Roy Orlo Woodbury (1913 - 2002)

Roy Orlo Woodbury (1913 – 2002)

Roy Woodbury was a researcher and botanist whose studies of Puerto Rican flora are the basis for more than 69 specialized publications. Although he was born in the United States, Roy Orlo Woodbury made Puerto Rico his home, and he devoted his life to the laboratory that the island’s vegetation offered him. He was widely recognized and sought out in the scientific world for his humanitarianism and expertise as a botanist. Many of the plants that he discovered were named in his honor (Solanum woodburyi, Eugenia woodburyana, Lepanthes wodburyana and Malphigia woodburyana, among others).

Woodbury was born on November 28, 1913 in Mountpelier, North Dakota, but he spent his early years on a farm in Florida, where he developed his passion for plants. A graduate of the University of Miami, he completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in science. Having completed his education, he began to teach courses on local flora and botany in general, before coming to work in Puerto Rico.

In 1955 Woodbury accepted an offer from the Agricultural Experimented Station at the University of Puerto Rico to work with tropical plants. Woodbury held several positions as a plant taxonomist from 1955 to 1981 in Puerto Rico. His plant collections rapidly increased the herbarium at the experiment station, which was merged in 1985 with the Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico. As a taxonomist at the Garden he participated in its design and organization. He was a lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico from 1957 to 1973 and a full professor from 1983 to 1980, where he played an important part in developing the botanical research of graduate students. As a UPR professor, Woodbury developed courses on plant taxonomy, the ecological communities of Puerto Rico, pteridophyte taxonomy and ecology, angiosperm taxonomy, general ecology, and analysis of the vegetation and ecology of Puerto Rico.

Woodbury also worked as a consultant for public and private agencies and organizations. After his retirement from the UPR, when he was 67 (1980), Woodbury worked 8 years as a consultant for the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, working with endangered species, and he coauthored many reports on the condition of the flora of Puerto Rico. His field trips to the natural areas of the island provided him with a source of invaluable information for the identification of new plant species, as well as the rediscovery of species that had been considered to be extinct.

Woodbury participated extensively in the research and preparation of plant collections in the Caribbean region, including Saint John, the United States Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia. Woodbury died in Florida on November 21, 2002, from skin cancer, a condition that was related to his extensive exposure to the sun.

Author: Prof. María Calixta Ortiz
Published: September 08, 2014.

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