Plant Science Bulletin archive


Issue: 2020 v66 No 3 FallActions

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 IN THIS ISSUE...

FALL 2020 VOLUME 66 NUMBER 3

PLANT SCIENCE  

BULLETIN

A PUBLICATION OF THE BOTANICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

Getting Started in Tropical Field Research, 

by Kadeem Gilbert...p. 243

Diversity and Inclusion in the Sciences,  

by Beth Ginondidoy Leonard .... p. 191 

The Shapes of Botany, by BSA President 

Cynthia Jones...p. 174

What Have We Learned?  

 

Lessons and Strategies  

from the Chaos

 

By Dr. Bryan

 

Dewsbury

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                                                     Fall 2020 Volume 66 Number 3

PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN  

Editorial Committee  

Volume 66

From the Editor

Shannon Fehlberg 

(2020)

 

Research and Conservation 

Desert Botanical Garden 

Phoenix, AZ 85008 

sfehlberg@dbg.org

David Tank 

(2021) 

Department of Biological 

Sciences 

University of Idaho 

Moscow, ID 83844 

dtank@uidaho.edu

James McDaniel 

(2022) 

Botany Department 

University of Wisconsin  

Madison 

Madison, WI  53706 

jlmcdaniel@wisc.edu

Seana K. Walsh 

(2023) 

National Tropical Botanical  

Garden 

Kalāheo, HI 96741 

swalsh@ntbg.org

Greetings,

This final 2020 issue of PSB comes at what feels like 

an unprecedented moment. As I write this, the U.S. 

Presidential election is essentially over. However, 

due to pending recounts, litigation, and spreading 

disinformation, the transition of power is shaping 

up to be, at minimum, chaotic. At the same time, 

the world is still in the midst of the COVID-19 

pandemic and the U.S. has just posted a record 

number of cases reported on a single day and a 

record number of hospitalizations. When I’m not 

teaching twice as much as usual to accommodate 

both my students who are meeting in person and 

my students who are in quarantine, I find myself 

“doom-scrolling” the latest news and opinions. 

Since its first issue, PSB has been the place where 

members of the Society can confront current 

events and acknowledge current problems in 

science, academia and education. In this issue, 

we present an article by BSA President Cindi 

Jones that reflects on “The Shape of Botany” and 

demonstrates how we can learn from the past 

and act for the future. These themes are also 

highlighted in articles by Bryan Dewsbury and 

Beth Ginondidoy Leonard that specifically address 

issues of diversity and inclusion. How do we, as a 

community of scientists and educators, address the 

inequality and systematic oppression engrained in 

our institutions and promote equity and justice?  

In the student section, we check in on the ongoing 

impact of the pandemic on our student members.    

I hope that you find the articles in this issue timely 

and motivating. I send warm wishes to all as 2020 

draws to a close. 

Sincerely,

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173

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SOCIETY NEWS 

The Shapes of Botany..........................................................................................................................................174

Advocate for Botany and Science! ................................................................................................................185

SPECIAL FEATURES

Diversity and Inclusion in the Sciences: Relationships and Reciprocity ..................................191

What Have We Learned? Lessons and Strategies from the Chaos .........................................198 

The Teaching Botanist: William F. Ganong and the Botanical Society of America...........206

SCIENCE EDUCATION

BSA Awarded $3.9m Grant for PlantingScience....................................................................................231

STUDENT SECTION

Shifting Gears: Fieldwork, Benchwork, and Greenhouse Studies during COVID-19  .......236

Getting Started in Tropical Field Research..............................................................................................243

ANNOUNCEMENTS

In Memoriam  - Brian Joseph Axsmith (1963–2020) ..........................................................................250

MEMBERSHIP NEWS ...................................................................................................................................

254

BOOK REVIEWS ...............................................................................................................................................

255

Looking forward to 

meeting with these  

premier scientific societies!

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174

SOCIETY NEWS

This article by BSA President Cynthia Jones is 

based on her BSA Incoming President Address 

at Botany 2020.
For most of my career, my research has 

focused on the evolution, development, 

and functional significance of leaf shape: 

physical, tangible forms in space.  However, 

in this essay, I’m not going to address leaf 

shape, but instead leverage some of the 

other 14 definitions of shape (https://www.

merriamwebster.com/dictionary/shape) to 

reflect on where I see the BSA today, on our 

“national aspirational capacity for botanical 

education” at the undergraduate level, and on 

teachable moments for botanists presented 

by the human emotional need for plants in a 

pandemic.

The BSA was formally established in 1893 to 

“unify and subserve the botanical interests of 

the country” (Diggle, 2013). A scroll through 

the Past Presidents on the BSA website shows 

that the Society elected its first President in 

1894.  Between 1984 and 1972, only 3 out of 

78 presidents were women. Since 1972, the 

percentage of women serving in this role has 

gone up by an order of magnitude relative 

to the period preceding 1972 (Fig. 1). Why 

focus on 1972?  In 1972, Title IX became law. 

Title IX stated that no person could be denied 

participation in, or reap benefits from, or be 

subjected to, discrimination in any educational 

program or activity receiving federal assistance 

on the basis of their sex. Shortly after, in 1973, 

the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade gave 

women rights associated with reproductive 

choice.  Both of these events accompanied a 

new phase of the women’s movement and the 

BSA responded.  Clearly, intention and effort 

can change scientific societies, even if it takes 

50 years!

Recent events have led to heightened 

reflection on the role of race and ethnicity 

in perpetuating inequities, and the BSA is 

owning its part in this situation. We intend 

to create a more equitable and welcoming 

Society. We will make every effort possible 

to fight discrimination against people who 

are black, indigenous, or persons of color. We 

acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do: 

optional responses to this year’s membership 

form show what we all already know: over 

50% reported as white (Fig. 2), and the actual 

The Shapes of Botany

By Cynthia S. Jones 

Department of Ecology and 

Evolutionary Biology 

University of Connecticut, 

Storrs, CT 06269 USA

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank Marsh Sundberg for generously 

sharing his data files. I am also 

grateful to Charlie Henry for combing 

through 154 college catalogs on-line 

to document their course offerings in 

basic plant biology.

