Albert E. Radford
(b. 1918)

The name Al Radford is familiar to anyone who has taken even an introductory course in botany at UNC, probably as the first part of "Radford, Ahles, and Bell," or, Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas, which has served the botanically-inclined of both Carolinas as a sort of floristic bible since its publication in 1968. Known familiarly as "the green book," (although its last printing leans more toward blue), this work lists all known vascular plants in North and South Carolina, with keys, descriptions, county distribution maps, and small but very useful line drawings.

Radford is also the first author of Vascular Plant Systematics (1974) and Fundamentals of Plant Systematics (1986), both now out of print, but still extremely useful to students. Radford was born in Augusta, Georgia and received his B.S. degree at Furman University in 1939. He earned his doctorate at UNC in 1948. As a teacher, Radford was especially known for his field trips, on which, he boasts "as far as I'm aware, I've never had a student bitten and I've never been bitten." In 1991, Radford was awarded the Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Award of the Association of Southeastern Biologists. The same organization presented him with their Meritorious Teacher Award in 1978. Dr. Radford's many positions of influence include presidency of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society and the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club.

A final area of accomplishment for Dr. Radford is in the conservation of natural areas throughout the Southeast. He has served as a consultant for the North Carolina Nature Conservancy and has worked with the Natural Landmarks Program.

Radford's association with the UNC Herbarium has been intimate—"This represents my life," he has been quoted as saying, "what's where and why." Radford was Director of the Herbarium for 23 years, witnessing roughly a five-fold increase in the herbarium's collections during that time period. To the right is a specimen of Lygodium palmatum which was collected by Radford. This image may be clicked on to view a larger image.

Below are specimens of Radford's handwriting and signature. The upper image may be clicked on to view a larger image. These items are from the archives of the UNC Herbarium and are used with permission. Radford's collected papers are available at the Couch Biology Library in Coker Hall.

"Dr. Radford exemplifies the best in service to botany and to the public. His offerings have not been shallow nor superficial; rather, his contributions and service have been solid and enduring."—Nancy C. Coile, from Castanea 56: 153-154.


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