Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2014 v60 No 1 SpringActions

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Table of Contents

Society News

Botany Conference:  A Touchstone for Ideas and Inspiration ...............................................................2

BSA Science Education News and Notes .......................................................


Editor’s Choice Review ..................................................................................



In memoriam - James Howard Wandersee - Botanical Science Educator ..........................8

Personalia – Newly Elected AAAS Fellows ....................................................................11

E.O.Wilson Biodiversity Symposium...............................................................................12

The American Journal of Botany Celebrates Centennial .................................................13


Students’ interest in useful plants – A potential key to counteract plant blindness ..........18

Botanical Education in the United States: Part 3.  The Botanical Society Builds  

the  Discipline, 1895-1960 ...............................................................................................28

Book Reviews

Bryological .......................................................................................................................62

Developmental and Structural ..........................................................................................63

Economic Botany .............................................................................................................64

Phycological .....................................................................................................................64

Systematics  ......................................................................................................................65

Books Received .............................................................................................


Volume 59 Reviewers



July 26 - 30 2014 - The Boise Centre - Boise, Idaho

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Society News

Botany Conference A 

Touchstone for Ideas & 

Inspiration while Building 


The buzz of scientific collaboration fills the 

hallways, nooks, and crannies of the hotel. Across 

the diverse scope of botanical study, there is a 

sense of excitement about what can be learned 

in conversations between the “rock stars” of the 

botanical world and the emerging new scientists.

Diversity in the Botanical Society of America is 

big and bold, open and loud. It means not only that 

the Society is open to all colors, shapes, genders and 

types of botanical scientists, but that it engenders a 

kind of challenge to bring something bigger to the 

table. It’s more than just talking about your field of 

study—it’s about actively understanding how your 

field of study fits into the bigger picture and makes 

a difference to the world.

The Botany Conference, representing over 6,000 

plant scientists across the world, is a lot like a family, 

say some of its attendees. The difference might be 

that this particular family has learned to discuss 

issues in a positive way. “We bring issues forward 

in a way that promotes the science and teaches the 

individual to be a better scientist,” said program 

chair David Spooner. “We believe in good science.”

Janice Coons, a 20-year member, calls BSA an 

“all-inclusive family. Here, you feel like a first-class 

citizen. Students feel that sense of excitement too.” 

Anitra Thorhaug calls the BSA “larger thinking, 

more focused to the future” as an organization.  

As a senior scientist, she said the society’s multi-

discipline umbrella allows her to build unique and 

valuable friendships and resources.

Professor Chris Martine sees BSA and its annual 

conference as a way to access and network with the 

professionals in the field.  “It’s an active community 

of botanical scientists,” he says. “You come to a 

meeting so you are connected.”

And that, he prompts, is the crux of the matter. 

That connection is imperative to a scientist’s 

ultimate success. “We have to be reminded we’re 

part of a bigger endeavor and part of a larger group 

of really cool people, not isolated. We’re all people 

trying to figure the same things out,” Martine 


One good way to see that is the program called 

PLANTS, where scientists actively mentor students 

new to the Society and to the conference so they 

have a great experience and get the most out of the 

meeting. They connect and get tips and suggestions 

for the day, but most say the biggest take-away can 

be friendships that last through a lifetime. 

The Botany 2013 crowd applauds Nalini Nadkarni, last year’s plenary speaker. Conferences are 

more than just talking about your field of study—it’s about actively understanding how your 

field of study fits into the bigger picture and makes a difference to the world..

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Ann Sakai,  who helps to coordinate the program 

from the volunteer side, says the relationship-

building side of the PLANTS program sends fingers 

of learning in both directions. “Everyone is learning 

something,” both the students and the mentors. 

“You never know what might pique your interest 

in one of these conversations,” said botanist Roger 

Rosentreter. “You have a conversation at the 

meeting, but that connection extends far beyond 

that day.”

For young plant scientists like Morgan Gostel and 

Jon Gibbons, the conference offers connections, 

networking opportunities, and good science. 


Gibbons said, “I came not knowing anyone and left 

with real friends I will have a long time. Now I use 

my TA position and friends to get the word out, 

and go into classes. The meetings are interesting—

if you’re lost and trying to find your way, go to a 

variety of sessions and find out what’s interesting. 

If you know what you want to do, focus on that. 

You will meet the people you read articles about, 

the rock stars, the legends in botany!”

Gostel, from George Mason University, came for 

the first time knowing no one. He described how he 

was embraced by the members, and went to a cross-

section of talks to learn as much as possible about 

a lot of things. By the next year, he was prepared to 

take on more networking, interacting, and getting 

more involved.

“We’re breaking the initial misconception that 

plants aren’t cool,” Gostel said, laughing.

Spooner says he “hears all the time that the 

meeting just has a good feeling about it,” a feeling 

born of camaraderie, of family, of good people.  

“There is a lot of activity in the meeting that brings 

people of different disciplines together, resulting in 

long-range friendships,” he said.

The world of botanical science is a relatively 

small group, the scientists will tell you. And there 

are both bigger and smaller meetings to attend than 

the Botany Conference. “People who don’t attend 

don’t know how much they’re missing out on,” said 

Professor Joe Armstrong. “I have some very good 

friends I wouldn’t have if not for the meetings and 

the field trips over the years.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to sit at tables with some 

amazing leaders I never would have met if it had 

not been for leadership positions with the Society,” 

Spooner said in agreement. “Coming to scientific 

meetings is a key part of my own education.”

Fellow BSA member Jack Horner echoed those 

sentiments, saying he started presenting his work 

in BSA in 1960 as a graduate student and has been a 

member ever since. “It’s a Society of happy, pleasant 

people wanting to involve people. BSA allows 

graduate students to get involved and present their 

work,” he explained, adding that the dimension of 

dynamic young scientists mentored by the older 

scientists gives the Society an exciting yet familial 

feel. “BSA is like a family,” says his wife Cecilia 

Horner, who has been coming to the meetings 

alongside him all these years. “You always know 

you’ll strike up a relationship that will carry on for 


Many come to the meeting for the chance to see 

friends they haven’t seen since the last conference, 

says professor Steve Weller. Then they add to that 

delight the excitement of learning the new scientific 

Many attendees participate in Botany-In-Action, 

the conference’s annual service project —Giving 

back to the local community and networking!  

Botany 2013 focused on  helping Bayou Rebirth 

in New Orleans.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Science, Technology & Conversation Converge In Trade Show

If you like a little bit of science—a glimpse at the best of technology, the best in the world of scientific 

books, or a job opportunity in botany—where do you go?

Go to the Exhibit Hall at the Botany Conference!

If you hit it right, you can avail yourself of the fabulous poster sessions, 

chat it up around the yummy food stations, and still get around to the 

20-some vendors who make the annual trek from around the country 

to make sure the BSA members know how much they support the 

botanical scientists.

Name visibility, brand awareness, product notoriety, and the ability 

to launch new products and even sell products right on site are all the 

reasons the vendors book into the conference show.

“These are the people we want to sell to,” said Andrea Ciecierski of 

CABI, a research organization from the UK who brought books to 

Botany 2013. 

Bruce Davis of Academia in Books, a long-time vendor at the show, 

said the publisher picks out the show and books every year and believes 

BSA is the place to be.

And the American Society of Botanical Artists, 

represented by Marilyn Garber, not only came to the 

show for the first time—they also put on a workshop on 

botanical art. “It was time to step forward and connect 

with the scientists, so we brought an artist from the 

Smithsonian to do a workshop on illustration,” she said.

Art took another form in Jensen Botanical Art’s booth, 

where scientist William Jensen turns electro-microscope 

images into art that goes like hotcakes every year. Shaped like 

trees, hearts, animals, and more, it is one of the popular spots 

for conversation on the floor.

Monsanto organized its booth into a conversation pit, 

hoping to engage conference-goers into dialog about 

potential jobs in plant research. “We need scientists with a 

broad range of skills,” said Carlos Gomez, the Technology 

and Recruiting Lead for the company. 

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BSA Science Education 

News and Notes

BSA Science Education News and Notes is a quarterly update about the BSA’s education efforts and the 

broader education scene.  We invite you to submit news items or ideas for future features.  Contact:  Catrina 

Adams, Acting Director of Education, at or Marshall Sundberg, PSB Editor, at psb@

New and Ongoing Society 


BSA to Host Booth at USA 

Science and Engineering Festival 

in April

The Third Annual 

USA Science and 

Engineering Festival

 will be held at the Walter 

E. Washington Convention Center in Washington 

D.C. on April 25, 26, and 27. This event is the 

largest STEM education event of its kind in the 

United States, and approximately 350,000 visitors 

are expected. The BSA will host a booth at the 

Expo and have several interactive stations set up to 

encourage visitors to experience plants and learn 

about botany and botany careers.  

We are still recruiting volunteers to help staff the 

booth. If you are in the D.C. area, we would love to 

have your help at the booth, sharing your love of 

plants with the public. We are especially looking for 

volunteers available to volunteer on Sunday, April 

27th. If you would like to volunteer, please contact 

Phil Gibson at

PlantingScience Going Strong, 

Seeks Continued Funding

The spring 2014 session of PlantingScience 

opened on February 18, and teams are now 

connecting with their scientist mentors. This 

session we have over 200 teams, 180 mentors, 

and approximately 850 students participating. 

Please stop by our project gallery at http://www. to see the student teams’ 

progress this spring, or perhaps to browse last fall’s 

Star Project winners, representing some of the best 

projects of the previous session. 

We are also happy to report that an additional 

partner has joined the PlantingScience team. We’d 

like to welcome the Arabidopsis Biological Resource 

Center out of The Ohio State University. Their 

outreach group will be promoting PlantingScience’s 

Arabidopsis Genetics module and is putting 

together a kit of seeds specifically for our teachers 

participating in that module. 

Since PlantingScience’s NSF DRK-12 grant 

ended last year, a primary goal of 2014 is to secure 

continued funding for PlantingScience. Several 

grant applications are in the works, as well as plans 

for a crowdsourcing campaign and a new area of the 

site for accepting 


. The newly published 

book and forthcoming e-book “Inquiring About 

Plants: A Practical Guide to Engaging Science 

Practices” by Gordon Uno, Marshall Sundberg, and 

Claire Hemingway will also be used to support the 

PlantingScience program.

Vision and Change Societies 

Coalition highlights Scientific 

Society Contributions to Vision 

and Change Goals

BSA is participating in the Vision and Change 

Societies Coalition, a group of scientific societies 

headed by the American Institute of Biological 

Sciences. The goal of the coalition is to share and 

publicize what scientific societies are doing toward 

the goals of Vision and Change. The current project 

is to create a matrix of activities that can be shared 

both internally within the coalition, and openly 

with the public. This should allow cross-fertilization 

of ideas, serve as the basis for evaluating society 

impacts, and increase the visibility of societies’ 

Vision and Change initiatives. 

One item we’ll be sharing with other societies 

through the coalition is this summer’s “Vision 

and Change in Undergraduate Botany Education” 

Symposium at Botany 2014. If you will be joining 

us this year in Boise, please consider attending this 

symposium to learn more about and discuss the 

objectives of the Vision & Change Call to Action 

from the perspective of plant science. 

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Editor’s Choice Review

For those of you who missed last year’s annual meeting in New Orleans, three papers from the “Yes, Bobby, 

Evolution is True!” symposium were recently published in the Reports of the National Center for Science 


Yes, Bobby, Evolution is True! 

Armstrong, Joseph E, Marshall D. Sundberg. 2014.  Reports of the National Center for Science 

Education 34(1): 1.1-1.4. 

Louisiana’s Love Affair with Creationism.

Forrest, Barbara.  2014. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 34(1): 2.1-2.7. 

Confessions of an Oklahoma Evolutionist: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. 

Rice, Stanley A.  2014.    Reports of the National Center for Science Education 34(1): 4.1-4.7.


In the first paper, Joe Armstrong and I discuss the rationale for organizing this symposium for the Botanical 

Society meeting in New Orleans.  Our objectives were educational:  first, to introduce plant scientists to the 

ongoing confrontation between science and creationists that is prevalent in most states, with Louisiana as 

a timely example;  second, to provide examples of how botanists can use plants to effectively teach about 

science in general and evolution in particular.   
The Forrest paper provides a historical perspective to this controversy which includes one of the landmark 

Supreme Court decisions in the Creationism/Evolution controversy, as well as an ongoing controversy 

over a recently passed state law permitting creationism to be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution 

in public school biology classes.  
Stan Rice provided one of four examples of how to effectively approach teaching science, and specifically 

evolution, in the undergraduate classroom, particularly in an environment friendly to fundamentalist 

religious values.  

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In Memorium

James Howard Wandersee, 

Botanical Educator 


Early Career

James Howard (Jim) Wandersee was born on 

December 21, 1946 in New Ulm, Minnesota. Early 

on, he chose a path in biology education, attending 

nearby Mankato State University (now Minnesota 

State University) where he earned a BS in biology 

in 1968. It was there that he met his wife, Carol, 

and they married soon after graduation. Jim 

took a middle school/high school teaching job in 

Milwaukee and began graduate work in science 

education, completing his MS in 1974 at the 

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He shifted his 

focus to Curriculum and Instruction and completed 

his PhD at Marquette University four years later.  

Jim took his young family, now including a son, 

Dan, and a daughter, Chris, back to New Ulm where 

he accepted a position at Martin Luther College. 

Beginning in 1980, and for the next eight summers, 

he did postdoctoral training with botanist/educator 

Joe Novak at Cornell University. This collaboration, 

along with another Novak protégé, Joel Mintzes, 

resulted in a number of important studies, including 

the classic Teaching Science for Understanding 

(Mintzes, Wandersee, and Novak, 1994). During 

the evenings of 1988-89, he commuted from New 

Ulm to St. Paul to work in the Biology & Society 

Program at Hamline University.  

In 1989 he accepted a position in the Department 

of Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana 

State University (LSU). (His timing was perfect 

as I [MDS] had just assumed responsibility for 

redesigning the biology program.) Jim eagerly 

encouraged one of his new Master’s students 

to choose a project focusing on assessing the 

effectiveness of the program, and this established a 

solid bridge between science and science education 

on campus. Jim was an active participant in the LSU 

chapter of Sigma Xi, religiously attending monthly 

luncheon meetings and occasionally presenting his 


Before the internet arrived, Jim produced a 

monthly newsletter with a listing of all seminars and 

lectures in every science and technology department 

on campus, which was distributed widely to 

promote interdisciplinary communication. In 

1992 he joined Professor Mark Hafner (Director 

of LSU’s Museum of Natural Science) as co-PI on a 

grant supporting the National Evolution Education 

Research Conference on campus, which brought 

together 46 scientists, science teacher educators, 

and science teachers to discuss critical issues and 

areas of needed research on evolution education.  

Jim was always interested in the visualization 

of information and so, in 1996, he established 

the 15


 Laboratory at LSU which ultimately 

became the largest biology education group 

in the country (

thelaboratorysmission.html). The focus of the lab 

was visual cognition research to improve biological 

and botanical learning. One of the early projects 

culminated in “Toward a Theory of Plant Blindness” 

(Wandersee and Schussler, 2001).   

Personal Memories

By Elisabeth E. Schussler 

As he was for many others, Jim was an important 

mentor to me and had a far-reaching impact on 

my views about science education. I was a botany 

graduate student at LSU when we first met; 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

uncertain about my future in botanical research, I 

was looking for opportunities to explore my interest 

in biology education. I registered for his graduate 

education courses on “Teaching About Plants” and 

“Visualizing Science” and realized through Jim’s 

example that you could have a passion for science 

without needing to do bench science. Jim’s love of 

science practically oozed out of his pores when 

he was teaching, and I still remember the joy he 

conveyed about every scientific concept he taught.  

When Jim and I began our discussions about 

the ideas that would lead to “Plant Blindness,” it 

was mainly out of a sense of injured disbelief that 

others couldn’t see the plant world as clearly as we 

did.  We would cry (figuratively) into our coffee and 

try to explain to each other how people could walk 

around the world and not see all the plants. Others 

attributed this phenomenon to an explicit bias 

against plants, but Jim and I—optimists always—

thought it was more of a collective lack of awareness.  

It was Jim’s understanding of cognitive processing 

of visual features that ultimately provided the 

explanation we published—that, in essence, the 

visual system and the brain, along with a strong 

dose of culture, make people “blind” to plants. Jim 

dove into spreading the word about Plant Blindness 

with the same enthusiasm he demonstrated in 

teaching, and I will never forget his joy when the 

term caught on and started to be used by others.

Not only did Jim instill a sense of research ethics 

and professionalism among his students, but he 

also built a community of scholars. He facilitated 

multiple networking opportunities each year for 

doctoral students and past graduates, including 

the annual 15


 Lab Banquet. One highlight of the 

banquet was the announcement of the prestigious 

Giverny Award winner for the year, given to the 

outstanding children’s science picture book. The 

2013 awardee, Green, marked the 16th year the 

award was presented (http://www.15degreelab.

com/2013givernyaward.html). However, attendees 

also acknowledged that discussions of scholarly 

publications, and the sharing of accomplishments 

and challenges, were incredibly rich and valuable 

experiences. The careful mentoring and guidance 

served former students well: Jim’s students make 

major research contributions in both national and 

international forums.

Personal Memories

By Renee Clary

Jim Wandersee chaired my PhD committee, and 

we subsequently founded EarthScholars Research 

Group, the primary focus of which is to enhance the 

integration of geological and biological knowledge 

in science instruction (http://earthscholars.

com/). To date, EarthScholars Research Group 

has produced 52 peer-reviewed journal articles, 

16 book chapters, 49 electronic publications, 

and 156 research presentations. One research 

article, “Krakatoa Erupts!” was honored with the 

2012 Gold (first prize) Association Media and 

Publishing EXCEL Award for outstanding feature 

article. Throughout the 12 years of our research 

program, EarthScholars presented research by 

invitation at many international forums, including 

the International Botanical Congress (Austria), 

the International Geological Congress (Norway, 

Italy, Australia), and the Delta Research and Global 

Observation Network (Cambodia). EarthScholars 

also served as official interpretative science signage 

consultants for Missouri Botanical Garden’s Doris 

I. Schnuck Children’s Garden, and designers for the 

Palmetto Trail at Barton Arboretum.

Until his retirement, Jim held the W.H. “Bill” 

LeBlanc Endowed Chair of Educational Theory, 

Policy, and Practice and was proud that “…the LSU 

Jim Wandersee and Renee Clary, co-founders 

of the EarthScholars team.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Chancellor and Board of Supervisors voted to grant 

me Alumni Professor Emeritus status—the first 

time any LSU science education professor has ever 

been named an emeritus. I am very happy to retain 

an official LSU faculty connection; we published 

10 articles and book chapters since I retired a year 

ago” (MDS, personal communication). During 

his LSU career, Jim also held a number of visiting 

appointments, including the Center for Academic 

Practice, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 

Scotland; Faculty of Education, Monash University, 

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Department 

of Education, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; 

Center for Research in Mathematics and Science 

Education, San Diego State University; and the 

Science Media Group, Harvard-Smithsonian 

Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA.  

His further accomplishments include election 

as Fellow of the American Association for the 

Advancement of Science and Fellow of the 

Linnaean Society of London. He served as Editor 

of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and 

the  International Journal of Science Education

He was a 2007 recipient of the BSA’s Charles E. 

Bessey Teaching Award and in 2013 he received the 

Postlethwait Award from the Teaching Section of 

the Botanical Society.  

Fifty science education researchers are proud to 

call Jim Wandersee their major professor. Many 

more of us are proud to have been his friend and 


Literature Cited:

Mintzes, Joel, James Wandersee, and Joseph Novak. 

1994.  Teaching Science for Understanding: A 

Constructivist View. New York: Academic Press.

Wandersee, James H. and Elisabeth E. Schussler. 

2001. Toward a Theory of Plant Blindness. Plant 

Science Bulletin 47(1):2-8.

--Marshall D. Sundberg, Professor of Botany, Empo-

ria State University; Renee M. Clary, Associate Pro-

fessor of Geosciences, Mississippi State University; 

Elisabeth E. Schussler, Assistant Professor of Ecology 

and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, 


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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Gordon Fox studies plant 

population ecology, especially 

demography and the evolution 

of life histories. Some of his 

research is empirical, ranging 

from the effects of fire on pine 

populations to the ecology 

and evolution of variation in 

flowering time. Other research 

is theoretical, lately focusing 

on consequences of how 

demographic heterogeneity 

within populations affects 

growth and extinction risk of 

populations. Still other research 

concerns the development of 

practical quantitative tools for 

population biology. He is co-

author of the textbook The 

Ecology of Plants. Gordon can be 

reached at

John Freudenstein’s research 

focuses on angiosperm 

systematics, and in particular 

on the following broad topical 

areas: patterns of morphological 

and molecular evolution and 

their relationship to biodiversity, 

species definition and the 

interpretation of molecular and 

morphological patterns at the 

base of the systematic hierarchy, 

historical associations among 

taxa and their integration in life 

histories, and methodological 

issues in phylogenetic analysis.  

His research group focuses 

especially on studies in 

Orchidaceae and Ericaceae. 


One genus in particular that he 

has focused on is the leafless 

Corallorhiza, in which he and 

his students have investigated 

phylogenetic relationships, 

species circumscription, 

molecular evolution, and fungal 

associations.  John can be 

reached at freudenstein.1@osu.


Gordon Fox

John Freudenstein

Congratulations New AAAS Fellows

Muriel Poston

It is a wonderful honor to 

have been elected as an AAAS 

Fellow. Over the past several 

years, I have been involved in 

various educational initiatives 

focusing on undergraduate 

science education, most notably 

in the planning and development 

of the AAAS “Vision & Change 

in Undergraduate Biology 

Education.”  In addition, as 

chair of the AIBS Education 

Committee, we have focused 

on the leadership challenges 

for biology departments as they 

undertake the transformation 

in undergraduate biology 

programs. During my 

appointment as the Division 

Director in the Human Resource 

and Development Division 

(HRD) at the National Science 

Foundation, I worked with 

the NSF programs supporting 

underrepresented groups, 

especially those programs 

serving minority institutions, 

e.g. the HBCU and Tribal 

College programs, and those that 

supported women and girls, e.g., 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

(Poston con’t) ADVANCE and GSE. As a member 

of the Botanical Society of America and the 

American Society of Plant Taxonomists, my focus 

in undergraduate science education has always been 

through the lens of plant biology. The importance of 

broadening participation in undergraduate biology 

education, and in plant biology in particular, 

continues to inform my academic and professional 

work here at Pitzer College.

