The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center
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Dennis W. Magee Flora of the Northeast Collection

Dennis Magee Flora of the Northeast Collection

1982-2018 Bulk: 1982-1994
1 .417 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1209

Dennis Magee has spent his life dedicated to the study of the natural world as a hunter, trapper, fisherman, environmental consultant, and scholar. He attended grad school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the 1970s and was a protege of Harry Ahles, a field botanist and Botany professor, who co-wrote books on the flora of Illinois and the Carolinas. Magee and Ahles became friends and spent many hours together, building Ahles’ log cabin located on Horse Mountain in Hatfield, MA, going to diners, and collecting plants for the UMass Herbarium. Ahles taught Magee how to think about classification and how to construct useful keys of genera and species. Following Ahles’ passing in March 1981, Magee petitioned the Botany Department and Ahles’ sister Marjorie Armstrong to take Ahles’ large file of distribution records of New England plant species and the keys he used for his teaching, and turn it into a book on the flora of New England. This turned into a 17 year undertaking in which Magee gathered lists of species, created species and genera keys, secured funding, worked with illustrator Abigail Rorer to create illustrations, and other assorted book-related tasks. Finally, the book was published by UMass Press in September of 1999. It was well received and sold out of its initial 2500 print run within the first five years of publication. It is still widely used by universities as a textbook and a reference book by botanists, consultants, and other professionals.

Magee’s collection consists of his original handwritten species and genera keys as well as the original handwritten manuscript of Flora of the Northeast. An article titled “How I Wrote the Flora of the Northeast: A Manual of the Vascular Flora of New England and Adjacent New York”, which was published in a 2018 issue of Phytoneuron, accompanies the collection.


Plants -- New England -- Identification

Types of material

Manuscripts (documents)