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percentage is likely higher as some if not most 

of the 30% who declined to report may be 

white. We will strive harder to become more 

diverse, such that we become a scientific 

society where the contributions of BIPOC 

members are welcomed, recognized, and 

celebrated.  

What actions is the BSA taking? This Fall, the 

BSA is embarking on a new strategic plan that 

will define the Society’s priorities for the next 

five years. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) 

will be one of four pillars of this plan.  In the 

shorter term, BSA staff and the BSA Board of 

Directors and the Committee on Committees 

will undergo training in Diversity, Equity and 

Inclusion. At Botany 2020 Virtual, we hosted 

our first BIPOC Mixer for members and their 

allies, and we also hosted an open forum on 

diversity.  The Executive Director is working 

with the BSA Committee on Diversity, Equity 

and Inclusion on new tracking metrics that will 

allow us to tell if our initiatives are working, 

and beginning this Fall we will revamp the 

process of selecting candidates for leadership 

positions and membership on committees 

with the goal of making these processes 

as equitable, accessible, and transparent 

as possible. Finally, the BSA will support 

initiatives, such as Black Botanists Week, that 

are independent of the BSA but that support 

and encourage BIPOC researchers, educators, 

and others who are passionate about plants.

Changing themes of this essay, I want to relate 

a story.  In the late 1990s, I had a student in 

a course who seemed unhappy.  The second 

week, I mentioned that I had noticed her 

demeanor. She responded that she didn’t 

really “like” plants, but that she was a senior 

and she needed the course to fill a graduation 

requirement. We talked about strategies for 

approaching the course and in the end she 

did well.  As she turned in her final exam, she 

Figure 1. Past Presidents of the BSA. Prior to 

1972, 4% were female; since then, 43% have 

been female.

Figure 2. Percentage of members reporting race 

and ethnicity data based on BSA 2020 mem-

bership renewal.

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said, “I don’t know if I should thank you or 

not.” I was surprised and responded that I 

had been under the impression she liked the 

course. She replied, “Well, yeah, but life was 

less complicated when I looked at the side 

of the road and just saw a lot of green.” Now, 

“I see individual plants… it makes my brain 

work too hard.”  

This conversation was my first realization that 

when many people, including students, view a 

scene with vegetation such as Fig. 3A, they are 

seeing something more like in Fig. 3B: a smear 

of green.  It is worth noting that seeing a smear 

of green isn’t bad.  Color phycologists will tell 

you that most people report feeling calm and 

restored after seeing green (Elliot and Maier, 

2014).  In fact, one of the first publications 

describing the “moral associations” of humans 

to color was by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 

translated into English by C. L. Eastlake in 

1840 (Goethe, 1810).  In his treatise Theory of 

Colours, Goethe wrote of green that “the eye 

experiences a distinctly grateful impression 

from this colour” (p. 316). But as botanists, 

we don’t see a smear of green: we see diversity 

(Fig. 3C). We see shapes, colors, interactions, 

and species.  We study how diversity evolved, 

how it is maintained, and how diversity will 

respond to climate change.  We know that 

plant diversity forms the cornerstone of 

ecosystem stability and resilience (e.g., Tilman 

et al., 2014; Anderegg et al., 2018).  

Given the importance of plant species 

diversity in terms of ecosystem responses 

to climate change, I wondered whether the 

concept of diversity had yet infiltrated how 

botany is presented in what I think of as 

mainstream information.  The answer is 

“not really.” Googling “botany” brought up 

five sites at the top of the page. The first is a 

definition of botany. The second is Wikipedia, 

Figure 3. A, New England forest on the edge of 

Echo Lake, Mansfield Center, CT. Photo taken 

by the author. B, The author’s impression of 

what students see. C, What botanists see.

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which mentions biodiversity in the last line 

at the end of the fourth paragraph. An entry 

in Britannica follows that does not mention 

diversity.  Fourth is the BSA site that mentions 

major groups of plants. The fifth site describes 

careers in environmental science (https://www.

environmentalscience.org/). The introduction 

to Botany at this latter site makes no mention 

of diversity, but does include a statement I 

questioned: “Many of the top universities have 

botany degrees, but there has been a decline in 

recent years of students taking botany in favour 

of other environmental and natural sciences.”  

Is this true? Do many of the top universities 

have botany degrees? Has there been a decline 

in recent years in students taking botany?

While not addressing these questions directly, 

surveys of course catalogs of institutions 

of higher learning provide some insights. 

Marsh Sundberg (2004) published one such 

survey that provides baseline data.  In 2008, 

Sundberg revisited the same course catalogs 

and updated the information for a talk 

he presented at Botany 2008 (http://2008.

botanyconference.org/engine/search/index.

php?func=detail&aid=194). Using the 

Sundberg 2008 data set as a starting place, 

we revisited course catalogs of the same 

154 institutions.  We searched for Botany 

Departments or any department with 

Botany in its name.  I assumed the number 

of departments with “Botany” in the name 

would be correlated with the numbers of 

departments that award degrees in botany, 

with the caveat that some institutions that 

had removed Botany from the name of their 

department could retain a botany degree.  

Even in 2004, with a few exceptions, 

only Research Universities had Botany 

departments. Of those surveyed in 2004, 

41% had departments with Botany in the 

name.  By 2020, that number had dropped to 

12%, indicating that in fact “most of the top 

universities” no longer offer botany degrees.

