a thousand records for fungi, based upon the work of the earlier botanists. This work will be continued with a view to cataloging all the fungi known to occur in this state. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VII (5): 39. 1911.

The [Charleston] Museum has secured the assistance of Mr. Ed. R. Memminger in a revision of the Henry W. Ravenel herbarium and the preparation of a catalog of the fungi of South Carolina. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VII (3): 24. 1911.

Mr. Edward R. Memminger, honorary curator of fungi, has returned to Charleston for the winter and is engaged in further work on the Ravenel herbarium. In addition to its valuable fungi, this herbarium contains a large series of flowering plants collected during the summer in malarial swamps and inaccessible regions where we should have great difficulty in collecting at the present time. Furthermore, the prospect of extensive drainage operations in the coastal region in the near future suggests that a few years may bring extensive changes in ecological conditions. All of this invests the Ravenel herbarium with special interest. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VII (8): 62.

Mr. Edward R. Memminger was appointed honorary curator of fungi, and spent the greater part of two months revising the fungi of the Henry W. Ravenel herbarium. Nearly nine hundred South Carolina species were entered in the biological survey records as a result of this work. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VIII (1): 4. 1912.

HERBARIA. A new case for the general herbarium was built in the Muesum shop in the spring, and the Henry W. Ravenel herbarium and other collections are in process of revision and remounting. Mr. Memminger worked over the fungi early in the year and is now engaged with the flowering plants. The herbarium already contains 1397 sheets, of which 839 are from South Carolina. In addition, 840 sheets, including 711 from South Carolina, are nearly ready for filing.
The Museum is indebted for assistance in mounting specimens to the Misses Isabel O'Neill, Ida Colson, Marion McDonald, Anita Pollitzer, and Priscilla Branford.
The first fascicle of Ravenel's rare Fungi Caroliniani exsiccati was given by Dr. C.W. Kollock and has proved of much value in Mr. Memminger's work.
A set of European plants, chiefly mosses, has been given by Miss Henrietta A. Kelly.
Bulletin of the Charleston MuseumVIII (1): 10-11. 1912.

For the first time it has been possible to run all departments of the Museum at their full capacity and to utilize our full equipment for the production and use of exhibits. Thus, while cases have been built or refinished in the carpenter shop, specimens and copy for labels have been prepared by Miss [Laura M.] Bragg [Curator of Books and Public Instruction], Dr. [Daniel S.]Martin [Honorary Curator of Minerology], and Mr. Memminger, and the Museum press has been busy printing labels... On the evenings of February 20 and 26 the Museum was opened to public inspection in all departments and personally conducted parties of from fifteen to thirty followed each other at intervals of fifteen minutes about the building... they learned the importance of the biological survey and how its records are filed and indexed. The preparation of herbarium specimens in all its stages was demonstrated with the assistance of young ladies of the Natural History Society, who have been mounting specimens while the data have been prepared by Mr. Memminger and Miss Bragg... The work of Mr. Memminger and his assistants has resulted in making practically all the herbaria accessible and properly recorded. Dr. Martin has cataloged the entire Booth collection of invertebrate fossils and has broughtt all the records of his department up to date. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VIII (4): 35-37. 1912.

Mr. E. R. Memminger, honorary curator of fungi, has returned to the city and has plans to continue his work on the herbarium during the winter. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum VIII (7): 65. 1912.

In July and August Miss Bragg collected plants at Sumter, in the region about Keowee, and at Caesar's Head. When the material obtained in this way has been worked up it may be expected to yield results of importance for the survey. Miss Bragg also visited a number of colleges which possess herbaria, and arranged plans for co-operation in extending the records of the flora of the state.
Mr. Memminger has continued his revision of the nomenclature of the Ravenel herbarium and has written survey cards for a large number of species. It is intended to include in the records of the survey all specimens from South Carolina in our own collection or known to be in other collections, all properly established records for species observed but not preserved, and all published references to local fauna and flora. To facilitate these entries, a stock of publication record forms has been printed and a start has been made in filling these in for some of the early floral lists, such as Bachman's catalog of the plants of Charleston. Several months could profitably be devoted to this wrok, and in time these records will become of the highest importance
. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum IX: 9-10. 1913.