E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium Scheduled for April

Join Dr. Edward O. Wilson and a panel of biodiversity experts for three days of briefings and stimulating 

dialog on the state and future of biodiversity on our planet. The event will be held at the University of 

Alabama on April 22-24, 2014.

Speakers will include:

•  Dr. E.O. Wilson, Harvard University
•  Dr. P. Dee Boersma, University of Washington
•  Dr. R. Scot Duncan, Birmingham-Southern College
•  Dr. Ryan Earley, University of Alabama
•  Dr. Scott V. Edwards, Harvard University
•  Dr. Harry W. Greene, Cornell University
•  Dr. Juan Lopez-Bautista, University of Alabama
•  Dr. Jonathan B. Losos, Harvard University
•  Dr. Meg Lowman, North Carolina State University
•  Dr. D. Bruce Means, Coastal Plains Institute and Land Conservancy & Florida State University
•  Dr. Michael B. A. Oldstone, The Scripps Research Institute
•  Dr. Richard Richards, University of Alabama
•  Dr. Leslie J. Rissler, University of Alabama
•  Dr. Sahotra Sarkar, University of Texas at Austin
•  Dr. Diana H. Wall, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory & Colorado State University

Registration is required; seating is limited.
For more information, visit

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014


 American Journal of Botany Celebrates Centennial 

Throughout 2014

This year, the BSA is celebrating 100 years of continuous publication of the American Journal of Botany

Through special “AJB Centennial Review” papers, author profiles in PSB, a party at the annual meeting 

this summer, and other surprises, the Society and the journal will reflect on its accomplishments so far and 

look forward to what lies ahead. Thus far in 2014, the AJB has taken a look back at not only the formation 

of the journal and some of the key research published within its pages, but also where the journal, and plant 

science, is headed in the future.

The following AJB Centennial Review articles are already available and can be accessed for free:
“The American Journal of Botany: Into the Second Century of Publication” by Judy Jernstedt [101(1):1, 2014]
“The evolutionary-developmental origins of multicellularity” by Karl J. Niklas [101(1):6, 2014]
“The nature of serpentine endemism” by Brian L. Anacker [101(2):219, 2014]
 “The voice of American botanists: The founding and establishment of the American Journal of Botany

‘American botany,’ and the Great War (1906-1935)” by Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis [101(3):389, 2014]

These articles are also hosted at, and the site also hosts other free content---

nearly 1000 articles from the history of the AJB, as written by the journal’s top 25 contributors! 

The AJB is one of the few surviving plant science publications published by a non-profit scientific society. 

The journal, and its authors, reviewers, editors, readers, and subscribers, are at the heart of the Botanical 

Society of America, and the strength of this connection makes the AJB stand out from many other journals. 

As Judy Jernstedt wrote in the article listed above,  

“Science and scientific communication will change in unimaginable ways over the 

decades of the AJB’s second century. What won’t change is that the AJB will always be 

moving forward and constantly striving to fulfill its role in botanical publication, with 

the charge of the first Editor-in-Chief, F. C. Newcombe, as the guide: to ‘…be as wide 

as the whole science, … to serve the interests of organizations whose members come 

from all quarters.’ We as supporters, authors, and readers of the AJB should reflect with 

satisfaction on its past successes and enthusiastically commit ourselves to working for a 

bright future for our journal, the American Journal of Botany” [Jernstedt, 2014: 4].

In the pages of the Plant Science Bulletin throughout 2014, we want to acknowledge some remarkable 

and prolific authors—many of whom also provided service to the Society in numerous other capacities. In 

this issue, we highlight Karl Niklas, Pam and Doug Soltis, and Mark Chase. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Karl Niklas, Cornell University

Karl Niklas has had a long history of serving both the 

Botanical Society of America (a 37-year member who served 

as BSA President from 2008 to 2009) and the American 

Journal of Botany (Editor-in-Chief from 1995 to 2004, with 

79 papers published in the journal since 1976). We asked 

Karl about the unexpected turns his research has taken, and 

continues to take, throughout his illustrious career. 

What were you doing and what most interested you 

around the time you published your first AJB paper in 

1976: “Morphology of Protosalvinia from the Upper 

Devonian of Ohio and Kentucky” [63(1):9, 1976]?

I was 25 years old when I received my Ph.D. in 1974. That 

year, I was offered my first job at the New York Botanical 

Garden, as an assistant curator. Shortly thereafter, my 

interests shifted from traditional paleobotanical researches 

to the study of the chemical composition of fossil plants. So, the first of my papers published in the AJB 

(dealing with the morphology of the fossil alga Protosalvinia) was already part of my past and did not 

reflect what I was doing in 1976, which was paleochemotaxonomy.

How has the thread of your research changed over time?
My undergraduate degree was in mathematics. My Ph.D. was in paleobotany. In the 1980s, I started 

retooling as a scientist to study biomechanics and returned to my mathematical roots. In the 1990s, I 

gained an interest in size-dependent phenomena (allometry and scaling). In the early part of the 21st 

century, my interests in biomechanics and allometry continued, but I’ve explored new areas of interest 

(such as computer simulations of developmental phenomena).

What areas have you consistently explored? What areas did 

you not expect to explore?

I have always explored the quantitative relationships between 

organic structure and function (in the context of environmental 

factors). I never expected to study the organic chemistry of 


Which of your AJB papers stands out most to you and why?
I have to say that the one article that stands out the most 

to me was the one I wrote after receiving the Jeanette Siron 

Pelton Award in 2002 (“The bio-Logic and machinery of plant 

morphogenesis” [90(4):515, 2003]). Writing this paper forced 

me to confront a new field (evo-devo) that continues to interest me.

Why have you chosen AJB as one of the journals in which 

you’ve published throughout your career? 

The BSA has always been my professional society of choice, 

and the AJB is its official “voice.” The journal speaks to all plant 

biologists, because it is a “generalist” journal. I will always be an 

AJB subscriber, and I will continue to submit my work to the AJB.

Karl’s latest AJB article is an AJB Centennial Review titled, 

“Th e evolutionary-developmental origins of multicellularity,” 

which appears in the January 2014 issue [101(1):6, 2014]. Karl’s 

complete list of AJB publications, which are free for viewing 

throughout 2014, can be found at


Karl Niklas, New York Botanical Garden, 1974

Karl Nikilas at the 2012 ceremony 

where he received the Stephen H. Weiss 

Presidential Fellow Award, Cornell 


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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

In looking back over the course of your 

research, what areas have you consistently 

explored?  What areas did you not expect to 


Doug: We have consistently been interested 

in angiosperm relationships and polyploidy… 

the tools have changed. Some things have come 

full circle. Interesting to see that my first AJB 

paper (“Heterochromatin banding in Boykinia, 

Heuchera, Mitella, Sullivantia, Tiarella, and 

Tolmiea (Saxifragaceae)” [69(1): 108, 1982] was 

on chromosomes using what we then considered 

a sophisticated method (Giemsa banding) and 

my most recently accepted paper (“Natural 

hybrids between Tragopogon  mirus and T. 

miscellus (Asteraceae): A new perspective on 

karyotypic changes following hybridization at the 

polyploid level” [100(10): 2016, 2013]) was on 

chromosomes using FISH and GISH, which are 

now the most powerful tools we have for examining 

chromosomes. Certainly, I never thought we 

would be doing floral evolutionary developmental 

genetics, transcriptomics or proteomics.

Pam: I have long been interested in hybridization, 

introgression, and polyploidy, since my dissertation 

research, and these areas continue to be a major 

focus, with 25 years of work on Tragopogon 

polyploids. Although also having conducted 

phylogenetic analyses since my dissertation, I 

did not expect to become as deeply involved in 

angiosperm phylogenetics as I have.  However, 

phylogeny is the framework for so much of what 

we do, and it therefore has been a very important 

part of my research over the years.  I could not have 

Pamela Soltis and Douglas 

Soltis, University of Florida

Pam and Doug Soltis are each accomplished 

scientists in their own right---and yet their names 

are often mentioned together for the combined 

research they have pursued over the years.  They 

recently offered insights regarding their service in the 

BSA (including Pam’s 2007-2008 term as president 

and Doug’s 1999-2000 term) and their numerous 

contributions to the AJB dating back to the 1980s.

Take us back to the early 1980s: Where were 

you, what were you doing, and what were you 

studying/most interested in at the time?  

Doug: I was in my second year as a faculty member 

at UNC Greensboro.  At that time we were doing 

a lot of isozyme work (enzyme electrophoresis)—

that was the hot molecular/genetic tool at the time. 

Things have come a long way. I was very interested 

in population genetics and breeding systems in 

flowering plants and also ferns. We also did a lot of 

chromosome banding, a cutting-edge cytogenetic 

technique of that time, which allowed us to look at 

chromosomal evolution, species relationships, etc.

Pam: I was finishing graduate school, getting 

married to Doug, and moving to Washington from 

Kansas.  I was interested in applying molecular 

(DNA) methods to questions of hybridization 

and polyploidy and had been exploring these 

approaches while a student.  My first AJB paper (“An 

Intergeneric Hybrid in the Saxifragaceae: Evidence 

from Ribosomal RNA Genes” [72(9):1388, 1985]) 

was a test case for using rDNA for these sorts of 


How has the thread of your research changed 

over time?

Doug:  The DNA revolution and now the 

informatics revolution have dramatically changed 

what we are able to do.  When I started, we were not 

yet using DNA as a tool for examining relationships 

or population genetics.  Now we are building 

massive phylogenetic trees using huge DNA data 

sets and conducting mega-analyses using large 

computer resources. Amazing.

Pam: I still continue to collaborate with Doug 

on Saxifragales work occasionally, as one of our 

recent papers attests (“Phylogenetic relationships 

and character evolution analysis of Saxifragales 

using a supermatrix approach” [100(5):916, 2013]).  

Interestingly, much of my other research remains 

focused on hybridization and polyploidy, and the 

application of new molecular approaches to obtain 

more detailed views of reticulate evolution.

Pam and Doug Soltis, 1988, during an AIBS 

conference in Davis, CA.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

predicted 29 years ago that I would be sequencing 

a genome or doing population genomics on 

Amborella trichopoda! 

In looking back at all of the articles you’ve 

published in the AJB, which ones stand out above 

the others? 

Doug: “Allopolyploid Speciation in Tragopogon: 

Insights from Chloroplast DNA“ [76(8):1119, 

1989]. This is one of our first papers on the recently 

and repeatedly formed polyploids in Tragopogon

this kind of got the ball rolling for us on this topic, 

which is something we have thoroughly enjoyed 

and one we have now invested considerable time 

and energy.  It has been exciting to see more and 

more people interested in the Tragopogon  system 

as the years have flown past.  Interestingly, one of 

our most recent AJB papers is on these Tragopogon 


“Angiosperm phylogeny: 17 genes, 640 taxa” 

[98(4):704, 2011]. This more recent paper 

culminates many years of interest in clarifying the 

backbone of angiosperm phylogeny. This paper 

represents the results of another large collaborative 

aimed at clarifying angiosperm relationships. 

Earlier papers in this series include rbcL by Chase 

et al. (1993) (“Phylogenetics of Seed Plants: An 

Analysis of Nucleotide Sequences from the Plastid 

Gene rbcL” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 

80[3]: 528, 1993), and the three gene analysis 

of Soltis et al. (2000) (“Angiosperm phylogeny 

inferred from 18S rDNA, rbcL, and atpB sequences” 

Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 133[4]:381, 

2000). I like these papers because they illustrated 

well one of the real strengths of the botanical 

community—our ability to collaborate and work 

towards a common goal on a large- scale process. 

I feel that we (the botanists) really transformed 

systematics/evolutionary biology with these huge 

collaboratives—I think we can all be very proud of 


Pam: “Electrophoretic Evidence for Genetic 

Diploidy in Psilotum nudum” [75(11):1667, 

1988]. I really enjoyed working on ferns and other 

tracheophytes with independent sporophyte and 

gametophyte generations.  Their genetic systems 

were nearly unknown at the time.  Psilotum was 

an enigma, with high chromosome numbers 

suggesting ancient polyploidy, but diploid 

enzyme expression patterns.  It set up a question 

still unanswered today:  Are lycophytes and 

monilophytes with high chromosome numbers 

ancient polyploids with silenced genes, or did they 

get their high chromosome numbers and large 

DNA contents through some other mechanism?

Another favorite is “Genetic Variation in 

Tragopogon Species: Additional Origins of 

the Allotetraploids T. mirus and T. miscellus 

(Compositae)” [82(10):1329, 1995]. At the 

opposite end of the polyploidy continuum from 

the possible ancient polyploids in the monilophytes 

and lycophytes are two allotetraploid species of 

Tragopogon, which originated in the early 1900s.  

In this paper, we compiled all available evidence, 

from our own allozyme and DNA data to earlier 

data in the literature, to estimate the number of 

independent origins of these two species.  It was 

a fantastic experience to pull all the data, from 

Marion Ownbey and his collaborators and beyond, 

together to develop a (then) comprehensive picture 

of polyploid origins.

Why have you chosen AJB as one of the 

journals in which you’ve published throughout 

your career?  

Doug: I’ve always loved the BSA—a great 

organization. It is important to support in any way 

I can.  Plus, AJB is a quality journal run by quality 

people.  It remains my top choice for getting papers 

out to a largely botanical audience.

Pam:  AJB continues to be the key journal 

worldwide for all of plant biology, from molecules 

to ecology.  Its standards are consistently high, and 

editors and reviewers alike take their roles very 

seriously.  The BSA provides strong support for the 

journal, and the journal has been and continues to 

be one of the most prominent facets of the BSA.

Pam and Doug Soltis, 2010.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Pam and Doug’s latest AJB article (Doug’s 77th and Pam’s 63rd for the AJB) is the aforementioned 2013 

article, “Natural hybrids between Tragopogon mirus and T. miscellus (Asteraceae): A new perspective 

on karyotypic changes following hybridization at the polyploid level,” which appears in the October 2013 

issue [100(10):2016, 2013]. Pam and Doug’s complete list of AJB publications, which are free for viewing 

throughout 2014, can be found at and

php, respectively.

Mark Chase, Royal Botanic 

Gardens, Kew

Mark Chase, a BSA member since 1987, has 

contributed 58 articles to the AJB since 1988. As a 

member of the BSA’s Systematics section, his interests 

include angiosperm phylogenetics, hybridization, 

and polyploidy—as was made evident during the 

following interview.

Your  AJB articles have spanned from 

“Isozyme Number in Subtribe Oncidiinae 

(Orchidaceae): An Evaluation of Polyploidy” 

in 1988 [75(7):1080, 1988] to “Phylogeny of 

the Asparagales based on three plastid and two 

mitochondrial genes” in 2012 [99(5):875, 2012]. 

How has the thread of your research changed 

over time? 

My original paper was focused on genome 

evolution in orchids, but the tools that became 

available for phylogenetics led me to move in that 

direction, particularly on monocots as a whole (the 

original intent was to figure out how the orchids 

fitted in the monocots). That area of investigation 

resulted in the 2012 paper on Asparagales with 

many other collaborators. My current research 

focuses back on those original subjects, polyploidy, 

hybridization and genome evolution, particularly 

changes in chromosome number.

Over the course of your research, what areas 

have you consistently explored?  What areas did 

you not expect to explore?  

When I started, I was strictly interested in 

orchids, particularly chromosome number, but the 

advent of DNA technologies led me in the direction 

of angiosperm phylogenetics, which had never 

been part of my original game plan. I also would 

never have expected to work so much on Nicotiana, 

but I inherited a project on GISH on Nicotiana to 

investigate the parents of the allotetraploid species. 

Once I had started working on them, it was clear 

that they were doing some very interesting things, 

and that led to my current project on N. sect. 

Saveolentes and genome evolution.

You’ve had many productive collaborations 

with Pam and Doug Soltis. How did this come 

about?  How have you sustained that over the 


We’ve had a set of shared interests in the 

phylogenetics and classification of plants. For the 

first few years, we found that our separately funded 

and planned projects were actually intertwined, so 

it made sense to combine forces. We also became 

friends, and this also helped sustain our joint 


In looking back at all of the articles you’ve 

published in AJB, which ones stand out?  

“Relationships of Droseraceae: A Cladistic 

Analysis of rbcL Sequence and Morphological 

Data” [81(8):1027, 1994]. I enjoyed this one because 

of my interest in carnivorous plants.

“A Phylogenetic Analysis of the Orchidaceae: 

Evidence from rbcL Nucleotide Sequences” 

[86(2):208, 1999]. This was the first broad-scale 

study of orchid phylogenetics.

“Coding and noncoding plastid DNA in palm 

systematics” [88(6):1103, 2001]. This article showed 

that old phylogenetic approaches could still provide 

major insights on plants.

“A Genetic Appraisal of a New Synthetic 

Nicotina tabacum (Solanaceae) and the Kostoff 

Synthetic tobacco” [93(6):875, 2006]. This showed 

how genomic studies could provide insights into 

the origin of polyploid taxa.

Why have you chosen AJB as one of the 

journals in which you’ve published throughout 

your career?  

I like AJB because it covers most area of 

botany and provides a means to reach researchers 

in other fields.

Mark’s most recent AJB article is “Phylogeny 

of the Asparagales based on three plastid and two 

mitochondrial genes” from 2012, which can be 

found at

full.pdf+html [99(5):875, 2012]. Mark’s complete 

list of AJB publications, which are free for viewing 

throughout 2014, can be found at


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 “Teaching botany is a hard thing to do” is a sigh 

heard from many biology teachers and botany 

lecturers. Since the 1950s, teaching botany 

in school and at the university level has been 

considered difficult (Greenfield, 1955). One of 

the most apparent reasons for these problems is a 

phenomenon called “plant blindness” (Wandersee 

& Schussler, 2001), which means that students tend 

to overlook plants and herbal products in everyday 

life (Hershey, 1996). Therefore, students not only 

ignore the important role of plants in nearly every 

ecosystem, but also in their personal lives. Hence, 

processes essential for life on our planet (e.g., 

photosynthesis) do not find a way into students’ 

A major part of biomass on earth seems to remain 

unperceived by most people of all age classes. 
Many reasons are given for this problem, with some 

attributing it to the way biology is taught in school. 

Even at university level, botanists sometimes do 

not emphasize sufficiently the important role of 

plants as producers, food, habitats, etc. (Hoekstra, 

2000). Instead, the phenomenon of so-called 

“zoochauvinism” (Bozniak, 1994) is predominant 

in teaching biology; teachers use animals as 

examples to explain general biological principles 

(e.g., natural selection and evolution) much more 

frequently than they do with plants (Hershey, 

1996; Link‐Pérez et al., 2010). In addition to these 

teaching-based reasons, the perception of plants 

by people is different compared to that of animals. 

Plants are rarely perceived as individuals but rather 

as a kind of “green mass” with leaves and stems 

blurring into an indistinguishable pattern of green 

shades (Wandersee & Schussler, 2001; Schussler & 

Olzak, 2008). 
The phenomenon of plant blindness has serious 

consequences for the attitude of students (and, by 

extension, of people in our societies) toward the 

environment and their way of perceiving nature. 

Recent research has pointed out the following 

manifestations of plant blindness:

•  Plants are completely overlooked in students’ 

everyday lives (Balick & Cox, 1997).
•  Students do not perceive plants as creatures 

but consider them only as a kind of “scenery” for 

animals (Wandersee & Schussler, 1999).
•  Students do not know the needs of plants; 

that means they are not aware of what substances 


Students’ interest in useful plants: 

A potential key to counteract plant 


Peter Pany

University of Vienna

Austrian Educational Competence Centre 

for Biology (AECCbio)

Porzellangasse 4

1090 Vienna, Austria

DOI: 10.3732/psb.1300006

Submitted 1 September 2013.

Accepted 13 January 2014.

Acknowledgments: The author thanks N. 

Milasowszky for help with statistical data analysis 

as well as Ch. Heidinger, M. Kiehn, M. Scheuch, and 

two anonymous reviewers for their constructive 

comments on this paper. 


“Plant blindness” is a term for the observation 

that people tend to overlook plants in everyday 

life, resulting in a constrained view on nature. The 

present study addresses how botany educators could 

counteract this phenomenon by looking at students’ 

interest in useful plants. Therefore, a questionnaire 

was developed that tests students’ interest in five 

subscales (medicinal plants, stimulant herbal drugs, 

spice plants, edible plants, and ornamental plants). 

Students (n = 1299) between 10 and 19 years of 

age were investigated in order to detect patterns 

of interest in useful plants. Results show that 

stimulant herbal drugs are of above-average interest 

for all grades, and medicinal plants are interesting 

for grade 12 as well as for grade 5, although less 

interesting for grade 8, whereas edible plants and 

ornamental plants trigger only low interest.  Hence, 

medicinal plants and stimulant herbal drugs seem 

to be especially suitable for counteracting plant 

blindness in education.
Key words: plant blindness; questionnaire; students’ 

interest; useful plants

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

plants need to survive (e.g., water, nitrogen, 

phosphorous, etc.) (Wandersee & Schussler, 

1999; Schussler et al., 2010).
•  There is a lack of personal contact with plants 

and plant growth. Even frequent plant species 

cannot be differentiated or named (Wandersee & 

Schussler, 1999; Bebbington, 2005).
•  Students do not have a basic knowledge of 

plant life cycles, their reproduction, or their roles 

in different ecosystems (Wandersee & Schussler, 

1999; Schussler & Winslow, 2007).
•  The role of plants in one of the most important 

cycles in ecosystems—the carbon cycle—is 

completely ignored (Wandersee & Schussler, 

•  The diversity of the plant kingdom, the co-

evolution of plants with many animals, the 

manifold evolutionary adaptations, and the 

versatile colors, smells, and flavors are not 

perceived (Wandersee & Schussler, 1999).
•  Even if plants are seen as creatures, they are 

seen as inferior compared to animals (Flannery, 

•  When working with plants, students usually 

become aware only of visually perceptible 

structures (e.g., colorful blossoms or patterned 

stems) but do not go into further understanding 

of the role plants play in an ecosystem or the 

contribution of plants to their personal lives 

(Tunnicliffe, 2001). 
•  In educational settings (e.g., in botanical 

gardens) students tend to move their attention 

immediately from the plants to any animal 

appearing on the scene (Tunnicliffe, 2001).

Nonetheless, plant blindness can be counteracted. 

Hershey (1992, 2002, 2005) proposes specific 

“plant-mentoring-programmes” in schools: for 

example, planting seedlings and watching them 

grow to procure practical experience with plants 

and make their life processes more apparent to 

students. Moreover, special programs in museums 

and botanical gardens should be implemented, 

communicating the important role of plants in 

everyday life. Strgar (2007) indicates that the 

knowledge of teaching experts and their enthusiasm 

may also make it easier for students to realize the 

importance of plant life. Lindemann-Matthies 

(2005) also examined the preferences of students 

for animals compared to plants and investigated 

programs to enhance students’ interest in plants 

(e.g., creating a “plant gallery” with pictures of 

plants students encounter growing on their way to 

In spite of all these efforts, there are few 

evidence-based considerations about which 

specific plant groups should be used to efficiently 

counteract plant blindness. According to the self-

determination theory of motivation, considering 

an object “interesting” is an important condition 

to make cognitive learning efforts possible and to 

develop intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1993). 

