Liriodendron tulipifera flower

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


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium

Clyde Ritchie Bell
10 April 1921– 6 March 2013

H. R. Totten (L) and C. Ritchie Bell
in Coker Arboretum on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus
Wilson Library, UNC-CH; undated

The name C. Ritchie Bell is inextricably linked to the flora of the southeastern U.S. He is probably most familiar to students as one of the authors (along with Albert Radford and Harry Ahles) of the venerable Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas, a work still relied upon by students and professional botanists alike.

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1921 and grew up in Asheville, North Carolina.  He received A.B. and M.A. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947 and 1949. The title of his Master of Arts thesis was “A taxonomic study of the Sarraceniaceae of North America.”  He earned his Ph.D. in botany at the University of California at Berkeley in 1953; the title of his doctoral thesis was “The Sanicula crassicaulis complex (Umbelliferae):  A study of variation and polyploidy.” From there, he went on to his first professional position as a botany instructor at the University of Illinois.

In 1951, Dr. Bell returned to UNC-Chapel Hill to teach botany and to work on the formation of a research garden. In 1961, Dr. Bell became the Acting Director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden; he was named official Director in 1966. By the late 1970’s the Garden had truly become something for the Old North State to be proud of (despite the fact that the state itself gave no money to the Garden until 1971).

Portrait of C. Ritchie Bell

"Now we have a state botanical garden that has a very good standing both nationally and internationally with very modest cost to the state itself," Bell commented in a 1986 interview with the Chapel Hill News. "The garden is one-of-a-kind; everyone wants to know how we do it." Dr. Bell retired from the Directorship of the Garden in 1986, although he is still very active in its affairs.  The Ritchie Bell Conference Room in Building A of the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s Education Center is named in his honor. 

The University of North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCU) has over 5,400 specimens collected by C. Ritchie Bell.  As only a fraction of our collection has been catalogued, without doubt many thousands more specimens collected, determined or annotated by Bell will be found. 

Ritchie Bell died in Chapel Hill on March 6, 2013 at age 91.  He is survived by his wife, Anne Lindsey and his son, David Bell; his sister, Patricia Ramsey (Asheville, NC); and his brother, W. David Bell (Macon, NC).  The family requests that donations in Ritchie’s memory be made to the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill (919-962-0522) to benefit the Children’s Garden and the Herbarium.

In 2015 Richard LeBlond named Scleria bellii (Cyperaceae) in honor of C. Ritchie Bell.  “Although widespread, known populations [of S. bellii] are few and scattered, with 14 in the United States from North Carolina to Texas, and one each in Cuba and Mexico.  In the United States, 12 populations are found on the outer Coastal Plain, and two in the Carolina Piedmont.  At known sites, soils are wet, and several populations occur in rare and unusual habitats with acidic pH and a calcareous influence.”*

·           LeBlond, Richard J., Samantha M. Tessel, and Derick B. Poindexter (2015)  Scleria bellii (Cyperaceae), a distinctive and uncommon nutsedge from the southern U.S., Cuba, and Mexico.  J. Bot. Res. Inst. Texas 9(1):  31-41.


Below are a handwriting sample and a specimen of Thelypteris hexagonoptera collected by Bell. The handwriting sample may be clicked upon to view a larger image.

           Bell's handwriting sample    Thelypteris specimen


All specimens and handwriting samples are from the University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU) and are used with permission.


Bell was a prolific writer with a large number of books and articles to his credit. Best known of his books are, of course, the above-mentioned Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas published in 1968, as well as Wild Flowers of North Carolina (with William S. Justice, Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1968, title page and frontispiece shown below) and Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants (with Bryan J. Taylor, Chapel Hill: Laurel Hill Press, 1982). Both of the wildflower books are fully illustrated with color photographs and are easily accessible to non-botanists.

Some of Dr. Bell's most recent accomplishments were in the realm of videography.  He and Dr. Anne H. Lindsey constructed a series of video recordings, published by Laurel Hill Press, each focusing on the visible flora of a particular season. The most recent is Woodland Harvest of the Eastern Forests, highlighting fruits rather than flowers (Laurel Hill, 1996).

Dr. Bell's papers have been compiled by Rhonda Teague Rogers and are available in the North Carolina Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Papers pertaining to Dr. Bell's work with the Botanical Garden are available in the Records of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, housed in the University Archives.

Complete bibliography of C. Ritchie Bell’s papers.


“I took my very first botany course at UNC from Ritchie in the first summer session of 1966, and what a life changing experience that was.”  Dr. Elizabeth Fortson Wells, Associate Professor of Botany, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.  13 March 2013


“When I was a high school student in 1956, my Edneyville High School received a blue ditto flier from the Carolinas Flora Project.  Biology teacher, French Rogers, showed it to me and suggested I might like to help on the collections project for Henderson County.  I did not know anything about plant keys and simply collected plants and filled in a ditto label to be included with the collections.  I was able to construct a plant press from old apple crates, cut up cardboard for ventilators, and was given some blue ink desk pads which were cut into driers.  During the summer between morning and evening milking in the dairy or field work, I picked and dried plants in front of our cooler fans.  At the end of the year I had something over 400 specimens which I boxed up and shipped to UNC herbarium.  Dr. H. R. Totten mailed me a copy of Fernand's 8th edition of Gray's Manual of Botany, "To Dan Patillo, Future Botanist".  It was all "Greek", rather like Latin, to me but got me started with some common names.
     To my and mother's surprise, early next spring Prof. C. Ritchie Bell comes driving up our half-mile country road on one of his collection trips.  With encouragement, he suggested I go to college.  Already set up to attend Berea, after my initial freshman labor with the dairy I was offered a project collecting the 5,000-acre Berea College forest that firmly established that I would be a botanist and the rest is history.” 
Dr. J. Dan Pittillo, Professor Emeritus, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC.  March 2013

Inside cover of book co-authored by Bell



Aiuto, Russell.  1963.  M.A.  Variation correlations in the Phlox carolina – Phlox glaberrima complex.