Mr. E. R. Memminger completed the revision of the Ravenel herbarium while in Charleston. He is now in Beaufort where it is expected he will secure numberous plant records for the survey. Mr Memminger's generous assistance has been of the utmost value of the Museum. Without it the herbarium could not possibly have reached its present stage of accessibility nor the survey have been extended to any considerable limits. While nominally honorary curator of fungi, Mr. Memminger has devoted his time to building up the herbarium in all lines. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum IX: 23.1913.

LOCAL FLORA. Mr. E. R. Memminger has recently presented to the Museum a small collection of pressed plants gathered at Beaufort, S.C. and at the Charleston Navy Yard.
Pressed plants collected at Barnwell, S. S., and near Darlington have been received from Mrs. Thomas Frost.
Miss Emma Gibbes has completed the work of transferring to the local survey records the data of South Carolina specimens in the collection of the late Professor Lewis R. Gibbes, and is now kindly assisting with the plant survey records.
Miss Frances Dill has also done valuable work on the plant survey records.
About three hundred plants have been mounted by members of the Natural History Society and added to the herbarium.
Miss Bragg has been collecting extensively about Charleston and also in the neighborhood of Chicora Wood, on the Pee Dee, the home of Mrs. J.J. Pringle. As a result a large amount of local material is now ready for the herbarium.
Bulletin of the Charleston Museum IX: 46. 1913.

BOTANY. In the development of the collections the greatest progress has been made in the department of botany. This is due primarily to the work of Miss Bragg and Mr. Edawrd R. Memminger, aided by many volunteer assistants.
In addition to her duties as curator of books and public instruction, Miss Bragg has found time to increase the number of specimens in the herbarium 30 per cent, and to do a large amount of other work in connection with the botanical survey. In this she has had the able cooperation of Mr Memminger. As honorary curator in the botanical department, Mr. Memminger has given generously of his time and skill in the revision of the old herbaria and the extension of the botanical records of the Museum. His special knowlege of the flora of North and South Carolina, combined with his cheerfulness in work which is often tedious, has been largely responsible for the steady and gratifying growth of the herbarium and for the accuracy of its data... Herbarium specimens have been presented by Mr. Memminger from the vicinity of Beaufort, S.C., and by Miss A. L. Sloan from Pendleton, S.C. Miss Bragg has also collected in the coastal region of the state.
Miss Pauline Dill, as a volunteer assistant, is engaged in rearranging the Elliott Herbarium in systematic order. Miss Susie Allan, Miss Isabel O'Neill, and Messrs. Alexander Sprunt, Jr. and James Sprunt have mounted herbarium specimens.
Bulletin of the Charleston Museum X (1): 7-8.1914.

It seems that there was a massive financial re-structuring of the Museum (or perhaps a personal falling-out between Memminger and Paul Rea, Museum Director?), for suddenly in 1914, resources are withdrawn from the biological survey. After years of lauding his work, Memminger is not mentioned in the Bulletin after the January 1914 issue, and botany is mentioned little except for Miss Laura Bragg's efforts.