Moreover, present research has pointed out that 

pre-existing interests are an important key for 

connecting new information to existing knowledge 

(Hidi & Baird, 1986; Hidi, 1990; Krapp, 1999). 

Nevertheless, scientific studies investigating which 

plants students perceive as interesting have hardly 

been performed. 
Only few data are available concerning the interest 

in plants (Schreiner & Sjøberg, 2004), and they 

only provide information on a quite general level 

(e.g., interest in “plants in my environment”). 

However, results of Krüger & Burmester (2005) 

and Lindemann-Matthies (2005) show that useful 

plants may be considered interesting by students 

because usability is one of the most important 

criterion students apply when arranging plants into 

groups. In addition, Hammann (2011) pointed out 

that medicinal plants are interesting for students. 

What remains unknown is whether students find 

useful plants interesting on the whole or only 

selected subgroups of useful plants. Furthermore, 

there are no findings regarding how far students’ 

interest in useful plants depends on gender and/

or age, which may have special relevance in light of 

the studies by Kattmann (2000) and Löwe (1987), 

which describe students’ decreasing interest in 

biological topics with increasing age.
Therefore, the aim of the present study is to 

explore the structure of interest with regard to 

useful plants. This objective seems all the more 

important since a look into currently used biology 

text books  (e.g., Campbell & Reece, 2011; Cholewa 

et al., 2010) shows that botanical content already 

is often introduced by means of a subgroup of 

useful plants, namely ornamental plants. Is this 

plant group then an appropriate gateway entering 

botany? In order to answer this question, the study 

presented here seeks to find out whether there 

are any differences in interest within the target 

group (high school students) regarding different 

subgroups of useful plants. Which subgroups of 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

useful plants are actually interesting for students? 

Since students’ interests cannot be assumed as 

stable and are known to change in high degrees 

during adolescence, for example, to fulfil gender 

roles (Krapp, 2000), the present study also explores 

how students’ interest in useful plants differs with 

regard to various grades and genders in order to 

assist teachers (or any other botany educator) to 

impart botanical contents on the basis of plants that 

are seen as interesting by their particular students. 

For this purpose, a questionnaire (Fragebogen zur 

Erhebung des Interesses an Nutzpflanzen, or FEIN) 

was designed that measures the interest in useful 

plants, based on a pre-study (Sales-Reichartzeder 

et al., 2011) and induced by findings from recent 

research that has shown that questionnaires are 

appropriate tools for examining students’ interests 

(e.g., Urhahne et al. 2004). 


The FEIN questionnaire

The definition of the term “useful plants” 

underlying the questionnaire is based on the 

fundamental work “Nutzpflanzenkunde” (meaning 

“botany of useful plants”) by Lieberei et al. (2007). 

Hence, “useful plants” are defined as all plant 

species used by humans. They are divided into 

various groups according to their specific purpose 

(e.g., spice plants, edible plants, etc.). In our pre-

studies (Sales-Reichartzeder et al., 2011), the 

questionnaire contained six subscales. In addition 

to the subscales “edible plants,” “spice plants,” 

“medicinal plants,” “stimulant herbal drugs,” and 

“ornamental plants,” a subscale based on biological 

theory named “technically used plants” was 

introduced that represented plants used for gaining 

energy, producing textiles or dyes, or building 

materials. This subscale could not be maintained 

with reliability analysis (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.53). 

These findings do not astonish with regard to the 

high variability of application fields of technically 

used plants, their most important common feature 

being that they do not belong to any of the other 

subscales. Because of these reasons, the subscale 

“technically used plants” was excluded from the 

The final version of the FEIN questionnaire tests five 

subscales that measure the interest in edible plants 

(mean of items 1, 6, & 11), spice plants (mean of items 

4, 9, & 14), stimulant herbal drugs (mean of items 

2, 7, & 12), medicinal plants (mean of items 3, 8, & 

13), and ornamental plants (mean of items 5, 10, & 

15). Each plant group is represented by three items, 

with the whole questionnaire containing 15 items 

(see Appendix A). The design of the items follows 

the ROSE Questionnaire (Relevance of Science 

Education), an instrument used in one of the largest 

international comparative studies investigating 

students’ view on science and science education in 

41 countries (Schreiner & Sjøberg, 2004). The items 

are formulated as headlines describing the object 

of interest, such as “plants to improve my room” 

or “plants curing a sore throat.” Similar to ROSE, 

the questionnaire uses a four-stage Likert-scale (1-

Not interested, 2-Rather not interested, 3-Rather 

interested, and 4-Very interested). Additionally, 

the following demographic data were collected in 

the questionnaire: sex, age, grade, school. Without 

any time pressure, filling in the questionnaires took 

approximately 10 to 15 minutes. 

Survey Participants

In a preparation phase (December 2009) before 

performing the study on a large scale, the 

questionnaire was handed out to 95 students from 

one secondary school in Vienna. Afterwards, 

ten students from different grades were asked 

for detailed feedback about the questionnaire to 

ensure that each statement was well understood 

by the students. According to the first test-run 

and the preliminary statistical analysis (n = 95), 

minor changes were made in wording and layout 

to improve the questionnaire for the large-scale 

Subsequently (from March to May 2010), 15 

secondary schools voluntarily participated in the 

main phase of the present study. Each of these was 

located in a different Viennese district and two were 

outside Vienna, providing a representative cross-

section of secondary schools in and around Vienna. 

The questionnaires were filled in voluntarily during 

the students’ biology lessons. A total of 1,417 

students answered the questionnaire; 118 of them 

were excluded due to missing, double, or obvious 

hoax answers (e.g., zigzag patterns), which resulted 

in a final number of 1,299 participating students. 

These 1,299 usable questionnaires were filled in 

by 51% male and 49% female secondary school 

students; 21% of the students attended the 5th 

grade, 14% the 6th grade, 13% the 7th grade, 17% 

the 8th grade, 10% the 9th grade, 16% the 10th 

grade, 4% each the 11th grade and the 12th grade 

(exact numbers are given in Table 1).

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

biological theory.  Cronbach’s Alpha gave values 

between 0.66 and 0.76 for the five subscales (see 

Table 2). 

Differences between the five 

subscales relating to the whole 


In order to investigate whether there are differences 

in interest between the five subscales, a univariate 

ANOVA was calculated. The results of this analysis 

show that there are significant differences in 

interest between the five subscales (F

4, 6490 

= 202.5, 

P < 0.001). Furthermore, it seemed to be important 

to gather information whether a plant group is 

interesting for students or not. Hence, the mean 

of interest of a certain subscale was tested on 

whether it exceeds or falls below the value of 2.5, 

which represents medium interest on the Likert 

scale from 1 to 4. The results of the analysis for the 

whole sample show that medicinal plants are the 

most interesting plant group (mean of interest = 

3.09, t = 28.25, df = 1298, P < 0.001), followed by 

stimulant herbal drugs (mean of interest = 2.90, t = 

16.31, df = 1298, P < 0.001) and spice plants (mean 

of interest = 2.56, t = 2.91, df = 1298, P = 0.004). 

These three plant groups attract above average 

interest and can therefore be termed as interesting. 

Edible plants(mean of interest = 2.43, t = –3.33, df 

= 1298, P = 0.001) and ornamental plants (mean of 

interest = 2.32, t = –7.20, df = 1298, P < 0.001) turn 

out to be the plant groups arousing below average 

interest. An overview of the means of interest with 

standard deviations in the five subscales calculated 

for the whole sample is given in Table 3. 

Differences between grades

The results of the MANOVA show that there 

are noticeable differences in how far students 


In order to investigate the structure of students’ 

interest in useful plants, original data were subjected 

to principal components analysis (PCA) using the 

correlation matrix. Only principal components 

that accounted for variances greater than 1 (Kaiser-

Guttman criterion) were used to represent the data. 

A “varimax” rotation was applied to the retained 

components to redistribute the variance among 

factors to obtain PC scores (James & McCulloch, 

1990; Jolliffe, 2005; Norusis, 1990). Multivariate 

analysis of variance (MANOVA) with subsequent 

post-hoc tests (Scheffé tests) was used to find out 

whether the students exhibited any differences 

concerning interest in useful plants. Univariate 

analysis of variance (ANOVA) with subsequent 

post-hoc tests (Scheffé tests) then was used to find 

out whether there were differences in students’ 

interest in different groups of useful plants as such 

and to analyze differences with regard to the degree 

of interest students have in different grades for the 

five groups of useful plants, respectively. T-tests 

were used to test differences in interest between 

the five subscales and to test gender differences 

between the five subscales. Cronbach’s Alpha was 

used to measure the reliability of the subscales. All 

statistical analyses were performed using SPSS™ for 

Windows, Version 16.0. 


Components of interest  

in useful plants

The PCA of our data led to five principal components 

complying with the Kaiser-Guttman criterion 

(see Appendix B). They together explained 51.9% 

of the total variance. This structure of interest in 

useful plants found in the investigated population 

corresponded with the five subscales derived from 

Table 2. Reliability of the five subscales of the FEIN questionnaire.


Medicinal plants 

Stimulant herbal drugs 

Spice plants 

Edible plants   Ornamental plants

Cronbach‘s Alpha  







Table 1. Descriptive statistics of the sample (n = 1,299).






















Male students 










Female students 










Mean of age (a) 










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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

be detected in all grades. This plant group is 

significantly more interesting for female students of 

all ages than for males (t = –11.72, df = 1298, P < 

0.001) (see Figure 1C), although in itself it is a less 

interesting subscale for both genders. 


In order to efficiently counteract plant blindness 

(Hershey, 2002), educators should introduce 

botanical content using exemplary plants 

considered interesting by students (Hidi & Baird, 

1986). Such interesting teaching objects may 

be found in the group of useful plants (Krüger 

& Burmester, 2005). Regarding the structure of 

students’ interest in useful plants, the following 

important findings are to be pointed out: Students 

do differentiate the group of useful plants in 

subgroups (Appendix B), and some groups of 

useful plants (medicinal plants, stimulant herbal 

drugs, and spice plants) are significantly more 

interesting for students than others (edible plants 

and ornamental plants) (see Table 3). Furthermore, 

there are significant differences between students 

of different grades with regard to the interest in 

all groups of useful plants with the exception of 

stimulant herbal drugs (see Table 4 and Figures 

1–3). Significant gender differences could only be 

detected concerning interest in ornamental plants 

(see Figure 1).
These findings can be very helpful to structure 

botany units focusing on plants that are perceived 

as interesting by students. This is important for 

learning settings such as botanical gardens as well 

as museums, where working with students is limited 

to a short time. During the few hours available in 

such settings, no time should be wasted on plants 

considered as uninteresting by the recipients. 

The results might also be useful for programs 

enhancing the role of plant science in school, such 

as “PlantingScience” ( or 

“Biological Sciences Curriculum Study – BSCS” 

( Furthermore, it is especially 

important for developing botany teaching units in 

school—the institution that is usually the basis of 

general education. 
At present, botanical content tends to be imparted 

mainly by means of ornamental plants. Even in 

university textbooks (e.g., Campbell & Reece, 

2011), ornamental plants (e.g., lilies) can often 

be found as examples. Plants such as Amaryllis

devil’s backbone, or cut flowers sometimes are 

recommended as advantageous examples for school 

(e.g., Hershey, 1992, 2005) because they can be 

purchased easily and be grown inside a classroom 

without problems. Even if individual teachers 

decide to do otherwise, a view into currently used 

Austrian biology textbooks confirms this trend. 

In all these books, information about the general 

structure of plants or the structure of flowers is 

implemented using daffodils or tulips as examples 

(Rogl & Bergmann, 2003; Cholewa et al., 2010; 

Schirl & Möslinger, 2011).
Quite on the contrary, the investigated interest 

ranking of different plant groups suggests using 

medicinal plants and/or stimulant herbal drugs 

as key plants to proceed into botanical matters. 

Medicinal plants should be used as flagships because 

they are very interesting for students of all grades, 

and stimulant herbal drugs present themselves 

as a link to botany because they are also ranked 

with above-average interest and do not show any 

Figure 2. Means of interest of the subscale “medici-

nal plants” for all grades.

Figure 3. Means of interest of the subscale “stimu-

lant herbal drugs” for all grades.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

differences between grades and genders.  Moreover, 

both plant groups do not show the typical decrease 

of students’ interest with increasing age (Kattmann, 

2000) as do other plant groups (e.g., ornamental 

plants, edible plants). 
Although ornamental plants certainly have some 

practical advantages for teaching botany in school, 

as mentioned previously, it should be taken into 

account that they trigger only below-average 

interest. Besides, ornamental plants do show strong 

gender differences leading to a high risk of losing 

the attention of male students altogether; moreover, 

even female students consider other plant groups 

more interesting. In light of the findings of the 

present study, ornamental plants can be only 

restrictedly recommended as examples to enter 

botany. Consequently, even the general structure 

of plants or flowers should be imparted using 

medicinal plants and/or stimulant herbal drugs as 

This study throws a first light on the structure of 

interest in useful plants. In order to sustainably 

implement botanical content in education, plants 

like sage (Salvia officinalis), tobacco (Nicotiana 

tabacum), or belladonna (Atropa belladonna

should be preferentially used as impressive 

examples. In order to extend these findings, the 

FEIN questionnaire should be translated and 

validated in other languages as well. What still 

remain unexplored and a field open for prospective 

studies are, for example, beneficial learning settings 

that keep students’ interest focused on plants. 
In summary, dealing only with plants that 

meet students’ interests can open a window of 

opportunity to prevent them from perceiving 

plants only as scenery for animal life and to 

enable students to develop a more realistic view of 

nature, without disregarding a vast majority of the 

organisms building the foundation of life on earth.


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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

German version (original language) 
Wie interessiert bist Du an folgenden Bereichen? 

1.  In welchen Ländern verschiedene 

Gemüsepflanzen (z.B. Tomate) in der freien 

Natur wachsen

2.  Pflanzen, aus denen Rauschmittel erzeugt 

werden können 

3.  Pflanzen, die gegen Entzündungen (z.B. 

Halsschmerzen) helfen

4.  Pflanzenteile zur Herstellung von z.B. 

Oregano, Chili oder Kümmel 

5.  Pflanzen zur Verschönerung meines Zimmers 
6.  Biologische Landwirtschaft 
7.  Pflanzen, die Halluzinationen erzeugen 


8.  Pflanzen, welche die Heilung von Wunden 


9.  Gewürzpflanzen 
10.  Die Pflege von Zimmerpflanzen
11.  Gartenbau ohne Spritzmittel 
12.  Die Gewinnung von Opium und Heroin aus 

dem Schlafmohn 

13.  Pflanzen, aus denen man einen heilenden Tee 

(z.B. gegen Husten) machen kann

14.  Inhaltsstoffe, die Gewürze scharf schmecken 


15.  Blumen an Fensterbänken

Appendix A. Items of the 

questionnaire to investigate the 

interest in useful plants 

(Der Fragebogen zur Erhebung des Interesses an 

Nutzpflanzen, or FEIN)
English translation of the FEIN questionnaire 
(This translation should only give an impression of 

the items used in the original German questionnaire, 

shown in the next column. The English items are not 

linguistically validated.)
How interested are you in learning about the 


1.  In which countries vegetables (e.g. tomatoes) 

grow naturally
2.  Plants used to produce narcotics
3.  Plants used to cure inflammations (e.g. a sore 

4.  Parts of plants used to produce oregano, chili 

or caraway
5.  Plants for decorating my room
6.  Organic agriculture
7.  Plants which can cause hallucinations
8.  Plants which enhance the healing process of 

9.  Spice plants
10.  Taking care for house plants
11.  Horticulture without pesticides
12.  Producing opium and heroin from opium 

13.  Plants which can be used to produce a 

soothing infusion (e.g. against cough)
14.  Substances that make spices taste hot
15.  Balcony flowers

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Appendix B. Principal components of the FEIN questionnaire  

(values < 0.3 not indicated)

Principal component PC1 (11.6% of variance) was equivalent to subscale “ornamental plants,” PC2 

(10.7% of variance) was equivalent to subscale “stimulant herbal drugs,” PC3 (10.2% of variance) was 

equivalent to subscale “edible plants,” PC4 (9.9% of variance) was equivalent to subscale “medicinal 

plants,” and PC5 (9.5% of variance) was equivalent to subscale “spice plants.”

Principal component →






Item 5 (Ornamental plants 1)






Item 10 (Ornamental plants 2)






Item 15 (Ornamental plants 3)






Item 2 (Stimulant herbal drugs 1)






Item 7 (Stimulant herbal drugs 2)






Item 12 (Stimulant herbal drugs 3)  





Item 1 (Edible plants 1)






Item 6 (Edible plants 2)





Item 11 (Edible plants 3)





Item 3 (Medicinal plants 1)






Item 8 (Medicinal plants 2)





Item 13 (Medicinal plants 3)






Item 4 (Spice plants 1)






Item 9 (Spice plants 2)



Item 14 (Spice plants 3)





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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Botanical Education in the United 

States: Part 3

The Botanical Society Builds the 

Discipline, 1895–1960. 

Marshall D. Sundberg

Department of Biological Sciences

Emporia State University

Emporia, KS 66801


Submitted 16 May, 2013

Accepted 17 January, 2014.


From its beginning as an offshoot of the 

American Association for the Advancement of 

Science (AAAS), the leadership of the Botanical 

Society of America (BSA; the Society) had a strong 

commitment to improving botanical education at 

all levels. During its early years, the BSA’s major 

concerns were improvement of K-12 botanical 

instruction and implementation of botany 

requirements for entrance into university programs. 

Very quickly, however, the emphasis shifted to 

improving science instruction both in the schools 

and colleges—the theme of a 1911 symposium. 

By the 1920s botanical instruction in the schools 

was in decline and was being replaced by general 

biology. In 1936 botany was removed from the 

College Entrance Examination Board and high 

school botanical instruction virtually disappeared. 

During this period the Society’s energy was focused 

at the college level. The Committee on Educational 

Standards and Methods of Teaching was very active 

and their work culminated in the publication 

of two lengthy documents: the first examining 

contemporary coverage of botanical topics in 

colleges and universities, and the second focused on 

aligning achievement tests with teaching objectives. 

The end of WWII saw major changes in college 

education concomitant with increasing demand 

by students and increased research funding from 

the federal government. In 1946 the Teaching 

Section was established by the Society, and the 

following year Society leaders were instrumental 

in founding the American Institute of Biological 

Sciences (AIBS). In 1952 the Education Committee 

was established and the following year Plant Science 

Bulletin (PSB) was founded. From the first essay in 

its inaugural issue, PSB served as a mouthpiece 

for the educational concerns of the Society. The 

educational highlight of the decade, begun during 

the 50


 anniversary year of the Society, was a series 

of annual National Science Foundation (NSF)-

supported summer institutes for teachers of botany 

at small colleges. 

Key Words: botanical education, laboratory 

instruction, inquiry, student-active learning, Charles 

E. Bessey, William Ganong, Harry Fuller, Sydney 

Greenfield, Edmund Sinnott, Teaching Section, 

Education Committee, Plant Science Bulletin. 


By the end of the 19


 century, botany was one 

of the premier basic sciences, both in the United 

States and in Europe, and elements of botany 

could be found throughout the curriculum of 

schools, colleges and universities. However, it was 

a time of change for universities. In the American 

Midwest in particular, there was a movement 

toward democratization of the curriculum. The 

requirements for Bachelor’s degrees shifted towards 

professional coursework, and the concept of 

electives was introduced (Veysey, 1965). Attitudes 

towards teaching were also changing. In 1885, the 

Harvard botanist William G. Farlow maintained 

that, “a university student must be treated, in effect, 

as a school boy, subject to lectures and rote learning 

since his capacity for observing and investigating 

natural objects has been blunted by a one-sided 

course of instruction at school” (Maienschein, 

1988). Charles E. Bessey, John M. Coulter and 

others were eager not only to advance the discipline, 

but also to increase their number by promoting 

botanical education at all levels (Sundberg, 2012). 

The Botanical Society of America (BSA) played a 

significant role in both of these enterprises. 

The BSA traces its formation to the persistence 

of Dr. Charles Barnes, who in 1893 convinced the 

members of the Botanical Club, meeting with the 

American Association for the Advancement of 

Science (AAAS), to begin the process of forming a 

new professional society (Tippo, 1958; Smokovitis, 

2006, Sundberg, 2012). From the beginning, the 

purpose of the Society was to promote vigorous 

and active botanical research based on an ongoing 

record of botanical publication (BSA,1893). 

However, among the 10 most prominent botanists 

who were charged to nominate an additional 15 

charter members of the Society, two were also 

the most vocal botanical educators of their time:  

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Charles E. Bessey and John M. Coulter (Coulter, 

1893a, 1893b). In addition to Bessey and Coulter, 

the 25 charter members of the BSA included another 

seven authors of introductory botanical textbooks 

or botanical books for the general public, namely, 

Joseph C. Arthur, George F. Atkinson, Liberty H. 

Bailey, Charles R. Barnes, Douglas H. Campbell, 

Conway MacMillan, and William Trelease (Table 

1). Clearly, botanical education was on the minds 

of the founders of BSA and this active promotion 

would persist through the next 50 years.

As was the case for many other fledgling 

scientific societies, the BSA continued to meet as an 

affiliate of the AAAS during the its annual meetings 

(Appel, 1988). In his address as the first outgoing 

BSA President, William Trelease noted that during 

the previous two decades, botany had become 

a fixture in most college curricula because of its 

ability “to develop the powers of observation and 

the reasoning faculties” (Trelease, 1896, p. 368). In 

fact, it was now possible for a student interested in 

plants to begin general studies in the lower grades 

and “delve into the depths of the most limited 

specialty” in their graduate work. The efforts of 

Bessey, William Beal, Coulter, and others were now 

bearing fruit at all levels of the educational system 

(Sundberg, 2012). But Trelease went on to describe 

how research, even though it was appreciated in 

the colleges and universities, was still viewed as 

an encroachment on the first duty of the faculty, 

namely teaching. His talk had quite a modern ring. 

On the one hand, resources tended to be distributed 

proportionally to the number of students enrolled. 

