Alma Holland Beers

Miss Alma Leonora Holland was born January 10, 1892 in Moore County, North Carolina. Her parents were James Leonidas Holland and Inez Neglina Leach, both farmers. In 1917 she enrolled in summer session at the University of Chapel Hill, where she took a botany course under Dr. William Chambers Coker. Impressed with the care and precision of her work, Dr. Coker asked Miss Holland to remain in the Botany Department as a "research assistant." She was never given another title, but while bearing this one performed the duties of teacher, editor, librarian, translator, secretary, artist, and plant collector. She reported that she was so elated to receive this position that she burned her certificate for teaching in public schools. She was the first woman hired by the Botany department as a research assistant. While in the employ of the Department, she also took occasional courses, earning her B.A. degree in 1925 and becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1941 she married Dr. Charles Dale Beers of the Zoology Department. She spent summers with him in Cold Springs, New York, to escape the North Carolina heat and humidity. In 1951, Mrs. Beers retired from the Botany Department, stating simply, "Henceforth I shall dig in my garden and raise flowers." She passed away on October 31, 1974.

Alma was well-known within the department for her skills as an illustrator and contributed to most of the publications produced during her thirty-three year career. She was also accomplished Latin and French and aided faculty and students by translating works in those languages (see the letter reproduced below).

"Research Assistant"

Executive editor of the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society from 1946-1951.

Co-author of two books with Dr. Coker (see bibliography).

Caretaker of the Botany Department's collection of books, later the core of the John N. Couch Biology Library.

Illustrator of numerous botanical works of UNC faculty.

Botany instructor—her favorite course to teach was a fern class.

Secretary to Dr. Coker—this involved typing and editing his voluminous and cryptic notes.


Below are a Hydnum specimen collected by Mrs. Beers and the closing portion of a translation which she wrote. Both may be clicked upon to view a larger image. The two specimen images represent the underside (upper image) and the top (lower image) of the same specimen. The note at the lower left is written on the back of the herbarium tag just above it.

The manuscript materials on this page are from the archives of the Herbarium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and are used with permission. Further materials are located in the Coker papers in the Southern Historical Collection, Manuscript Department, Wilson Library, and in the papers of the UNC Botany Department.


The only biographical article on Alma Holland Beers (barring a few brief newspaper items) was written by Mr. William R. Burk of the Couch Biology Library. This appeared in the Spring, 1986 issue of the Friends of the UNC Herbarium Newsletter, pp. 7-8.

The two books which Mrs. Beers co-authored with Dr. Coker are:

Boletaceae of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1943. This was reprinted by Dover Publications in 1974 as Boleti of North Carolina.

Stipitate hydnums of the eastern United States. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1951.


This page was constructed by Ron Gilmour with the assistance of Mr. Bill Burk, Mrs. Mary Felton, Dr. Jim Massey, and Mr. Jim Murphy. Additional information and corrections are welcome. Please email Ron Gilmour at