The second issue raised on the “Environmental 

Science Introduction to Botany” website was 

that there has been a decline in the number 

of students enrolling in botany courses.  I did 

Figure 4. Data based on course catalogs from 

154 institutions of higher education. A, Per-

centage of institutions offering freshman level 

courses. B, Total number of courses beyond 

freshman level offered in each category. Num-

bers of institutions included in the study: in 

2004, 58 research institutions, 60 comprehen-

sive institutions, and 55 liberal arts colleges; in 

2020, 57 research institutions, 48 comprehen-

sive institutions, and 49 liberal arts colleges. 

B

A

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not investigate enrollment numbers, but we 

were able to record courses offered in course 

catalogs. More generally, I was interested in 

whether the decline in “Botany” departments 

translated to a decline in botanical education 

at the collegiate level.  Assuming that 

institutions of higher learning update their 

catalogs periodically and drop (most) courses 

no longer offered, and assuming that these 

institutions do not continue to support 

courses with low enrollments, we looked 

at the percent of these 154 schools offering 

courses that were primarily focused on basic 

plant biology as a proxy for enrollments. We 

found that at the freshman level, there has 

been very little change in the number of the 

introductory courses focused on botanical 

instruction (Fig. 4A).  The very good news 

is that there also has been no decline in 

the numbers of courses offered above the 

freshman level (Fig. 4B). In other words, our 

“national aspirational capacity” for instruction 

in the fundamental biology of plants appears 

to be as strong today as it was 16 years ago, 

despite the dramatic decrease in the number 

of botany departments! Considering different 

types of courses, the general distribution 

is roughly the same (Fig. 5), although new 

courses (e.g., Plant Development or Evolution 

and Diversity) have been added as others (e.g., 

Morphology) have declined.

Botany classes are especially important 

because our labs satisfy many criteria for 

creating excellent learning opportunities (e.g., 

Nilson, 2010). They are multimodal, active, 

Figure 5. Percentage of institutions offering courses in various botanical disciplines and areas of 

student. Grey = 2008, black = 2020.

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and engage multiple senses and incorporate 

many of the skills necessary for STEM 

education, such as graphing, data analysis, 

and observation-based hypothesis testing 

(Fig. 6).  Our labs also present plant diversity 

in ways that images and lectures cannot 

accomplish.  Often not appreciated, our labs 

have the potential for unusually high levels 

of student engagement because they include 

living material, as compared to most modern 

animal-oriented courses.

Providing living material comes with a fairly 

high cost, especially if the material is provided 

by greenhouses.  Greenhouses are expensive 

to build and to maintain, and we periodically 

hear examples of universities that make the 

decision not to continue to support them, 

Figure 6. Botany labs provide engaged learning 

opportunities.

especially if the greenhouses are not tied to 

research. Data always help make the case to 

administrators that greenhouses are critical 

to basic plant biology education, but I’ve 

never seen any multi-institutional data on 

greenhouse use or support.  (Please contact 

me if you know of any!) To address this data 

gap, I published a survey in the February 2020 

issue of the BSA’s monthly e-mail newsletter.  I 

also submitted the survey to the Association 

of Research and Educational Greenhouse 

Curators.  In total, about 100 valid surveys were 

returned.  Although that is a fairly low return 

rate, each of the valid responses was from a 

different institution. Seventy-three percent of 

responses were from institutions in the U.S. or 

a U.S. protectorate.  Eighty percent of responses 

were from public institutions, and half of 

those had more than 20,000 undergraduates.  

Only 10% were from respondents who 

described their institutions as “primarily 

applied,” as opposed to “primarily basic” or 

“combined.” The survey results were similar so 

all institutions were combined.  Ninety-seven 

percent of respondents teach courses in basic 

plant biology, and of those, 95% viewed the 

use of living plants for teaching as extremely 

important or very important.

Eighty-eight percent of the respondents 

indicated that they have greenhouses that are 

used for teaching, outreach, or undergraduate 

research.  The modal number of plant species 

used primarily in teaching was between 50 

and 200 species (Fig. 7A), although a fair 

number of institutions use more than 200 

species per year.  Most respondents indicated 

that between 100 and 500 undergraduate 

students are taught per year, although in some 

institutions the number is much higher (Fig. 7B).  

Also relevant to the question of institutional 

support for greenhouses is, who paid for their 

construction? Greenhouse sizes are generally 

between 1000 and 10,000 square feet (Fig. 7C), 

Construction was funded most commonly 

by the educational institution, or by some 

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Figure 7. Results from Survey of Greenhouse Use and Support.  A, Numbers of plant species from 

greenhouses and outdoor space used for teaching. B, Number of undergrads using living materi-

als. C, Size of greenhouses used for undergraduate teaching or research. D, Categories of funding 

sources for greenhouse construction. E, Categories of plant care personnel. F, Source of salary for 

plant care personnel.
combination of funding sources (Fig. 7D). 

Most respondents indicated that greenhouses 

are staffed by a paid staff member, as well as 

students, and of those institutions with paid 

staff, most are funded by the institution (Fig. 

7E, F).  This represents significant financial 

investment in greenhouses that support 

undergraduate teaching and research.  

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the 

study was that 61% of teaching and 48% of 

research greenhouses are more than 20 years 

old, with a significant proportion of those older 

than 30 years (Fig. 8). Traditional greenhouses 

have a life span of about 30 years, so if these 

data are nationally representative, more than 

50% of greenhouses used for teaching should 

be replaced in the next 20 years.  Given the 

current cost of constructing greenhouses and 

declining state support for public institutions 

of higher learning, the current age of more 

than half of the greenhouses used nationally 

for teaching presents a serious threat to our 

ability to continue to provide immersive 

learning experiences in basic plant biology

a threat I perceive as especially dire given 

the critical role of plants in mediating Earth’s 

response to climate change.