Good teachers attracted more students, and student 

numbers attracted resources to the college. On the 

other hand, time devoted to teaching detracted from 

the amount of original research, and it was research 

that established a faculty member’s reputation in 

professional circles. Trelease was concerned that, in 

many places, research could be done only “during 

the leisure that could be found in the year’s routine 

of instruction or during their long vacations, and 

with facilities nominally secured for class use, or in 

many instances, like those of a generation ago, the 

private property of the investigator” (Trelease, 1896, 

p. 369). But the times were changing, as he also 

foresaw: “…we have before our eyes the spectacle of 

a gradually unfolding class of institutions in which 

investigation is not only tolerated but expected, 

wither as an adjunct to instruction, as in the greater 

number of colleges, as a concomitant of educational 

displays, as in botanical museums and gardens, 

or, at least nominally, as a basis for technical 

or economic research as in several of the larger 

drug houses, and, notably, in various agricultural 

experiment stations and the National Department 

of Agriculture” (Trelease, 1896, p 369). Trelease 

was referring primarily to the relatively new 

Midwestern universities that actively promoted 

practical research and followed the German 

research university model—distinctly different 

from the staid and traditional Eastern colleges and 

universities (Veysey, 1965). Nevertheless, Trelease 

was of the opinion that innovative research and 

good teaching were intertwined. “I believe it to 

be the experience of the best investigators in this 

country that research is promoted by the necessity 

of imparting some or all of its results in the class 

room” (Trelease, 1896, P. 376). This opinion was 

not unique to Trelease. Through 1960, 18 of the 63 

Presidents of the BSA were authors of textbooks 

designed for high schools or colleges or general 

readership, including three of the five twice-elected 

Presidents of the Society, Trelease, John M. Coulter, 

and Joseph C. Arthur (Table 1). 

Textbooks and Pedagogy

Early 20



Bessey’s  Botany (1880) set a new standard for 

American botanical textbooks. Furthermore, 

Bessey, along with Coulter and Douglas H. 

Campbell, represented the newly formed BSA on 

the Committee of Ten, a committee formed by the 

National Education Association (NEA) to make 

recommendations for a national K-12 curriculum 

(Sundberg, 2012). Most of the new texts followed 

a similar format, emphasizing structure, function 

and increasingly ecology and evolution. They also 

tended to focus on plant/human relationships. 

Particularly in the grade schools, great emphasis was 

placed on providing students with class materials or 

field experiences that would allow them “the best 

opportunity for constructing thought and proper 

interpretation” (Atkinson, 1901, p. viii). According 

to Bailey (1907, p. vi) “An elementary text-book 

exists primarily for the purpose of teaching; and 

good teaching results in quickened perception 

rather than in absorption of facts”.

At the high school level the focus of textbooks 

was to organize some fundamental botanical 

facts, provide relevant illustrations, and suggest 

explanations pertinent to larger questions. The 

textbook was meant to be subsidiary to three much 

more important factors: The teacher, the laboratory, 

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Date(s) of BSA Presidency


Anderson, Edgar


Plants, man and life, 1952

Arthur, Joseph C*

1901, 1919

Handbook of plant dissection, 1886, 1893

Atkinson, George F*


Elementary botany, 1898, 1905, 1908 

Lessons in botany, 1900 

First studies of plant life, 1901 

Botany for high schools, 1910, 1912 

Bailey, Liberty H.*


The principles of agriculture: a text-book 

for schools and rural societies, 1898, 1909, 


Botany, an elementary text for schools

1900, 1907.

Barnes, C. R.*


Plant dissection, 1893 [1886] 

Textbook of botany, 1910, 1930

Bessey, Charles E.*


Botany, 1880, 1881, 1885, 1892, 1893, 1905 

Essentials of botany, 1884, 1888, 1889, 

1893, 1896 

Elementary botany, 1904

Campbell, Douglas H.*


A university text-book of botany, 1902, 1907 

Plant life and evolution, 1911

Coulter, John M.*

1896, 1915

Plant dissection, 1893c [1886] 

Plant relations, 1899, 1904, 1905. 

Plant studies, 1900, 1905, 1907  

Plants, a textbook of botany, 1903 

Textbook of botany for secondary schools

1905, 1910 

The evolution of sex in plants. 1914 

A spring flora for high schools, 1915

Cowles, Henry C.


Textbook of botany, 1910, 1930 

See Coulter, A spring flora for high schools, 


Duggar, Benjamin, M.


Plant physiology with special reference to 

plant production, 1911, 1923, 1930

Fuller, Harry J.


An outline of general botany, 1941a, 1947, 

1950, 1955a, 1967. 

College botany, 1949, 1954 

Laboratory manual for general botany, 1956, 

1962, 1963, 1969, 1977 

The plant world, 1941b, 1951b, 1955b, 

1967, 1971

Gager, C. Stewart


Fundamentals of botany, 1916

Ganong, William F.


The teaching botanist, 1899b, 1907 

A laboratory course in plant physiology, 1908 

The living plant, 1913 

A textbook of botany for colleges, 1916 and 

1917, 1937

Table 1. Introductory level textbooks authored or co-authored by eventual Presidents of the  

Botanical Society of America, 1894–1960. 

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Robbins, William J.


Botany: a textbook for college and university 

students, 1929, 1934, 1939

Sinnott, Edmund 


Principles of genetics, 1925, 1932, 1937, 


Botany: principles and problems, 1923, 

1929, 1935, 1946, 1955, 1963

Tippo, Oswald


See Fuller, College botany, 1949, 1954 

Humanistic Botany, 1977

Transeau, Edgar Nelson


Science of plant life, 1919 

Textbook of botany, 1940, 1953.

Trelease, William*

1894, 1918

Botanical micro-chemistry: an introduction to 

the study of vegetable histology, 1884, 1886

Winter botany, 1918


Plant materials of decorative gardening


Note: *indicates charter member. 


see Poulsen 1884.

and field work. The teacher must have adequate 

background to be able to amplify and explain the 

information provided in the text. The laboratory 

work must be based on student observation and 

inquiry. Field work should relate the information 

gained in the laboratory to its place in nature 

and serve to raise new questions in the minds of 


At the college level botany texts were more 

comprehensive and factual, but were still written 

with students in mind. In Table 2, four of the 

most commonly used introductory textbooks are 

compared to each other, and to the contemporary 

English translation of the standard German text 

(Strasberger) (Lang, 1921; also see Fig. 1). As would 

be true for a comparison of modern American 

texts with the current edition of Strasburger, a 

comparison of page number and reading level is not 

an adequate assessment of content or approach. The 

smaller German font, and generally smaller figures, 

packed in more content per page compared to 

American alternatives. Except for the three-volume 

work from the Chicago school (Coulter, Barnes 

and Cowles, 1910a,b,c), which was larger than the 

others, all of the American texts were about 600 

pages long with a grade 13 reading level. Each was 

well illustrated with detailed line drawings. But that 

is where the similarities ended. 

Bessey (1905) was then in its 7


 edition and still 

followed the organization of Sachs (1875), which 

was continued in the Strasburger editions. Part 

One, General Anatomy and Physiology, was heavily 

weighted toward cellular and structural topics with 

individual chapters on protoplasm, the plant cell, 

the cell wall, cell division, and cellular inclusions 

leading up to chapters on tissues, tissue systems, 

intracellular spaces and the generalized plant 

body. The last three chapters were more focused 

on physiology: water relations, assimilation and 

nutrition, and responses to external stimuli. 

Part Two, Special Anatomy and Physiology, was 

a 9-chapter survey of the plant kingdom which 

comprised two-thirds of the book. Classification 

was based primarily on body plan and reproduction. 

For instance, yeasts were combined with bacteria 

and blue-greens, the green algae were spread 

over three chapters with the brown algae grouped 

with  Volvox and Oedogonium, and the red algae, 

ascomycetes and basidiomycetes, were combined 

with Chara and Coleochaete. The final four chapters 

of Part Two, or nearly half of the book, focused on 

classification and economic botany of the flowering 

plants. The final short chapter was a brief summary 

of plant evolution.

Campbell’s (1902) approach focused even 

more on a survey of the plant kingdom but his 

classification of algae and fungi was more similar 

to our current understanding and there was less 

emphasis on angiosperms. Cellular and structural 

topics were summarized in the first three chapters 

followed by 400 pages of survey. Diatoms and 

dinoflagellates were grouped with bacteria and the 

blue-greens, but the rest of the algae and the fungi 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

were treated as distinctive groups, each with its 

own chapter. The classification of land plants was 

similar to Bessey (1905), but the seedless plants 

were presented in considerably more depth. For 

instance, the ferns and fern allies had their own 

chapters. Tissues and organs were covered in the 

large angiosperm chapter. Physiology was covered 

in a single chapter and the final two chapters 

were ecological: relation to the environment, and 

geological and geographical distribution. 

Ganong’s 1917 textbook emphasized the 

interaction of structure and function. Each of the 6 

chapters of Part One (which comprised the first two-

thirds of the book) was subtitled “The Morphology 

and Physiology of _____.” The following filled the 

blanks (in this order): leaves, stems, roots, flowers, 

fruits, and seeds. The section on flowers included 

a section on heredity and Mendel. Here Ganong 

did a good job of summarizing the role of meiosis 

and illustrating and explaining Mendelian genetics 

(Fig. 2). But he also illustrated how the plant body 

is composed of cells, each containing identical 

chromosomes, which in turn carry multiple 

“determiners” (i.e., alleles). It is implicit in his 

diagram that crossing over occurs during meiosis 




Coulter et al.












964 (3 vol)



Reading Level 







Table 2. Comparison of the most popular U.S. college botany textbooks during the early 20th century and the 

English translation of the European standard, Strassburger’s Text-book of Botany.

Figure 1. The most popular U.S. college botany 

textbooks during the early 20th century, together with 

the English translation (by Lang) of the European 

standard, Strassburger’s Text-book of Botany.

so that different combinations of determiners 

may be passed on to the next generation (Fig. 3). 

The last third of the textbook covered the plant 

kingdom and ecology. Ganong lumped all of the 

bacteria, algae and fungi into a single division, 

the Thallophyta, and treated them in a single large 

chapter of 82 pages. The next three chapters covered 

Bryophytes (14 pages), Pteridophytes (20 pages), 

and Spermatophytes (46 pages). The final chapter, 

not quite 30 pages, covered ecology. It is interesting 

to note that although his laboratory reputation at 

Smith College was in physiology, and he authored 

a popular textbook in plant physiology (Ganong, 

1908), he was among the pioneering founders of 

plant ecology (Kohler, 2002). Nevertheless, he 

felt that, “At present this division of the science 

[ecology] is little better than a series of huge 

guesses; very little really conclusive work has been 

done in it, and no distinct methods of ecological 

experiment nor principles of ecological evidence 

have been formulated” (Ganong, 1899a). 

In Coulter et al. (1910a,b,c) the first book (Vol. 

1, Part 1) was a morphological survey of the plant 

kingdom. Their classification system was the same 

as that adopted by Ganong (1917) with the bacteria, 

algae, and fungi comprising the Thallophytes 

and the land plants divided into Bryophytes, 

Pteridophytes, and Spermatophytes. Their coverage 

of the land plants, however, was more extensive 

and more equal, particularly for the gymnosperms. 

Like Campbell (1902), Coulter et al. discussed 

tissues and organs within the angiosperm chapter. 

The last chapter, on evolution, included Mendel’s 

Law and heredity. This appears to be the earliest 

treatment of Mendelian genetics in an American 

botanical textbook. The concept was quite new, 

however, and the authors did not present a very 

rich understanding of the process. Their illustrative 

example is reproduced in Figure 4. The second of 

Coulter et al.’s three volumes, Physiology (labeled 

as Vol. 1, Pt. 2), was the thinnest, yet it contained 

twice as many pages as the physiology sections of 

the competing textbooks. Like Ganong would do 

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Figure 3. Ganong’s chromosomal mechanism 

of heredity and the plant body. In: A textbook of 

botany for colleges, 1917, 1937. Page 313 in both 


a few years later, the authors related physiology 

to structure but they clearly they emphasized 

process and included data and suggestions for the 

laboratory. The most significant difference from the 

other textbooks was their treatment of ecology, the 

focus of Volume 2, Part 3. At 468 pages, Volume 

2 was by far the largest of the three volumes and 

emphasized the ecological focus of the Chicago 

school. The overall organization is similar to that 

found in the first part of Ganong’s 1917 textbook, 

but instead of focusing on structure/function 

relationships Coulter et al. looked at structure 

and function from an ecological perspective. 

Another innovation was that for the first time in 

an American botany textbook, citations to original 

literature relevant to each chapter were presented 

as endnotes in an appendix. It is interesting that 

in the 1930 revised edition (Coulter et al., 1930), 

an appendix was provided with suggested readings 

for each chapter, but the treatment of Mendel and 

genetics was not expanded or clarified beyond the 

inadequate 1910 treatment. 

Special mention should be made of a text first 

published by Ganong in 1899, The Teaching Botanist 

(Ganong, 1899b; Fig. 5). In it he set about to answer 

a question that is just as relevant to us today, and 

the focus of as much of our efforts as it was for 

the founders of the Botanical Society: “What is 

the Optimum [sic] of training and knowledge 

in an ideal elementary course in the Science of 

Figure 2. Ganong’s illustration of simple Mendelian genetics. In: A textbook of botany for colleges, 1917, 

1937. Page 310 in both editions. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Botany, and how may it most economically be 

realized?” (Ganong, 1907, p. 2). Ganong noted 

that in upper-division courses, most instruction 

was based on a mentoring relationship between 

professor and student. At the other extreme, in the 

elementary schools, botany was only beginning to 

be taught and even then it was restricted to external 

morphology and classification of flowering plants. 

The task of the introductory course, in high school 

or college, was efficiently to bridge that gap. His 

analogy for the curriculum was the design of a 

good topographic map. Regardless of the scale of 

your observation (i.e., grade level), a good map will 

always show the important features in good relative 


To Ganong, the important features of botany 

were anatomy, morphology, physiology, ecology, 

and classification. Not only should all of these 

areas be included in the introductory course, but 

they should not be separated into distinct botanical 

divisions. Rather, they should be integrated; 

physiology should interpret anatomy and ecology 

interpret morphology. Above all, the plant should 

be considered as “…a living, breathing, working 

being, with its functions controlling its structure…” 

(1907, p. 4). To teach this effectively the laboratory 

was important, and the textbook should be only 

a supplement to the laboratory. The importance 

of the laboratory was a component of the New 

Botany, founded by Bessey and others 20 years 

earlier, which had resulted in a large number of 

laboratory manuals being produced (Sundberg, 

2012). The Teaching Botanist (Ganong, 1899b) was 

a reaction against these manuals. Either they were 

too prescriptive or they presented an excessive 

number of alternative exercises, each with specific 

instructions. In today’s terminology, they all were 

too “cookbook.” Ganong was of the opinion that the 

individual teacher should adjust the laboratory to fit 

his particular style of instruction and the materials 

readily at hand (Ganong, 1899a). The Teaching 

Botanist was aimed at teachers and meant to 

provide the tools necessary for them to choose the 

methods and materials most helpful in supporting 

their laboratory classes. It provided model outlines, 

tips, and advice. 

Ganong’s philosophy reflected that of Amos 

Eaton 100 years earlier (Sundberg, 2011). 

Everything in the laboratory should be presented 

in the form of a problem, just beyond the students’ 

current understanding, but arranged so that the 

students could find their own answers. At every step 

it was important not to tell students anything they 

could find out for themselves. Otherwise, whether 

students were right or wrong, responsibility for 

learning was shifted from the student to the teacher, 

and students would simply do the mechanical work 

and not the thinking or analysis. Ganong was 

adamant that the skill of observation was foremost 

in developing scientific instincts. “It is active 

seeing, not passive looking, which constitutes 

observation… then critical comparison and faith 

in causality – every phenomenon is yoked with 

preceding factors” (1907, pp. 33–36).

A good inquiry-based laboratory should look 

somewhat disorganized to a casual viewer, and 

there should be ongoing conversation between 

students as well as between students and teacher. 

Furthermore, it is likely that some work would be 

incomplete at the end of the regularly scheduled 

laboratory hours. For this reason, and to be able 

to do extra voluntary work, Ganong suggested that 

the laboratory should always be open to students. 

“Finally, it is well for the teacher to teach as far as 

Figure 4. Representation of Mendel’s law from Coulter, 

Barnes, and Cowles’, A textbook of botany 1910, and 

1930 (revised ed.). Page 293 in both editions. 

Figure 5. Title page from Ganong’s 

The teaching botanist, 1907.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

possible by example, for here, as elsewhere, it is 

better than precept. It is an inspiration to students 

to see their teacher himself a student always striving 

to learn and advance” (1907, p. 65; see also Fig. 6).

Beyond textbooks and the individual 

contributions of leading botanists, the Society 

had very little to contribute to education. In the 

years immediately preceding the formation of the 

BSA, a few teaching papers were presented either 

in Section F (Biology) or in the meeting of the 

Botanical Club, both held during the annual AAAS 

meeting (Sundberg, 2012). From the founding until 

1911, only two teaching papers were presented 

at annual meetings. In 1898, Ganong presented 

“Some appliances for the elementary study of 

plant physiology” (Ganong, 1898) at the annual 

meeting of the Society for Plant Morphology and 

Physiology (SPMP, formed in 1897 as an affiliate of 

the American Society of Naturalists, which merged 

with the original BSA in 1906). In 1906, Charles 

H. Shaw presented “The teaching of the subject 

of respiration” at the first annual meeting of the 

current BSA (Shaw, 1906).

Several conclusions can be drawn from the 

information in the preceding paragraphs. Firstly, 

the pre-eminent botanists of the day, including 

several future Presidents of the Botanical Society of 

America, were concerned enough about effectively 

teaching botany, at all levels of the curriculum, that 

they spent considerable time and effort authoring 

textbooks in addition to pursuing their botanical 

research. Secondly, although the authors generally 

agreed on the major concepts that should be 

covered in an introductory botany course, they 

experimented considerably to determine the proper 

sequence and emphasis of topics. Was it more 

effective to build a logical sequence from cellular 

anatomy up to ecosystem function, or from the 

more familiar and concrete organismal interactions 

down to the more esoteric structure and function 

relationships? One thing they did agree on, 

however, is that lecture should reinforce the 

discoveries made in the laboratory. This is exactly 

the opposite of what continues to be the usual 

interpretation of the relationship between lecture 

and lab—that the laboratory should reinforce the 

principles presented in lecture!

Figure 6. William Ganong c. 1910 with botany honors class in the experimental house at Smith College. 

The students, Elizabeth Greene, Mabel Bray, Louise Elder, and Elizabeth Johnson (all class of 1913), are 

shown gathering data from Auxograph devices, constructed by Ganong to measure shoot growth. See 

Ganong 1908 (p. 203) for construction details. (Photo by Katherine McClennan, with permission of Smith 

College Archives.)

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Influence in National Issues

The school curriculum and 

college entrance standards

Upon completion of the report of the 

Committee of Ten on secondary schools, the NEA 

began a project to standardize college entrance 

requirements (NEA, 1899). In 1896 Charles Bessey, 

President of the BSA, was appointed a delegate 

to act with a committee of the NEA to establish a 

botany entrance exam for colleges (Minutes, 1896, 

p. 21). Other botanists on the committee were 

Ganong, as the college representative from the New 

England Association of Colleges and Preparatory 

Schools, and Charles A. Barnes, who represented 

the North Central Association of Colleges and 

Secondary Schools. The recommendations of the 

report, published in 1899, were very similar to the 

report of the Committee of Ten five years earlier. 

In preparation for college, students should have 

a full year of botany with emphasis on laboratory 

and fieldwork. They should be skilled in keeping a 

notebook, and taught to make accurate drawings. 

The first half of the course should emphasize the 

role of plants as living organisms. The textbook, 

informal lectures, and frequent quizzes should 

be used primarily to reinforce what was observed 

in the laboratory. Observations should focus 

on the most obvious features and relationships, 

which would provide a foundation for subsequent 

study. Teachers should avoid excessive technical 

terminology and expensive apparatus whenever 

possible (Nightingale, 1899). 

Although Ganong was a member of the 

committee producing the report, he was not in 

complete agreement with their recommendations. 

At the 1900 meeting of SPMP he read a paper urging 

a more uniform standard (Ganong, 1901). Firstly, 

he suggested that there should be no difference 

between an introductory course for majors and one 

for non-majors. The basic concepts of botany not 

only laid a foundation for future advanced courses, 

but were necessary to understand the place of 

plants in the world. Every student should have this 

basic understanding.

Secondly, he proposed that in a given week 

there should be 2 hours of recitation or lecture but 

3 hours of laboratory. If there was any variation 

from this ratio, it should be towards increased time 

in the laboratory. He was particularly concerned 

that the report’s recommended syllabus proposed 

too strong an emphasis on ecology, presumably an 

“extreme reaction from the old formal systematic 

studies…” (p. 6). He went on to describe the current 

requirements for a number of schools. For instance, 

the University of Chicago (Coulter’s institution) 

required 15 points [credits] to be accepted to the 

University, among which 1 could be from botany 

and up to 3 more from other sciences. Harvard, on 

the other hand, required 2 out of 26 points to be 

from science, but specifically not botany. Nebraska 

(Bessey’s school) accepted 7 points in science (of 

which 2 could be botany) out of 28 total required 

points. Stanford (Campbell’s school) accepted 5 

points in science out of 15 total points, of which 

1 could be botany. Smith (Ganong’s school) also 

accepted 5 science points out of 15 total points, 

but 2 could be botany. Clearly there were different 

standards and the requirements suggested that 

eminent botanists were able to impact their 

universities’ standards.

In response to Ganong’s address, SPMP made 

the first formal recognition of the importance of 

teaching by botanists. A committee of three was 

appointed to formulate a high school course in 

botany and produce a standard for college entrance 

in botany. In addition to Ganong, the committee 

included F.E. Lloyd of Princeton University and 

H.C. Cowles from the University of Chicago. 

Following the merger of the SPMP and the BSA 

in 1906, this committee became the BSA Standing 

Committee on Education. Between 1901 and 

1908, the committee presented four reports that 

proposed a three-part, year-long botany course 

including anatomy and morphology in Part 1, 

Physiology and Ecology in Part 2, and Plant 

Groups and Classification in Part 3. Thus, from the 

very beginning of the current BSA, education was 

a formal component of the Society’s organization 

(Council, 1907, p. 112). Although the committee 

was instructed to print and distribute its reports, 

records of them having done so do not exist in the 

BSA archives. 

How to Improve Botanical 


The earliest formal BSA efforts to improve 

botanical education focused on pre-college 

preparation in order to ensure that incoming 

college students were prepared to major in botany. 

