Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2015 v61 No 3 FallActions

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Fall 2015 Volume 61 Number 3

 In This Issue..............

A Report from Congressional 

Visits Day.... p. 96

BSA member and PlantingScience 

teacher Kim Parfitt wins 

Presidential Award.... p. 103

Student involvement key to success 

of Botany 2015... p. 82

PLANTS Grant Recipients and Mentors Gather at Botany 2015!

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From the Editor

                                                                    Fall 2015 Volume 61 Number 3



Editorial Committee  

Volume 61

Kathryn LeCroy  


Environmental Sciences 

University of Virginia

L.K. Tuominen 


Department of Natural Science 

Metropolitan State University 

St. Paul, MN  55106 

Daniel K. Gladish 


Department of Biology &  

The Conservatory 

Miami University  

Hamilton, OH  45011

Carolyn M. Wetzel 

Biology Department 

Division of Health and  

Natural Sciences 

Holyoke Community College 

303 Homestead Ave 

Holyoke, MA 01040

Melanie Link-Perez  



Department of Biology  

Armstrong State University 

11935 Abercorn Street 

Savannah, GA  31419

This issue of Plant Science Bulletin has been 

a very inspiring one to prepare because it is 

filled with reports, reflections, and photos 

from Botany 2015.  For those of us who 

could come together at this year’s annual 

society meeting, it was a great time for 

reconnecting with colleagues and friends, 

learning exciting new methods, discovering 

new ideas and, of course, advancing the 

field of botany. 

In the following pages, you will read 

about the meeting from the perspective 

of scientists, teachers, and students 

involved in many different aspects of 

BSA programming.  On page 89, Johanne 

Stogran, BSA Director of Conferences, 

reports on the preliminary feedback from 

meeting attendees and provides some 

staggering quantitative information about 

Botany 2015. We also present the winners 

of several societal and sectional awards, in 

particular, the 2015 Distinguished Fellow 

and Emerging Leader Awards (page 92). 

The Plant Science Bulletin extends warmest 

congratulations to all of this year’s award 


In this issue, we are also pleased to report 

on the continued success of BSA programs 

oriented at education and professional 

development, including PLANTS and 

Planting Science. An article on page 96 

details the experiences of the 2015 Public 

Policy Award Winners at Congressional 

Visit Day.  These programs are vital pieces 

of the society’s efforts to fulfill its mission. 

I hope that you will find these initiatives 

as exciting to hear about as I do.  If you are 

interested in becoming involved in any of 

these programs, please contact the BSA 


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Table of Contents

Society News

Survey Says: Botany 2015 in Edmonton was a Huge Success ........................................82

Making Success in Botany ...............................................................................................85

PLANTS Bringing Botany to New Heights .....................................................................89

BSA Award Winners .........................................................................................................92

BSA Public Policy Award Winners Attend Congressional Visits Day .............................96

BSA Science Education News and Notes.



BSA Committees in Action..

Student Section

The BSA Executive Board Welcomes Becky Povilus  ...................................................106 

Students Succeed at Botany 2015 ...................................................................................108


Bullard Fellowship .........................................................................................................109

Book Reviews

Economic Botany ...........................................................................................................110

Evolution ........................................................................................................................111

History   ........................................................................................................................112

Systematics  ....................................................................................................................113

Celebrating our past - Conserving our future!

International Trade and Convention Center 

Savannah, Georgia

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Survey Says… Botany 2015  

in Edmonton Was a Huge 


By Johanne Stogran, BSA Director of Conferences

Edmonton truly welcomed us for Botany 2015, 

with its warm hospitality and excitement to have 

us in the city! Did you see the welcome decals 

at the airport? And the big window signs at the 

Shaw Conference Centre provided a great first 

impression as we arrived. In addition, we made 

quite an economic impact on the city to the tune of 

nearly $1 million!

This was the biggest Botany conference to 

date hosted by the BSA. We were invited by the 

Canadian Societies and had a team of 14 partner 

societies in this adventure. There was a lot of 

energy, diversity, and exciting and interesting talks 

and presentations.  

Comments in the survey included the following:

•  “I like a conference where many societies and 

disciplines are brought together.”

•  “

Botany (conference) was fantastic—even 

better than I was expecting. Great oppor-

tunities to meet new people and hear about 

fascinating and cutting-edge research.”

•  “Positive energy

what I most enjoyed was 

the diversity of talks/topics and people. I 

did learn a lot about other research fields 

and I have met a lot of people from differ-

ent parts of the world! What also stuck with 

my mind is the message that we have to tell 

the world that Botany is cool!”

•  “My students enjoy interacting with scientists 

and learning about other topics.”

•  “After attending the conference, my under-

graduate researcher is calling herself a 


The Shaw Convention Centre was the 

appropriate place to hold a conference of this size; 

the exhibit hall was large enough for the record 

number of exhibitors, and it was full of energy 

during the breaks and receptions. We always make 

a conscious effort to hold as many events in the hall 

as possible to give the exhibitors the attention they 

deserve, which is why all the coffee breaks were in 

the hall.  One of the perks that exhibitors are offered 

is an e-mail list of all attendees so that they can 

personally invite you to visit them in their booth 

during the conference.

There were plenty of breakout rooms of varying 

sizes, and sessions were assigned to rooms by the 

projected attendance as noted by the program 

directors of each session.  Symposia organizers are 

also asked to indicate how many they expect to 

attend.  Unfortunately, the estimates can be a bit 

off and rooms can be either too big—or worse, too 


Many thanks to all of you who stayed within our 

negotiated room blocks at the hotels. Through an 

agreement with the city of Edmonton, the hotels 

support the Convention Centre; since we fulfilled 

our contracts with the hotels, the rental at the Shaw 

was FREE!  This saves the conference a considerable 

amount of money and lets us keep registration rates 

as low as we can—much lower than other kinds of 

professional conferences.  Going forward, we hope 

to always be able to keep costs low to enable more 

students and young professionals to attend.

This year we had a record number of posters

almost 500, or twice what we usually have! Rather 

than limit poster submissions, we chose to accept 

all and that meant we needed to split them into 

two locations. Although the official poster session 

is Monday evening, all the posters do stay up for 

the entire conference, giving everyone plenty of 

opportunities to view them. If you miss talking to 

an author at the poster session time, you can always 

connect with them via email

or meet over coffee!  

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Over 80% of you found the conference app to 

be useful—and many of your comments will be 

used to upgrade it further for next year. One of 

the biggest issues is that it currently doesn’t sync 

with the online abstract site, so this is one of the 

enhancements we will be working on for future 

versions. The app is the most effective way to stay up 

to date with any of the on-site changes that occur. 

The post-conference survey indicated that 43% of 

attendees use an iPhone 3 years old or newer, but 

we will also work to ensure older devices can use 

the app efficiently. In addition, almost 90% of you 

still like to use the program book!  o, yes, we will 

keep printing it while improving  it to make it easier 

to use.

The majority of you attend the conference 

to present your research, and for networking 

opportunities. We promise to keep these as strong 

incentives to attend while adding new ideas and 

programs to increase opportunities for both.

And finally, there was an interesting result from 

the survey: a little more than 50% of you said you 

heard of the conference by word of mouth! This is 

fantastic! You are talking about the conference  and 

telling your colleagues and students about your 

experiences and the many reasons to attend Botany 

conferences. Keep it up and tell….keep it up and 

tell them about Botany 2016 in Savannah, Georgia. 

It is going to be the best one, yet! 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

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program, a program she’s passionate about because 

of its ability to reach young minds with science. 

“At the Botany conference, we are building 

relationships and science,” Miller says. “We are 

trying ideas and abandoning some. We are finding 


“It is an exciting time for us in the Society 

and in science,” Miller says. “We are dealing 

with challenges and opportunities in food and 

environment—global challenges that can be 

answered with our help. There is a need for people 

who understand plants to answer those questions. 

We’re on a great trajectory and I am interested to 

see how, moving forward, we identify and seize the 

opportunities we have.”

Making Success in Botany,  

with a Little Help from  

Your Friends

By Janice Dahl, Great Story!

The Botanical Society of America is like family 

for many of the scientists that make it their 

professional home.

They were introduced to the Society as students, 

were entrenched in good science, met leading 

scientists, and continue to embrace the community 

as their own.

Dr. Allison Miller is a perfect case in point. The 

newest member of the BSA Board as Director-At-

Large for Education, a mentor with the PLANTS 

Program, and past Chair of the Economic Botany 

Section, it’s clear that the Associate Professor of 

Biology St. Louis University and Research Associate 

for the Missouri Botanical Garden has a passion for 

giving back to botany.

“I have been the beneficiary of the actions of 

the Botanical Society since I was an undergrad,” 

she says. “I have a sense of wanting to give back so 

others can enjoy what I have.”

Miller is excited to join the Board of Directors 

for the BSA to lead the Education area.  “It is a great 

opportunity to work with people with similar goals,” 

she says.  She’ll be working on the PlantingScience 

Society News

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Dr. Chris Martine is the David Burpee Professor 

of Plant Genetics and Research Curator, Manning 

Herbarium, Biology Department at Bucknell 

University. He consistently focuses on bringing as 

many students as possible to the Botany conference 

every year. 

“This is a kind and supportive environment for 

students to present their research,” Martine says. 

“Even if they are challenged, it will be supportive 

and it will help them grow as scientists. There are a 

lot of undergrads living in research,” says Martine. 

“Part of being in science is being engaged in science, 

and that means seeing and being engaged in this 

conference. That would be botany.

“The connections I made here became my 

community.  The Society encourages and supports 

members willing to support science. That’s the way 

it works. That encourages me to do good things, 

and I have that same hope for my students.”

Martine recently became a Lifetime Member of 

BSA, the youngest member to do so. The decision, 

he says, was both logical and emotional. “I’ve got a 

lot of years left, so the numbers just made sense,” 

he said with a smile. “I also believe so strongly in 

what BSA does for the botany community, what it 

does for me, and what it does for my students, that 

it was a way for me, in some small way, to show a 

level of support.”

“I’m the one that got a tattoo of my plant at the 

Boise Botany conference,” says Dr. Ranessa Cooper 

of Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI, with a huge 

smile and a glint of mischief as she shows it off. 

“I started coming to these conferences as an 

undergrad in 1995 with Jeff Osborn and I’ve only 

missed three in 20 years. This is my meeting,” she 

stresses. “There is no better meeting to adopt. I 

love to come because of the people; it’s like a family 

reunion. And BSA is just a great group of people. 

You are literally choosing your future professor and 

preparing for your future jobs here.”

At the Edmonton Botany conference, Cooper 

was truly multi-tasking by co-organizing a 

colloquium, roasting a colleague at the Paleobotany 

banquet, mentoring a student through the PLANTS 

program, co-hosting the Michigan banquet, and 

helping her own students with presentations. “It’s 

a very full and fulfilling meeting,” Cooper says, 

talking about the effect that BSA’s outreach and 

networking has had on her own career and can have 

for the students who come into the programs now.

