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James Reveal papers

 Collection 0298-UA

James L. Reveal was on the faculty of the Department of Botany at the University of Maryland from 1969 to 1999. Reveal served as director of the Norton-Brown Herbarium of the University of Maryland between 1979 and 1999. He was a member of the Smithsonian Institution's Endangered Species Committee from 1974 to 1982. Reveal was instrumental in attaining the addition of endangered plant species to the original Endangered Species Act. His papers consist of research materials and notes, publication reprints, newspaper clippings, and photographs spanning his entire career from 1965 to 2000. Major topics include Dr. Reveal's academic and professional pursuits; botanical exploration of colonial America and the American West; Maryland plants; plant taxonomy; and the Polygonaceae subfamily Eriogonoideae, commonly known as the wild buckwheats.


  • 1965-2000

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


18.50 Linear Feet

2 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The James Reveal papers consist of research notes and materials, publication reprints, newspaper clippings, slides, and other materials related to his entire career from 1965 to 2000. The papers shed light on the development of his career and the progress of his research on botanical exploration in the New World, endangered plant species, and botanical nomenclature. The majority of the papers are publication reprints, spanning from 1965 to 2000, and photocopies and photographs of research materials with corresponding research notes, covering the period from 1983 to 1992. The papers also include newspaper clippings related to Reveal's career, invitations, awards, photographs, negatives, slides, a text block, compact discs, and two plant x-rays.


James Reveal was born on March 29, 1941, in Reno, Nevada. He earned his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science degrees from Utah State University in 1964 and 1966, respectively. While completing his doctoral research, he served as a post-doctoral fellow for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1969 Reveal was awarded his Ph.D. from Brigham Young University. In 1969, he joined the Botany faculty at the University of Maryland as an Assistant Professor, and, in 1981, he became a Professor of Botany. During his tenure at the university, he was known for his dedicated service. In 1994, he received the University of Maryland "Faculty Award for Excellence in Service." Reveal served as director of the Norton-Brown Herbarium of the University of Maryland between 1979 and 1999. He continues to conduct research in association with the herbarium. Reveal's research interests include botanical studies in the American West, especially endangered and threatened species. He has done work on the history of botanical exploration in the New World and botanical nomenclature and taxonomy as well. Much of his research and writing is devoted to the Polygonaceae subfamily Eriogonoideae, commonly known as the wild buckwheats. His interest in combining history and botany led to a project on botanical discovery in colonial Maryland. Reveal has published four hundred works and has presented nearly one hundred talks. As a member of the Smithsonian Institution's Endangered Species Committee (1974-1982), Reveal was instrumental in attaining the addition of endangered plant species to the original Endangered Species Act.Reveal has discovered or identified over fifty plant varieties. Most of the discoveries were flowering plants of the American Southwest. Reveal identified five new plant varieties in 1968 at a Nevada nuclear testing site. In 1981, Reveal and one of his former graduate students, Norlyn James Bodkin, then professor of Botany at James Madison University, together identified and documented the uniqueness of a variation of the Virginia Wake Robin. They gave this new lily variety the scientific name Trillium pussillum monticulum and the common name Shenandoah Wake Robin. This finding received media attention, because it was the first discovery of a new plant along the Eastern Seaboard since the 1940s.

In addition to the University of Maryland, Reveal's research affiliations have evolved over the course of his career, including the Department of History at the Natural History Museum in London, the Department of Botany at the Academy of Natural History in Philadelphia (especially their Lewis and Clark Herbarium), the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Monte L. Bean Museum of Life Sciences at Brigham Young University. His work on endangered and threatened plants has brought him into connection with the following institutions: Atomic Energy Commission (University of California at Los Angeles), the Endangered Species Committee of the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), and the Office of Endangered Species and International Affairs (United States Department of the Interior).Reveal married C. Rose Broome in 1978. Dr. Broome held the position of Associate Professor of Botany at the University of Maryland before joining the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Agricultural Research Service. Throughout their careers, Reveal and Broome have collaborated on research projects, most notably the research related to plants in colonial Maryland. Explorations in Mexico in 1975 led to their joint discovery of two new varieties, which were named for Reveal and Broome. In 1981, Reveal had the opportunity to travel to China with USDA researcher James A. Duke to research Chinese medicinal plants. This trip was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health as part of their research project for botanical cures for cancer. The two American researchers met with Chinese botanists and medical professionals during their stay.

Reveal's research project on the history of botanical exploration in colonial Maryland involved a 1983 trip to London to study plant specimens at the Linnean Herbarium, the British Museum of Natural History, and the Sloane Herbarium of Oxford University. Reveal collaborated with Dr. George F. Frick of the History Department of the University of Delaware; Dr. Melvin L. Brown of the Botany Department of the University of Maryland; and his wife, Dr. C. Rose Broome, of the United States Department of Agriculture. Their work set out to prove that five specific naturalists in colonial Maryland had collected plant specimens between 1697 and 1736. The plants had been gathered and brought by boat to London for Carl Linnaeus. The identification of these plants held significance in three ways, which appropriately tied together Reveal's research interests. First, Linnaeus studied these plants in preparation for his groundbreaking work of modern botanical nomenclature, Species Plantarum (1753). Second, determining the five naturalists who investigated the flora of colonial Maryland was important to the history of botanical exploration in the New World. Finally, identifying plant species of colonial Maryland would be significant for pinpointing extinct and endangered plants in contemporary Maryland.

