Main Narrative » Women in Cryptogamic Botany

Clara Eaton Cummings

By Amanda M. Chandler, Greer Lowenstein

Mar 10 2022

Clara E. Cummings (1855-1906) was a cryptogamic botanist who focused primarily on lichenology. An associate professor of both general and cryptogamic botany at Wellesley College in Massachusetts (Kiser 1999), she conducted work collecting and classifying lichens and bryophytes within North America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe (Fink 1907, Riddle 1912). While ample approbation is placed in the quality of determination efforts she put in for collections of other botanists, she was also largely behind the production of two notable exsiccatae collections featuring lichens of both general and boreal North America, respectively. Her published works include the collections Lichens of Alaska, Decades of North American Lichens, Lichenes Boreali-Americani, New England Lichens, Mosses of North America, and a Catalogue of Musci and Hepaticae of North America, North of Mexico. Cummings greatly contributed to the understanding of lichens and their distribution within North America (Fink 1907, Palmieri 1995) and is remembered also for her strength of character and meticulousness in identifying collections to species. Clara actively prepared collections of others for distribution up until her early death in 1906, after which many of her personal collections were donated to NYBG’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium (Riddle 1912).

A Closer Look


Fink, B. 1907. A Memoir of Clara E. Cummings. The Bryologist 10(3): 37 – 41.
Kiser, H.B. (1999). "Clara Eaton Cummings". Notable Women Scientists (Pamela Proffitt ed.). Gale Group. pp. 119 – 120.
Palmieri, P.A. (1997). In Adamless Eden: The Community of Women Faculty at Wellesley. Yale University Press.
Riddle, L.W. 1912. An Enumeration of Lichens Collected by Clara Eaton Cummings in Jamaica – I. Mycologia 4(3): 125 – 140.