However, there also was concern with improving 

college botanical instruction and with the growing 

divide between focused research, especially in the 

universities, and teaching, which more and more 

was relegated to the colleges. Ganong addressed this 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

growing dichotomy in his address to the Society as 

outgoing President in 1909 (Ganong, 1909). 

Ganong noted that although botany, and 

science in general, was advancing vigorously as a 

technical field, it had low status within university 

general education. The first problem, according to 

Ganong, was that students were poorly prepared 

for college, both in terms of prior coursework and, 

more importantly, in their attitude towards study 

and work. Furthermore, a great many students 

found the laboratory to be “distasteful”; they 

would rather simply attend lecture and read the 

text (1909, p. 323). The scientist/teacher was faced 

with a predicament. In order to be true to science, 

teaching should reflect the values of science: careful 

observation of actual specimens, critical analysis 

of results, and logical testing of conclusions. At 

the same time, there was pressure to make courses 

popular because “…our success as teachers is largely 

judged by the number of students we can charm 

into our courses…” (1909, p. 324). Compound 

student reluctance with the expense of equipping 

laboratories, and the lab was often omitted. These 

sentiments sound remarkably contemporary today! 

Ganong went on to identify a second problem in the 

way faculty approached teaching: “In a word, the 

first great need of our science teaching is to make it 

scientific” (1909, p 325). Ninety years earlier Amos 

Eaton had advocated for what we now call formative 

assessment, and a decade before Ganong’s address 

Conway MacMillan had promoted this concept at 

the annual AAAS meeting (Sundberg, 2012). But 

the time was not yet ripe for this kind of research.

A related problem identified by Ganong was that 

many faculty were content to focus exclusively on 

botanical content and gave very little thought to the 

student. Ganong suggested that these professors 

should migrate towards university positions, where 

they could focus on one-on-one mentoring of 

graduate students pursuing original investigation; 

faculty members more sympathetic to students 

could then fill positions in colleges. Through 

practicums and laboratory work, college faculty 

could provide the next best thing to one-on-one 

mentoring for a larger number of students. One 

impetus for this proposed dichotomization was 

his concern with the apparent nonchalance with 

which university professors were churning out high 

school textbooks—books that were compendiums 

of correct and detailed content, but which younger 

students could not comprehend. 

Finally, Ganong was concerned with the 

preparation of future botany teachers. To illustrate 

the problem he quoted an unnamed President of a 

distinguished college, who said: “We have to take 

them [new faculty] as the universities supply them 

and then make them into good college teachers 

afterwards” (1909, p. 328). The universities were 

doing a good job of preparing students to be 

researchers, but doing nothing to prepare them to 

be good teachers. Ganong went on to claim that 

the best teachers were also active in research, but 

at the college level this research should have some 

connection to teaching. So what kind of training 

did he propose? First, it was important for any 

botanist to have some familiarity with living plants, 

therefore at least two summers of fieldwork should 

be part of the preparation. Second, students should 

know something about the history and biography 

of the specialized fields they study. Third, students 

should gain some introduction to laboratory 

administration and management:  lab construction, 

purchasing furniture, apparatus, supplies, and 

materials. This was in addition to designing and 

implementing laboratory activities. Finally, there 

should be some instruction in how students learn 

and in effective ways for teachers to facilitate 

learning. It is sadly remarkable how Ganong’s 

concerns in 1909 continue to resonate today!

At the end of his address Ganong pointed out 

that the University of Chicago provided an excellent 

example, which all botany departments should 

consider (Lersten, 2008). Within its School of 

Education, Chicago had a department of botany and 

natural history, administered by Otis W. Caldwell, 

himself a noted botanist. Finally, Ganong suggested 

that there was a great need for a formal journal of 

science education that would maintain the rigor of 

the several popular research journals, but focus on 

the concerns faced by college teachers. “I would like 

to edit it…,” he said (1909, p. 332). Twenty-nine 

years later the American Biology Teacher would 

fulfill this need, with botanist Edmund Sinnott on 

the advisory staff. Sinnott was also a member of 

the Committee on Biological Science Teaching of 

the Union of American Biological Societies, which 

established the National Association of Biology 

Teachers in 1938 (Hunter, 1939, 1941). 

Ganong did not get his journal, but his address 

stimulated the BSA to organize a session on 

botanical teaching as part of the 1911 annual 

meeting program. In fact, the first presenter, 

Charles Bessey, began his address with this 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

question, referring back to Ganong’s remarks two 

years earlier, “Why is it that with the enormous 

classes we are having in botany there is a marked 

dearth of properly trained men who can serve as 

instructors in colleges and universities?” (Bessey, 

1911, p. 633). Bessey noted that introductory 

botany courses at Nebraska enrolled 350 students 

and Minnesota’s enrolled more than 500, but few 

of these students actually majored in botany. A 

good number moved into the applied disciplines 

such as agronomy, horticulture, and forestry, and 

Bessey suggested that perhaps part of botany’s 

problem was the lack of “old time” field botany 

in the curriculum. He also noted that the degree 

requirements for the bachelor and doctoral degrees 

in botany were more proscriptive than for several of 

the other sciences, including chemistry, medicine, 

zoology, mathematics and geology. This was 

particularly troubling because during this decade 

(i.e., the 1910s), university administrators had 

began to pressure science faculty to change their 

instructional methods in order to improve student 

retention. After meeting resistance from science 

faculty, the solution had been adoption of the 

elective system, giving students more flexibility in 

the earning of their degrees in non-science subjects 

(Reuben, 1996). It is important to realize that these 

were not problems unique to botany in the United 

States. The so-called “Tansley Manifesto” in Great 

Britain at about the same time was also a reaction 

to the inability to attract good undergraduates to 

botany (Boney, 1991). 

In his 1911 address, Bessey was also concerned 

that botany was splitting itself into specializations 

and ignoring the connections among them. 

Botanists were not treating botany as a profession, 

but merely as a subject of study. Of course research 

was necessary, as was teaching the knowledge 

acquired through research, but as a profession it 

was also necessary “to weave into our instruction 

much of the ethics of the science, whether it is to 

take the form of teaching or investigation. The 

young botanist should be made to feel that he is 

going to use his botanical knowledge…Let us stop 

saying to the young man: ‘You do not know enough 

yet to begin’ – but let him begin!” (1911, p. 637). 

At the end of his talk, Bessey specifically noted 

that throughout his presentation he had referred 

to “men.” This was because, in fact, most botanists 

were men. “I do not know why this is so. We say very 

pretty things about our women students, and give 

them good high standings, and say complimentary 

things about them as students;” yet few are 

employed at the universities. “Here is one thing 

that we ought to change. The supply of competent 

women is much larger than of competent men, 

and I can assure you from experience in my own 

department that they make admirable instructors” 

(p. 639). Bessey’s Botany Department staff of 15 at 

Nebraska counted 8 women, including Associate 

Professor Elda R. Walker, Assistant Professor Leva 

B. Walker, and Instructor Margaret Hannah. The 

early decades of the 20


 century saw a dramatic 

increase in the number of PhDs earned by women, 

and botany was in line with the other biological 

sciences (Table 3). 

The second address, by Otis Caldwell, focused 

on botany at the high school level (Caldwell, 

1911). Caldwell cautioned that preparing students 

for research should not be the focus of general 

botanical education, although one of the most 

important outcomes of good botanical teaching was 

developing well-grounded students with the desire 

to pursue research. He reinforced Bessey’s view 

that botany was beginning to overspecialize, but 

his greatest concern was that too many botanists 

were “content to assume without sufficient data” the 

best ways to pursue instruction. “If we can devise 

methods of making a scientific study of botanical 

education, we can improve our student-product” 

(1911, p. 642).

The final paper in the session, “Methods of 

botanical teaching,” was presented by Frederic 

E. Clements, Head of the Botany Department at 

the University of Minnesota (Clements, 1911). 

Not surprisingly, his address followed several of 

the themes of his former major professor, Bessey. 

Clements suggested that the problem of attracting 

majors in college began in the high schools, and 

it was there that more emphasis should be placed 

on making botany relevant. We should focus on 

making students want to ask questions about 

the plants around them, and we should always 

have living plants available in the classroom. In 

Clements’s opinion, both high school and college 

textbooks contained much more information than 

any student could assimilate. For his own classes, he 

said, “I do not believe in text-books, or in lectures 

in any general course whatsoever; I would have 

none of them…. I would replace text-book and 

lecture wholly by first-hand contact with plants” (p. 

645). The most significant point of his address was 

summarized in the last paragraph: “We should be 

ecologists who study the student, the method, the 

matter and the results, both as to knowledge and 

to training, in an exact, quantitative manner. If we 

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do this, we shall get rid of our loose opinions that 

for the beginner in botany any method is as good 

as any other method, and that the results must be 

good because we have done the work. I feel sure 

that the use of experiment in connection with 

our methods of teaching, and the measurement 

of results will go a long way toward changing our 

present methods and improving upon our present 

results.” It would take until the second half of the 

century for Clements’s, Ganong’s, and Caldwell’s 

recommendations for science education research to 

be realized.

Apparently, the gathered audience of botanists 

was not entirely receptive. Coulter made the point 

that “No teacher, however successful, has the right to 

prescribe for others a detailed method of teaching.” 

To this Professor F.C. Newcombe, of the University 

of Michigan, responded that during the course of 

the presentations, he was beginning to appreciate 

the fact that he was trained 25 years earlier because 

if he was a student now, “I could have become 

nothing but some poor ignoramus” (Discussion, 

1911). Based on the focus of the society for the next 

few decades, Coulter and Newcombe’s opinions 

must have represented the majority in the audience 

that night in Minneapolis.

The Rise of Botany, and Biology’s 

Decline and Resurrection

In his Past-President’s address to the BSA during 

the 1903 meeting, outgoing President Beverly T. 

Galloway noted that, throughout the country, the 

attitude toward botany was beginning to change 

in a positive way. He felt that, in large part, this 

was because for the past 20 years proponents 

of the New Botany (see Sundberg, 2012) had 

emphasized the connection between technical 

botany and its utilitarian application. “Every time 

we have reached into new fields with the object of 

broadening the work and benefiting the people, the 

people have responded and given us most generous 

aid” (Galloway, 1904, p. 11). Botany was certainly 

growing as a science and would continue to do so 

for at least another decade. Evidence of this strength 

can be seen in the proportional representation of 

botanists and other scientists in state academies of 

science (Table 4). 

Coincident with this growth in botany was a 

decline in biology at all levels. In 1875, Thomas 

Henry Huxley, along with Henry N. Martin, 

published  A Course of Practical Instruction in 

Elementary Biology (Huxley, 1875; Sundberg, 2012)

This began a serious movement, both in Great 

Britain and in the U.S., to emphasize the similarities 

between botany and zoology and to consolidate 

them into a single field of study, particularly in the 

high schools. Like the leaders of the New Botany, 

Huxley emphasized the laboratory and hands-on 

investigation as a pedagogical approach to promote 

student learning. By the late 1910s, however, a 

serious backlash had developed, particularly 

among botanists, and biology departments were in 

decline in colleges and universities as well as in the 

schools. In 1924 Downing reported that 78.7% of 

schools offered botany (only 70% offered zoology), 

a percentage surpassed only by physics and 

chemistry in the sciences (Downing, 1924). Botany 

was usually offered in 10


 grade as a half-year 

course (while zoology was usually a full year). In 



1900 –1938


General Biology



282 (16.1%)


8 (4%)

194 (12.2%)

173 (10.1%)



20 (7.7%)

Plant Pathology



10 (3.1%)

Plant Physiology



3 (4.1%)


7 (3%)

225 (14.1%)

260 (12.2%)





13 (6%)

139 (8.7%)

637 (4.7%)


9 (4%)

123 (7.7%)

169 (5.7%)

Table 3. PhDs granted to women in the United States, by discipline. Actual number (and percentage of 

total). After Rossiter, 1982.


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schools where it was offered, 33.4% of the students 

took botany, and only general science exceeded it. 

According to a survey of 66 colleges and 

universities in 1919, 47 had separate departments 

of botany and zoology and 19 had a single biology 

department (Nichols, 1919). Of those with separate 

departments, only 6 currently offered a general 

biology course whereas in the past 21 had done 

so. General biology courses decreased by 80% 

between 1895 and 1919. I should note that my own 

institution, Emporia State University, first instituted 

a Principles of Biology course in 1920, but it was 

dropped in 1929. In biology courses, botanists and 

zoologists shared teaching responsibilities, although 

in the majority of institutions more zoologists were 

involved. In fact, most students tended to equate 

biology with zoology. This explains the sharp 

difference in responses of botanists and zoologists 

to most of the survey questions. For instance, 

the overwhelming number of botanists opposed 

teaching an introductory biology course while 

the majority of zoologists favored offering such a 

course. The only question they agreed on was that 

if biology was offered, it should be team-taught by 

both a botanist and a zoologist (Nichols, 1919).  

The survey identified several problems with 

biology courses. First, success of the course was too 

dependent on the teacher. For instance, Huxley’s 

course in London virtually died with him; too few 

scientists were trained well enough in both botany 

and zoology to be able effectively to integrate the 

two. Although there were essential similarities 

between plants and animals, there were also 

critical differences, and these were too often lost 

in the hybrid course. There was also concern that 

the introductory biology course relied too heavily 

on generalized concepts and had too little factual 

information. “Let the student learn to be analytic 

before he attempts synthesis” (Nichols, 1919, 

p. 514). Furthermore, attempting to introduce 

students to the breadth of all living things permitted 

only superficially touching upon any particular 

group. (Today we would describe this approach 

as a mile wide and an inch deep.) As a result, the 

biology course provided inadequate preparation 

for any subsequent higher-level botany course. 

The basic problem was that, “The general biology 

course owes its perpetuation, as it did its inception, 

primarily to the zoologists….The general biology 

course is ‘simply a survival of an early stage in 

the pedagogy of the subject and has no place in a 

modern educational scheme’” (Nichols, 1919, p. 515). 

It appeared that the threat to botany from 

biological sciences was in retreat and that botany 

(and zoology) would continue their independent 

trajectories towards prominence among the 

American sciences. Of course, we now know 

differently. The change began in 1919, the same 

Table 4. Representation of botany in state academies of science. After Whitney, 1919.


Botany Chemistry Geology


Medicine Physics Zoology




















































































New Mexico






































































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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

year Nichols published his paper, with the 

launching of the General Education movement 

and the core curriculum at Columbia University 

(Rudolph, 1962). In 1922 Harvard introduced the 

general biology course “Life and its Environment” 

as a general science survey, without laboratory, 

to present the more important principles. This 

course, and similar ones at other institutions, was 

designed to explain the scientific viewpoint and 

to demonstrate “how man’s increasing control 

over nature has changed his way of looking at life” 

(Reuben, 1996, p. 203). The rebirth of biology in 

general education was specifically addressed by 

Sinnott (1934–35) at an Iowa State University 

Symposium on teaching botany. Sinnott argued 

that botany was better situated than any of the 

other sciences to fulfill the objectives of general 

education. In addition to helping to develop a 

scientific mindset, the old-fashioned botany that 

consisted of collecting and naming plants served 

to introduce students (particularly urban ones) to 

the outdoors. More important was the clear role 

of botany in the development of an understanding 

of the ecological place of humans in the world. 

And, finally, botany allowed an examination of 

fundamental biological problems while skirting 

inflammatory and controversial topics such as “the 

hypothesis of Nordic supremacy, the debate over 

birth control, or the assumption of a biological 

necessity for the class struggle…” (p. 245). 

While the threat from without (biology) seemed 

to be at bay, another threat to botany was growing 

within. In his 1903 address Galloway foresaw a 

danger that could result from the rapid expansion 

of botany and its necessary “division of labor” 

(Galloway, 1904, p. 14). As noted above, this 

division already expressed itself in the textbook 

treatment of botany which increasingly divided it 

into distinct sub-disciplines. It was also evident in 

the rapid emergence of specialized plant science 

societies. The American Fern Society (1893), 

American Bryological and Lichenological Society 

(1898), and the Society of American Foresters 

(1900) were already established. Within three 

years the Agronomists would form their society 

(1907), and the Plant Pathologists would split from 

BSA a year later. In 1913 the Ecological Society 

of America formed by a merger of the ecological 

sections of the BSA and the Zoological Society. In 

1922, the American Horticultural Society split off 

and finally, in 1923, the plant physiologists split off 

to form their own society (Smokovitis, 2006). 

Education in the Program of the 

Society in the 1910s and 1920s

Given the strong support for botanical education 

by the founders of the BSA, and the expansion 

of botany through the 1910s and early 1920s, it 

is perhaps surprising that there was not a single 

mention of teaching or education in the minutes of 

the BSA Council, or a single paper on these subjects 

presented at an annual meeting, until the 1911 

teaching symposium mentioned above. Apparently 

there were informal discussions about teaching at 

the annual meetings (Botanical Society of America, 

1938), but it was not until 1924 that education 

again appeared in the meeting program. At that 

year’s Washington meeting, a paper titled, “The 

Position of Botany in the College Curriculum, with 

a Completion Test in Biology for Use in College 

Classes” was presented in the General Section 

while the Systematic Section held a special session 

“devoted to a round-table discussion of the training 

of systematists in college, university, and research 

institutions” (AAAS, 1925). Authors or participants 

in these sessions are not indicated; however, F.C. 

Gates of the Systematic Section was authorized 

$11.50 for expenses to study botanical education 

(Proceedings, 1924, p. 8). 

Apparently the round-table was a success, and 

those present voted to publish a summary. They 

also appointed a committee to “study and report 

on this subject” the following year in Kansas City 

(AAAS, 1925). There is no record of a published 

summary or of a follow-up report. However, in 

1925 the Society did vote to publish and distribute 

to members a monthly leaflet “popular in nature 

and designed to appeal to and help the teachers of 

botany and the amateurs interested in the subject” 

(Minutes, 1925, p. 13). The committee chosen 

to fulfill this project included Otis Caldwell, C. 

Stewart Gager, W.J. Robbins, David Fairchild, 

E.L. Palmer, and E.G. Britton. The following year 

(1926) in Philadelphia, Gager presented a progress 

report and the Council charged the committee to 

proceed. Fairchild and Caldwell were replaced by 

E.W. Sinnott and Wm. Crocker (Minutes, 1926, p. 

20). At the 1927 Nashville meeting Robbins, chair 

of the committee, presented an informal report 

recommending that the Society consider publishing 

another journal, “somewhat less technical than 

the  American Journal of Botany”. The Council 

recommended that the committee proceed with 

a recommendation to establish a journal, with an 

editor in chief, and a projected budget. They should 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

consider the possibility of taking over an existing 

journal (Minutes, 1927, p. 29). There is no record 

of any further activity on this project. Nevertheless, 

a growing number of botanists, particularly in 

physiology, ecology, genetics, and plant pathology, 

were concerned that morphology and evolution had 

so taken over teaching of the discipline that it was 

becoming sclerified, unappealing, and ineffectual to 

many students. In 1923, Frederic Clements, now at 

the Carnegie Institution of Washington, decried the 

fact that botany teachers had ignored his challenge 

to investigate science teaching as a science a dozen 

years earlier (Clements, 1923). 

Clements, now one of the “old guard” and no 

longer actively involved in teaching himself, was 

not alone in his discontent. For instance, Homer 

Sampson (Ohio State), published “A program 

for general botany” that emphasized a problem-

discussion method of teaching botany. He 

called not only for a reconstruction of objectives 

and a reorganization of content, but also for 

a reexamination of the methods of classroom 

pedagogy (Sampson, 1931). At Iowa State they did 

begin a system of research on teaching effectiveness, 

not only to examine new pedagogies (Dietz, 

1934–35) but also to develop a useful assessment 

instrument (Kreutzer, 1934-35.)

Teaching of Botany in Colleges 

and Universities Project

During the 1920s little attention was paid to what 

was going on in biology education, particularly 

K-12, but a tsunami had occurred. In the early 

1920s, botany was the most popular life-science 

course in high schools around the country, but by 

1928 fewer than 2% of high school students elected 

to take botany and by 1934 the figure was less than 

1%. In 1936, when it was removed from the list of 

the College Entrance Examination Board, botany 

virtually disappeared from high school curricula 

(Caldwell, 1924; Rosen, 1959). According to Rosen, 

this change was primarily due to a rebellion of high 

school teachers who wanted to put science into the 

context of social use and improvement, against the 

traditional formal science promoted by university 

professors, particularly botanists. 

At the 1931 New Orleans meeting the BSA 

Council discussed a proposal to “recommend to 

the Society the establishment of a Committee on 

Educational Status and Methods of Teaching.” 

The concern was for the university level; high 

school was already lost. The proposal, brought 

by W.G. Waterman of Northwestern University 

and seconded by B.C. Tharp of the University of 

Texas, failed (Minutes, 1931, p. 77; Proceedings, 

1931, p. 77). Two years later, in Boston, the 

secretary reported that the previous year (1932) 

the American Council on Education had requested 

that the Society provide a list of botanists who 

could report on the graduate work in American 

colleges and universities. The Council took this 

up and asked E.W. Sinnott (Columbia University) 

to chair a committee of five. He could select the 

other members of the committee and was charged 

“to consider whether the Society should undertake 

any action with regard to the Teaching of Botany, 

and in the event that this committee decided 

that some action should be taken, to recommend 

further what action should be taken, and the 

means to accomplish it” (Minutes, 1933, pp. 96, 

99). Two years later, at the 30th annual meeting 

held at Washington University in St. Louis, the 

Council voted to approve the Sinnott Committee 

request and instructed the Secretary to have 

nominations for this committee forwarded to the 

Council as soon as possible (Proceedings, 1935, 

p. 131). The Committee on Botanical Teaching, 

consisting of E.L. Stover (Eastern Illinois State 

Teachers College, Chair), F.K. Butters (Minnesota), 

O.W. Caldwell (Boyce Thompson Institute), H.M. 

Jennison (Tennessee), H.C. Sampson (Ohio State), 

E.W. Sinnott (Columbia), I.C. Wiggins (Stanford), 

and C.L. Wilson (Dartmouth), was approved by 

mail the following year (Proceedings, 1936, p. 

135). At the Council meeting, in Atlantic City, 

the Committee was formally charged to study the 

teaching of botany in colleges and universities 

with the purpose of improving instruction “by the 

following and other methods”:

•  By obtaining a list of objectives which college 

teachers of botany seek to attain.
•  By obtaining the opinions of teachers of 

botany upon this list of possible objectives, thus 

discovering those most commonly emphasized 

and those considered most important.
•  By finding [out] the means which are now 

used by various college teachers in attempting to 

achieve each of these objectives.
•  In the case of the more promising and more 

unique procedures, by obtaining through visits a 

detailed description of the teaching procedures, 

with a view to publication and distribution to 

teachers of botany throughout the country.