She calls the “breadth of science” at the 

conference “inspiring” and draws on much of the 

research to show her students how exciting the 

science is and the scope of ongoing research. “I’ve 

been inspired here, and I hope I help someone else 

with my data when I present,” she said.

“Botany meetings are the best thing since sliced 

bread,” says Dr. Chelsea Specht of the University 

of California, Berkeley, and Curator of Monocots 

at the University and Jepson Herbaria. “You know 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

As a mentor, both in the PLANTS program 

and in her university role, Specht says she loves 

the opportunity to open doors for students. “As a 

mentor, I have students work on a variety of things. 

I make sure they have a variety of materials and 

experiences. In the end, the right choice for them 

might not be botany, but sometimes it is.”

Dr. Selena Smith at the University of Michigan—

and winner of the Emerging Leader Award—grew 

up on acreage and fell in love with plants and 

dinosaurs as a child. She knew early that science 

was her destiny, but it wasn’t until late high school 

that a lucky half-term in botany grabbed both her 

imagination and her intellect.

Now, as an 

Assistant Professor of Earth & 

Environmental Sciences and Program in the 

Environment in the Department of Earth & 

Environmental Sciences at the University of 

Michigan, she looks back with a smile at those early 

studies that took her to the life she loves today. 

“I want to continue the legacy,” Dr. Smith says. “I 

have a high school student in my lab now...I’ve been 

in the field for a long time, I’ve been in research for 

a long time, I’ve mentored and been mentored, I’ve 

been Associate Editor for the American Journal of 

Botany, and I’ve organized symposia. I’m engaged. 

That’s part of it. Research is fun and it’s one part 

of it. But if we are the only ones with a clue, it’s 

not enough. For paleobotany, we have to engage 

people’s imagination and show them how things 

everybody and it feels like you just saw them. The 

Society catches people early in their careers and 

keeps them all the way through. They engage you in 

education and outreach,” Specht says.  

The end result? “You can fit in, give and receive, 

and you don’t have to wait for age or buy-in to 

benefit from the Society.”

The relationships built through BSA and the 

Botany conferences are  “like being part of a club,” 

Specht explains. “When you go for tenure, you 

have to have letters from 15 people. Those people 

cannot be mentors or collaborators. I easily had 

those supporting letters because of this community 

of people who had seen my research here at this 

meeting.  They knew me and they knew my work. 

And they knew me well. That is super important in 

our community.”

Specht remembers her first presentation at a 

Botany conference in 1997 as a grad student and 

having senior scientist James Seago listening, 

commenting, and complimenting her work. “Today, 

our society is so negative in most ways. To publish 

or get a grant, so much of the feedback is negative,” 

she says. “But this meeting is positive. They know 

you and your work. You become part of something, 

nationally and internationally too.”

Specht wanted the chance to give back, so she 

signed on to the PLANTS Program as a mentor. 

“I like the cascading structure where the students 

are assigned both student and faculty mentors,” she 


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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

have changed. Evolution, ecology and climate change

it’s all relevant, current, and important.”

Smith says, “If we don’t tell people how important plants are, they’ll never appreciate them. Even if just a 

few of the students we mentor go on in botany, we have still helped more people appreciate plants.”

For young people thinking about a career, Smith has some advice. “Figure out what you enjoy doing and 

be sure what you like.” She talks about the “circuitous” route she took to find exactly the right spot. “You 

have to be patient and creative, and be open to ideas and networking,” she says.

“Paleobotany is like one big family, very supportive of one another—a community,” Smith says.

During her first trip to the Botany conference in 1999, she felt the sense of community and was amazed 

at the good science

“science from good scientists,” she calls it. And the kicker was the integration of the 

disciplines that she believes “you wouldn’t find anywhere else.”

Winning the Emerging Leader Award is a bit surreal for Smith, who still remembers coming to that first 

Botany conference as a freshman undergrad with a poster presentation. Now, she is working with her own 

graduate student, watching her blossom and become more engaged and loving botany. That, she says, is 

the ultimate reward. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

But that tiny piece of knowledge from Atkinson 

changed everything. She needed more education. 

She applied for an NSF Fellowship and was funded 

for a trip to the lowland rainforest in Costa Rica, 

and the light of her dream grew brighter.

“Kids in the country or even in the inner city 

just don’t think this level of education is possible,” 

Contreras said, explaining the importance of 

diversity programs like BSA’s PLANTS program, 

where she mentors and serves on her own 

university’s Diversity Committee.

“We have to encourage science, reach out too, if 

we want to impact passion for science to students. 

We have to fish for interest and foster that interest 

if it’s there.”

Brian Atkinson, Contrera’s mentor, is a fourth-

year Ph.D. student in Oregon State’s Botany and 

Plant Pathology Department who started out at a 

PLANTS grant recipient, coming to the conference 

as a fine arts student and finding his way slowly to 

paleobotany. Today, he credits that transformation 

in large part to the contacts and relationships built 

through the BSA and the Botany conference. 

“When they called for mentors, for me it was 

really about giving that same experience that I had 

to people from underrepresented groups. Since 

plants are so important to me, the PLANTS grant is 

there for people like me to get access to the Botany 

conference and understand how the meeting 


PLANTS Program Brings 

   Botany to New Heights

By Janice Dahl, from Great Story!   

The PLANTS program (Preparing Leaders 

and Nurturing Tomorrow’s Scientists: Increasing 

the diversity of plant scientists) has been 

bringing talented and diverse undergraduate 

students to the Botany conference for the past 

five years.  This program, funded by the National 

Science Foundation and the Botanical Society of 

America, brought 13 students to Botany 2015, 

where they received mentoring from graduate 

students, postdocs, and faculty, and participated 

in networking events, including the Diversity 

Luncheon and career-oriented activities. The 

program covers the normal costs of travel, 

registration, food, and accommodation at the 


In August, the BSA received confirmation that 

it is receiving another NSF grant to continue the 

PLANTS program, with some enhancements, for 

the next five years. This is fantastic news, especially 

since botanists are saying that the PLANTS 

program, quite literally, changed the course of their 


“The PLANTS grant was the only way I could 

have come to the Botany conference,” says 

Dori Contreras, a fourth-year Ph.D. student 

in paleobotany at the University of California, 

Berkeley. That was the first year of the PLANTS 

program—in 2010—and Contreras said she had no 

idea she wanted to be a botanist.

Paired with mentor Brian Atkinson, she 

learned about the possibilities of networking. 

“The connections I have made here have made a 

big difference,” she says. “I am the poster child for 

networking at these conferences,” where you meet 

people she calls “science famous.”

Contreras grew up in a family with five children, 

with her mom graduating from college after 10 

years of taking one class after another. Contreras 

supported herself from the age of 17 and worked 

40 to 60 hours a week through most of her college 

career, with a strong aversion to loans. 

“I worked retail, sold trucks, and worked in auto 

finance. I was doing well for myself in business, 

but it wasn’t satisfying. It was boring,” she says. “I 

wanted something more. I didn’t know graduate 

school was an option for me,” Contreras says flatly. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Atkinson has mentored three people, all of whom 

were very different in terms of personality, course 

of study, and expectations from the conference. 

In large part, the mentorship is about “developing 

relationships and offering conference guidance that 

is beneficial” to the individual student, he says.

James McDaniel of the University of Wisconsin-

Madison, started coming to the Botany conference 

in 2011 as an undergrad.  “I knew a little about 

plants, but I wanted to know more,” he said. He 

was paired with a peer mentor and a professor 

mentor, both of whom taught him the ropes about 

the conference and the expectations for him as a 

recipient of a PLANTS grant. “The most exciting 

thing was the networking,” he says now, “meeting 

all these people you would potentially be working 

with in the future. These people,” he says with a 

look across the sweeping floor of the conference 

center, “are the key to your success.”

Now, as a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the 

University of Wisconsin-Madison, McDaniel 

believes strongly in the power of the relationships 

he has built through the PLANTS program, BSA, 

and the Botany conference.  It’s a long way from 

the future he once imagined as a high-school or 

middle-school teacher, and he says his passion for 

plants came from all the scientists he met along the 


“I love research and I love passing on that 

knowledge,” McDaniel says.  So when he looks at 

the PLANTS Program now, he sees a way to pass 

along some of the benefits he received. “I like 

passing on some of the information about getting 

into grad school, getting funding for school and 

research, and fellowships—things I didn’t know 

existed,” McDaniel says. “The mentees are getting 

the kind of friends they need and deserve through 

this program. 

“It’s a great experience to be able to pass that 

knowledge on to another person, the knowledge 

that my mentor passed on to me.”

McDaniel says, “Diversity is a huge issue for 

science. This conference is getting more minorities 

and diverse groups into the sciences all the time, 

but it’s our job as scientists to get out there and 

interest people in science.”

Dr. David L. Gorchov of the Department of 

Biology at Miami University, Oxford, in Ohio is 

a long-time mentor with the PLANTS program. 

He says, “It’s part of being a professor to train the 

next generation. The Botany conferences can be 

intimidating, but the programs are well organized 

and it’s our jobs as mentors to be helpful so the 

students don’t have to figure it out by themselves.”

“It’s easy to be a mentor,” says the 25-year BSA 

member. “It has a positive effect on me and on the 

next generation.”

Dr. Gorchov talks about one “very artsy, creative 

student” he mentored in the beginning years of the 

PLANTS program, and his smile broadens. “The 

student would consistently miss our meetings, 

despite my reminders. I thought the whole thing 

was very unsatisfactory in my eyes. But a few years 

later I learned that the student’s overall performance 

had improved because of the feedback I gave.”

Conversely, Dr. Gorchov said, “My student this 

year is well prepared, asking all the right questions, 

and might actually not grow as much from the 

mentoring. You just don’t know.”


“When they called for mentors, 

for me it was really about giving 

that same experience that I had 

to people from underrepresented 

groups. Since plants are so 

important to me, the PLANTS 

grant is there for people like 

me to get access to the Botany 

conference and understand how 

the meeting works.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Dr. Chelsea Specht of the University of 

California, Berkeley, and Curator of Monocots 

for the University and Jepson Herbaria, said she 

wanted the chance to give back, so she signed on 

to the PLANTS program as a mentor. “I like the 

cascading structure where the students are assigned 

both student and faculty mentors,” she said. 

As a mentor, both in the PLANTS program 

and in her university role, Specht said she loves 

the opportunity to open doors for students. “As a 

mentor, I have students work on a variety of things. 

I make sure they have a variety of materials and 

experiences. In the end, the right choice for them 

might not be botany, but sometimes it is.”

