Larry was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 18, 1953. Although he grew up in the nearby town of Canton, he attended high school in the city and graduated from the Roxbury Latin School in 1971. He matriculated at Washington University, St. Louis, but in his third year he took a leave of absence to pursue various adventures including hikingthe entire length of the Appalachian Trail (1974) and collecting plants in southeastern Alaska and the Yukon Territory (1975). The prospect of spending a winter in -70° weather motivated him to hitchhike from Whitehorse to St. Louis and re-enroll in school where he received a BA magna cum laude in Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1976. More interested in botany than geology, he worked briefly as a herbarium technician at the Missouri Botanical Garden and then enrolled in graduate school to study plant systematics. He received an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980 and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983.
He began his professional career as an assistant curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden and was charged with setting up a program of botanical research and exploration in Madagascar. He moved to that island in 1983 and spent most of the following three years learning a little bit about the island’s biology and a lot about how to revitalize a collecting program, reorganize a tropical herbarium, and import used and refurbished Toyota Land Cruisers from Japan. The first field vehicle imported was bright red with the steering column on the right and its distinctiveness and novelty earned Larry the sobriquet “Monsieur Toyota” among the street urchins of Antananarivo. In 1987 he returned to Texas and was a lecturer in the Department of Biology at the University of Texas at Austin while his wife finished her PhD, also in systematic botany. Subsequently, he was hired by the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and conducted botanical inventories in the northern Andes from 1988 to 1991. In late 1991 he joined the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
As one might expect, his research reflects the diverse and privileged experiences he has had. He is interested in the systematics of the Malvaceae s.l., especially tropical woody genera formerly ascribed to the Sterculiaceae and Tiliaceae; involved in floristic inventories of protected areas in the Andes of Venezuela; and intrigued by the history of botanical exploration in the western Indian Ocean and northern South America. He has published many research papers, several books, including Plant Collectors in Madagascar and the Comoro Islands (1997), and numerous book reviews. Fieldwork has taken him throughout the Americas, Africa, and Madagascar.
He married Lisa C. Barnett in 1984 and they have two sons; Matthew and Nicholas.
He was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2012.