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Perhaps the single most important thing we can 

do now is to recognize this looming threat and 

form a collective voice.  In addition to making 

our federal agencies aware of this potential 

national decline in our ability to provide high-

quality education in basic botanical education, 

there are several possible actions those of us 

currently facing greenhouse replacements 

are familiar with: inviting governmental 

representatives to view the greenhouses and 

how they are used, educating administrations 

on the critical role of plant biology relative to 

sustainability and climate change, aligning 

our greenhouses with the strategic plans of 

the universities, and identifying opportunities 

to involve the greenhouses in campus-wide 

initiatives.  

In addition to these approaches, we also can 

and should emphasize to administrators the 

important role of plants and greenhouses 

as well as spending time in nature for the 

mental health of students. Numerous studies 

are showing that spending time in nature is 

beneficial to health (Lai et al., 2019; Robbins, 

2020). The idea that academic greenhouses 

could contribute toward improving mental 

health was first brought to my attention when 

I learned of a program called NatureRx@</p>

Cornell. A group of Cornell faculty and 

administrators recognized that today’s 

college-age students experience stress, 

depression, anxiety, and other mental health 

issues at unprecedented levels.  At the same 

time, this group was aware of recent research 

showing that there are many positive mental 

and physical health outcomes associated with 

spending time in nature. Relative to college-

aged students, time in nature reduces stress, 

anxiety, depression, and aggressive feelings, as 

well as leading to increased happiness and life 

satisfaction and increased social connection, 

especially if nature is experienced with a 

friend.  College students may be especially 

interested in studies showing that spending 

time in nature improves concentration, 

recall, and immune function.  NatureRx@</p>

Cornell is a program in which mental health 

providers write prescriptions for students to 

spend time in natural areas on or near campus 

and is described in detail in a book by Dan 

Rakow and Greg Eells, two of the founders of 

NatureRx@Cornell (Rakow and Eells, 2019). 

(For a list of steps to start a NatureRx program 

at your institution, see Box 1.)

For general background on the history of 

ideas and scientific literature demonstrating 

the mental health benefits of spending time 

in nature, I recommend The Nature Fix 

(Williams, 2017). This well-researched book 

Figure 8. Ages of greenhouses used for under-

graduate teaching and research (grey) and re-

search only (black).

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reviews the hypotheses behind why spending 

time in nature makes us feel better, but to date, 

the actual mechanisms remain unclear (Lai 

et al., 2019). Two of the first researchers in 

this field, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (1989), 

proposed, what is now known as Attention 

Restoration Therapy.  This hypothesis states 

that prolonged use of directed attention, which 

by definition is voluntary (e.g., many jobs, 

academic study), causes mental fatigue and 

stress.  Even brief periods in the natural world 

provide a level of involuntary fascination 

that allows directed focus to rest and recover.  

Ulrich et al. (1991) subsequently proposed the 

Stress Reduction Theory, arguing that nature 

lowers stress immediately, and lowering of 

stress then allows recovery.  Research from 

 

BOX 1   

Steps for starting a  

NatureRx Program at your  

institution  

(from Rakow and Eells, 2017;  

used with permission)

1.  Organize a committed   

  group. 

2.  Secure the support of the  

  Administration. 

3.  Inventory green spaces on  

  campus. 

4.  Engage the students. 

5.  Partner with campus health  

  services. 

6.  Develop an app or website. 

7.  Impact the academic program. 

8.  Develop an approach to   

  evaluation. 

9.  Identify and overcome the  

  challenges. 

10.  Model the behavior. 

Japan has shown that phytoncides, volatile 

organic compounds produced by some plants 

(e.g., pines, oaks, onions), reduce sympathetic 

nerve activity, and therefore blood pressure, 

and boost immune activity when taken in 

through our nasal passages (Li et al., 2009). 

Many psychologists also subscribe to the 

idea of “Biophilia” originally proposed by 

Eric Fromm and later reiterated in a slightly 

different form by E. O. Wilson (1984), which 

is the idea that humans have an “innate” (i.e., 

genetically predisposed) emotional affiliation 

with other living organisms.

In addition to the simple fact that being 

around plants is beneficial, and by extension 

that being in a greenhouse is beneficial, there 

is need for more research on the link between 

botanical education and mental health effects. 

We already know from decades of research 

that educating children outdoors increases 

academic performance in a range of areas.  

What we do not know is how the mental 

health benefits of being in nature interact 

with the stress associated with memorizing a 

fact.  Are the positive effects of phytoncides 

achieved if attention is directed, for example, 

to learning a species name? Is it possible 

that simply because our botany labs use 

living materials, compared to labs based on 

non-living material, our students are more 

engaged, successful, happier, or creative?

This connection between mental health and 

plants extends beyond the classroom.  If there 

is any silver lining in this horrible pandemic, 

it is that people are turning to plants for 

comfort!  Seed companies sold out this year 

(e.g., Pierre-Louis, 2020), gardening supply 

stores are seeing high volumes, people are 

sharing photos of their house plants, and local 

parks have closed early in the day because 

they are so crowded.  How can we turn this 

rekindled connection to plants into curiosity 

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about them?  Even during this pandemic, there 

are many possibilities and we should share 

ideas.  We can volunteer to lead fall “flower 

walks” for the public, or within universities 

consider activities that link botany to mental 

health and offer socially distanced tours of 

the greenhouses or natural areas near campus 

to small groups, or as instructors, conduct as 

many labs outside as possible.  A recent study 

conducted at UC Santa Cruz (Beltran et al., 

2020) demonstrated that students from four 

demographic categories (underrepresented 

minority students, first-generation, students 

from families with low income, and gender) 

benefit from participation in field courses. 

Over five years, this participation was linked to 

higher gains in self-efficacy, higher retention 

in ecology and evolutionary biology majors, 

and higher rates of graduation as compared 

to lecture-based courses. In other words, 

students who choose these courses benefitted 

significantly beyond the knowledge gained 

from course content. 

The main points of this essay can be 

summarized by two quotes from Goethe, 

both from Theory of Colours.  In the preface to 

the book, he wrote, “Every act of seeing leads 

to consideration, consideration to reflection, 

reflection to combination, and thus it may be 

said that in every attentive look to nature, we 

already theorize” 

(p. xx).