That’s really what happened with her, Specht 

says, recalling her pre-med background and the 

explorations that led her into evolutionary biology, 

ethno-pharmacology, and eventually to plant 

molecular genetics and systematics. She simply 

loved the exploration and the science, and in turn, 

loves showing others that same exploratory process 

that turned her on to botany.

“BSA is uniquely good at bringing in people at an 

early age and keeping them engaged,” Specht said. 

“Young people have energy and ideas, and being 

involved is helpful to your career, too. It’s good for 

the members and the Society.”


“BSA is uniquely good at bringing 

in people at an early age and 

keeping them engaged. Young 

people have energy and ideas, 

and being involved is helpful to 

your career, too. It’s good for the 

members and the Society.”

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

her own students and those who are not. The 13 

PhD students she has graduated to date have all 

remained involved in science or education, several 

of them becoming accomplished scientists in their 

own right. Collinson served as the President of the 

International Organization of Paleobotany as well 

as taking on leadership roles in other organizations. 

To quote one letter, “Her creativity, incredible 

productivity and warm collegiality together 

conspire to make her an excellent example of those 

who would be recipients of this award.”

Donald Levin

Professor Don Levin has been enormously 

productive and influential in diverse areas of 

research at the interface of population genetics, 

hybridization, breeding system biology, defense 

mechanisms, and polyploidy. He has an exceptional 

record of achievement in research that is 

recognized both nationally and internationally; this 

impressive record has stretched for half a century 

and continues today. Levin is a world leader in 

research and one of the leading botanical figures of 

our time. Some of the most influencial papers and 

books in plant evolutionary biology over the past 

several decades were written by Levin. There are 

few researchers possessing such diverse expertise 

who do so many things so well and have made 

such major contributions in so many areas of plant 



The Botanical Society of 

America’s 2015 Distinguished 

Fellow Award Winners 

The Botanical Society of America Distinguished 

Fellow Award (formerly known as the Merit 

Award) is the highest honor our Society bestows. 

Each year, the Merit Award Committee solicits 

nominations, evaluates candidates, and selects 

those to receive an award. Awardees are chosen 

based on their outstanding contributions to the 

mission of our scientific Society. The committee 

identifies recipients who have demonstrated 

excellence in basic research, education, and public 

policy, or who have provided exceptional service to 

the professional botanical community, or who may 

have made contributions to a combination of these 

categories. Based on these stringent criteria, the 

2015 BSA Distinguished Fellow Award recipients 

are Margaret E. Collinson, Donald Levin, and 

Jonathan F. Wendel.


Professor Margaret E. Collinson 

Professor Margaret Collinson is an 

internationally known and respected plant 

paleobiologist. She has been elected as a Foreign 

Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts 

and Sciences, and serves as a corresponding Member 

of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 

(Germany) and Honorary Research Fellow of the 

Natural History Museum (London). Her work is 

broad and multidisciplinary, covering paleobotany, 

plant systematics, paleoecology, plant-animal 

interactions in the past, and plant biochemistry. 

Particularly noteworthy contributions include early 

Cenozoic vegetation history, the fossil record of 

ferns, and highlighting the importance of fire in 

paleoecoystems. Because of these diverse interests, 

in many ways Collinson is an ambassador of botany 

by continuously showing its relevance to other 

disciplines such as Earth sciences and paleontology, 

while also making novel contributions to traditional 

botanical sciences. In addition to her scholarly 

work, Collinson is a tireless and dedicated teacher, 

and a mentor and supporter of paleobotany. She 

has been recognized with undergraduate teaching 

awards, mentored numerous young scientists, 

and does not distinguish between those who are 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Dr. Selena Y. Smith Receives 

    Emerging Leader Award

Selena Smith has only recently become an 

Assistant Professor of Earth & Environmental 

Sciences and Program in the Environment (and 

Museum of Paleontology) at the University of 

Michigan. Nevertheless, she already has established 

an exemplary record of innovative scientific 

research, professional leadership, and student 

mentorship. Selena initiated her program of 

paleobotanical research as a high school honor 

student, conducting, completing, and publishing 

her first scientific paper before entering the 

University of Alberta, where she completed an 

additional nine papers while completing her B.S. 

and Ph.D. degrees in 2002 and 2007, respectively. 

In 2005 she received the first NSERC André Hamer 

Doctoral Postgraduate prize, awarded to the single 

most outstanding doctoral student in Canada. 

Smith already has published more than 30 refereed 

papers (since the year 2000). The superior quality 

of her studies has been appreciated since her first 

presentations, earning her numerous awards, 

including the Isabel Cookson Award (for best 

research student presentation in paleobotany at 

the annual Botany conferences), and prestigious 

competitive pre-doctoral and post-doctoral 

fellowships in Canada and the United Kingdom. 

She has achieved continuous National Science 

Foundation funding through multiple awards from 

2010 through at least 2018. Smith’s studies go well 

beyond the narrow systematic breadth, stratigraphic 

ranges, or preservational modes that characterize 

the work of less creative scientists, and she has 

been at the forefront of developing and employing 

new methods and technologies such as X-ray 

Jonathan F. Wendel

Jonathan F. Wendel is one of the world’s leading 

researchers studying the genetics and genomics of 

plant polyploidy, particularly in cotton and other 

species of the genus Gossypium, which has been the 

focus of much of his work. His nearly 250 papers 

span a staggeringly broad range of topics, not only 

on polyploidy but on phylogenetics, systematic 

theory, maize genetics, crop evolution, and 

taxonomy, to name only a few. His work has always 

been at the leading edge of his fields of interest, 

beginning with isozymes and moving seamlessly 

into the DNA era from its beginnings with 

restriction enzymes, through manual sequencing, 

and on into the current “next-generation” high-

throughput phase of comparative genomics. 

Wendel has been noted throughout his career for 

sharing his technical and theoretical insights in 

incisive and lucid review papers. He is an excellent 

colleague and valued collaborator, generously 

giving of his time and boundless energy to further 

the work and careers of others, and serving as an 

organizer of important conferences and symposia. 

Wendel is also an engaged mentor of graduate and 

undergraduate students and visiting scientists. He is 

a distinguished lecturer and educator, and someone 

who has contributed tremendous service to his 

institution, having served as chair of Iowa State 

University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, 

and Organismal Biology since 2003. To quote from 

three of his supporting letters, Wendel is “one of 

the very elite plant evolutionary biologists in the 

world”, whose work “has spanned decades and has 

resulted in a new synthesis of views on the genetic 

and genomic consequences of polyploidy”; “He is a 

leading light in plant genome evolution.”

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

obovatum group.” Co-authors: Maria Vicent and 

José María Gabriel y Galán

Isabel Cookson Award 

(Paleobotanical Section)

Established in 1976, the Isabel Cookson Award 

recognizes the best student paper presented in the 

Paleobotanical Section.

Carla Harper, University of Kansas, “Biomarkers 

in paleomycology – A case study using fungus-

infected Permian woods from Antarctica.” Co-

authors: Alison Olcott Marshall, Craig P. Marshall, 

Thomas N. Taylor, Michael Krings and Edith L. 


Katherine Esau Award 

 (Developmental and 

Structural Section)

This award was established in 1985 with a 

gift from Dr. Esau and is augmented by ongoing 

contributions from Section members. It is given to 

the graduate student who presents the outstanding 

paper in developmental and structural botany at the 

annual meeting.

Kelsey Galimba, University of Washington, 

“Duplication and divergence of the floral organ 

identity genes.” Co-authors: Jesús Martínez-Gomez 

and Veronica Di Stilio. 

Maynard Moseley Award 

 (Developmental & Structural 

and Paleobotanical Sections)

The Maynard F. Moseley Award was established 

in 1995 to honor a career of dedicated teaching, 

scholarship, and service to the furtherance of the 

botanical sciences. The award is given to the best 

student paper, presented in either the Paleobotanical 

or Developmental and Structural sessions, that 

advances our understanding of plant structure in an 

evolutionary context.

Stephanie Conway, University of Melbourne, 

Australia, “Surface analysis of cell division in the 

shoot apical meristem of gymnosperms.” Co-author: 

Andrew Drinnan.

tomography, which uses synchrotron technology 

to develop non-invasive 3-D images of fossil plants 

that may still be imbedded in rock matrix. Her 

work also spans a wide range of foci, including 

structure and development, reproductive biology, 

paleoecology and paleophytogeography, and 

systematics and evolution of ferns, gymnosperms, 

flowering plants, and fungi.

Margaret Menzel Award  

 (Genetics Section)

The Margaret Menzel Award is presented by the 

Genetics Section for the outstanding paper presented 

in the contributed papers sessions of the annual 


Dr. Joshua Puzzy, College of William and 

Mary,  “Nuclear phylogenomics of the seed plants” 

Co-authors: Shing Hei Zhan, Tao Chen, Michael 

Deyholos, James Leebens-Mack, Dennis Stevenson, 

Philip Thomas, Gane Ka-Shu Wong, Sean W. 

Graham and Sarah Mathews. 

A. J. Sharp Award  

  (Bryological and   

Lichenological Section)

The A.J. Sharp Award is presented each year by 

the American Bryological and Lichenological Society 

and the Bryological and Lichenological Section for 

the best student presentation. The award, named 

in honor of the late Jack Sharp, encourages student 

research on bryophytes and lichens.

Manuela Dal Forno, George Mason University, 

“Mycobiont cladogenesis triggered by photobiont 

speciation: A case study of the Rhizonema-Cora 

lichen symbiosis.” Co-authors: James D. Lawrey and 

LRobert Lucking 

Edgar T. Wherry Award 

 (Pteridological Section and 

the American Fern Society)

The Edgar T. Wherry Award is given for the 

best paper presented during the contributed papers 

session of the Pteridological Section. This award is 

in honor of Dr. Wherry’s many contributions to the 

floristics and patterns of evolution in ferns.

Dr. Emily Butler Sessa, University of Florida, 

“Exploring potential asymmetric hybridization 

in a Mediterranean fern complex: the Asplenium 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Physiological Section  

Li-Cor Prize - Paper

Kerri Mocko, University of Connecticut, for 

the paper “Stomatal behavior and integration of 

functional traits are consistent with climate of origin 

for co-occurring congeners” Co-author: Cynthia 



Physiological Section 

 Li-Cor Prize - Poster

John A. Huber, Brigham Young University, for 

the poster “Exploring the possibility of photosynthetic 

plasticity in Agave sensu lato” Co-author: J. Ryan 


Developmental & Structural  

Section Student Travel Awards

Riva Bruen, University of California at Berkeley 

(Advisor, Chelsea Specht) 

Kelsey Galimba, University of Washington 

(Advisor, Veronica Di Stilio) 

Ecology Section S 

tudent Travel Awards

Laura Bogar, Stanford University (Advisor, Dr. 