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•  By describing the methods now used and 

others which may be used for testing, in order to 

find out to what degree these objectives are being 

•  By finding in these ways the points at which 

the committee might direct its efforts most 

effectively in helping the beginning teachers of 

botany in improving their work.
•  By publishing the report of the present status of 

college botany teaching so as to stimulate interest 

in further experimentation in botany teaching 

and so as to outline more promising procedures 

now in use which might be suggestive to college 

botany teachers throughout the country.
•  By encouraging a cooperative study by 

botanists, zoologists and biologists to determine 

through experimentation the values obtained by 

separate courses in botany and zoology.
In addition the council provided a 1-year salary 

of $2500 for an executive secretary to oversee 

the project and $400 for a stenographic assistant. 

A stipend of $600 was provided to support one 

meeting of the committee and an additional $600 

was to support travel by the executive secretary to 

visit institutions “in which significant work is in 

progress.” Two hundred dollars was supplied for 

postage and $600 to defray the cost of publication. 

Finally, $100 was set aside for contingencies, 

bringing the total cost of the project to $5000.00. 

After discussion, the Council raised the total to 

$5600.00 by increasing the salary of the executive 

secretary to $3000. They also voted to add the 

retiring Secretary of the Society, Loren C. Petry 

(Cornell) to the Committee (Proceedings, 1936, 

p. 149, 151; Minutes, 1936, p. 139). A grant in this 

amount (equivalent to more than $93,000 in today’s 

dollars) was submitted to the Education Board and 

the award was funded. Dr. Clark W. Horton (Ohio 

State) was engaged as a research assistant to oversee 

the project. The following year, in Indianapolis, the 

Council granted a request by the Committee that 

it be continued, and that the “General Education 

Board” be asked to provide sufficient funds to 

continue supporting this activity (Proceedings, 

1937, p. 163). 

The committee began by drawing up an extensive 

questionnaire divided into 5 major areas: general 

features, objectives (59 likert-scale questions), 

content (58 likert-scale questions), procedures 

and methods (40 questions), and evaluations of 

student achievement (28 questions). This was sent 

out to 638 universities, colleges, normal schools, 

technical schools and community colleges in 

early 1937 (Table 5); 264 usable surveys were 

returned. Dr. Horton then visited a large number 

of institutions to gather supplemental information. 

As expected, the committee found great diversity 

in botanical teaching. They viewed this as a good 

thing, and stated in the introduction of the final 

report that they had no interest in making value 

judgments when comparing one institution 

with another. Furthermore, they felt that any 

attempt to standardize the teaching of botany in 

the general education program would “inhibit 

the continuation of experimental change and 

improvement.” Instead, individual teachers should 

be given the freedom to teach students in the way 

they are most comfortable, and to include advances 

in the discipline as appropriate. The hope was that 

publishing the results would stimulate teachers’ 

interest in improving their own teaching (BSA, 


The committee’s report noted that by 1937 

approximately 60% of the responding colleges 

(159 of 264) reported that a biology course was 

offered to meet the general education requirements 

of a significant number of their students. Ninety 

reported that botany and zoology were treated 

about equally in the biology course at their 

institution, but 46 characterized their course as 

“largely zoology, little botany.” More than 70% of 

students in general biology took no further botany 

courses, and at nearly half of the schools 90% took 

no further botany. Most botany courses were for 

3 credits, and included 2 hours of lecture and a 2- 

or 3-hour lab. According to the report, all botany 

courses included laboratory (BSA, 1938). This 

may have contributed to the general decline in the 

number of students taking botany. In the 1930s 

most high schools dropped laboratories because 

they were too costly and were considered inefficient 

in helping students to “accumulate facts” (Hurd, 

1961). At most, teachers provided demonstrations. 

The majority of college students would have had 

little or no prior experience with labs, which could 

thus be threatening, and would certainly be more 

time-consuming than a biology or zoology course 

without labs. 

While the section on course objectives contained 

59 questions, respondents had the opportunity to 

propose additional objectives, and 14 more were 

added. The general conclusion of the committee 

was that the major discoveries of the previous 30 

years had not been effectively incorporated into the 

introductory course and, in fact, “except for certain 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

technical details some of the current courses in 

general botany can scarcely be distinguished from 

those of 1900” (B.S.A., 1938, p. 11). In terms of 

content, about half of the questions demonstrated 

a near unanimity of coverage, while the remainder 

exhibited great diversity. The former seemed due 

to “the very natural tendency to teach others what 

one has been taught and to teach it by the same 

method” (p. 15), and to the general uniformity of 

textbooks. The latter was related to the individual 

specialization of instructors, and to the selection of 

advanced courses offered in particular departments. 

Of particular concern was that general botany was 

frequently less popular than general zoology, and 

that one area particularly disliked by students was 

traditional diversity: comparative morphology 

from algae through flowering plants. There was 

also a concern that too many facts were being 

added without underlying principles or extension 

to applications. “Perhaps one of the most significant 

things the committee can do is to encourage 

experimentation in botany teaching, at the same 

time encouraging the improvement of techniques 

and devices for evaluating the effectiveness of these 

experimental procedures” (p. 17). 

The message of the section on procedures 

and methods was that, like evolution, changes 

in pedagogy were slow and incremental. Seven 

schools were highlighted for their exceptional 

innovations. Ohio State divided its course into 

sections of 36 students emphasizing discussion 

and demonstration; all class activities were in 

the laboratory or in the field. North Carolina 

State College revised its laboratory work to 

mimic conference discussions based on intensive 

questioning and discussion of about 600 lantern 

slides. Iowa State College developed the Group-

Conference method—essentially the inquiry 

method based on small group projects. As noted 

above, they also developed a rigorous quantitative 

assessment program. Barnard College replaced 

the traditional laboratory with individual research 

projects. The University of Tennessee developed an 

“Honors” section for their best students beginning 

during the second quarter of the full-year course. 

Tulane University focused on teaching the outline-

method for note taking and included an individual 

literature-review treatise, in outline form, as a 

course capstone. Goucher College incorporated 

an independent project on plant nutrition into the 

first semester. From today’s perspective, perhaps 

the most unexpected outcome of the evaluation 

section was that essay and short-answer subjective 

questions were considered “old fashioned” whereas 

the new technique was objective multiple-choice 

questions. The treatment of objective testing was 

expanded into a separate volume that provided 

multiple questions applicable to all areas of botany 

(BSA, 1939a). A very useful addition to the end 

of the report was a 3-page listing of supplemental 

readings, both books and journal and magazine 

articles, applicable to a general botany course. 

At the 1938 meeting in Richmond, VA, the 

Committee presented its final report, which was 

accepted (Minutes, 1938, p. 163). The Committee 

would resign at the completion of their activities 

the following March. The Council voted that a 

new, smaller committee should be appointed, 

but that there would be no further financial 

commitment (Proceedings, 1938, p. 181). There is 

no record of the make-up of the new committee, 

but Dr. Stover presumably remained as chair, 

for he presented the Committee reports in 1939 

and 1940 (Council, 1939, p. 3; 1940, p. 27). The 

Treasurer’s report of 1939 showed the receipt of 

$1000 from General Education Board for the 

Committee on Teaching Botany. It further showed 

Table 5. Institutions surveyed for 1937 study by the 

BSA’s Committee on Botanical Teaching. Reproduced 

from BSA 1938. An exploratory study of the teaching 

of botany in the colleges and universities of the United 

States. Miscellaneous Series Publication No. 119.

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that the Committee submitted expenses of $159 

and $328.80 was refunded to General Education 

Board [the disposition of the remaining $652 

was not explained] (BSA, 1939b). This meeting, 

held in Columbus as part of the AAAS annual 

meeting, also included the newly formed National 

Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) who 

sponsored two sessions with 11 papers. In addition 

to papers focused on teaching, there was discussion 

of larger issues including the relationship between 

schools and colleges. “There seemed to be universal 

agreement that the main hindrance to good biology 

teaching hitherto has been the retarding influences 

of the colleges, albeit unintentionally” (Jeffers, 1940).

At the 1940 meeting, the Council voted that the 

President should appoint a new Committee for 

the Teaching of Botany and that, “This committee 

look into the field for new projects …” (Council, 

1940, p. 27). Except for the ex-officio member 

of the committee (the Secretary of the Society), 

the make-up of the Committee remained the 

same throughout the war years: W.F. Loehwing 

(chair, Iowa State), C.W. Horton (Ohio State), 

O.W. Caldwell (Chicago), H.J. Fuller (Illinois), 

I.L. Wiggins (Stanford), J.F. Stanfield (Miami 

University), R.T. Wareham (Ohio State), H.L. 

Dean (Iowa), G.C. Couch, and P.D. Voth (Chicago) 

(Yearbook, 1940-41; 1942-43; 1944–45). The only 

activities reported were bills for $21.11 (1942) and 

$23.53 (Council, 1943).

It is worth noting that while little BSA educational 

activity occurred during the war years, government 

support for science shifted dramatically. “For 

American scientists, the world changed on 23 

September, 1941… universities could charge the 

government a percentage for overhead on all their 

research contracts” (Pauly, 2000, p. 239). This had a 

major impact on the status of colleges vs. research 

universities in the post-war era as support for basic 

biological research increased from $8,000,000 

in 1953 to $189,000,000 in 1962 (Pauly, 2000). 

Another significant national change was brought 

about by the 1945 Harvard University report 

General Education in a Free Society (Report, 1945). 

Among their recommendations were that direct 

observation and precision are among the values 

that science should contribute to general education. 

Therefore, laboratory work was essential to science 


Evolving the Modern Structure 

of BSA Education

At the 1946 Boston meeting, a report of the 

Committee on Survey of Supply and Demand of 

Trained Personnel in Botany was accepted by the 

council and ordered to be printed in the American 

Journal of Botany (AJB) (Chester, 1947; Council, 

1946, p. 47). Later, at the business meeting there was 

a poll for the formation of a Section for Botanical 

Teaching; the vote was 299 in favor, 133 against. 

Authorization was postponed until the second 

council meeting 3 days later. On December 29, 1946, 

“The signed petition of 52 members requesting the 

authorization of a section on Botanical Teaching 

was presented by Dr. C.L. Wilson and accepted.” 

The annual budget was amended to include 

$200.00 for the new section (Council, 1946, p. 49, 

53; Table 6). The BSA now had a Teaching Section, 

although the officers and terms of office would not 

be approved for five years (Minutes, 1951, p. 21). In 

1946 a single teaching paper was presented at the 

annual meeting. Livingston and Heimsch presented 

“The use of leaf peel preparations in teaching leaf 

anatomy” in the general section (Livingston and 

Heimsch, 1946). Also in 1946, the AAAS began an 

annual forum on science teaching, and established 

the AAAS Cooperative Committee on the Teaching 

of Science and Mathematics. Glenn W. Blaydes 

served as the BSA representative (Council, 1946).

At the 1947 Chicago meeting, the council 

voted to join the proposed American Institute 

for Biological Sciences (AIBS) (Council, 1947, p. 

123). The concept of the AIBS had been vigorously 

discussed by individuals and professional biological 

societies since 1944, but it was not until 1947 that 

the minimum of 10 professional societies voted to 

join this umbrella organization. The BSA was one 

of 11 charter member Societies, and botanist Ralph 

Cleland was elected Chairman of the Board (AIBS, 

1972). The Society was beginning to take on its 

modern form and to be concerned with modern 

questions. The 1949 New York meeting was the first 

to specifically address a concern we still address 

today: “In view of the growing tendency of colleges 

and universities to eliminate departments of 

botany per se or to incorporate them into Biology 

departments…”, J. Fischer Standfield proposed to 

the Society that it appoint a committee to study the 

problem. This proposal was unanimously adopted, 

and it was voted that the incoming President, A.F. 

Blakeslee, appoint the committee (Council, 1949, p. 

175). Sydney Greenfield (Figure 7) was appointed 

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Greenfield’s committee submitted their 

preliminary report on the Role of Botany to the 

Council at the 1951 Minneapolis meeting. The 

report consisted of four parts. The first described 

the essential role of plants in the world, with 8 

inclusive examples to illustrate the essential role of 

to chair a committee to study the role of botany in 

American colleges. The committee also included R. 

F. Dawson, V. A. Gruelach, William P. Jacobs, O. 

Tippo, and M. Winokur. 

In 1950, the Teaching Section brought several 

proposals to the Council. The first was to ask the 

Council for a statement of policy on publishing 

teaching articles in the AJB. The Council voted that 

the section “shall investigate other possibilities” 

(Council, 1950, p. 79). The Section also proposed 

that the Society establish a Placement Service 

Committee and this proposal passed. Finally, the 

Section proposed that the Society establish an award 

for distinguished teaching of botany. This proposal 

was tabled. In addition, Greenfield’s Committee 

on the Role of Botany presented a plan to describe 

the present status and trends at the undergraduate 

and graduate levels in colleges and universities, 

and to recommend a policy to improve the present 

status. They also proposed to devise a permanent 

mechanism for addressing “bad practices and 

grievances”, and for career advising (Council, 1950, 

pp. 7–13). That same year the AAAS sponsored 

three education symposia at the annual meeting: 

1) current research trends, to update faculty; 2) 

science in general education; and 3) improving 

college science teaching (Blaydes, 1950). 


Chair, Teaching Section

Chair, Education 



Carl L. Wilson



Carl L. Wilson


Glenn Blaydes


Neil E. Stevens (deceased) Harriet Creighton


Ernest L. Stover



Ernest L. Stover


I. Kenneth Jones


Wendell H. Bragonier

Sydney Greenfield


Fred Norris

Sydney Greenfield


Irving Knoblock 

Harriet Creighton


Eric Steiner

Victor Gruelach


Robert Paige

Victor Gruelach


Donald Ritchie

Victor Gruelach


Harriette V. Bartoo

Victor Gruelach


Also Chair, Committee on Botanical Teaching, 1939


Table 6. Chairpersons of the Teaching Section and Education Committee of the BSA from their 

founding through 1959.

Figure 7. Sydney Greenfield. (Photo compliments 

of Edward G. Kirby.)

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from the previous preliminary report. The bulleted 

points of the preliminary document were expanded 

into a narrative, as were the recommendations. 

The primary recommendation was to establish 

a Committee on Education with seven specific 

charges. The second recommendation was to 

publish the objective data of the questionnaire. 

The third was to appoint a committee to promote 

professional unity among all plant scientists, and 

to study the problem of an all-inclusive plant 

science society. The final recommendation was to 

encourage all botanists to use the terms ‘Botany’ 

and ‘Plant Science’ as synonyms. Virtually every 

point of this document is relevant today and it is 

included, in full, in the supplemental materials. 

Following the Committee’s recommendation, the 

Council voted to establish a permanent Committee 

on Education (Council, 1952, p. 80). 

 In early 1953 the Education Committee was 

organized with the following members: Harlan 

Banks (Cornell), Vernon Cheadle (California, 

Davis), Ralph Cleland (Indiana), Harriet Creighton 

(Wellesley), A. Orville Dahl (Minnesota), Victor 

Greulach (North Carolina), Irving Knobloch 

(Michigan State), William Steere (Stanford), Oswald 

Tippo (Illinois), and Sydney Greenfield (Rutgers, 

Newark) as the Committee’s first chair (Table 5; 

Table 6). At the Madison meeting in September, 

the Committee recommended establishing an 

informal bulletin of news, notes, discussions, 

and reviews to supplement the American Journal 

of Botany (Council, 1953, pp. 201–203). The 

Executive Committee voted to establish the Plant 

Science Bulletin (PSB) with Harry Fuller as editor. 

The editorial board was directed to meet before 

the Society Business Meetings and to report its 

decisions at that time (Executive Committee, 1953, 

p. 214). The Education Committee was authorized 

to enlarge itself, as needed, and to formulate a 

budget, not to exceed $1200, in order to begin 

publication of the PSB prior to the next annual 

meeting (Council, 1953, added page modifications). 

In the same year, Dr. Blaydes reported on a 

statement by the AAAS Cooperative Committee 

Subcommittee on the Content of High School 

Biology, of which he was a member. The 

subcommittee recommended that the proposed 

new course should be offered in the senior year and 

be preceded by a general biology course at the 9th or 

10th grade level. The instructor should have at least 

a master’s degree, and the basic principles of plant, 

animal, and human biology should be emphasized. 

The central themes of the course should be 

botany as a basic science and essential component 

of a liberal arts curriculum. The second specifically 

addressed the role of botany in general education. 

The third and largest section summarized the 

trend toward biology courses and departments, 

and identified 12 particular widespread problems 

associated with these trends. Finally, two major 

recommendations were made: to complete the 

present study, and send the final report to college 

presidents, deans, and department chairs, and 

second, to dissolve the committee and replace it 

with a standing Educational Policies Committee 

of the BSA (Council, 1951, pp. 49–58). The report 

precipitated a lively discussion about whether the 

scope should be broadened from just botany vs. 

zoology in biology courses and departments, to 

a broad consideration of educational policies and 

accreditation. The consensus was to limit activities 

to avoid “stirring up trouble” (Council, 1951, p. 86). 

However, because the situation was so critical, they 

voted $100.00 to complete the survey of colleges 

and universities already begun, but not to extend it 

to teachers colleges or junior colleges. Furthermore, 

the Committee would terminate its activities in 1952. 

“Stirring up trouble” probably referred to a paper 

published earlier that year by Harry Fuller (1951a). 

Based on his address as retiring president of the 

University of Illinois Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, 

Fuller stridently argued that “The emperor’s new 

clothes” was an apt description of the “debasement 

of liberal education” (p. 32) by colleges of education. 

He accused the latter of being anti-intellectual 

and directly responsible for the poor training of 

high school graduates. A major problem was their 

substitution of “socially significant” (p. 33) courses 

for traditional training in the arts, humanities and 

sciences, and all of this was presented with a “rich, 

purple prose and the grandiose and bombastic 

vocabulary they are wont to use” (p. 39). This was 

one of the earliest, and certainly most polarizing, 

attacks on schools of education for poorly preparing 

teachers, who in turn poorly prepare students for 

college work in all areas of the liberal arts, including 

the sciences. Paul Hurt called the 1950s the “decade 

of confusion and crisis in science education (Hurt, 

1961, p. 108). Complaints about the efficacy of 

schools of education can still be heard in today’s 

discussions of how better to prepare students for 

teaching careers. 

The final report of the Educational Policies 

Committee was submitted and discussed in 1952 

(Council, 1952, pp. 102–118). It included a brief 

introductory section and altered the order of sections 

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Section also sponsored a demonstration room for 

exhibits of teaching materials and co-sponsored, 

with NABT, a symposium on “The Botanical 

Content of a Biology Course at the College Level”. 

The symposium presenters were Earl Core (West 

Virginia), Wolfgang Pauli (Brandford Junior 

College, MA), Lorus and Margery Milne (New 

Hampshire), and John Karling (Purdue) (AIBS, 

1955). At the business meeting, Dr. Creighton 

reported that the Education Committee felt that 

there was an urgent need for the Society to increase 

the public’s knowledge of botany. They therefore 

proposed that the Council allocate funds for public 

relations, and that the Committee should work with 

any other group in the Society to accomplish this 

aim (AIBS, 1955). 

evolution, ecology, and conservation, and a primary 

objective should be to develop observational skills, 

discovery, and problem solving—through the 

solving of real problems. Although botany had now 

been displaced from the high school curriculum, 

the pedagogical principles espoused by botanical 

educators 50 years earlier were still being extolled. 

Indicative of the problem is the report from the 

BSA Committee on Guidance, which stated, “There 

appears to be a growing concern about recruitment 

of promising high school and college students for 

life sciences…” (Minutes, 1953, pp. 197–200).

At the 1954 Gainesville meeting, the Education 

Committee recommended that the Plant Science 

Bulletin should be published by the Society, not the 

Committee, and that the Committee would serve 

as its editorial board. In addition to Editor Fuller, 

and members Banks, Creighton, and Greenfield, 

George Avery (Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and 

Paul Sears (Yale) were appointed to the editorial 

board. The Committee also discussed its own 

organization, including rotating 3-year terms 

with the Chair appointed by the Council. The 

Committee also recommended that the Teaching 

Section plan conferences and symposia on various 

aspects of teaching botany at the annual meetings. 

Finally, the committee reported on an examination 

of the Educational Testing Services Graduate 

Record Examination and College Entrance 

Examination in Biology. In both cases the exams 

were considered to have a strong zoological bias, 

and it was recommended that they not be used for 

botany students (Council, 1954, pp. 241–243).

In his outgoing address to the Society, President 

Wetmore suggested that the Society should 

consider sponsoring a summer workshop for small 

college faculty to update their skills and become 

acquainted with the latest findings. Harlan Banks 

and George H.M. Lawrence of Cornell rose to the 

challenge and wrote an NSF proposal based on this 

idea. Unfortunately it was submitted too late for 

funding (Banks, 1956).

In response to the Education Committee’s 

recommendation the previous year, the Teaching 

Section sponsored 15 papers in two sessions at 

the 1955 meeting (the morning session was co-

sponsored by the National Association of Biology 

Teachers (NABT)). Seven of the presenters 

used visual technology to supplement their oral 

presentations. Five used the new medium, 2 × 

2-inch slides, a sixth used 3 1/4 × 4-inch lantern 

slides, and one used 16mm movies (Table 7). The 



 anniversary meeting

A flurry of educational activity surrounded the 

50th anniversary meeting in 1956. The previous year, 

in the PSB’s inaugural article, Sydney Greenfield 

noted that while botany was growing with the other 

sciences in many institutions, in others it was not 

keeping up. Among the factors contributing to this 

“special retardation” was that in many places general 

biology was mostly zoology, taught by zoologists, 

with a consequent reduction in botany hires and 

upper level botany offerings. “It is our responsibility 

to clarify the issues here [to administrators] and to 

define biology, especially for those who think it is 

a synonym for zoology” (Greenfield, 1955, p. 3). 

A significant reason for this, claimed Greenfield, 

was due to the reluctance of botanists to engage 

in general biology or general education courses – 

botanists must become involved. We were also at 

fault for accepting “mediocre” students in some 

programs, and for not being proactive enough at 

encouraging “dynamic and energetic young men 

to enter the profession” (p. 3). Yet, despite these 

problems, Greenfield argued, dedicated resolve 

could improve the conditions (Greenfield, 1955). 

In the third PSB issue of 1955, Robert Miller 

(Nevada) presented a “snapshot” image of the 

current state of the introductory botany course. 

