Mar 10 2023
A beloved member of the NYBG community for over 40 years, Carol Gracie (1941-2021) was an accomplished photographer, naturalist, educator, writer, and all around adventurer. Carol contributed to scientific discovery and also inspired generations to observe — and be in awe of — nature.
Carol along with her husband, former Garden curator Scott Mori, explored regions all over the globe, from the forests of French Guiana, across the Amazon in Brazil, through the Caribbean and beyond. These trips came in the form of conducting scientific field surveys, leading ecotours for members of the Garden, as well as informal walks with friends in preserves near her home in New York. Everywhere she went, Carol was observing, discovering, and photographing the natural world around her.
Field photographs go hand in hand with herbarium specimens, giving you an idea of the color and three dimensionality that is lost when a herbarium specimen is pressed and dried. Carol was a prolific photographer in her field work—we have 22,000 of her field photographs in our holdings, many of them associated with a corresponding herbarium specimen. These photos are valued for so many purposes, in fact looking through our Hand Lens site, you will find many of Carol's incredible photos.
Carol, Scott and their many collaborators spent years conducting field work in French Guiana, surveying the country's flora. This monumental work was published as the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana, Parts 1 & 2. In addition to helping collect herbarium specimens to document the flora, Carol captured incredible, detailed photos of the thousands of species included in the books, enriching this as a resource to identify species in northeastern South America.
Ecotour expedtions led by Carol and Scott were extremely popular trips offered to members of the Garden. These trips were incredible opportunities for Carol and Scott to share their knowledge and explore the natural history of the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe. The pair led boating expeditions through the Rio Negro in Brazil, natural history tours through Costa Rica, Trinidad, the Galapagos Islands, the Dolomite mountains of Italy, southern France, the islands of Greece, and Hawaii.
Wildflowers of the northeastearn United States were a special interest of Carol's, resulting in her last two publications, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History and Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History. These books not only document the local flora but show a wider view of how these plants are part of their ecosystems.
Forever celebrating Carol's observational skills, one genus and eight species have been named for her by various botanists describing plants new to science. The species Disciphania moriorum was named for the teamwork of Scott Mori and Carol Gracie, because on one trip in French Guiana, Carol noticed these fallen flowers on the forest floor and immediately recognized that it was a new species. Scott then climbed a tree to get into the canopy where the vine was growing in order to collect herbarium specimens of it. Carol of course also documented the plant with photos.
Another species, Gustavia gracieae, was dedicated to Carol with this quote: "Her striking photographs of plants and animals, as well as her writing about nature, has inspired many to love nature as much as she does.” (Cornejo & Mori, 2019)
Please enjoy this selection of photos, some taken by Carol, some plants dedicated to Carol and some showing the beautiful places in the world she traveled.