 To me, this quote 

encapsulates the essence of teaching. The 

second quote speaks to the second part of 

this essay: “And thus as we descend the scale of 

being, Nature speaks to other senses – to known, 

misunderstood, and unknown senses: so speaks 

she with herself and to us in a thousand modes” 

(p. xviii). This year, more than a quarter of 

members in the BSA are students.  This is a 

remarkable achievement and is essential for 

the future of the Society.  The Society is in good 

shape and we have a very bright future.  With 

intention, we can change. We can become a 

more diverse Society that supports botanical 

endeavors from multiple perspectives.

LITERATURE CITED

Anderegg, W. R. L., A. G. Konings, A. T. 

Trugman, K. Yu, D. R. Bowling, R. Gabbitas, 

D. S. Karp, et al. 2018. Hydraulic diversity of 

forests regulates ecosystem resilience during 

drought. Nature 561: 538-541.
Beltran, R. S., E. Marnocha, A. Race, D. A. 

Croll, G. H. Dayton, and E. S. Zavaleta. 2020. 

Field courses narrow demographic achieve-

ment gaps in ecology and evolutionary biol-

ogy. Ecology and Evolution 10: 5184-5196.
Diggle, P. 2013. Learned societies - Past, 

present and future? Plant Science Bulletin 59: 

150-157.
Elliot, A. J., and M. A. Maier. 2014. Color 

psychology: effects of perceiving color on 

psychological functioning in humans. Annual 

Review of Psychology 65: 95-120.
Goethe, J. W. v. 1810. Goethe’s Theory of 

Colors: Translated from the German, with 

Notes by Charles Lock Eastlake, R.A., F.R.S, 

Retrieved 20 September 2020 via Internet ar-

chive. John Murray, London, England U.K.
Kaplan, R., and S. Kaplan. 1989. The Experi-

ence of Nature:  A psychological perspective.

Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.
Lai, H., E. J. Flies, P. Weinstein, and A. Wood-

ward. 2019. The impact of green space and 

biodiversity on health. Frontiers in Ecology 

and the Environment 17: 383-390.

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Li, Q., Y. Wakayama, R. Inagaki, M. Katsu-

mata, Y. Hirata, T. Shimizu, T. Kawata, et al. 

2009. Effect of phytoncide from trees on hu-

man natural killer cell function. International 

Journal of Immunopathology and Pharma-

cology 22: 951-959.
Nilson, L. B. 2010. Teaching at its best: A re-

search-based resource for college instructors

ed 3, pp. 3-15. Jossey-Bass, Wiley Imprint.
Pierre-Louis, K. 2020. Panic buying comes 

for the seeds. The New York Times, New York, 

New York, USA.
Rakow, D. A., and G. T. Eells. 2019. Na-

tureRx: Improving College-Student Mental 

Health. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New 

York.
Robbins, J. 2020. Ecophychology: How im-

mersion  in  nature  benefits  your  health,  Ya-

leEnvironment360. Yale School of the Envi-

ronment, New Haven, CT.

Sundberg, M. D. 2004. Where is botany go-

ing? Plant Science Bulletin 50: 2-6.
Tilman, D., R. Isbell, and J. M. Cowles. 2014. 

Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. An-

nual Review of  Ecology and Systematics 45: 

471-493.
Ulrich, R. S., R. F. Simons, B. D. Losito, E. 

Fiorito, M. A. Miles and M. Zelson. 1991. 

Stress recovery during exposure to natural 

and urban environments. Journal of Environ-

mental Psychology 11: 201-230.
Williams, F. 2017. The Nature Fix. W. W. 

Norton & Company, New York, NY.
Wilson, E. O. 1984. Biophilia. Harvard Uni-

versity Press, Cambridge, MA. 

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JOIN #TEAMBUCKWHEAT

By Naomi Fraga

Eriogonum tiehmii Reveal (Tiehm’s buckwheat, 

Polygonaceae) is endemic to the Silver Peak 

Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada, about 

halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. This 

species is at risk of extinction because its 

entire global population is located within the 

boundary of a proposed industrial lithium 

and boron mine. If approved, the mine would 

extirpate more than 60% of all the known 

plants (~28,000 of 44,000 plants known) 

and up to 30% of the total occupied habitat. 

Further, in a devastating turn of events, it 

was discovered in September 2020 that up 

to 40% of the global population of Etiehmii 

was damaged or destroyed as the project 

awaits environmental review. This newly 

documented threat is currently undergoing 

investigation, but illustrates the extreme 

vulnerability of E. tiehmii.

As a part of the coordinated 

effort to support conservation 

of  E. tiehmii, I along with 

the Center for Biological 

Diversity launched a plant 

conservation campaign on 

social media to urge the 

botanical community to 

“join #Teambuckwheat to 

save Tiehm’s buckwheat.” 

In July 2020, over 80 

#TeamBuckwheat  supporters 

showed up to the 3.5-hour 

workshop, and over 100 

The joint BSA Public Policy and ASPT 

Environmental and Public Policy Committees 

strive to connect membership to relevant 

public policy resources, actions and activities. 

Join the BSA Slack #public_policy channel 

to learn about late-breaking public policy 

issues and ways that you can get involved to 

advocate for plants and science! Get started 

at https://cms.botany.org/home/membership/

bsa-slack.html.

In this issue, we showcase the work of a 

member involved in a local policy topic that 

may be of interest to many within the societies. 

Dr. Naomi Fraga’s work also provides an 

excellent example of the ways in which the 

scientific  community  can  affect  meaningful 

change for biodiversity conservation.

Advocate for Botany and Science!