Kabir G. Peay) 

Eric Limbird, Middle Tennessee State University 

(Advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Walck)

Genetics Section  

Student Travel Awards

Hanna Dorman, Mississippi State University 

(Advisor, Dr. Lisa Wallace) 

Jacob Landis, University of Florida (Advisor, Dr. 

Pamela Soltis) 

Brandon Sinn, Ohio State University (Advisor, 

Dr. John V. Freudenstein)

Pteridological Section  

& American Fern Society 

Student Travel Awards

Kelsey Cook
Benjamin Dauphin
Joel Nitta

Genetics Section Student 

Research Awards

Genetics Section Student Research Awards provide 

$500 for research funding and an additional $500 for 

attendance at a future BSA meeting.

Carlos I. Arbizu-Berrocal, University of 

Wisconsin-Madison, Graduate Student Award 

(Advisors: Drs. David Spooner and Philipp Simon), 

for the proposal “Molecular and morphological 

studies of wild and cultivated carrot from Turkey, the 

genus Daucus.”

Beck Powers, University of Vermont, Masters 

Student Award (Advisor: Dr. Jill Preston), for the 

proposal “Genetic building blocks in the evolution of 

sympetaly: a candidate gene approach.”

Ecology Section  

Student Presentation Awards

Emily Rollinson (Graduate Student), Stony 

Brook University, for the paper “Functional diversity 

and the assembly of riparian plant communities” Co-

author: Jessica Gurevitch

Tammy Elliot (Graduate Student), McGill 

University, for the paper “Understanding shifting 

plant boundary distributions using phylogenetic 

methods” Co-author: T. Jonathan Davies

Hanna Dorman, Mississippi State University, 

for the best Graduate Student poster “Genetic 

structure of Rhizobia associated with Chamaecrista 

fasciculata” Co-author: Lisa Wallace

Mae Lacey, for the best Undergraduate Student 

poster  “Exploring the potential for Solanum fruit 

ingestion and seed dispersal by rock-dwelling 

mammals in the Australian monsoon tropics” Co-

authors: Elizabeth Capaldi, Ingrid Jordon-Thaden 

and Chris Martine

Physiological Section  

Student Presentation Awards

Vi Bui, University of Western Ontario, for the 

paper “Wood anatomy of Norway spruce and 

Scots pine under warming and elevated CO


” Co-

authors: Zsofia Stangl, Vaughan Hurry, Norman 

Huner and Danielle Way

Erika Bucior, Ithaca College, for the poster 

“The physiological responses of Brassica rapa (Fast 

Plants) to nutrient and drought stress” Co-author: 

Peter Melcher

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

BSA Public Policy  

Award Winners Attend 

Congressional Visits Day

By Morgan Gostel, Marian Chau, Andrew Pais, and 

Ingrid Jordon-Thaden

This year, several BSA members traveled to 

Washington, DC to speak with elected members of 

Congress about the importance of federal funding 

for basic research. The BSA has been participating 

in the Congressional Visits Day (CVD) since 2012. 

This event is sponsored by the Biological and 

Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and held 

annually in Washington, DC. 

Since becoming involved with this event, the 

BSA’s Public Policy Committee has grown, become 

more active, and expanded its national policy 

involvement and visibility. Beginning in 2013, the 

Board of the BSA voted unanimously to sponsor 

an annual Public Policy Award for students and 

early career scientists to support travel to and 

participation in the CVD. This year the Public 

Policy Award was awarded to one student and 

one postdoc: Andrew Pais (North Carolina 

State University) and Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden 

(Bucknell University), respectively. These awardees 

have shared their experience, as follows. 

We need to engage policymakers more frequently 

in conversations about the value of federal funding 

for science, share our work, and communicate its 

significance regularly. One way to stay informed 

about science policy is to sign up for bimonthly 

policy alerts at, prepared 

by the American Institute of Biological Science’s 

(AIBS) Public Policy team. 

Andrew’s Experience   

When I applied for the BSA Public Policy Award, 

my hope was to better understand how scientists 

were participating in the realm of public policy. I 

was pleased to meet with other scientists who had 

embedded themselves in various agencies or had 

joined the ranks amongst political appointees. As 

part of the first morning’s events, I attended a panel 

hosted by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) 

and heard from several government employees who 

started their careers in science and transitioned 

into public policy. The panel discussion included: 

Laura Petes, Assistant Director for Climate 

Adaptation and Ecosystems at the White House 

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); 

Richard Pouyat, National Program Leader for Air 

and Soil Quality Research at the U.S. Forest Service; 

Alexis Erwin, Environmental Sustainability 

Advisor Bureau for Africa at the United States 

Agency for International Development (USAID); 

and Alan Thornhill, Director for Office of Science 

Quality and Integrity at the U.S. Geological Survey 

(USGS). Among many other topics, we discussed 

the importance of embedding ecologists and 

other non-medical life scientists in all aspects 

of government—emphasizing the need to put 

scientists at the table where they haven’t normally 

been expected to participate. I took this point to 

heart as we trained how to effectively advocate 

federal scientific policies to our representatives and 

senators in Congress.

The remainder of the day was spent reviewing 

aspects of the proposed budget for the National 

Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year 2016. Kei 

Koizumi, Assistant Director for Federal Research 

and Development in the White House OSTP, 

summarized the $7.7 billion NSF budget proposed 

to Congress, and CVD participants were also 

informed about H.R. 1806, a re-authorization bill 

going through the House of Representatives that 

would put constraints on how the NSF allocated its 

funds to certain scientific disciplines not deemed 

to be “in the national interest.” With the objectives 

given to CVD participants (to encourage support 

BSA Public Policy Awardee Andrew Pais.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

for the proposed $7.7 billion for the NSF and not 

support H.R. 1806), participants divided into teams 

by state of residence and prepared talking points 

to deliver to their congresspersons. Besides me, 

the team representing North Carolina included 

Kevin Kloeppel, Associate Graduate School Dean 

and Associate Professor in Western Carolina 

University; Christine Muth, Biology Instructor at 

the North Carolina School of Science and Math; 

and Robert Gropp, AIBS Director of Public Policy 

and Co-Executive Director. Together we made up 

an effective team that could communicate how the 

NSF was vital from an administrator’s, teacher’s, 

and student’s perspective.

The next day, we first delivered our message to 

the offices of two Republican senators from North 

Carolina; we met with legislative assistants in both 

Senator Burr and Senator Tillis’ offices. The staffers 

were very friendly and receptive to our points. 

My argument for sustaining a trained workforce 

in science and technology resonated well with the 

Senate offices since training and retaining skilled 

scientists in the Research Triangle Park (RTP) 

would continue to attract businesses and bring 

jobs to North Carolina. In particular, I thought 

my meeting with Senator Tillis’ office was very 

productive. I look forward to meeting with Senator 

Tillis’ legislative assistant again since he is an alum 

from my home university and will return to North 

Carolina for the August recess. We may even 

have the opportunity to schedule Senator Tillis to 

meet with us and participate in a photo-op at my 


After our visits with Senate offices, we sat in on 

an appropriation subcommittee meeting, and then 

we met with House offices representing North 

Carolina. Although Republican and Democrat 

representatives sitting on the subcommittee did not 

come to a final agreement at the time that we sat 

in on their meeting over commerce appropriations, 

the atmosphere in the room seemed very cordial 

and not at all polarizing as I would have expected. 

Indeed, every representative office we met greeted 

us with a respectful and welcoming tone. Of the 

House of Representative offices we met from North 

Carolina [Rep. Butterfield (D), Rep. Meadows (R), 

and Rep. Price (D)], all three responded positively 

to our message. Although Rep. Meadows did vote 

in support of H.R. 1806, I still appreciated the 

courtesy of his office to consider the concerns 

we had over the reauthorization bill. Not every 

politician is going to agree with the policies that 

the scientific community largely endorses, but we 

are better off engaging with everyone so that our 

message is at least at the table when decisions have 

to be made.

In summary, while many of the policy decisions 

made in Congress may appear to be predictable 

along party lines at first glance, I honestly believe 

there is room for persuasion when making the 

case for federal funding of pure scientific research. 

I have personally communicated with my Senator 

and Representatives on how federal funds have 

advanced my research and how such research has 

benefitted North Carolina. I would encourage 

botanists and all life scientists to contact their 

elected officials. Many Congressional staffers are 

well educated and eager to learn more about how 

your work can benefit their state. However, many 

of our policy makers are not experts in science, 

and they are relying on your expertise to guide 

their decisions. Of everything I observed from this 

trip, I would just like to reiterate how easy it is to 

schedule a meeting with your Congressperson. 

Don’t just vote—get your foot in the door at a 

House or Senate office next time you’re near D.C 

or your local state capitol. Most political offices 

regularly host constituent visits, and scientific 

societies such as the AIBS are glad to coordinate 

a visit for you. Although travelling to Washington 

D.C. can be expensive, many scientific societies 

are now recognizing the importance of connecting 

scientists with government offices and providing 

travel awards. I am grateful that the BSA supported 

my visit to D.C., and I hope others may use this 

award for future visits with Congress.

Ingrid’s Experience

As an Environmental and Public Policy 

Committee (EPPC) member for American Society 

of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT), I was asked to 

Not every politician is going 

to agree with the policies that 

the scientific community largely 

endorses, but we are better off 

engaging with everyone so that 

our message is at least at the table 

when decisions have to be made.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

participate in the annual Biological and Ecological 

Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits 

Day (CVD) in May 2015. (Watch out, I think I 

am on the road to becoming a political lobbyist 

considering the number of acronyms in this 

synopsis!) While still holding onto my lab coat 

and plant labels, part of my own personal growth 

is to explore the facets of how I as a scientist can 

contribute to the decisions being made in the big 

white, marble buildings of State and Federal offices.

Each year, CVD organizers prepare messages and 

materials the week before the event. Things change 

so fast in Washington, D.C., that an agenda for 

discussion may need to be altered the night before. 

In total, 29 participants held 54 appointments with 

Congressional offices from 15 states to advocate for 

increased federal investments in scientific research.  

This year we asked members of Congress to support 

the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal, 

including $7.7 billion for the National Science 

Foundation (NSF)—a $500 million increase from 

the 2015 budget and a 3% increase in the Biology 


My team consisted of five CVD participants from 

Maryland (Charles Fenster from the University of 

Maryland, College Park), Pennsylvania (myself, 

Bucknell University), and Virginia (Megan 

Paustian and Tammy Wilbert from the Smithsonian 

Institution and Morgan Gostel from George Mason 

University). Our morning meetings were kept 

to the Senate side, bouncing from meetings with 

Senator Cardin (MD), who met with us briefly 

while waiting to speak with his legislative assistant, 

Senator Mikulski (MD), Senator Toomey (PA), 

and Senators Kaine and Warner (VA). During 

our afternoon meetings, we met with offices 

from the House of Representatives, including 

Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman 

Tom Marino (PA-10), and Congressmen Connelly 

(VA-11) and Beyer (VA-8). During part of the 

afternoon, our team was divided due to scheduling 

conflicts. Megan, Morgan, and Tammy met with 

Representatives from Virginia, while Charlie and I 

met with Representatives Hoyer and Marino.