As a result of the research trip to London, the Sloane Herbarium allowed collections of these Maryland plant specimens to travel to Maryland in 1983 for a three-part exhibition. The specimens were displayed in the H. J. Patterson Hall of the University of Maryland; Christ Church in Port Republic, Maryland; and the State House in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1987, Reveal, Frick, Brown, and Broome together published three articles, "Botanical Explorations and Discoveries in Colonial Maryland," "On the Identity of Plants Mentioned in the First Two Editions of Linnaeus' Species Plantarum," and "The Identification of Pre-1753 Polynomials and Collections of Vascular Plants from the British Colony of Maryland" in volume seven of the journal Huntia. Reveal and his group identified Hugh Jones, a parish priest of Christ Church, Calvert County, Maryland, between 1697 and 1701, as the first collector of Maryland botanical specimens. The archives of the church confirmed their conjectures. In 1992, the church honored Hugh Jones with a memorial grove, and Dr. Reveal presented the dedication. In that same year, the Library of Congress published Reveal's illustrated Gentle Conquest: The Botanical Discovery of North America. Gentle Conquest built upon the colonial Maryland research but encompassed the history of botanical exploration in the New World from the first settlement to the end of the Western frontier.

In 1999, Reveal was named Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland. Upon his retirement as a full-time faculty member, he and his wife moved to Montrose, Colorado. Broome remains affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Plant Genome Project. Reveal continues actively to research and publish his work, including contributions to the educational web site "Discovering Lewis and Clark."


The collection is organized as six series.

Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Research on Plants of Colonial Maryland
Series 4
Series 5
Series 6

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

James L. Reveal originally donated the materials related to the plants of colonial Maryland research project in 1987. He donated additional accretions related to his entire career in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006.

Related Material

Reveal was included in Who's Who in Frontier Science and Technology: 1984-1985, first edition (Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1984) and American Men and Women of Science: 1998-1999, vol. 6 (New York: R. R. Bower, 1998). The University of Maryland Archives maintains the Records of the Department of Botany. The University of Maryland Libraries also hold the papers of two other University of Maryland Botany professors, Ronald Bamford and J. B. S. Norton.

Separated Material

Books transferred to the Marylandia and Rare Books Department

  1. Moulton, Gary E. (editor). The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Volume 12. Herbarium of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  2. Reveal, James L. Gentle Conquest: The Botanical Discovery of North America with Illustrations from the Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.: Starwood Publishing, 1992.

Items transferred to the University Publications Collection

  1. Department of Botany. The Botanical Research Program in Environmental Science and Ecology, Conducted by the Department of Botany. Technical Bulletin No. 2001 (November 15, 1971)
  2. Department of Botany. Botany: University of Maryland, College Park Campus. [prospectus mailing, n.d.] (2 copies)
  3. Department of Botany. Department of Botany: University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. [prospectus mailing, n.d.]
  4. Department of Botany. Graduate Studies in the Department of Botany: The University of Maryland at College Park. [prospectus mailing, n.d.] (2 copies)

Publications on the Internet

  1. Reveal, James. "Home Page of James L. Reveal and C. Rose Broome."
  2. "James L. Reveal," Discovering Lewis and Clark.

Processing Information

The James Reveal papers arrived labeled and in the original order used by Dr. Reveal. Most of this original order has been preserved, with the exception of the publication reprints. The reprints were initially placed in reverse chronological order, and they were reorganized into traditional chronological order. All papers were placed in acid-free folders and boxes. Staples and paperclips were replaced with padded, non-reactive fasteners. When deemed appropriate, duplicate copies of reprint publications were discarded. News clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper and the originals were discarded. Series divisions reflect the original order of the collection, and the order of the Colonial Maryland materials was kept intact to preserve the order used by the researchers. Photographic materials, including photographs, negatives, slides and two x-rays, were placed in a separate series. Many of the photographs and negatives were originally grouped together in packets. Numbers were assigned to these packets so corresponding photographs and negatives could be identified once the they were separated. Photograph notebooks in binders were disbound and placed in folders or three-ring binders. The photographic materials were sleeved in Mylar and stored in photographic binders. Memorabilia items were transferred to the memorabilia collection. One folder of research materials, "Notes -- Tulipa Research --Botanical Description of Species and Varieties . . . ", by M. W. Woods (a student in the Department of Botany), was transferred to the Records of the Department of Botany (Series II, Box 6, Research Notes).

Guide to the James Reveal papers
Processed by Jill F. Reilly
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742