Joseph Edison Adams

Joseph Edison Adams (1903-1981)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium has cataloged approximately 30 specimens collected by J. E. Adams. It is likely that more will be found as we continue to catalog our collections. Specimens collected by J.E. Adams are mostly from California, probably collected during his days as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. To date we have cataloged few specimens collected by Adams in North Carolina – most of these were collected with Carolina students in Battle Park, a natural area on campus.

Adams’ involvement in the Flora of the Carolinas project was to identify plants collected by others.  He determined many specimens collected in the Theaceae, Cornaceae, Annonaceae, Lauraceae, and Styracaceae families.  The “Flora of the Carolinas” project culminated in the publication of the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas in 1968.

Anonymous (1982) Joseph Edison Adams. Castanea 47(1): 117-118.

JOSEPH EDISON ADAMS, a UNC [University of North Carolina] professor emeritus of botany, died Sunday, June 7, 1981, at North Carolina Memorial Hospital following a heart attack. He was seventy-seven years old and taught at UNC from 1925-1969.

A specialist in the taxonomy of vascular plants, he was nationally known as co-author of the textbook, Plants: An Introduction to Modern Botany. The text, co-authored with V. A. Greulach, is widely used in the United States and has been translated into several foreign languages. He also wrote extensively on plant anatomy and plant morphology.

His lifelong research and graduate teaching interest was in the classification and phylogeny of flowering plants. His research and that of all his doctoral students was directed to that effort. He was a challenging and stimulating, as well as congenial, graduate adviser and seminar leader, an outstanding lecturer, superbly organized, articulate, a master of language and an excellent writer. He was a provocative, pithy, professional scientist, who played a large role in the development and excellence of this department in the 40’s and 50’s.

He was a member of the N.C. Academy of Science, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, the Botanical Society of America, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Born in Middletown, N.Y., Adams received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his masters from Columbia University. He received his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.

Adams is survived by his wife, Katherine Smith Adams; a son, John Evi Adams of Gainesville, Florida; a daughter, Martha Adams Galli of Rome, Italy; a brother, W. Leigh Adams of Pompano Beach, Florida; and two grandsons.



J. E. Adams (1935) A Systematic study of the genus Arctostaphylos Adans. Berkeley: Berkeley Press. (Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Berkeley)

J. E. Adams (1940) A systematic study of the genus Arctostaphylos Adans. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 56(1): 1-62.

C. E. Wood, Jr., Greulach, V. A., and Adams, J. E.  (1954)  Laboratory problems in plant science.  Chapel Hill, N.C.:  University of North Carolina Book Exchange.

Victor A. Greulach and J. Edison Adams (1962)  Plants:  introductory investigations in botany.  New York:  John WIley & Sons.

V.A. Greulach and Adams, J. E. (1967) Plants: an introduction to modern botany, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.