BIOLOGICAL SURVEY. It is to be regretted that the Muesum [sic] is not in a position to make any provision for regular work on the biological survey. The records of the survey are for the most part incidental to other work and the value of the data obtained under these diffucult conditions is an indication of the results which might be accomplished with some special effort. .. The greatest progess of the year has been in the section of plants. There have been added 19 species of pteridophytes and 788 species of spermatophytes not previously recorded in the survey. The total number of species of South Carolina plants now listed is 2033. Dr. B. L. Robinson, curator of the Gray Herbarium, has kindly furnished recrods for over 600 specimens representing 317 species of South Carolina plants in the Gray Herbarium and also complete data for all plants which he collected on his visit to this state in 1912. Dr. Robinson has thus given material assistance to the Museum in the difficult task of obtaining records of South Carolina plants in the herbaria of other institutions. Survey cards have been prepared under Miss Bragg's direction for all plants in the Museum herbaria, exclusive of the Elliott herbarium, and of 215 specimens of cryptogams.
Miss Emma Gibbes has rendered valuable volunteer service by preparing survey cards for all published or otherwise available records of the collection of her father, Professor Lewis R. Gibbes. Miss Elizabeth P. Ravenel and Miss Frances Dill have also acted as volunteer assistants in preparing survey cards.
It is of interest to note that the number of species already recorded in the survey exceeds those cataloged by Dr. Bachman for the vicinity of Charleston
. Bulletin of the Charleston Museum X (1): 11-12. 1914.

Memminger continued as Honorary Curator of Fungi until April, 1915 when, it appears the Museum went through substantial changes in organizational structure, and no "honorary curators" are listed on the Bulletin's masthead. Museum Director Paul Rea left in the early 1920's and by 1923 Laura Bragg is both the Director of Scientific Staff and Editor of the Charleston Museum Quarterly, the publication which replaced the Bulletin. Honorary Curators, including Edward Read Memminger as Honorary Curator of Fungi, are back on the masthead of short-lived Quarterly, which published Volume 1 (1) in 1923 and Volume 1(2) in 1925.

Memminger travelled widely. In August 1905 Memminger sailed on the S. S. Zeeland from Antwerp, Belgium to New York; his occupation/calling is listed as "insurance" on the passenger list. In May 1909, 52 year old Memminger, his 56 year old wife, Ella, and 18 year old daughter, Marjorie, were passengers on the S. S. Moltke which sailed from Genoa, Italy to New York. Memminger is listed as a passenger on the S.S. President Polk from Manila, Philippines to New York in 1934. Memminger died in Henderson County, North Carolina on 15 June 1949 at the age of 92. (3)

Albert Sanders, Curator of the Charleston Museum Herbarium (CHARL) reports that museum staff and volunteers have spent many years mounting plant specimens that Miss Bragg collected in the early 1900's, and work to catalog these specimens continues. He is not aware of any specimens in CHARL that bear Edward Read Memminger's name nor any that bear Memminger's distinctive printed label.

Memminger, Edward Read. 1888. Prunus pumila in North Carolina. Botanical Gazette 13: 95-96.
---- . 1905. Agaricus amygdalinus M.A.C. The Journal of Mycology 11 (1): 12-17.
---- . 1915. A list of plants growing spontaneously in Henderson County, N.C. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Society 30:126-149.
----. 1954. An Historical Sketch of Flat Rock. Published privately by Marjorie Memminger Norment (E.R. Memminger’s daughter). [NOTE: The UNC Herbarium would be interested in obtaining a copy of this publication; please contact Carol Ann McCormick at 919-962-6931]

Further information about Edward Read Memminger:
Carl Sandburg, The Confederate States of America, and the UNC Herbarium” by Carol Ann McCormick, a short article that appeared in the September - October 2002 issue of the North Carolina Botanical Garden newsletter.

The UNC Herbarium would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for providing information about Edward Read Memminger:
Lynn Savage, Archivist, Carl Sandburg Home, National Park Service
Warren Weber, Chief Resource Manager, Carl Sandburg Home, National Park Service
Rickie White, National Coordinator USGS/NPS, NatureServe
Milo Pyne, NatureServe and NCU Herbarium Associate, for scan of Confederate States of America bill

1. Ruscin, Terry (2006) Special article on Historic Flat Rock Tour of Homes for 2006. Hendersonville News. Issue of July 23, 2006.
2. Savage, Lynn. personal communication.

3. entries for Edward Read Memminger and Ella Memminger accessed on 23 August 2007.


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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU)
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931


Last Updated: 22 July 2018