Renowned Namesake of Pringle Herbarium Led a Storied Life

A page from an old journal with the name Cyrus Pringle written on it and the date of 1900.

The University of Vermont’s Pringle Herbarium is an on-campus natural history museum that is the second largest herbarium in New England. Established in 1902, it houses over 360,000 plant and fungi specimens, with a geographic focus on Vermont and tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, and South America. The herbarium serves as a regional and international hub for research on the classification, evolution, and distribution of plant species.

During 2023, Plant Biology Professor David Barrington, long-time curator and director of the Pringle Herbarium, retired after a remarkable 49 years of research and service. His successor is Plant Biology Assistant Professor Weston Testo, a former PhD student of Barrington.

A portrait photo of Cyrus Pringle from the early 1900's.
Cyrus Pringle

The herbarium’s namesake, Cyrus Pringle, was born in East Charlotte, Vermont in 1838. Pringle eventually became a world-renowned botanist, but his rise to this status and the legacy that followed have been considered surprising by historians, for the twists and turns of his life and career.

Pringle was a self-taught plant breeder and botanist. As a teenager, he hybridized apple trees on the family farm. He attended the University of Vermont for a brief period, but had to leave to support his widowed mother, and to tend their farm.

Two plant specimens mounted on paper, one from 1909 and another from 2012 to compare old and new collections.
Comparison of two herbarium plant specimens. The one of the left was collected in 1909, the specimen on the right was collected in 1985.

An October 2023 article in VTDigger entitled, Then Again: Vermonter became one of the nation’s most important botanists, goes into detail about the interesting life and times of Cyrus Pringle, whose botanical collections are considered the backbone of the Pringle Herbarium.

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