Although our meeting with Senator Toomey’s 

office was cut short, due to what seemed to be 

another urgent appointment, our meeting with 

Representative Marino, who spoke to us directly 

between votes, was very engaging. His aide kept 

him on a minute-by-minute schedule, while I 

introduced our team, explained briefly why we were 

there, and thanked him for seeing us personally. 

Representative Marino got straight to the point, 

asking each of us, one at a time, to explain why our 

research is important to voters and why he should 

be interested in it. I responded with an explanation 

about a planned field trip to the Appalachian 

 BSA Public Policy Team posing with Senator Cardin (MD). L-R: Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden, Morgan Gostel, 

Dr. Charles Fenster, Senator Cardin, Dr. Megan Paustian, and Dr. Tammy Wilbert.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

mountains of West Virginia to hunt for rare and 

endemic perennial mustard, Draba ramosissima

I explained that, similar to the presence of 

dragonflies to indicate water quality, certain plant 

species are sensitive to a declining habitat. If 

indicator species, such as dragonflies and sensitive 

mustards, are missing from a habitat, we know 

that the overall biodiversity of that habitat is low. 

Low biodiversity leads to a domino effect to other 

problems in maintaining an ecosystem, including 

erosion control and water quality. He literally 

exclaimed “SOLD!” and that he would like to fund 

this research! I asked him if I could hold him to that 

and we shared a brief laugh. Representative Marino 

was excited to hear what we had to say and agreed 

with most of our points. It was invigorating to have 

direct communication with Representative Marino, 

whose vote has direct implications for funding 

basic research. 

Our take-home message resonated well during 

the CVD meetings. Simply put, the NSF Biology 

Directorate funds nearly 66% of all basic biology 

research in the United States, and its importance 

cannot be understated. The second most critical 

part of our meetings was to stress the importance 

of voting “No” to House Resolution 1806 (the 

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act). 

This legislation, while reauthorizing the NSF, 

also implements burdensome oversight on the 

management of NSF funds. An AIBS response 

letter can be found at


Unfortunately, the House passed HR 1806 the 

week after our visit on May 20, 2015. Among the 

Representatives whose offices we met with, only one 

voted “Aye”—Representative Marino—despite his 

supportive proclamations during our meeting. We 

will monitor activity related to similar legislation 

in the Senate, and we anticipate that the AIBS will 

update us with Action Alerts to contact Senators 

regarding America COMPETES in the future.  

Congressional politics remain fraught with 

partisanship and although basic research, by its very 

essence, is nonpartisan, challenges lie ahead for 

scientific funding if scientist voices are not heard. 

If we, as botanists, do not remain informed and 

aware of the policy that affects our work, we can be 

assured of only one thing: that we are not a part of 

legislative conversation. The ASPT EPPC and BSA 

PPC look forward to continued interaction to best 

communicate and pursue science policy priorities 

for our membership. We will be presenting the 

results of our 2014/2015 public policy surveys, with 

big announcements regarding their implications 

for shaping the future of public policy in ASPT and 

BSA soon!

BSA Public Policy Team in front of the U.S. Capitol. L-R: Dr. Megan Paustian, Dr. Charles Fenster, Dr. 

Tammy Wilbert, and Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

American Journal of Botany

 Showcases New Features… 

.....and a New Look!

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

During the celebrations last year for the American Journal of Botany’s 100th year in publication—

which not only featured AJB Centennial Reviews in the journal itself, but interviews in the Plant Science 

Bulletin of the AJB’s most prominent contributors—a question was being raised beyond acknowledging 

the centennial.

Where does the journal go from here?

So far in 2015, the answers are evident. With the introduction of Editor-in-Chief Pam Diggle, the AJB  

has added a few new elements to signify that the journal is pushing forward: a new essay feature, a new 

Highlights section, and a revamped look to the journal itself.

The new essay feature—“On the Nature of Things,” named after the first-century BCE poem “De Rerum 

Natura” by Titus Lucretius Carus—is the chief component of the AJB’s revitalized News and Views section. 

These essays provide succinct and timely insights into multiple aspects of plant science; thus far, topics have 

included species distributions, parasitism disruption, ecological restoration, plant invasions, conservation 

genetics, and more. Stay tuned for these articles each month, and feel free to make suggestions to Dr. 

Diggle at

At the same time the essay feature was introduced, the AJB began featuring certain articles with its new 

Highlights feature. This gives readers a way to quickly scan articles of special note in the issue as well as 

articles that show the breadth of coverage in the journal. 

And finally, the journal has a revamped look to match not only the new features, but also the ongoing 

progressive content of the research articles. The updated fonts and layout give the AJB a modern look while 

retaining the strong elements that have served the AJB well over its existence. 

Make sure to check out 

the entire breadth of the journal 


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BSA Science Education 

News and Notes

By Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

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, Education Director, at

PlantingScience Kicks Off  

Second Decade with Largest 

Fall Session Ever 

I’m happy to report that PlantingScience, the 

Botanical Society of America’s online mentoring 

community, is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks 

to support from BSA members and volunteer 

scientist mentors, and through joint efforts with 

our partnering plant societies. We are anticipating 

our largest session ever for this fall, and expect over 

2000 students will participate from over 40 schools 

in the USA and Canada. 

The ideas that were so radical in 2005 when Bruce 

Alberts issued his challenge for scientific societies 

like ours to help bring real science and scientists 

into K-12 classrooms are now starting to get real 

traction. Teachers around the world are looking 

for ways for their students to explore their own 

questions, gain critical thinking and quantitative 

literacy skills, and break down negative stereotypes 

of scientists to learn what scientists and science are 

really like. New assessment tools are being built 

to evaluate students’ ability to combine science 

practice and content together as scientists do, and 

standards are shifting to emphasize big ideas and 

skills (doing science) over terminology and facts 

(learning about science).

We’re entering a new decade with 

PlantingScience, and it dovetails with this new era 

in science education. We have a decade head-start 

in honing our program to best help teachers bring 

real plant science to their students, and our ability 

to take advantage of the current opportunities 

stems from our outstanding community of teachers 

and scientist volunteers who have grown the 

PlantingScience program into what it is today. 

Welcome to Thsi Year’s  

Master Plant Science Team Members!

MPST members are sponsored by the 

PlantingScience partner societies. They commit 

to extra mentoring and professional development 

and work more closely with teachers. We are glad 

to announce that the following BSA-sponsored 

graduate students and postdocs will be a part of this 

year’s cohort: 

Kara Barron, Katie Becklin, Lee Beers, John 

Bennett, Riva Bruenn, Steven Callen, Keri Caudle, 

Julia Chapman, Kyle Christie, Taylor Crow, Will 

Drews, Chloe Pak Drummond, Kate Eisen, Susan 

Fawcett, Michelle Garcia, Katherine Goodall, 

Laura Hancock, Claire T. Hann, Julie Herman, 

Irene Liao, Gwynne Lim, Pamela Millan, Juliet 

Oshiro, Rhiannon Peery, Megan Philpott, Susan 

Pruitt, Junoo K. Tuladhar, Kirsten Verster, Evelyn 

Williams, and Brett Steven Younginger. 

New PlantingScience  

“Agronomy Feeds the World” 

Theme Under Development

Starting this fall, PlantingScience will be 

partnering with the American Society of Agronomy 

to develop a new, joint investigation module with the 

theme “Agronomy Feeds the World.” We anticipate 

that the new theme will be ready for testing next 

fall and ready for teachers to choose the following 

spring. The new module will help capture a rising 

demand for real science experiences within high 

school agriculture classes, and provide a link with 

food and sustainability and exposure to a broader 

range of plant science careers for middle and high 

school science and biology classrooms. If you 

already volunteer with PlantingScience, this will 

be an opportunity to help students with something 

new, and if you are not currently volunteering a 

mentor, perhaps this new theme will excite you to 

give it a try. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

PlantingScience Teacher Kim 

Parfitt receives Presidential 

Award for Excellence in 

Mathematics and Science 


Congratulations to BSA member and Cheyenne 

Central High School teacher Kim Parfitt, who 

recently received the prestigious Presidential 

Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science 

Teaching (PAEMST). The annual award is made to 

outstanding K-12 science teachers from across the 

country. Kim is a longtime PlantingScience teacher 

leader, and her video submission for the PAEMST 

award featured her students participating in 

PlantingScience’s C-Fern investigation, explaining 

to her all about gametophytes and archegonia. Well 

deserved, Kim! 

We’re looking for new 

PlantingScience mentors for 

the upcoming spring session

As we expand and grow, we are looking for more 

scientists willing to volunteer as mentors. The time 

commitment is small, and you can mentor online 

without leaving your office. Consider joining us 

for the upcoming spring session (mid-February 

through mid-April). You can apply at www.





Upcoming Events 

The QUBES (Quantitative Undergraduate 

Biology Education and Synthesis) group is up and 

running with a fantastic website featuring many 

resources you may find helpful for your biology 

classes, including the ability to run mathematical 

and statistical software on the QUBES site without 

local installation. You can find these resources at 

QUBES is also hosting a number of faculty 

mentoring networks, including one that will launch 

at November’s National Association of Biology 

Teachers meeting in Providence, RI. If you are 

planning to attend, please consider applying for the 

network and representing plant biology. 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

PULSE has been working on a certification of 

undergraduate biology education for the twenty-

first century.  The group has recently announced 

a series of “progression levels” for certification. 

The PULSE certification is intended to motivate 

important changes in life sciences education across 

the country. The “progression levels” are intended 

to be similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s 

LEED certification, where organizations can be 

recognized for certain thresholds of achievement. 

Eight schools participated in a pilot assessment, 

and all have made strides towards Vision and 

Change recommendations in comparison with a 

traditional biology curriculum, achieving ranks of 

“PULSE Progression Level I: Beginning” through 

“PULSE Progression Level III: Accomplished.” 

You can learn more about the PULSE certification 

efforts here:




 Life Discovery – Doing Science Education 

Conference has a October 2 deadline for Hands-

on Workshop and Short Presentation proposals. 

The theme is “Creating Connections – Biology in 

Action,” which focuses on stimulating approaches 

to Life Science instruction that: 

•  Connect learning to life science careers in re-

search and practice: What is it like to be a 


•  Connect learning to current events: What is 

the relevance of Biology?

•  Connect learning across institutions and set-

tings: How do we build bridges across edu-

cation settings?

Hope to see some of you in Baltimore this spring!