Miller sent a 25-question survey to 53 botany 

departments in the U.S. and Canada and received 

responses from 37 of them. The survey covered all 

aspects of the lecture and laboratory. For instance, 

most courses consisted of a single semester with two 

50-minute lectures and a two hour lab per week, 

which fulfilled general education requirements 

and were a pre-requisite to further courses. Most 

began with plant morphology and anatomy, and 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

used the formal lecture/laboratory method. Fuller 

and Tippo’s (1954) College Botany and Wilson and 

Loomis’ (1952) Botany were the most commonly 

used texts. In the laboratory, teaching assistants 

(TAs) were the primary instructors at about 

half of the institutions, but they only assisted the 

professor at the other schools. About half of the 

respondents gave lab practicals, and about half 

gave midterm lecture exams. About half graded 

on some kind of curve, and there was no pattern 

to the most common type of exam questions used. 

Only 1% to 4% of the students went on to major 

in a plant science. In conclusion, Miller suggested 

that to justify the expense and space required 

for laboratory instruction, it would be useful to 

develop valid and reliable instruments to quantify 

the effectiveness of different methods of teaching 

botany, and for evaluating curricula (Miller, 1955). 

Session 5, morning, jointly sponsored with National Association of Biology Teacher






Creighton, Harriet


Graduate Record Examinations, 

Advanced biology test

Fuller, Harry


Thought questions for general botany 


3 ¼  x 4 slides

Bartoo, Harriette

Western Michigan

The role of botany in a teachers 

college: the testing program.

Davidson, John


An experimental approach to teaching 

botany as a science

Hard, Gustav


Terminology and television

2 x 2 slides

Sass, John

Iowa State

Subject matter and presentation of a 

one-quarter course in microtechnique

Clover, Elzada


Applied botany, a new approach for the 

non-science student.

2 x 2 slides

Hatch, W.R.

Washington State

The Socratic method in modern dress

Session 5, afternoon

Taylor, Marie


Newer objectives in dynamic botany

Hoshaw, Robert 

and Sanford Tepfer

Arizona and 

Oregon College of 


Teaching pant distribution in elementary 


2 x 2 slides

Thompson, Betty



The “Y-shaped” biology-botany-zoology 

course at Connecticut College

Dodd, John

Iowa State

Simple method for demonstrating 

the mechanism of movement in 


16mm movie

Gruelach, Victor

North Carolina

Research and the teacher of general 


Hansen, Harold

St. Olaf

The wedge interference filter for the 

examination of chlorophyll.

2 x 2 slides

Larsen, Victor


The place of botany in programs for 

general education.

Table 7. Teaching Section paper presentations, 1955 Annual Meeting of the BSA. After AIBS 

1955, pp. 54–55.

As noted above, two botany books dominated 

the market, although at least 14 were available 

(Fuller, 1957). Fuller had two texts on the market. 

The larger, College Botany, was intended for majors 

in a full year course and was nearly twice the size of 

the smaller, The Plant World, which was intended 

for one-semester courses. Wilson’s Botany (1952), 

the new text, was comparable in size to The Plant 

World. By this time General Biology was becoming 

entrenched in college curricula, and at many 

institutions this course served as a pre-requisite for 

subsequent one-semester courses in both botany 

and zoology. An interesting general trend is evident 

in Figure 8. Sinnott’s Botany and Fuller’s The Plant 

World were evolving to a smaller size, as was the case 

for many life science textbooks during the 1950s 

and 1960s. The Wilson and Loomis text began at a 

comparable size but adopted the increasing growth 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

subject. He questioned whether botanists would 

employ “dynamic and thought-provoking” new 

ideas, or “continue along the old traditional paths 

that may lead to extinction” (p. 2). With that in 

mind, the issue (PSB, 1956) was devoted to the 

teaching of botany. Essays included: “Time for 

another look: A point of view” (George S. Avery, 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Avery, 1956); “How to 

get more students into science” (E.M. Hildebrand, 

USDA; Hildebrand, 1956); “Research and the 

teacher of general botany” (Victor A. Greulach, 

North Carolina; Greulach 1956b); “Doorstep 

botany” (Robert W. Schery, Scotts, Marysville, 

Ohio; Schery, 1956); “Applied botany in liberal arts 

colleges” (J. Fisher Stanfield, Miami University; 

Stanfield, 1956); “Some thoughts on general botany 

courses. Another way to judge their content” (Betty 

F. Thompson, Connecticut College; Thompson, 

1956); and “Botany for non-botanists” (Benedict A. 

Hall, State University Teachers College, Cortland, 

New York; Hall, 1956).

As noted in the previous section, in 1955 the 

Education Committee proposed that the NSF 

be approached to fund summer workshops. The 

Society has no record of the grant proposal itself, 

but in 1956, the 50


 anniversary year, Harlan Banks 

headed the first Summer Institute of Botany for 

College Teachers, hosted by Cornell University. 

The Institute was sponsored by the BSA and funded 

by a $31,400 grant from NSF (Banks, 1956; BSA, 

1956). The six-week program was taught by 12 

distinguished botanists from around the country 

(Figure 9) and provided $300 stipends to 51 

participants out of 110 applicants; an additional 14 

college teachers participated at their own expense 

(Minutes, 1956, 2/56; BSA 1956). The purposes 

were to: (1) improve subject matter competence, (2) 

strengthen the capacity of these teachers to motivate 

students, (3) establish connections between 

teachers and research scientists and, (4) stimulate 

teachers to initiate or continue small research 

programs at their home institutions. Participants 

came from 29 states, the District of Columbia, 

and three Canadian provinces. Equipment was 

provided by Bausch and Lomb, and 18 publishers 

displayed books. Banks noted in his report that 

he had already submitted a proposal for 1957, but 

that considerably more money was available from 

the NSF to support similar workshops for high 

school teachers. Based on discussions with the 

participants, he increased the requested stipend 

support to $1000. In fact, $43,900 was provided 

in 1957. Out of 150 applicants, 39 received full 

pattern that has been typical of texts for majors 

since the 1970s (Figure 8). It is also interesting to 

note that the reading level of Fuller and Tippo’s 

big botany text of 1949 was 12.9—exactly grade-

level for a freshman text. In contrast, Wilson and 

Loomis’ 4th edition (1967) had a reading level of 


Another interesting “snapshot” of botanical 

education is “The Academic Origins of American 

Botanists” by Victor Gruelach (1956a), published in 

the first PSB issue of 1956. Of 2015 botanists in the 

U.S. and Canada in 1955, 1381 were members of 

the BSA. Sixty-three percent of the total received 

their bachelor’s degrees from only 51 colleges (of 

about 800 total). Not surprisingly, in the U.S. land-

grant universities produced the largest number 

of undergraduate botanists (29%) but liberal 

arts colleges (23%) were next, and among them 

12 colleges produced almost 40% of the total. 

Gruelach noted that at these dozen institutions it 

was clear that one or two individuals were making a 

dramatic impact on the profession. At the doctoral 

level, nearly half (48%) of the PhD’s were awarded 

by land-grant universities, followed by private 

universities (36%), state universities (9%), and 

state land grant colleges (6%). There was also a 

clear geographical bias towards the Midwest and 


In his PSB  editorial, Fuller (1956b) noted that 

botany was facing a challenge, both then and in the 

future, and that success in meeting that challenge 

would depend on how botanists chose to teach the 

Figure 8. Changes in botany textbook page lengths 

in revised editions over time: ◊ – Sinnott’s Botany: 

principles and problems, 1923, 1929, 1935, 1946, 

1955, 1963; ∆ – Fuller and Tippo’s College botany, 

1949, 1954; Π – Fuller’s The plant world, 1941, 1951b, 

1955; X – Wilson and Loomis’ Botany, 1952, 1957, 

1967, 1971.


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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

stipends, and there were 12 additional participants 

(Minutes, 1957; BSA, 1957). A third institute was 

held at Indiana University in 1959 (BSA, 1959) and 

a fourth in 1961 at Washington State University 

(BSA, 1961).

Two final educational matters were brought before 

the Council in the 50


 anniversary year. The first 

was the information that the “Career Opportunities 

in Botany” booklet was now published (Minutes, 

1956, p. 9). Second, the council directed the 

editor of PSB to survey the membership, through 

a questionnaire, to gauge interest in continuing or 

abandoning the publication. Of the 1868 regular 

members of the society at the end of the year, 293 

returned a vote to continue, with 2 opposed (PSB

1957a, 3(1)).

The highlight of the 50th Anniversary meeting 

in Storrs, Connecticut, was the presentation of 

the Golden Jubilee Merit Citations, the original 

BSA Merit Awards. Among the 50 recipients were 

several whose citations noted botanical education 

contributions: Irving Widmer Bailey, an “inspiring 

teacher”, Ernst Athearn Bessey, for “magisterial 

presentation of the science of mycology”, Benjamin 

Minge Duggar, “for his wise and patient counseling 

to many students for whom be [sic] provided 

inspiration, imagination, and high standards of 

scholarship”, George Wannamaker Keitt, “for his 

patience and kindness in counseling many students”, 

Louis Otto Kunkel, “for his wise counseling of 

associates and students”, Andrew Denny Rodgers 

III, “His biographies of well-known botanists and 

histories of phases of the development of botanical 

science are readable, scholarly, and authentic”, 

Elvin Charles Stakman, “for his genius in inspiring 

students and workers”, Edgar Nelson Transeau, “for 

support and encouragement of botanical science 

in its broadest sense, both in its education and 

scientific aspects….substantial contributions…

to botanical education at all levels, from high 

school to graduate school”, and Truman George 

Yuncker, “for his lifetime of effective teaching at 

the undergraduate level which has resulted in 

launching many able young scholars into careers in 

botany” (PSB, 1956; Meyer, 1958).

The education highlight of the meeting was 

the Teaching Section Symposium on Trends in 

Botanical Teaching. The papers, by Drs. Sinnott, 

Palmquist, Cleland, and Fuller, were printed in 

condensed form in PSB. Sinnott began with a 

review of botanical teaching over the previous 50 

years (Sinnott, 1956). Sinnott’s paper could serve as 

an abstract for the present paper. 

Figure 9. Program of the first BSA Summer Institute for Teachers of Botany in Small Colleges, July 2–August 11, 

1956, Cornell University.

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

Cleland followed with a discussion of the impact 

of enrollment on the teaching of botany. He began 

by anticipating the coming “baby boom” generation, 

and questioned whether botany would be able to 

compete with the other sciences for new students. 

In his opinion, three things would be necessary. 

First, botanists would have to become more 

proactive in recruiting students, and in educating 

the general public about botany. Most people have 

no idea of what botanists do, he said, or have the 

misperception that all they do is collect and dry 

plants. Second, especially in biology departments, 

botanists would have to aim to keep the number of 

botany courses roughly comparable to the number 

of zoology courses. Third, plant scientists must see 

themselves first as botanists, not as biochemists, 

agronomists, geneticists, physiologists, etc. The 

tendency towards splintering weakened the overall 

impact of the plants sciences. Fourth, the emphasis 

in botanical instruction must shift from structure 

and observation to function and experimentation. 

Especially in the non-land grant schools, he 

suggested, we should place strong emphasis on 

making the introductory botany course “dynamic 

and exciting” (Cleland, 1956).

 Edward Palmquist picked up on Cleland’s final 

theme in the following paper. He suggested that 

the fact that students didn’t know about botany was 

actually an advantage for teachers. In addition, the 

economic importance of plants allowed botanists 

to illustrate the role of botany in things familiar 

to students and then expand into basic biological 

processes such as respiration, cell division, 

photosynthesis, genetics and evolution. He also 

noted that as a visitor to the first Summer Institute, 

held earlier that summer (figure 9), he had had the 

opportunity to informally survey the participants, 

and had posed three questions: (1) What awakened 

their interest in plants? (2) What led them to 

choose a career in botany? (3) What did they find 

most captured the interest of their students? In 

answer to the first question, nearly half (22 of 53), 

indicated informal day-to-day childhood activities 

and nearly as many (19) indicated participation in 

planned activities such as courses or Boy Scouts. 

Twelve indicated that it was a particular person, 

usually a teacher or parent. In answer to the second 

question, for nearly half (25 of 53) it was a particular 

teacher who influenced their career decision. Add 

to this the 7 who indicated a particular graduate 

assistant, and it is clear that personal example 

was a major influence. A variety of class activities 

were mentioned in answer to the third question, 

but among the most common were field work, 

experiments in plant physiology, first-hand study 

of living plants, economic importance of plants, 

and individual student projects. In summary he 

left us the “Ten Commandments for the Teaching 

Botanist” (Figure 10; Palmquist, 1956).

The final presentation in the symposium was 

“The role of botany in a liberal education” (Fuller, 

1956c). It was clear that the general education 

program was now dominant in higher education 

and so the question was, how can botany participate 

in this program? Fuller identified eight ways botany 

could be argued to support the principles of general 

education. The first was to recognize and appreciate 

the beauty of plants, not only as components of 

the landscape, but particularly the beauty of plant 

structure both at the macro and micro levels. 

Second was the opportunity that education in 

any science has to develop critical thinking skills, 

including recognition and evaluation of evidence, 

and rejection of misinformation. Third was to 

develop an understanding of the interdependence 

of all nature, from nutrient cycles to ecological 

relationships. Furthermore, this understanding 

could be used to demonstrate that science is 

not inherently a-religious, but can complement 

a student’s religious beliefs. Fourth, we could 

demonstrate that the scientific method was not 

some “esoteric technique peculiar to white-coated 

gents…” but is a way we all approach problem 

solving in everyday life. Fifth was to emphasize 

the connections not only between the sciences, but 

between botany and other fields of thought, for 

instance, anthropology, archaeology, geography, 

history, and philosophy. Sixth was to emphasize 

that the practical application of science is due to 

prior research in basic pure science. Botanists 

must make connections with agricultural 

production and environmental protection more 

clear. Seventh, we must change the general public 

perception that botany is primarily involved with 

plant identification and the study of disease and 

management of cultivated plants. Although these 

are useful applications, they do not form the core 

and central purpose of botany. The final general 

relevance of botany was, “Organic evolution and 

its implications, which are so obvious that they 

do not require further comment” (p. 6). Having 

listed these connections, he now asked how should 

we teach general botany to achieve these ends? In 

answer, he quoted Neil Stevens (1944a): “Teaching 

may be a little like love-making. If the available 

literature is to be believed, many techniques have 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

been successful in the field, but there appears to be 

no written record of a successful lover who was not 

interested in his subject”. The most important thing 

about teaching general botany, according to Fuller, 

was to have a broad background and a passionate 

feel for the subject (Fuller, 1956c).

The month before the meeting, Fuller published 

an invited article in AJB that would become part of 

the forthcoming 50 Years of Botany compilation 

(Fuller, 1956a, 1958.). Three of the 40 chapters in 

Fifty years of Botany were devoted to botanical 

education and all three were concerned with the 

plight of botany. Cox, from AIBS, and Behnke, from 

Ronald Press, noted that science was booming at 

mid-century and the BSA was thriving. Controlled 

experimentation was expanding in basic and 

applied science, and new instrumentation was 

constantly being invented. Although new scientific 

disciplines were developing, and older ones were 

expanding, there was greater interdependence of 

the sciences than at any time in the past. Yet, despite 

this, “botanical education is a sad plight” (Cox and 

Behnke, 1958, p. 484). Who was to blame? Botanists 

themselves. “They have been at times meek and 

aloof, at times bullheaded and uncooperative…

With the world inescapably dependent on plants…

they have sought to hide plants with strange labels 

and newly created categories. Their success in 

making the study of plants virtually unintelligible 

to the layman would almost seem to be by design 

prompted by some strange idea that by multiplying 

baffling terminology, botany would gain intellectual 

stature” (p. 484). Part of the problem is that although 

chemistry, math and physics had been made 

required coursework, little of these disciplines were 

incorporated into the botany courses themselves. 

What, then, were their solutions? (1) “Sacred cows 

in the form of traditional content of courses must 

be under constant critical scrutiny.” (2) Teaching 

the process of science must start in the beginning 

courses, especially in the introductory biology 

course. (3) Except at the largest universities, 

departments should concentrate on developing 

a few fields in depth, rather than trying to cover 

the expanse of botany, and even here care should 

be taken not to “splinter course offerings” in a way 

that arbitrarily divides botany into many distinct 

courses (p. 487). 

 While expressing many of the same ideas as Cox 

and Behnke, Fuller adopted a more positive tone. 

The “odor of botany,” he suggested, is perhaps more 

noticeable to botanists than others, yet we must 

do some things to sweeten its pungency. First, he 

noted, a disproportionate number of botanists did 

their undergraduate training at small liberal arts 

colleges, “which, probably through their greater 

emphasis upon the value of inspired undergraduate 

teaching, succeeded in encircling in that 

disproportionately large number of young people a 

passion for plants and for botany” (Fuller, 1958, p. 

491). Much of the problem was in the introductory 

course where students are all taught as if they are 

Ten Commandments of the Teaching Botanist.

1.  Thou shalt have no other goals before leading students to learn.

2.  Thou shalt not take unto thy class any dried or pickled plants, or graven images 

  thereof, when living specimens can be found.

3.  Thou shalt not take the name, “Great Scientist,” unto thyself, nor be vain.

4.  Remember the sabbatic leave, if any; take it regularly to keep thee wholesome.

5.  Honor thy students and thy colleagues, and respect them as equals except only in  

  thy special field.

6.  Thou shalt not kill-the enthusiasm of thy students by over-burdening them with  

  trivial busy-work.

7.  Thou shalt not commit adulteration of student grades, even for a pretty face or pres 

  sure from the parents or the Department of Athletics.

8.  Thou shalt not steal-away from the laboratory classes, leaving them solely to  

  student assistants.

9.  Thou shalt not bear false information to thy students, nor bluff, nor improvise before them.

10. Thou shalt not covet the zoologist’s space, nor his budget, nor the bright man  

  students and the maid students he receiveth from the premedical and nursing  

  programs, nor anyother thing that is zoological.

Figure 10—The Ten Commandments of the Teaching Botanist, from Palmquist (1956).

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

botany majors, but for most this would be their only 

botany course. Second, “we are a slave to tradition” 

in the introductory course syllabus. Third, we are 

too concerned with the insides of plants, rather 

than the plant as an organism, and laboratory study 

was too mechanical. Finally, graduate education 

was too specialized.

Finally, Clarence Hylander (1958) emphasized 

that there was a need and opportunity for botanical 

outreach to general education students and the 

lay public. People were beginning to move to the 

suburbs, which was, in a sense, a return to nature, 

and they didn’t know much about it. Families were 

taking trips to parks and recreation areas and were 

generally living longer. Why, he lamented, “do so 

few professional botanists contribute articles of a 

popular nature” (p. 500)? Fuller’s chapter, like 37 

of the other chapters in Fifty years of botany, had 

been published in the AJB. The chapters by Cox and 

Behnke, and by Hylander were the only two not 

also published in the BSA’s journal.

And then came Sputnik:  

a summary

As noted above, the 50th anniversary celebration 

in 1956 was not only a banner year for the Society, 

but also for educational activities within the Society. 

Unfortunately, there followed a rapid drop-off. As 

Gruelach mentioned in his Education Committee 

report for 1957, “…the Committee on Education 

has not been as active as in some of the past years…” 

(Minutes, 1957, p. 7a). The April 1957 issue of PSB 

included a 3-page table of 16mm instructional films 

for college botany prepared by a subcommittee 

formed the previous year (Taylor, 1957). A second 

successful summer institute was held at Cornell 

(BSA, 1957), and a conference on the role of 

botany in college biology was held in Washington, 

D.C., February 2–3. Although this conference was 

sponsored by BSA and supported by the NSF, there 

are no other records of the conference except in the 

Committee report (Minutes, 1957, p. 7a). Only 2 

papers were presented in the teaching section that 

year (Program, 1957). 

In addition to Taylor’s summary, PSB included 

abridged reports of Cleland’s and Fuller’s 

presentations from the previous year’s symposium, 

and a few smaller notices. The April issue noted 

that a committee of the National Academy of 

Sciences had obtained funding from the NSF to 

implement a trial of a new method of designing 

advanced undergraduate biology courses. Of the 

two pilots chosen, one was systematic botany. A 

panel system would be used and the botany panel 

included Lincoln Constance (Berkeley, Chair), 

Harlan Lewis (UCLA), Reed Rollins (Harvard), 

Robert Thorne (Iowa State), and Herbert Wagner 

(Michigan) (PSB, 1957b, p. 8). Finally, and most 

prescient, the editorial in the July issue noted 

that while there were many benefits of increased 

national organization and support for science, 

there were also disadvantages in the development 

of bureaucracy, support for conformity, and 

preferences for certain fields or disciplines (PSB

1957c, pp. 7–8). Three months later, on October 4, 

1957, the Russian satellite, Sputnik was launched 

with resulting major changes in national policy 

towards science education. Those changes would 

affect botanical education in the coming years and 

will be the subject of the final installment of this 


How can we summarize the impact of BSA on 

botanical education during the Society’s first half-

century? Two words may be sufficient – wax and wane. 

Periods of waxing were headed by leading 

botanists, including many Presidents of the 

Society. At the turn of the 20


 century the major 

concern was to attract enough students into the 

pipeline feeding botany. Botany was growing as a 

discipline, and high school and college education 

was expanding rapidly. There was a need to attract 

more students to botany, both into the classroom 

and into the profession. This led directly to 

concerns about teaching larger numbers of students 

more effectively. At the same time, biology was in 

decline as an alternative to botany or zoology and 

this, perhaps, resulted in the quiescent period from 

the mid teens to the late 1930s. During this time 

there were major changes in both the high school 

and college curricula. Biology began to replace 

botany in the high schools, while the general 

education and electives movement in the colleges 

greatly reduced the demand not only for botany in 

particular but also for science in general. “Scientific 

illiteracy became a characteristic of college-

educated Americans some time toward the middle 

of the twentieth century, if not before” (Rudolph, 

1977, p. 255). A new group of botanists picked up 

the torch for botany education, beginning with 

a thorough study of the current state in colleges 

and universities. Despite a slow down during the 

war years, the influx of a new group of education 

proponents in the late 1940s and 1950s rose to the 

challenge from biology and significantly altered 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

the structure of education in the Society, founding 

the Teaching Section, the Education Committee, 

and the Plant Science Bulletin in quick succession. 

Botany, along with the other sciences, rode the 

incoming tide of national concern and support for 

improving science and technology education in 

the 1950s and 60s and this resulted in a flurry of 

activities coincident with the 50


 anniversary of the 


A striking aspect of the first 50 years was the 

role of preeminent botanists in leading botanical 

education. Apparently this was not unique to the 

BSA during the first half of the 20th century when 

all of the life science societies were growing. The 

mycologist, and future BSA President (1946), Neil 

Stevens related a story about the American Society 

of Agronomy meeting in 1942. The dinner speaker 

had several times repeated the remark that teaching 

ability was not rewarded as well as research ability 

in our colleges. After this had gone on several 

times, Dr. H.K. Hayes of Minnesota interrupted 

saying that, in fact, teaching ability in that field was 

recognized and rewarded, and that he could present 

proof. The discussion went on, but eventually Dr. 