By BSA PPC Co-Chairs Krissa Skogen (Chicago Botanic 

Garden) and Tanisha Williams (Bucknell University)  and 

ASPT PPC Chair Naomi Fraga (California Botanic Garden)

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scientists signed a letter advocating for 

the addition of Tiehm’s buckwheat to the 

Nevada list of endangered flora. We now 

have the opportunity to broaden our network 

and leverage support from the botanical 

community via the BSA Slack #public_policy 

channel. If you’d like to learn more about 

conservation efforts such as this, please 

join our network. We will share current 

information related to conservation issues, 

and especially those that will benefit from a 

call to action.

ASSESSING GRAZING  

IMPACTS ON REMOTE 

MONTANE MEADOWS IN 

THE SOUTHERN SIERRA 

NEVADA, TULARE COUNTY, 

CALIFORNIA

By Nina House

I am a Master’s student in Botany at the 

California Botanic Garden and Claremont 

Graduate University, currently undertaking 

a floristic study of the Manter and Salmon 

Creek watersheds in the southern Sierra 

Nevada, Tulare County, CA. The primary 

goal of my study is to conduct a systematic 

inventory of the vascular plant diversity of 

the region, but I am also collecting data on 

disturbances and threats to plant diversity. 

One notable disturbance in the study area 

is cattle grazing in montane meadows. I am 

interested in studying and communicating the 

impacts of cattle grazing, since my research 

interests extend to plant conservation, land 

management, and disturbance regimes. My 

hope is that this project will provide tangible 

data that can help improve management 

practices. 

Montane meadows are an incredibly 

species-rich ecosystem (Jones et al., 2019). 

Although they make up only 10% of the 

land area within the Sierra Nevada, they 

are an essential component for the health of 

wildlife and humans (Ratliff, 1985). Montane 

meadows play a critical role in water storage 

and cleanliness, acting as the kidneys of a 

watershed as they filter out sediments and 

debris from water flowing downhill (Blank 

et al., 1995). Additionally, 50% of California’s 

domestic water comes from Sierra Nevada 

watersheds, demonstrating the distinct role 

that meadows play in water quality for millions 

of people across the state 

(McIlroy and Allen-

Diaz, 2012). However, w

hen not managed 

sustainably, grazing by cattle can lead to altered 

species composition, trampled soil and plants, 

altered hydrology, and the spread of non-

native species (McIlroy and Allen-Diaz, 2012). 

Further, when combined with other threats 

and disturbances within the region, including 

altered fire regimes, drought, climate change, 

and increasing recreation, these vital habitats 

may be significantly altered. 

It is often difficult to assess the exact 

consequences of grazing, since impacts can 

vary depending on the timing, duration, and 

intensity of use (McIlroy and Allen-Diaz, 

2012). Knowing the types of data to collect 

and who to approach with concerns can make 

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187

all the difference in improving management 

of grazing in montane meadows. Laura 

Cunningham, California Director of the 

Western Watershed Project, has been working 

to document the impacts of cattle grazing in 

montane meadow systems in the southern 

Sierra Nevada (Figure 1). Through the help 

of the Botanical Advocacy and Leadership 

Grant, funded jointly by both the Botanical 

Society of America and the American Society 

of Plant Taxonomists, I have had the privilege 

of inviting Laura to my study site so I can 

learn more about how to document these 

disturbances in a way that can inform future 

forest management. 

During one trip in July 2020, Laura and I 

visited three montane meadows located within 

my study site. Manter Meadow occurs within 

the Domeland Wilderness and represents 

a relatively undisturbed montane meadow 

that has seen little in the way of recent cattle 

grazing (Figure 2). We also visited two 

meadows outside of designated wilderness, 

Big Meadow and Horse Meadow, that reside 

in active grazing allotments (Figure 3). Laura 

demonstrated how to document a variety of 

meadow health indicators, including: stream 

bank height, stability, water color, sediment 

deposition in streams, trampling, presence 

of tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa, 

Poaceae), percentage of bare ground, 

vegetation height, and location of fencing. 

Our initial observations indicated that there 

is a difference in the ecosystem health of the 

heavily grazed vs. minimally grazed meadows 

in my study site. In Manter Meadow, stream 

banks were high and were stabilized by 

tall vegetation. We observed clear water 

along streams and small rocks that were 

unburied by sediment. These kinds of habitat 

characteristics provide trout with a secure 

place to lay their eggs. There was little bare 

ground, and D. cespitosa, an indicator species 

for meadow health, was seen throughout the 

meadow. In contrast, Big Meadow and Horse 

Meadow displayed several impacts from 

grazing, including trampled and collapsing 

Figure 1. Laura Cunningham, California Di-

rector of Western Watershed Project, and I 

worked together to document grazing impacts 

in three meadows in my study site. Here she can 

be seen measuring the height of vegetation in 

the heavily grazed Big Meadow. 

Figure 2. Many montane meadows through-

out the Sierra Nevada, such as Big Meadow 

(pictured), see active cattle grazing from June 

through September each year. 

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springs and stream banks, brown water, and a 

deep sediment layer. These characteristics are 

known to negatively impact populations of 

fish and aquatic invertebrate that make their 

homes in and downstream from montane 

meadows (Herbst et al., 2012). Deschampsia 

cespitosa, while present, was often absent of 

reproductive features due to being grazed by 

cattle. Finally, large patches of bare ground 

were present in both grazed meadows, and 

in Horse Meadow the bare patches were 

particularly sizable. 

Laura and I are now collaborating on a report 

to the Sequoia National Forest that will include 

our observations and recommendations for 

grazing management. These recommendations 

include additional fencing around springs 

and streams in both Big Meadow and Horse 

Meadow to enhance water quality and prevent 

the collapse of stream banks. Additionally, 

in Horse Meadow, we recommend reducing 

cattle density and, in both Big and Horse 

Meadows, periodic off-years would allow for 

the rejuvenation of meadow vegetation. In 

addition to our report, we also hope to interact 

directly with forest service staff to discuss our 

findings and suggestions. 