60 years ago: 


“A new journal, Virology, is being published by Academic Press Inc., 125 East 

23rd St., New York 10, N. Y. Editors are George K. Hirst (Public Health Res. Institute of New York), 

Lindsay M. Black (Univ. of Illinois), and S. E. Luria (Univ. of Illinois). Subscription price is $9.00 

per year. “  PSB 1(3) 

50 years ago: 


Irving W. Knobloch of Michigan State University reported on the Fifth Summer 

Institute for College Teachers of Botany, held in the summer of 1965. “One hundred and forty-

six applied, and 27 were accepted plus two sent to us by the NSF on their foreign-participant 

program. These participants came from 17 states of the Union and from three foreign countries. 

Twenty of the 29 had Ph.D. degrees, and the remaining nine had masters’ degrees. The intelligence 

of the group varied about an unknown, and hence undisclosable, mean, but none of them could 

be considered subaverage. All were fine, earnest people, anxious for knowledge about the latest 

advances in the various aspects of botany.”  PSB 11(3)

From the 

PSB Archives

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

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By Jon Giddens, Angela McDonnell,  

and Becky Povilus Student Representatives

A Word from the Student 


The BSA Executive Board 

Welcomes Becky Povilus as  

the New Student 


The Executive Board of the Botanical Society 

of America includes two student representatives 

who are elected by the student membership. Each 

of the two student representatives serve a two-

year term, with a new representative elected each 

year. The student representative position was first 

created in 2006 as a way to engage student members 

of the BSA in the governance of the society. Since 

2006, student membership of the society has been 

represented by nine student members. 

This year, we say thank you to Jon Giddens, 

who rotates off the executive board, and welcome 

our 10th elected representative, Ms. Becky Povilus 

of Harvard University. We sat down to talk about 

her research how she came to be on the executive 


When did you join BSA and what motivated 

you to do so?

I joined my first year of grad school, when I started 

working on my Ph.D. I remember that my advisor 

(Dr. Ned Friedman) was specifically promoting his 

own aspiration of a “perfect attendance” record at 

the annual BSA conference. 

What motivated you to run for the position of 

Student Representative to the Board of Directors?

I hadn’t really thought about running for the 

position until I started working as part of the 

team that helps run microMORPH, a research 

coordination network that organizes workshops, 

summer courses, and travel grants to promote 

research in plant evolution and development. As 

I got a handle on that, a mentor suggested that I 

think about being a BSA student rep. Learning how 

to make an organization work or how to organize a 

conference/meeting/workshop takes a lot of time, 

but I think it’s a very useful skill set both in and 

outside of academia. 

What is your favorite thing about BSA so far?
BSA does a really good job of encouraging 

student participation, especially at conferences. 

There are a lot of awards you can apply for, to help 

with travel costs, and everyone is very supportive. 

What is your research about?
Broadly, the evolution of seed development in 

flowering plants. I like thinking about how the 

developmental processes that take a fertilized ovule 

and turn it into a functional seed have evolved as a 

defining part of angiosperm reproduction. As such, 

my research centers on how endosperm develops 

and what it is actually doing in a seed. One thing 

in particular that I am interested in is imprinting 

and parent-of-origin effects on endosperm 

development—this is something that has been 

investigated at the molecular level in only a couple 

of model angiosperm systems. As part of my 

dissertation, I’m looking into how imprinting has 

evolved as an important regulator of endosperm 

Becky Povilus, new BSA Student Representative.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

and seed development in flowering plants.

I’m doing much of this research with the 

waterlily  Nymphaea thermarum, which is a really 

special species. It is a member of one of the earliest 

diverging angiosperm lineages, is annual, is small, 

and is relatively easy to grow in a greenhouse (all 

rare traits among early diverging angiosperms). 

There are a bunch of other features that make 

it a good system to work with, but it also has an 

interesting history: shortly after being described in 

the late 1980s, it was declared to be extinct in the 

wild (populations were maintained thanks to people 

working at Botanischen Gärten der Universität 

Bonn and Kew). Altogether, it’s a great example 

of why exploring and preserving biodiversity is 

essential for basic scientific research.

What sorts of experiences have you had that 

helped to guide you to the path of your current 

research interests?

Other projects not working out have certainly 

been a big factor. Probably one of the most 

important moments, however, was Googling 

“annual miniature waterlily” while looking for an 

amenable experimental system to work on and 

learning about Nymphaea thermarum. I’m really 

grateful for the work that people at Kew and 

Bonn have done to figure out how to grow the N. 

thermarum, and that they made all that information 

readily available.

What has been the most challenging part of 

your research?

Learning when enough is enough, and figuring 

out how to design a project so that you can have 

other people to work on it, too. 

What has been the most rewarding part of 

your research?

For day-to-day thrills, nothing is better than 

getting a sample to look gorgeous under a 

microscope. And this is going to sound really corny, 

but no matter how many slides I look at, looking at 

a new slide for the first time is still like opening a 

present: you don’t know what’s there and it might be 

something really exciting (or it could be that your 

tissue got destroyed during processing and looks 

terrible, but that just makes the good samples all 

the more special, right?).

Is there anything you know now about being a 

graduate student that you wish you would have 

known as an undergraduate student?

Learn some programming languages! I’m 

starting to get a handle on some basics for statistical 

analysis and bioinformatics, but I’m pretty sure that 

a lot of the more I could do to streamline my data 


What sorts of hobbies do you have?
I’m not sure if this counts as a hobby, but I spend 

quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to fit 

one more plant on my windowsills at home and by 

my desk. I am also lucky to be based at the Arnold 

Arboretum in Boston; not only is the lab building 

on arboretum grounds, but my commute takes me 

through the collections every day. It’s hard to not 

get distracted by all of the plants and what they are 

doing throughout the year—I definitely get into lab 

later when I have a camera with me. 

Connect with the BSA

If you are interested in nominating a student to 

become the next student representative, or if you’re 

a student interested in serving on the board, be 

sure to look out for the call for nominations in your 

email from BSA each spring. It’s a great opportunity 

to learn about the Society and to gain a variety 

of experiences. Duties for the position typically 

include organizing a couple of events at the annual 

meeting, writing four newsletters to students, 

writing several articles for the Plant Science Bulletin

and attending two yearly board meetings, one of 

which happens at the annual meeting. If you have 

any questions about the position, feel free to contact 

the student representatives (Angela McDonnell at or Becky Povilus at any time. We’re always 

open to hearing your ideas or answering questions! 

Alternatively, you can connect with us on our 

Facebook group page by searching for Students of 

the Botanical Society of America.  

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Students Succeed at  

Botany 2015 

We would like to extend a huge “thanks!” to 

everyone who attended the annual Botany 2015 

meeting in Edmonton, Alberta. It was an excellent 

meeting filled with workshops that enabled 

attendees to learn about new techniques, including 

botanical illustration, next generation sequencing 

techniques, and niche modeling methods. There 

were also numerous opportunities for networking 

with our peers at the coffee breaks, banquets, and 

mixers. Above all, there were many great talks 

regarding current research, over given by students! 

A list of award-winning talks and posters can 

be found in this issue of Plant Science Bulletin. 

Students comprised about a third of



and many attended our annual luncheon Monday 

afternoon and the social and networking event 

Monday night. Stay tuned for links on the www. website for a link to the presentation 

given by Dr. Kate Hertweck (University of Texas 

at Tyler) at the luncheon! We look forward to the 

next Botany meeting in Savannah, Georgia, July 

30-August 3, 2016.

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Harvard University  

Offering Bullard Fellowships 

in Forest Research

Annually, Harvard University awards a limited 

number of Bullard Fellowships to individuals in 

biological, social, physical, and political sciences 

and the arts to promote advanced study or the 

integration of subjects pertaining to forested 

ecosystems. The program seeks to allow mid-

career individuals to develop their own scientific 

and professional growth by using the resources 

and interacting with personnel in any department 

within Harvard University. In recent years 

Bullard Fellows have been associated with the 

Harvard Forest, Department of Organismic 

and Evolutionary Biology, and the J. F. Kennedy 

School of Government, and they have worked 

in areas of ecology, forest management, policy, 

and conservation. Stipends of up to $60,000 are 

available for periods ranging from six months to 

one year and are not intended for travel, graduate 

students, or recent post-doctoral candidates. 

Applications from international scientists, women, 

and minorities are encouraged. 

Additional information is available on the 

Harvard Forest web site (http://harvardforest.fas. Annual deadline for applications is 

February 1. 

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Book Reviews

Economic Botany 

Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland. ................................................110


How the Earth Turned Green: A 3.8-Billion-Year History of Plants ..............................111


Fathers of Botany: The Discovery of Chinese Plants by European Missionaries ..........112


A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us ...............................................................113

Economic Botany

Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped 

the U.S. Heartland

Cynthia Clampitt

2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-252-08057-9

Paperback, US$19.95. 296 pp. 

University of Illinois Press, Champaign,  

Illinois, USA.

As one who has studied the evolution of maize 

for most of his career, I thoroughly enjoyed this 

ethno/economical history of the impact of maize 

cultivation on the “corn belt.” Where others have 

focused on maize in its heartland (Staller et al., 

2006) or maize as a food crop (Fussell, 1992), 

Clampitt presents an environmental history of 

corn’s role in the development of the Midwest. The 

text is well documented with copious endnotes to 

support additional reading. It is also filled with 

interesting factoids that will be useful when I next 

teach economic botany—or introductory botany 

for that matter. 
The first two chapters cover European discovery 

and the diversification of corn. For instance, it is 

well documented that maize was part of the original 

Columbian exchange. I did not know Magellan 

carried seeds with him on his circumnavigation 

and introduced maize to the Philippines. I also did 

not know that the Venetians shipped corn across 

the Mediterranean to the Middle East from whence 

it was re-traded to northern Europe as “Turkish 

wheat.” Both of these events led to early confusion 

about the center of origin of maize being in Asia.
So where is the “midwest” of the title? This is 

explained in the next two chapters on settling the 

Midwest. I was surprised to find that the term 

“middle west” was first applied to Kansas and 

Nebraska shortly after the American Civil War and 

would only spread to “the great interior region, 

bounded east by the Alleghenies, north by the 

British dominions, west by the Rocky Mountains, 

and south by the line along wshich the culture of 

corn and cotton meets” (Lincoln, 1862). (As a 

native Minnesotan, I always thought of Kansas 

as being “the west”!) Midwest is frequently used 

as a synonym for the somewhat older term “corn 

belt.” According to Clampitt, Chicago became the 

capital of this region by the mid-1850s in large part 

because of the huge grain elevators built there and 

the establishment of the Chicago Board of Trade. 

Corn was now a commodity that helped to feed the 

northern armies. The Chicago Union Stockyard, 

home of hogs and corn-fed beef, was established in 

1865 as the war ended. The rail center of the country 

had grain elevators and animal pens dotting its rail 

lines in all directions. 
The development of farming and milling technology 

is the focus of the next two chapters. Most of 

the early technological changes involving farm 

machinery used in other crops were applied equally 

well to maize. A major difference was harvesting. 