Baker, Philip Carlton.  1970.  Ph.D.  A systematic study of the genus Vaccinium L. , subgenus Polycodium (Raf.) Sleumer, in the southeastern United States.

Bauer, Paul J. 1986.  Ph.D.  Bumblebee pollination on a southern Appalachian grass bald and narcotic nectar in Angelica triquinata (Apiaceae).

Bennett, Bradley Charlton .  1988.  Ph.D.  A comparison of life history traits in selected epiphytic and saxicolous species of Tillandsia (Bromeliaceae) from Florida and Peru.

Bostick, Peter Edward.  1966.  Ph.D.  A systematic study of the genus Rhexia.

Bradley, Ted Ray.  1965.  M.A.  Variation in mixed populations of Specularia perfoliata (L.) A.DC. and Specularia bifora  (R. & P.) Fisch. & Mey. Growing in North Carolina.

Bradley, Ted Ray.  1967.  Ph.D.  Hybridization and variation in the species of Triodanis from North America. 

Dorr, Laurence J. 1980.  M.A.  The reproductive biology and pollination ecology of Zenobia (Ericaceae).

Drapalik, Donald Joseph.  1970.  Ph.D.  A biosystematic study of the genus Matelea in the southeastern United States.

Farmer, Janis M.  1982.  M.A.  Pollination and fertilization effectiveness in Asclepias syriaca L. (Asclepiadaceae).

Frantz, Vonda L. 1984.  M.S.  Reproductive biology of the Atlantic coast plain endemic, Lysimachia asperulaefoliae (Primulaceae).

Gleaves, Charles T. 1979.  M.S.  An investigation of hybridization between two birches in North Carolina.

Hinton, William Fred.  1968.  M.A.  The taxonomic status of Physalis lanceolata in the Carolina Sandhills.

Kondo, Katsuhiko.  1971.  M.A.  A comparison of variability in Utricularia cornuta Michx. and Utricularia juncea  Vahl.

Kowalczyk, Bruno Florian.  1973.  M.A.  The pollination ecology of Hedysarum alpinum L. var. americanum Michx. and H. boreale Nutt. var. mackenzii (Richards.) C.L. Hitchc. In the Kluane Lake area of the Yukon Territory, Canada.

Lindsey, Anne Haskell.  1975.  M.A.  Classification versus characterization in Thaspium and Zizia (Apiaceae).

Lindsey, Anne Haskell.  1979.  Ph.D.  Pollination and breeding system studies in Thaspium and Zizia (Apiaceae).

Mathen, Oravackal Mathal.  1963.  Ph.D.  A taxonomic comparison of Aureolaria, Agalinis and Tomanthera.

Mehrhoff, Loyal Archie III.  1980.  M.A.  The reproductive biology of the genus Isotria (Orchidaceae) and the ecology of Isotria medeoloides.

Mueller, Anna Maria.  1979.  Ph.D.  An evolutionary study of Coreopsis section Palmatae (Compositae). 

Mueller, Sabina Gertrud.  1968.  Ph.D.  The taxonomic significance of cuticular patterns and leaf morphology in populations of Vaccinium ericaceae.

Moore, Julie.  1976.  M.S.  Reproductive potential of the hemiparasite Agalinis purpurea (L.) Pennell.

Nesom, Guy L. 1970.  M.A.  Variation in Erigeron flagellaris Gray and its presumed relatives endemic to south-western Utah.

Nesom, Guy L. 1980.  Ph.D.  A revision of the epappose species of Erigeron (AsteraceaeAstereae).

Otte, Deborah K. Strady.  1978.  M.A.  The pollination ecology of Hexastylis arifolia (Michx.) Small var. arifolia and H. minor (Ashe) Blomquist (Aristolochiaceae) in the area of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Rogers, Judith Lee.  1965.  M.A.  Variation studies on three Cuscuta species of subsection arvenses in the Southeast.

Snider, Jerry A.  1969.  A variation study of Agalinis decemloba (Greene) Pennell and Agalinis obtusifolia Raf. in the Carolinas.

Spongberg, Stephen A.  1971.  Ph.D.  A systematic and evolutionary study of North American arctic and alpine monocephalous species of Erigeron (Compositae).

Stevenson, John Court.  1972.  Evolutionary strategies and ecology of Goodyera and Spiranthes species (Orchidaceae).

Treiber, Miklos.  1980.  Ph.D.  Biosystematics of the Arisaema triphyllum complex.

Windler, Donald Richard.  1970.  Ph.D.  Systematic studies in Crotalaria sagittalis L. and related species in North America (Leguminosae).


This page was constructed by Ron Gilmour with the assistance of Mr. Bill Burk, Mrs. Mary Felton,
Dr. Jim Massey, and Mr. Jim Murphy. Updates and edits have been made by Carol Ann McCormick.  Additional information and corrections are welcome.

            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 November 2015