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Kral-ing Through Time: The Impact of Robert Kral on the Past, Present, and Future of Botany in the Southeastern U.S

Estes, Larry Dwayne [1].

A botanist without borders: Robert Kral's contributions to our modern knowledge of vascular plant endemism and phytogeographic patterns in the southeastern U.S.

Dr. Robert Kral's contributions to southeastern U.S. botany are matched only by a few other Southern botanists such as J.K. Small, R.M. Harper, A. Radford, and R.D. Thomas. He is one of the most prolific plant collectors in U.S. history with nearly 100,000 specimen numbers. These collections were amassed over 60 years beginning with his early collections as a student, first in Texas and later in Florida. From the outset, Kral worked in imperiled communities such as east Texas hillside seepage bogs and Florida Panhandle pinelands where he began to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of rare species and narrow endemics. It was then that he described his first narrow endemics (e.g. Vicia ocalensis). Kral's early career included a stint at Virginia Tech before moving to Nashville, TN where he became curator of the Vanderbilt University Herbarium where he began working on the Flora of Alabama and Middle Tennessee project. His work was supplemented by grants and contracts, one of which he received from the US Forest Service to prepare a report on rare forest-related vascular plants of the South. This project carried Dr. Kral into nearly all of the ecoregions of the South, from the Edward's Plateau of Texas to the Ridge and Valley shale barrens of Virginia. As a result of this work, he discovered numerous undescribed and narrowly endemic species, including Blephilia subnuda, Clematis morefieldii, C. socialis, Delphinium alabamicum, Hydrophyllum brownei, Minuartia cumberlandensis, Rhexia salicifolia, Rhynchospora thornei, Sagittaria secundifolia, and X. tennesseensis, among others. His prolific collections and exchange led to the rapid expansion of the VDB Herbarium. In the mid- to latter half of the 20th century, few other botanists covered as much territory as Dr. Kral with most tending to focus on a particular state or region. His collections and the distribution maps he generated for his report on rare forest-related vascular plants of the South helped clarify the county-level distribution of most of the rare and endemic species of the South decades before the first multi-state atlases of vascular plants were available (e.g. USDA Plants website). Prior to his work, distributional data for so many rare species had not been published in any single document. His work allowed conservationists to better understand species rarity and endemism and no doubt has greatly influenced the current list of rare species protected under the Endangered Species Act as well as those tracked by various Southern states.


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1 - Botanical Research Institute of Texas, & Austin Peay State University, 1700 University Dr, Fort Worth, TX, 76107

Keywords:
Robert Kral
Vanderbilt Herbarium
phytogeography
Southeastern U.S.
endemism.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Number: CO1006
Abstract ID:515
Candidate for Awards:None


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