Even in the 1940s much corn was still being picked 

by hand. It wasn’t until 1954 that a reliable “corn 

head” could be attached to a combine that could 

pick, husk, and shell corn automatically. Food 

processing consisted only of what home gardeners 

do today, although done on a much larger scale.
With the exception of a short chapter on popcorn, 

the next four chapters read like the background 

to the indie documentary King Corn. In today’s 

food world, corn is invisible and ubiquitous. It is 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

transformed into chicken, pork, beef, and corn 

spirits. The invention of wet milling allowed 

production of corn starch, and from there it was 

simple chemistry to producing fructose and high 

fructose corn sweeteners. What more could we ask 

for? Let’s read about methanol or GM corn. 
The last five chapters deal with the human culture 

of corn in the Midwest. It begins with various 

celebrations of corn, from corn palaces (yes, there 

were more than just Mitchell, South Dakota) and 

corn festivals to county, state, and world’s fairs (in 

Chicago, 1893; Omaha, 1898; and St. Louis, 1904). 

It includes a history of ethnic immigration and 

its influence on corn cuisine (with a chapter of 

recipes). The final chapter addresses questions and 

issues related to the future of corn in the United 

States. My only question is why Olivia, Minnesota? 

Why does this small town of a few thousand 

people, proclaimed “Corn Capital of the World,” 

have “nine seed-research companies, two leading 

contract seed-production companies, the world’s 

largest seed-corn broker, and an agricultural 

environmental solutions company…”?
–Marshall D. Sundberg, Professor of Botany, Emporia 

State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA.


Literature Cited

Fussell, B. 1992. The Story of Corn. University of New 

Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Lincoln, A. 1862. Address to the Senate and House of 

Representatives. Website http://www.perseus.tufts.



[accessed 5 June 2015]. 

Staller, J. E., R. H. Tykot, and B. F. Benz. 2006. Histories 

of Maize in Mesoamerica. Left Coast Press, Walnut 

Creek, California, USA.


How the Earth Turned Green: A 

Brief 3.8-Billion-Year History of 


Joseph E. Armstrong

2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-06977-7 

Paperback, US$45.00. 576 pp. 

University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 


Joseph Armstrong’s new book, How the Earth 

Turned Green: A Brief 3.8-Billion-Year History of 

Plants, is a remarkable volume on the evolutionary 

history of green life on our planet. It is a thoroughly 

enjoyable and readable book on what might have 

been a dry and tedious subject: plant evolution and 

diversity. I highly recommend this book as a text for 

a class on green plant evolution or plant diversity, 

as a reference book on green plant structure 

and evolution, or as general reading for anyone 

interested in the topic.
The book, structurally, is laid out in a way typical 

for a textbook, but that is where the correlation with 

“typical” ends. It begins with a humorously written 

preface, and is followed by 11 chapters, a brief 

postscript, a lengthy appendix, notes, a glossary, 

references, and an index. All standard stuff, it 

seems. However, the book is far from standard, and, 

for a textbook, the content is presented in a unique 

manner that makes it stand out from the crowd. 

Material in the text is unapologetically evolutionary 

in outlook and organization, as should be the case, 

since evolution is the foundation on which all 

modern biological science rests. Chapter subtitles 

and introductory quotations help make each 

chapter accessible and engaging. The language used 

throughout is non-technical (insofar as is possible 

when discussing scientific concepts) and readable, 

but for the educated (high school biology or college 

biology), not for those without an understanding 

of the basics of biological science. In style, the 

writing is engaging and filled with humor, and 

the reader is drawn on from one chapter to the 

next by the building of story upon story, and layer 

upon layer, of the history of green organisms. Well-

executed drawings, as well as photographs, charts, 

and graphs, all serve to clarify terminology and 

concepts as they are introduced in the text, which 

adds to the accessibility of the information being 


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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Beginning with the basics (how science 

works, evolutionary principles, plate tectonics, 

biogeography, ecology, taxonomy/nomenclature, 

origins, cosmology, etc.), the discussion progresses 

through organizational levels and phylogenetic 

strata to end at the present-day diversity of green 

organisms on our planet and how we interact with 

plants. Along the way, Armstrong discusses the 

structure of green organisms and their evolutionary 

relationships, physiology, reproduction, and 

biogeography. Coverage of technical details in the 

chapters themselves, while not as deep as might 

be found in older plant morphology texts such as 

those of Bold (1973) or Foster and Gifford (1974), is 

certainly deep enough that the reader comes away 

with a fundamental understanding of the natures of 

the groups under discussion, and it is all presented 

in a manner that is not plodding and pedantic, but 

more fluid and holistic. Some of the details are saved 

until the end, in a very comprehensive appendix.
The chapters in the book build on one another, 

beginning with bacteria and archaea, progressing 

through endosymbiosis and early eukaryotes to 

“algae” and life in oceans. Then follow chapters 

on the invasion of land, including structural and 

reproductive changes necessary for that to occur; 

pioneer organisms; and the rise of flowering plants. 

Along the way, the reader learns about many topics, 

including (to name a few) such basic things as what 

defines a plant, symbiosis, photosynthesis and the 

origin of chlorophyll, stromatolites, unicellularity 

and multicellularity, bryophytes, vascularity, 

the origin of seeds, and that ever-popular topic, 

sex. To me, the appendix at the end of the book, 

which covers lineages of green organisms (except 

angiosperms!), is the meat on the bones of the 

11 chapters that precede it, and gives the book its 

status as a textbook. Here are presented the details 

that will give a budding botanist a foundation for 

growth in the science.
One of the things that makes this book a success 

is the joy with which Armstrong discusses plants. 

His stated goals for the book include combating 

“plant-blindness,” and he accomplishes this with 

great success. He strives to get the reader beyond an 

“angiosperm-centric” view of plants by helping the 

reader obtain “a more sophisticated perspective” 

of what the green organisms of our planet are all 

about. The book is full of things we, as botanists, 

may think of as common knowledge. These things 

should be more widely known among the general 

populace so that our planet and the organisms that 

inhabit it can continue; this text works to make that 

–Michael A. Vincent, Department of Biology, 

Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA. vincenma@

Literature Cited

Bold, H. C. 1973. Morphology of Plants, 3rd ed. Harper 

and Row, New York, New York, USA. 

Foster, A. S., and E. M. Gifford Jr. 1974. Comparative 

Morphology of Vascular Plants, 2nd ed. W. H. 

Freeman and Co., San Francisco, California, USA.


Fathers of Botany: The Discovery  

of Chinese Plants by European  


Jane Kilpatrick

2015. ISBN: 978-0-226-20670-7

Cloth, US$60.00. 224 pp.

University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 


The evergreen subject of botany or the study 

of plants has fascinated human minds and 

imaginations through the ages. The knowledge of 

plants and their intricate relationship with humans 

has been studied by several pioneering and brilliant 

minds during different phases of the history of 

botanical research, expeditions, and explorations. 

The contributions of both professional and amateur 

botanists in remote corners of the globe must 

be remembered by modern-day plant scientists, 

academics, and researchers with due respect for the 

unimaginable hardships and obstacles that these 

pioneers endured during their working life. Their 

dedication in collecting plant samples; drawing 

high-quality images of exotic specimens; preparing 

biogeographical maps revealing the distribution of 

plant species from specific regions; documenting 

the detailed descriptions and potential economic 

importance of plant species; and preparing classical 

descriptive studies on plant morphology and 

anatomy, taxonomic treatments, and identification 

keys has provided the basic foundation of the 

subject of botany to which modern plant science 

research is heavily indebted. 
Some of the first botanists to enrich the subject 

and to introduce several of the currently globally 

celebrated ornamental and horticultural species 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

of plants from China were the French Christian 

missionaries. These French missionaries were 

the first serious plant explorers to travel, explore, 

collect, and document plants from China and 

to introduce these species to European gardens 

through their painstaking collection of seeds 

during the second half of the 19th century. The 

author has highlighted this period in botanical 

history through the contributions of four famous 

French missionaries and pioneering botanists who 

are recognized as “fathers of botany”—namely, 

Pères Armand David, Jean Marie Delavay, Paul 

Guillaume Farges, and Jean André Soulié. She has 

also documented the contributions of several other 

French and European priests and missionaries, as 

well as the German Protestant pastor Ernst Faber, 

for their seminal work in collecting specimens and 

data on Chinese plants and introducing these plants 

to the West and to Western botanical scholars. 
Their contributions have changed the dynamics 

of botany and enriched the lives of countless plant 

lovers, botanists, horticulturists, and researchers 

across the globe. The author has meticulously 

organized the volume with documentation (possibly 

the first of its kind) on the lives and contributions 

of these nearly forgotten early pioneers. In doing 

so, she vividly describes that age in relation to the 

sociocultural history of China and presents the 

opportunities and challenges that emerged with 

it. She has drawn a fairly accurate picture of the 

constant hardships, struggles, and obstacles these 

pioneers endured in exploring the plant resources 

of China following the post-1842 Opium War treaty 

that opened China to the European missionaries. 

The efforts of these men to successfully introduce 

several species of the Chinese flora to Europe are 

described in lucid language that allows readers to 

visualize the history as it unfolds. 
The volume includes more than 250 color 

plates, covering spectacular images of plants; 

biogeographical maps; original illustrations 

and maps prepared by early pioneers; original 

herbarium specimens of the period; mind-blowing 

photos of the different ecological habitats and 

biomes within China explored by the pioneers; 

and archival images of several pioneer botanist-

missionaries, priests, pastors, clergymen, and the 

botanical regions they visited and explored. The 

volume not only captures the exploits of the pioneer 

botanist-missionaries in China, but also nicely 

portrays the sociocultural flavor of China during 

that period. 

The current volume is divided into 17 chapters, 

along with a nice introduction, exploring the life 

and work of these missionaries in China; events 

are presented chronologically. Also included are 

a list of short biographies of the botanists and 

explorers covered in the volume; a gazetteer that 

provides the current and old names of different 

geographic locations of China discussed in the 

volume; and three handy appendices—Sources and 

General Bibliography, Notes and References, and 

a comprehensive index to aid serious researchers 

who wish to dig further. 
The current volume presents an age that has 

been nearly forgotten. The author explores this 

history through published articles and reports, 

personal letters, rare and old travel journals, 

botanical magazines, and government and/or 

official documents. The volume will be a useful 

reference for both undergraduate- and graduate-

level students in botany, plant sciences, forestry, 

horticulture, and economic botany. 
–Saikat Kumar Basu, University of Lethbridge, 

Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada


A Californian’s Guide to the Trees 

Among Us

Matt Ritter

2011. ISBN-13: 978-1-59714-147-5

Paperback, US$18.95. 192 pp.