I would like to thank the American Society of 

Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society 

of America for providing the Botanical 

Advocacy Leadership Award. Through this 

award I will be able to provide scientific 

information that may lead to management 

changes in important ecosystems. With the 

reports and publications that result from 

this work, I hope I can inform future policy. 

I would also like to thank my Master’s thesis 

advisor, Dr. Naomi Fraga, who has assisted 

with the synthesis and implementation of this 

project. I am grateful to Laura Cunningham 

for taking the time to work with me and share 

her knowledge of meadow management. 

Her work evaluating grazing impacts on 

meadow health is timely and much needed! 

Finally, I would like to thank the California 

Figure 3. Manter Meadow represents a mon-

tane meadow that has seen little in the way of 

recent grazing. 

Figure 4. The Salmon Creek (pictured) is cur-

rently under review for designation as a Wild 

and Scenic River. Running through both Horse 

Meadow (pictured) and Big Meadow, it receives 

heavy impacts from grazing, as can be seen here 

in the way of collapsing banks. 

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PSB 66 (3) 2020

189

Botanic Garden for their continued financial, 

educational, and moral support as I work to 

complete my floristic inventory of the Manter 

and Salmon Creek watersheds (Figure 4). My 

hope is that through greater knowledge of our 

flora and the impacts of cattle grazing, we will 

spark change in forest management and work 

to conserve and protect montane meadows 

throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain 

range. 

LITERATURE CITED

Blank, R. R., T. J. Svejcar, and G. M. Riegel. 

1995. Soil genesis and morphology of a mon-

tane meadow in the northern Sierra Nevada 

range. Soil Science 160: 136-152.
Herbst, D. B., M. T. Bogan, S. K. Roll, and 

H. D. Safford. 2012. Effects of livestock ex-

clusion on in-stream habitat and benthic in-

vertebrate assemblages in montane streams: 

Stream recovery and livestock grazing exclu-

sion. Freshwater Biology 57: 204–217. 

Jones, J. A., R. Hutchinson, A. Moldenke, V. 

Pfeiffer, E. Helderop, E. Thomas, J. Griffin, 

and A. Reinholtz 2019. Landscape patterns 

and  diversity  of  meadow  plants  and  flower-

visitors in a mountain landscape. Landscape 

Ecology 18.
McIlroy, S. K., and B. H. Allen-Diaz. 2012. 

Plant community distribution along water 

table and grazing gradients in montane mead-

ows of the Sierra Nevada Range (California, 

USA).  Wetlands Ecology and Management 

20: 287–296. 
Ratliff, R. D. 1985. Meadows in the Sierra Ne-

vada of California: State of knowledge (No. 

PSW-GTR-84; p. PSW-GTR-84). https://doi.

org/10.2737/PSW-GTR-84.

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Because your research 

breaks new ground

Published since 1929, Botany is a peer-reviewed journal 

featuring comprehensive research on all facets of plant 

biology including biochemistry, physiology, phenology, ecology, 

phytogeography, and systematics. Recently, the Editorial Board 

revised the scope of the journal to include Methods papers, 

Plant Genomic Resources, and manuscripts written by (with or 

for) Indigenous Traditional Knowledge keepers.

Publish with Botany

cdnsciencepub.com/cjb 

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191

SPECIAL FEATURES

By Beth Ginondidoy Leonard  

Research Professor of  

Indigenous Studies 

Institute of Culture 

and Environment 

Alaska Pacific University

Diversity and Inclusion in the  

Sciences: Relationships and  

Reciprocity

I

 was honored to present during the Botany 

2020 session “Enhancing scientist diversity 

in plant biology.” I am Deg Xit’an (Dene’/

Athabascan), a member of the Shageluk 

Tribe of interior Alaska, and research 

professor of Indigenous Studies at Alaska 

Pacific University. Alaska Pacific University 

(APU) is a small private institution located in 

Anchorage, Alaska and is currently pursuing 

tribal university status. I recently transferred 

from the University of Alaska Anchorage, 

where I served as professor of Alaska Native 

Studies from 2016 to 2020 to APU. APU’s 

board of trustees recently appointed a Yup’ik 

woman—Valerie Davidson,

1

 an attorney/

health fields scholar—as president, a first for 

that institution. 

My academic background includes linguistics, 

education, and cross-cultural and Alaska 

Native/Indigenous studies. In terms of the 

natural sciences, my undergraduate courses 

were limited to “natural history of Alaska” and 

“human osteology.” However, as a member of 

the Deg Xit’an (Dene’/Athabascan) nation, my 

personal experiences include place- and land-

based education, since Alaska Native peoples 

have thousands of years of knowledge[s] 

around place and land. As my thinking around 

science progressed, I began to think of Alaska 

Native and Indigenous ways of knowing 

as science(s), rather than “just” ways of 

knowing. This essay focuses on Alaska Native 

and Indigenous perspectives, although the 

processes of diversity and inclusion obviously 

need to be engaged more broadly. 

THE ALASKAN CONTEXT 

AND PERSONAL HISTORY

Research on Alaska Natives is often combined 

with American Indians, and researchers tend 

to gloss over the unique and diverse contexts 

of Alaska Native nations (Figure 1). For 

example, Alaska Natives make up almost 20% 

of Alaska’s population,

2

 there are at least eight 

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Figure 1. Indigenous peoples and languages of Alaska map. (From Krauss, M., G. Holton, J. Kerr, 

and C. T. West. 2011. Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska. Fairbanks and Anchorage: 

Alaska Native Language Center and UAA Institute of Social and Economic Research. Website: 

https://www.uaf.edu/anla/map.)

distinct cultural groups, 229 federally recognized 

tribes, 20 official Indigenous languages,

12 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 

(ANCSA) regional corporations,

4

 and over 200 

ANCSA village corporations. Alaska Native 

students are 24% of the K-12 population, a 

significant percentage when considering the 

diversification of STEM fields. Native peoples 

have thousands of years of knowledges/

sciences and relationships with specific lands 

or regions around Alaska, and archaeological 

evidence suggests that Athabascan peoples 

have been living in interior Alaska for at least 

12,000 years.  

