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Earl Core


Naturalist Earl Lemley Core (January 20, 1902-December 8, 1984) was born in Monongalia County. He was educated at West Virginia University and Columbia University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1936. Core joined the WVU biology faculty in 1926 and served until 1972. He was chairman of the biology department from 1948 to 1967, and curator of the herbarium for many years beginning in 1934.

As an undergraduate, Core participated in P. D. Strausbaugh’s early botanical expeditions and went on to collect thousands of specimens for the WVU herbarium. On his first expedition, Core discovered a new species, at the time considered the rarest plant in the world. In 1936, he organized the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club and served as the founding editor of the club’s journal, Castanea.

Core collaborated with his mentor, Strausbaugh, to write the classic Flora of West Virginia, which was originally published in four volumes from 1952 to 1964. Core’s other book credits include Vegetation of West Virginia, Woody Plants in Winter, and The Wondrous Year: West Virginia Through the Seasons. His most popular book, Spring Wild Flowers of West Virginia, has been in print since 1948.

In 1948, Core persuaded WVU administrators to set aside nearly 100 acres of steep, wooded hillside and floodplain as an arboretum. Today the Core Arboretum stands as a living tribute to Core’s contributions to teaching and research. It serves as an outdoor classroom and botanical laboratory and as a quiet place for the public to enjoy and appreciate nature. Core died in Morgantown.

Written by Scott Shalaway