Heyday Books, Berkeley, California, USA

The urban landscape is an underutilized classroom 

for botany. As a recent transplant to California, I am 

often stymied when students ask about common 

street trees in the area. Despite well-curated floras 

and field guides for native and naturalized plant life, 

similar resources for street trees are often lacking—

particularly guides that are not restricted to a single 

city and that balance scientific rigor with ease and 

enjoyment of use. 
A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us expertly 

fills this need. Detailed yet accessible entries feature 

150 of the most commonly planted species in the 

state. This book is a cornucopia of information 

that is accessible to the novice enthusiast or most 

devoted urbanite yet will also be interesting to the 

professional botanist.

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Each page usually represents a single species or a 

collection of related species that are commonly 

planted street trees in California. A header 

introduces the scientific name (with its etymology, 

pronunciation, and most recognized synonyms), 

botanical family, most typically used common 

name, native range, and mating system. Following 

the header is a paragraph that notes distinguishing 

features along with other interesting information 

such as ecology, phenology, economic and other 

human uses, and distribution within California. 

Finally, beautiful color photos at several scales 

visually reinforce the written description, 

distinguishing features of each tree such as habit, 

bark, fruit, flowers, cone, and leaves. 
These descriptions form the core of the book but 

by no means are its only merit. I was particularly 

impressed with the dichotomous key at the 

beginning of the book. Clear and concise, it relies 

greatly on vegetative characters although fruits 

or flowers may be necessary for a complete ID. 

Moreover, the keys are forgiving of human error. For 

example, you can still correctly identify Casuarina 

even if you misinterpret the slender green branchlets 

as leaves or determine that leaves are absent all 

together. The key also includes several dozen less-

common species that do not have complete entries 

but may be encountered nonetheless. I tested this 

key using 10 randomly selected street trees from 

around the San Francisco Bay area. Eight of the 

plants I keyed successfully, one was not included in 

the book (Solanum rantonnetii), and one was not 

in the proper phenological stage for identification. 
Sprinkled throughout this book are other gems: 

Tree-related quotes are offered like small but 

inspirational after-dinner mints. Several top 10 lists 

rate which trees are California’s showiest, largest, 

most common along roadways, show the best fall 

color, or (importantly) most likely to trip you on 

the sidewalk. Through science, humor, and the arts, 

the author’s goal of fostering a holistic appreciation 

and reverence for trees shines through.
Like any work, this book is not without flaws. 

For example, treating palms in a separate section 

from the angiosperms may be convenient for 

perusing photos, but it unnecessarily obscures the 

evolutionary relationships. Aside from a list buried 

on page 9, discussion of native trees appropriate 

for an urban or suburban environment is absent. 

Such a discussion, perhaps as an appendix, would 

have been an excellent opportunity to connect 

the urban, natural, and historical treescapes of 

California. However, such criticisms are minor and 

do not detract from this overall informative and 

enjoyable field guide. Photographer George Cedric 

Wright wrote, “What man may acquire from trees 

is immeasurable.” This book is the scythe with 

which one may begin to reap such a harvest—a tool 

I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone in or near 

California who is interested in better understanding 

and appreciating the literal “urban jungle.”
–Adam C. Schneider, Jepson Herbarium and 

Department of Integrative Biology, University of 

California, Berkeley, California, USA. acschneider@

The Plants of Sudan and South  

Sudan: An Annotated Checklist

Iain Darbyshire, Maha Kordofani, Imadeldin 

Farag, Ruba Candiga, and Helen Pickering 


2015. ISBN-13: 978-1-84246-473-1

Paperback, US$125.00. 400 pp. 

Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, 

Kew, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom

Preliminary to a full flora of a region, a complete, 

synonymized checklist provides a useful guide to 

the species present. It can have varied applications 

beyond establishing a baseline for professional 

taxonomists. Gentry (1978: 148) points out that  

“[a]n accurate checklist of plant species is 

exceedingly useful to non-taxonomists wishing to 

identify the plants of an area. Such species checklists 

can greatly facilitate land use planning, for example, 

in selection of critical areas to be preserved as forest 

preserves and national parks.” 
This collaboration between the Royal Botanic 

Gardens, Kew, the University of Khartoum, and 

the University of Juba updates F. W. Andrews’ 

Flowering Plants of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 

initiated 65 years ago (vol. 1, 1950—vol. 3, 1956). 

Former Sudan, the largest country in Africa before 

the secession of South Sudan, contains a varied 

ecology and biodiversity that ranges from extremely 

arid and semiarid in the north to the Sudd wetlands 

in South Sudan, providing habitats for myriad 

The Sudan checklist was developed through 

literature searches, relying primarily on the 

completed floras of adjacent regions: the Flora of 

Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Flora of Tropical East 

Africa, along with reference to select herbarium 

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

specimens. The most extensive historical herbarium 

collections from Sudan are held at Kew and the 

Natural History Museum, London; some recent 

herbarium collections are housed at the University 

of Khartoum.
The contents are organized as follows: (1) a 7-page 

introduction to Sudan’s geography, climate, and 

regional vegetation; (2) a 14-page historical review 

about the early exploration of Sudan, portraying 

the principal plant collectors in the region; (3) 

explanatory notes; (4) a bibliography (6 pp.) and 

index (12 pp.); (5) a preliminary list of potentially 

threatened plant species, along with an assessment 

of the status of exploration in each region; and (6) 

the inventory, by far the central contribution of the 

book. Each species is listed with selected synonyms, 

habitat, and collection-based geographic range. 

The arrangement is alphabetical by the botanical 

rank of order, monocotyledons first, followed by 

dicotyledons. However, within each order, the 

sequence of families does not always appear to  

follow either the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 

(Stevens, 2001 onwards) or alphabetical order; 

it is unclear to this reviewer what plan is being 

used. Arrangement of families by taxonomic 

order may seem sensible for an audience of users 

who are strictly taxonomists or evolutionary 

botanists who understand those contiguous 

relationships; however, for an audience of 

generalists, an alphabetical arrangement by family 

name might make searching more effortless, 

enabling the client unfamiliar with higher-order 

taxonomic relationships to more readily locate 

the group of interest without using the index. As 

molecular phylogenetic analyses provide fresh 

evidence, hypotheses regarding the relatedness of 

taxonomic groups are ever more fluid and evolving. 

Arrangement by family in alphabetical order might 

be a more stable organizing principle, as was used 

for the Bolivia checklist (Jørgensen et al., 2014).
Done properly, checklists—the results of protracted 

field surveys and lengthy library research—can 

provide important, current, baseline information 

for the appraisal of potentially endangered, 

restricted taxa. However, checklists may be biased 

by the recorders’ selection of sources or a decision 

to settle on one perceived expert, without searching 

further. That is apparently what happened in some 

treatments. For example, the editors’ own stated 

procedures were not followed in the following case. 

On p. 53, they assert that: “We have attempted to use 

the most recent taxonomic works available” and “In 

general, we have followed the accepted names and 

synonymy in the African Plant Database.” However, 

in the case of Pedaliaceae, neither practice was 

adhered to. The source turned to for nomenclature 

(Ihlenfeldt, 2006) uses the Latin binomial Sesamum 

orientale L. for the crop plant sesame, although the 

more widely used synonym S. indicum L. has been 

conserved over the former name (McNeill et al., 

2006). Admittedly, that reference was written by an 

acknowledged specialist, but it is unfortunate that 

the editors failed to search the latest literature. More 

editing and reviewing should have occurred by this 

point in time, here as well as for the Bolivia checklist 

(Jørgensen et al., 2014), as such errors can become 

quite persistent in the literature. While an attempt 

was made to consult family specialists in a few 

cases, it would be beneficial to invite consultants to 

check those details for each family.
Another conundrum for this reviewer as regards the 

entry about sesame is to understand the meaning of 

the phrase: “Native of India and Africa (not Sudan).”  

“Native” species are widely understood to be those 

that occur within political borders before outside 

contact, prior to transfer as a result of human 

influence. Because the object is a cultivated plant, 

the focus ought to be its center of origin (i.e., place 

of domestication). Therefore, the wording, which 

evokes a vast geographic region spanning two 

continents, is baffling and unlikely. Alternatively, 

one might simply point out that sesame has been 

widely cultivated across the tropics for centuries.
Overall, this checklist may be useful for ecologists, 

taxonomists, and researchers interested in 

biodiversity evaluation, as well as for the layout 

of conservation reserves and for projecting the 

effects of climate change on species distributions. 

An updated, accurate, and comprehensive checklist 

was needed to provide a baseline for future 

botanical and conservation work in the Sudan 

region. Given that the world’s biological diversity 

is increasingly endangered by human activities, 

the need for a database that enables researchers to 

conduct thorough surveys efficiently is obvious. I 

am eagerly awaiting the publication of the full flora 

as a follow up, and would be delighted to contribute 

to that work. Optimistically, its preparation should 

also spur further botanical studies in the Sudan 

–Dorothea Bedigian, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. 

Louis, Missouri, USA

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Plant Science Bulletin 61 (3) 2015

Literature Cited

Gentry, A. H. 1978. Floristic knowledge and needs in 

Pacific Tropical America. Brittonia 30(2): 134–153.

Ihlenfeldt, H. D. 2006. Pedaliaceae. In I. Hedberg and 

S. Edwards (eds.), Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, 

vol. 5, 335–344. National Herbarium, Addis Ababa 

University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Uppsala 

University, Uppsala, Sweden. 

Jørgensen, P. M., M. H. Nee, and S. G. Beck (editors). 

2014. Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares de Bolivia. 

Monographs in Systematic Botany 127. Missouri 

Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

McNeill, J., F. R. Barrie, H. M. Burdet, V. Demoulin, D. 

L. Hawksworth, K. Marhold, D. H. Nicolson, et al. 

(editors). 2006. International Code of Botanical 

Nomenclature (Vienna Code). Regnum Veg. 146: 462.

Stevens, P. F. 2001 onwards. Angiosperm Phylogeny 

Website. Version 12, July 2012 [and more or less 

continuously updated since].


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Plant Science Bulletin

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study & inquiry into the form, 

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reproduction, evolution, & uses 

of plants & their interactions 

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Plant Science 


                                                                          Fall 2015 Volume 61 Number 3

The PLANTS Grant program, by the numbers

•  Out of the 2011 and 2012 cohorts of PLANTS recipients, 

82% are in doctoral programs or completed Masters 


•  Nearly 29% of the 2011-2013 PLANTS recipients have 

earned NSF GRFP or Ford Foundation fellowships.


During the period of the PLANTS grant, the diversity 

of the BSA membership improved greatly from 2.3% to 

9.1% self-identifying as Hispanic/Latino/Latina, Native 

American, African Americans, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 

or Other. 

•  Between 2011 and 2015, 62 students received PLANTS 



A new 5-year grant of $99,930 has just been awarded 

by NSF - PLANTS II: Increasing the diversity of plant 


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