Hayes was asked for his proof. Stevens reported that 

his reply was this: “I have objective proof. It is here 

in this room. I do not wish to embarrass anyone so 

I will not name individuals unless someone insists, 

but I see here a goodly number of individuals of 

recognized standing and influence in their fields 

whose positions rest on their recognized ability as 

teachers rather than as investigators.” That ended 

the discussion. Stevens was in full agreement with 

Hayes. He went on to state that, “A list of Presidents 

of the Botanical Society of America will serve…

one finds a large percentage of those who are 

known first and foremost as teachers” (Stevens, 

1944a). It is also interesting that in 1943 Stevens 

sent out a survey to 1700 members of the BSA 

and the American Society of Agronomy in which 

he asked them to rate the characteristics of the 

teachers who were most influential in their careers. 

The 1100 respondents named more than 400 

individual teachers, but Charles Bessey was “in a 

class by himself” (Stevens, 1944b, p. 323). It was not 

surprising to learn that Bessey did his best teaching 

in the laboratory. However, I was surprised to learn 

that Coulter “rarely went into the laboratory.” This 

reinforces the concept that there is no one best way 

for everyone to teach.

While it was true of the early years that many 

of the most prominent botanists also were leading 

botanical educators, the situation was changing 

by the 1950s. During this period, Neil Stevens 

and Harriett Creighton were the only chairs of 

the Teaching Section or Education Committee 

(Creighton served as both) also to be elected 

President of the Society. In the 1970s Bill Jensen 

would serve as chair of the Teaching Section and 

President of the Society. Sydney Greenfield was the 

spearhead of a change in this pattern that continues 

today. He was not a leading botanist in the 

traditional sense, but he was a leading figure in the 

Society’s Education programs during the transition 

to the second half-century. The specialization of 

botany educators will be a focus of the final part of 

this series.

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Book Reviews


England’s Rare Mosses and Liverworts: Their history, ecology and conservation ..........62

Developmental and Structural

Plant Roots: The Hidden Half, Fourth Edition .................................................................64

Economic Botany

Catalogue [of the] 14th international Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration ............64


Stress Biology of Cyanobacteria: Molecular Mechanisms to Cellular Responses ...........64


A Field Guide to the Flowers of the Alps  ........................................................................65 

Native Orchids of Singapore. Diversity, Identification and Conservation .......................66 


England’s Rare Mosses and Liver-

worts: Their History, Ecology and 


Ron D. Porley

2013. ISBN-13: 978-0-691-15871-6

Hardcover, US$40.00/£24.95. 224 pp. 

ISBN-13: 978-1-4008-4691-7 (eBook)

WILDGuides Ltd., Hampshire, United 

Kingdom, and Princeton University Press, 

Princeton, New Hampshire, USA

England’s Rare Mosses and Liverworts is a brilliant 

and valuable contribution to the field of botany 

broadly and to bryology specifically. Such seminal 

efforts and contributions will help popularize the 

subject of botany. The volume is characterized by 

high-quality color plates, technical descriptions, 

detailed plant geography, ecological perspectives 

of different species, and their corresponding 

conservation efforts and measures. 
The volume provides an elegant introduction to 

the world of bryophytes, including liverworts, 

hornworts, and mosses, that introduces readers 

to the subject with comparative ease and minimal 

technical jargon. The simplicity of the language is 

worth mentioning as the author’s straightforward 

style will help readers navigate this short but 

thorough volume featuring 84 bryophyte species. 

This seminal work provides the first detailed 

account of bryophyte diversity in England, along 

with the corresponding conservation measures. 

The volume is also notable for publishing 

photographs of several species in their specific 

habitats for the first time. The author provides in-

depth coverage on the current status of individual 

species, information on their distribution, ecology, 

and relevant conservation measures, as well as 

excellent coverage of the factors contributing to 

extinction/conservation status and loss. The origin 

of names, cultural history of different species, and 

their distribution also add depth and interest for 

the reader. 
The volume’s introductory materials include a 

general introduction, an overview of bryophytes 

and their importance, a note on their rarity, a 

detailed discussion of conservation efforts and the 

contributions made by individual researchers to 

the field, and a summary of Red List and IUCN 

criteria as applied to English bryophytes. Out of 916 

different English bryophytes, 87 are on the British 

Red List and have been designated as “threatened” 

by the IUCN. The remaining part of the volume 

is dedicated to species profiles for 84 species of 

English bryophytes. Descriptions for individual 

species include distribution maps, biogeographical 

information, general species descriptions, 

information on specific ecology, habitat, and 

history, as well as conservation measures. 
The volume is valuable in exploring both internal 

and external morphology of the described species. 

This approach is quite a variation from conventional 

plant handbooks that predominantly focus on 

external morphology. An excellent bibliography is 

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also provided, along with a well-organized glossary, 

helpful appendices on British Red List species, 

and a colorful presentation of the species status 

summary that are useful for quick reference. 
Future editions could be improved by a brief 

section on the fossil remains of extant bryophytes 

from this ecological zone along with a discussion 

of their evolutionary history. To provide more 

complete and exhaustive coverage, it would also 

be interesting to include any hornwort species 

occurring in this ecozone.  
This handbook will be a collector’s delight for 

bryophyte researchers and will also attract general 

readers who are interested in diverse plant life and 

ecology. Scholars will find this concise handbook 

to be essential for their backpacks on regular field 

trips for identification and quick field reference. 

The volume will be extremely helpful for those 

specializing in botany, bryology, plant geography, 

ecology, and conservation.
–Saikat Kumar Basu, Department of Biological Sci-

ences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, 


Developmental and Structural

Plant Roots: The Hidden Half, 4th ed. 

Amram Eshel and Tom Beeckman (eds.)

2013. ISBN-13: 978-1-4398-4648-3

Hardcover, US$199.95. 848 pp.

CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

This book presents a collection of 42 review articles 

that consider many aspects of the important topic 

of root biology. The editors have assembled a group 

of international experts in their fields to write 

these individual reviews. The articles are grouped 

together into several larger thematic sections 

including: The Evolution and Genomics of Roots; 

Root Structure; Regulation of Root Growth; Soil 

Resource Acquisition; Root Response to Stress; 

Root–Rhizosphere Interactions; and Modern 

Research Techniques.
As with any book of this type and scope, two 

issues that emerge are the variability in quality 

of each review article and the currency of the 

literature cited. Regarding the second issue, since 

the publication date is 2013, many (but not all) 

chapters have references up to 2012. Some reviews 

appear to be up-to-date only until 2011 (and 

perhaps a few before this date). Most of the articles 

are good quality, and some cover a more expansive 

range while others are more focused to a smaller 

portion of the literature. An example of the former, 

more expansive type is the review on the cellular 

patterning of the root meristem (Chapter 3), and 

an example of the latter is the article on the role of 

strigolactones in root development (Chapter 18). 
Two strengths of the book are that root biology 

is considered from the cellular/molecular to 

ecological levels and that recent developments in 

the genomic and post-genomic era are considered. 

Thus,  Plant Roots represents an interesting, 

interdisciplinary effort. In addition, there is 

substantial incorporation into several chapters 

of some of the latest data resulting from -omics 

Since my research area is focused on tropisms, 

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on root 

gravitropism (Chapter 19). This chapter reviewed 

the literature with an emphasis on the work since 

the last edition of this book, which was published 

in 2002. The authors also provided nice diagrams 

and microscopic images—although all images in 

this book are half-tone and black-and-white with 

no color figures. There was also a nice synthesis 

as well as a perspective on future research, and 

many chapters have a section on outlooks and 
Given that the book is expensive, who should own 

and use this volume? Of course, if your research 

area is in root biology or intersects in a major way 

in this field, the book would be a wise purchase. 

I also believe that it would be a useful text or 

supplement to certain advanced undergraduate or 

graduate courses in plant biology.
–John Z. Kiss, Department of Biology and the 

Graduate School, University of Mississippi, Oxford, 

Mississippi, USA

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

would have made it very convenient for readers to 

quickly connect the artwork with the corresponding 

artist while flipping back and forth across the 

catalogue. It would also be more convenient if 

the artist information and portrait were placed 

on the left page and their corresponding artwork 

on the right page. Lastly, including a small inset 

color picture of the natural specimens and/or wild 

species with its corresponding illustration would 

provide additional appeal to this beautiful, well-

produced volume. 
–Saikat Kumar Basu, Department of Biological Sci-

ences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, 



Economic Botany

[Catalogue of the] 14th Interna-

tional Exhibition of Botanical Art & 


Lugene B. Bruno and Carolina L. Roy

2013. ISBN-13: 978-0-913196-86-1

Paperback, US$28.00. 108 pp. 

Hunt Institute for Botanical Documenta-

tion, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 
Pennsylvania, USA

This spectacular catalogue elegantly presents 

the botanical artwork (watercolors, drawings, 

and prints) exhibited at the 14th International 

Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration at the 

Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation from 

27 September to 19 December 2013. The volume is 

a compilation of 41 botanical illustrations from 41 

separate artists, representing 10 different countries. 

The catalogue includes beautiful botanical art and 

illustrations, along with biographical information 

and portraits of the artists. This initiative to bring 

together international botanical artists from around 

the world was started by the institute in 1964, and 

the exhibit occurs every three years. This showcase 

of botanical art, shared with the public, researchers, 

and botanical enthusiasts, is in keeping with the 

broad philosophy of the organization, i.e., “…our 

collections and exhibitions are intended to educate 

and inspire growth.”
This catalogue provides an excellent glimpse of a 

diverse body of work and showcases spectacular 

floral illustrations. The catalogue has been prepared 

with great care and will be a valuable resource for 

botanical art collectors as well as for professional 

and amateur botanists. All illustrations are 

provided with their complete scientific names 

and authorities, corresponding plant families, 

and a brief description of the species, making the 

collection both visually appealing and informative. 

The level of detail and vivid color of the illustrations 

is impressive; a few could easily be mistaken for 

color photos rather than drawings. Furthermore, 

the illustrations are extremely loyal to the original 

specimens and even capture their morphological 

A few improvements to future catalogues should 

be noted. A unique identification number has been 

assigned to each artist in the current catalogue; if 

the corresponding page number had also been 

included with the author identification number, it 

Stress Biology of Cyanobacteria: 

Molecular Mechanisms to Cellular 


Ashis Kumar Srivastava, Amar Nath Rai, and 

Brett A. Neilan (eds.) 

2013. ISBN-13 978-1-4665-0478-3

Hardcover, US$159.95. xiii + 375 pp. 

CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, USA


As wonderful as the “blue-green algae” are, a 

book on cyanobacteria might appeal to, and be 

useful to, a relatively small number of readers. A 

book covering molecular mechanisms to cellular 

responses in the stress biology of cyanobacteria 

might appeal to, and be useful to, an even smaller 

population of readers. Thus, I cannot recommend 

(as I recently did in another review) that everyone 

should read this book. However, for students 

and professionals in phycology, microbiology, 

and stress biology, this book is an outstanding 

reference. The 19 chapters are organized into two 

sections: Bioenergetics and Molecular Mechanisms 

of Stress Tolerance, and Cellular Responses and 

Ecophysiology. Although specialists in the fields 

covered by each chapter might quibble with me, 

I thought the 19 chapters were fairly uniformly 

well prepared and well written. Similarly, the 

introductions to the individual chapters each did a 

good job of introducing the specific topic as well as 

the broader importance or significance of the topic. 

There was, as one would expect, some redundancy 

among these introductions; however, that is a small 

price to pay for 19 chapters that can each stand on 

their own. Some of the chapters provided comments 

on the evolution of the processes or mechanisms 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

being discussed in the chapters, and I found these 

observations to be interesting additions. Although 

I may not have been looking closely enough, I 

thought the volume was well prepared in terms of 

not be filled with obvious typos, etc. I do believe 

there were some minor formatting inconsistencies 

among the chapters (e.g., use of italics for particular 

terms), but overall this is a well-prepared, well-

edited book. It would have been even better if the 

color plates could have been inserted with each 

chapter rather than clustered as an insert about 

two thirds of the way through the volume, but if 

this minor inconvenience helped to keep price 

down, it was probably appropriate. It can perhaps 

be suggested that some of the chapters (e.g., the 

ones on symbiosis and microcystins) were a bit 

peripheral to the core focus of the volume; however, 

since I found those to be among the most interesting 

chapters, I am quite happy that they were included.
 This book is an important reference because it 

pulls together so much diverse information on 

stress biology in cyanobacteria. Pulling together 

diverse information on this topic is very important 

given not only the major ecological importance of 

the cyanobacteria, but also because global climate 

change, diminishing natural resources, and our 

concern for sustainability demand that we better 

understand how cyanobacteria cope! This is not a 

book for everyone, but a very fine reference for some.
–Russell L. Chapman, Professor Emeritus and 

Founding Dean, School of the Coast and Environ-

ment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA


A Field Guide to the Flowers of the 


Ansgar Hoppe 

2013.  ISBN-13: 978-1-907807-40-4

Paperback, US$32.99. 192 pp.  

Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, United Kingdom

The Alps are one of the most diverse natural 

landscapes in Europe. The mighty mountain chain 

rises from the Cote d’Azur of the Mediterranean, 

stretching from west to east and separating Europe 

into the cooler north and the sunny south along 

1200 kilometers before it sinks back into the 

Pannonian Plain south of Vienna. Across this 

wide arc, a fascinating world of mountain peaks, 

wide valleys, and diverse landscapes stretches 

through seven countries. Because of their size and 

important geographic location, they are a unique 

mountain region with a fascinating biodiversity. 

Today, the Alps are among the most popular 

tourist destinations in the world, and the names 

of the amazing rock formations of Mont Blanc, 

the Matterhorn, Grossglockner, or Zugspitze are 

known to everyone. 
Less known are the beautiful landscapes and 

ecosystems of the mid-altitudes, between 700 and 

1800 m, with their long history as agricultural 

and rural management areas. The Alps have been 

populated for more than 6000 years, beginning 

with a Neolithic nomadic way of life that slowly 

transitioned to farming and livestock raising in 

village communities. Since the early Middle Ages, 

the sustainable use of nature as a protection against 

natural hazards shaped the landscape, especially in 

the northern alpine region. The plants and animals 

we find today in the Alps are a mix of species 

that immigrated in the course of agricultural and 

pasture development, glacial relicts, and native 

endemic species. 
In Europe, there is already a plethora of field 

guides available for the alpine region. Why then 

another book on alpine flowers? A Field Guide 

to the Flowers of the Alps is a translation of a 

well-known field guide available in German. On 

the one hand, its translation into English will 

provide some assistance to the botanist, student, 

or biology teacher from abroad, and on the other 

hand it presents sufficiently detailed facts on alpine 

flowers for tourists who might otherwise overlook 

the beauties around their feet. Therefore, it is well 

suited for the excursion backpack, the small pocket, 

or for the 21st-century traveler with limited time, 

but with an interest in the environment and the 

beauty of plants.
The author, Ansgar Hoppe, is a botanist and 

research associate at the University of Hannover, 

Germany. He has published corresponding field 

guides in German, and is interested in geobotany 

and plant ecology. Many of the photographs in the 

book are by Michael Hassler, who is a well-known 

plant photographer and botanist. Several other 

botanists contributed pictures to the book.
On the first few pages, the book briefly explains 

the formation of the Alps, their structure, and 

ecology. Two pages illustrate how to use the book 

and how to locate plant species of interest. Some 

short botanical basics are provided at the end of 

the volume, together with a map of the alpine 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

zonation and main geologies. As plants usually 

appeal by their flowers, the book is classified and 

sections are color coded according to flower colors 

(red, white, blue, yellow, and greenish). An icon 

provides additional segregation according to flower 

type and symmetry. Each page lists three plant 

species, and plant descriptions consist of a typical 

photograph depicting the flowering species in its 

natural environment, along with the common 

English and scientific names. The corresponding 

text box contains a very (!) short description of 

flowering time, distribution, and a few important 

details. Only features that can be recognized with 

a magnifying lens are used for description. A few 

symbols indicate the protection status and the 

toxicity (very toxic and mildly toxic) of a given 

Some of the photos included are of good quality 

and express the beauty of the flowers. Others are 

of intermediate to lower quality, and a few fail to 

clearly identify a species, due to the complexity of 

the plant shape or its size, as might be the case for 

the umbelliferous plants, Apiaceae (habit and leaf 

form would be essential here). 
The overall goal of this book, though, is to provide a 

comprehensive guide to the alpine flowers, in their 

diversity and beauty. In this, I think the authors 

have done quite well. The guide lists 500 species, 

and the content is easy to read and provides an 

efficient overview. With some practice and regular 

use, this book will be a nice field guide for first use 

and occasional reference and will stimulate the 

user to seek additional information from more 

comprehensive textbooks.
It is also a book that awakens curiosity and the 

anticipation of an excursion into the mountains. 

For example, have you ever met the “King of the 

Alps” (Eritrichium nanum)?  From my office 

window here in Munich, I can see the Alps in the 

distance on a clear day like today. I think I will pack 

the field guide into my backpack when I go out for 

my next excursion.
–Peter Schröder, Department of Microbe-Plant In-

teractions, Helmholtz Zentrum München, Munich, 


Native Orchids of Singapore: Diver-

sity, Identification and Conservation

Yam Tim Wing

2013. ISBN-13: 978-981-07-8078-4

Paperback, US$8.50

National Parks Board, Singapore

Singapore is well known for its clean streets and 

subway, strict law enforcement, anti–chewing 

gum law, excellent schools, caning of criminals, a 

superb airline, and hybrid orchids that can be seen 

everywhere, including in its ultramodern Changi 

airport. What it is not well known are the about 220 

native orchid species that were found on the island 

before many of them became extinct as a result 

of habitat loss. Remarkably, several species have 

survived, some of which are well known and visible 

on street trees today, for example, Dendrobium 

crumenatum (Anggrek Merpati in Malay, meaning 

the dove [merpati] orchid [anggrek]); others can 

be found out of sight in various locations (in the 

environs of water reservoirs, a few remaining 

areas of secondary growth, and even in spots 

between housing estates). Dr. Yam Tim Wing 

(Western style: Tim Wing Yam; full disclosure: he 

was my postdoctoral fellow in 1990 and 1991) of 

the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) and others 

discovered and are still discovering some of the 

surviving species and are making every effort 

to protect and propagate them. (Even I had to 

agree to secrecy before being taken to a site off a 

busy main road to see what was believed at the 

time to be the single surviving plant of a climber 

species.) When these surviving plants flower, they 

are hand pollinated and the seeds they produce 

are germinated in the SBG seed germination 

and micropropagation facility. The availability 

of seedlings and, later, larger plants made 

repopulation and reintroduction possible, and Dr. 

Yam undertook the task. 
Grammatophyllum speciosum, the tiger orchid, was 

the first species to be planted in nature preserves, 

parks, roadsides, and other areas. I saw some of the 

first plants not long after they were attached to trees 

in 1999 on Pulau Ubin, a small island off Singapore. 

Some of the plants had died, but most were doing 

well enough for Dr. Yam to hope that they would 

flower someday. Over the years (I used to visit 

Singapore, which I consider my second home, 

almost annually until 2011), I saw the plants grow, 

and eventually observed many of them in full bloom 

on many trees throughout Singapore. Some even 

set seeds. The assumption is that the pollinators are 

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Plant Science Bulletin 60(1) 2014

still present in Singapore, but self-pollination and/

or apomixis cannot yet be fully excluded. Nearly 

20 other species have been reintroduced since 

1999. All are doing well, most have flowered, and a 

number have produced seeds. Now the hope is that 

the seeds will spread, germinate, and reestablish 

these and other species in their ancestral home.
At first, Dr. Yam labored in relative obscurity, often 

working independently, but also with support from 

Dr. Kiat Tan, former director of SBG and CEO 

of the National Parks Board. This changed when 

Mr. Ng Lang, Dr. Tan’s successor as CEO of the 

National Parks Board, became aware of his efforts 

and gave him official encouragement. With this 

encouragement, Dr. Yam emerged from obscurity, 

expanded his efforts, and affixed orchid seedlings 

on trees in many parts of the island city-state. 

When Dr. Nigel Taylor became director of SBG, the 

reintroduction of extinct species became part of the 

institution’s mission in the hope that “Singaporeans 

will become more aware of the many native orchids” 

(foreword, p. v). 
Now, after 20 years of repopulation and 

reintroduction, “Dr. Yam and his team are already 

being rewarded by the successful flowering and 

fruiting of many of the thousands of reintroduced 

wild orchids, and it is only a matter of time before 

we will have evidence of their natural regeneration 

independent of the work of humans,” and “while 

most botanic gardens around the world might wish 

to claim they are doing similar work with rare and 

endangered species, few are actually managing to 

rise to the challenge” (foreword, p. v).
The challenge was not only to come up with the 

idea and want to carry out the work. It was also to 

collect seeds, germinate them, grow seedlings, and 

develop methods to affix them to trees in a manner 

that ensures survival. The process is lengthy and 

complex. This may be daunting and discouraging 

to some; others simply may not know how or where 

to start and proceed. Dr. Yam’s book describes the 

process in detail in the section “Practical Guide” 

(pp. 87–103), which is instructive and easy to read. 

The information he provides is about orchids, but 

could easily be applied to other plants. 
Case studies (pp. 104–113) follow. A glossary (114–

115), a checklist of Singapore orchids (pp. 115–118) 

listing their status, acknowledgments (p. 119, full 

disclosure: I am acknowledged for having reviewed 

the manuscript), and a bibliography (pp. 120–121), 

which is not as extensive as it should be, complete 

the book. And, oh yes, the book opens with an 

uplifting foreword by Dr. Nigel Taylor (p. v) and an 

introduction (p. vi). These are followed by a concise, 

but excellently illustrated and very good description 

of the orchid family (pp. 1–11, full disclosure: one 

of the illustrations is from a paper coauthored 

by Drs. Yam, K. M. Cameron, and myself) and 

a well-illustrated field guide to the orchids of 

Singapore (pp. 12–86). These sections are good and 

interesting and add to the book, but in my view 

they play a supporting role to the parts of the book 

describing the practical aspects of reintroduction 

and repopulation because “Singapore is leading the 

way in orchid conservation and [Dr. Yam and his 

major and important supporters] can be proud!” 

(foreword, p. v). 
–Joseph Arditti, Professor of Biology Emeritus, 

Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, 

University of California, Irvine, California, USA

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