December 8, 1984: Naturalist Earl Core Dies in Morgantown

Dec 8, 2019

Dr. Earl Core, West Virginia University
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Naturalist Earl Core died in Morgantown on December 8, 1984, at age 82. The Monongalia County native received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and served on West Virginia University’s biology faculty for nearly a half-century: from 1926 to 1972. 

As an undergrad at WVU, Core had collected thousands of specimens for the WVU herbarium, of which he became the longtime curator. On his first botanical 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.

With his mentor, P. D. Strausbaugh, he wrote the classic book Flora of West Virginia, which was published in four volumes between 1952 and 1964. Earl Core wrote several other books, including the popular Spring Wild Flowers of West Virginia, which has been in print since 1948.

That same year, he persuaded WVU to set aside nearly 100 acres as an arboretum. Core Arboretum remains a living tribute to his teaching and research. It serves as an outdoor classroom and botanical laboratory, featuring more than 600 species of plants and 180 species of birds.