Clyde Ritchie Bell
(b. 1921)

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 received AB and MA degrees form the University of North Carolina in 1947 and 1949. He earned his Ph.D. in botany at the University of California at Berkeley in 1953. 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 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 state to be proud of (despite the fact that the state itself gave no money to the Garden until 1971). "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.


Below are handwriting samples and a specimen of Thelypteris hexagonoptera collected by Bell. The larger handwriting sample and the specimen may be clicked upon to view larger images. The smaller handwriting sample gives an idea of Bell's writing style for brief notes and his distinctive initials.

All specimens and handwriting samples are from the UNC Herbarium and are used with permission.


Bell is 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, 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 are in the realm of videography. With Anne H. Lindsey, he has 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 at the Couch Biology Library, located just downstairs from the Herbarium. 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.


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