Deg Xinag (literally, “language from around 

here”) is the westernmost Dene’/Athabascan 

language, a region that stretches from Holy 

Cross, Alaska to Hudson Bay in Canada. I 

grew up in the Deg Xit’an (“people/beings 

from around here”) communities of Shageluk 

and Anvik in the 1960s and 1970s and 

because of socio-historical circumstances did 

not learn my heritage language. As a second 

language learner of Deg Xinag, however—a 

process that began in my early 30s—I found 

that the language provided a doorway into the 

scientific worldview of the Deg Xit’an peoples 

whose terms for plants reflect complex 

relationships between and among humans 

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193

and non-humans. Place names may also 

reflect the “beings” of an area; for example, my 

father grew up in Didlang Tochagg, or Spruce 

Slough. The spruce tree, or didlang, was/is one 

of the most useful plants to the Deg Xit’an 

people, providing, for example, medicine 

in the form of new shoots in the spring that 

could be collected and made into tea to treat 

colds; pitch, which was used for bandaging 

cuts and waterproofing canoes; and wood for 

burning, or the construction of items such as 

sled runners or household items. Although 

the term didlang does not have a known literal 

meaning, its relationship with the people of 

my area reflects Potawatomi scholar Robin 

Wall Kimmerer’s observations: “In some 

Native languages the term for plants translates 

to ‘those who take care of us’” (Kimmerer, 

2013, p. 278). Spruce also burns at a higher 

temperature than other woods and is softer 

than birch, making it easier to work with.  In 

terms of “plants-based” knowledge, the people 

of my area and other areas of Alaska maintain 

a reciprocal “gift” relationship with plant 

beings:

“…in the gift economy, the gifts are 

not free. The essence of the gift is that 

it creates a set of relationships. The 

currency of the gift economy is, at its 

root, reciprocity…in a gift economy 

property has a ‘bundle of responsibilities’ 

attached.” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 28)

Indigenous peoples, before gathering plants 

or berries, for example, may often sing a 

song, or offer a prayer or gifts. Considering 

the current research on plants that suggests 

that the plant can alter its chemical structure 

when responding to a threat, I have often 

wondered if the songs or prayers or gifts 

also cause the plant to alter its chemistry 

to be perhaps more beneficial to humans 

when consumed as medicine and/or food. 

In her discussion of Indigenous knowledges, 

Mi’kmaq scholar Marie Battiste (2002) 

references the significance of protocols and 

time in ceremonial practices: “Indigenous 

knowledge is also inherently tied to land, not 

to land in general but to particular landscapes, 

landforms, and biomes where ceremonies 

are properly held, stories properly recited, 

medicines properly gathered, and transfers of 

knowledge properly authenticated” (p. 13).

Bang et al. (2018) also respond to Western 

science’s beliefs around the sentience and 

agency, and how this has constrained scientific 

inquiry:

“…from a Western perspective, plants 

have little agency. This logic has arguably 

held back emerging research on plant 

abilities and intelligence, as Western 

scientists now understand that some 

plants can recognize and selectively 

favor kin and that many plants can signal 

the presence of threats.”

For many Alaska Native and Indigenous 

peoples, the Western hierarchy of humans as 

the pinnacle of intelligence and achievement 

is a foreign concept because the often-superior 

sensory abilities of non-humans such as plants 

and animals are recognized and celebrated. 

For example, in his discussion of Yupiaq 

realms of being, Oscar Kawagley’s (1998, p. 

4) tetrahedral metaphor places the human 

and natural realms on the same level. Other 

Indigenous scholars such as Tewa scholar 

Gregory Cajete (2016) highlight the abilities 

of plants and animals to “educate” humans on 

different topics such as appropriate medicines, 

etc. Peter John, a late Dene’/Athabascan chief 

from Minto, Alaska, also emphasized the 

importance of close relationships with the 

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194

Deg Xinag

English

Literal translation

-tsiy

Grandfather

Yixgitsiy

Raven

you guys/your (pl.) grandfather

Yixgitsiy Vozra’

Rusty Blackbird

Raven’s nephew

Yixgitsiy Nołchidl

Puffball Mushroom

Raven’s (sewing) bag

natural world: “If you look deeply enough, 

you’ll see that animals can help us understand 

life as it is…animals understand you, but only 

if you know how to talk with them” (Krupa, 

1996, p. 25).   

INDIGENOUS EDUCATION: 

WAYS OF KNOWING,  

BEING, AND DOING

“There is a shared body of understanding 

among many Indigenous people that 

education is really about helping an 

individual find his or her face, which 

means finding out who you are, where 

you came from, and your unique 

character…Indigenous education 

is, in its truest form, about learning 

relationships in context.“ (Cajete, 2000, 

p. 183) 

Gregory Cajete offers both critique and 

solutions for education, including the 

concept of “learning relationships in context.” 

Relationships and reciprocities are key to 

Indigenous engagement with human and 

non-human worlds, and in many areas of 

the world Indigenous “ways of knowing, 

being, and doing” have been maintained for 

thousands of years. As I began my language-

learning journey, I also began to understand 

these relationships through examining literal 

translations of kinship, bird, and plant terms. 

For example, the term for “grandfather” is 

also closely related to the term for “raven.” 

“blackbird,” and “puffball mushroom,” 

although this is not obvious through the 

separation of these terms under “kinship,” 

“birds,” and “plants” in the organization of 

topically based noun dictionaries (see chart 

below).

The Deg Xit’an organization of these 

“beings” through the Deg Xinag language 

conceptualizes a world of relationships and 

reciprocities among human and non-human 

realms—a world very different than the 

separated disciplinary world(s) presented to 

Indigenous students in academia. For the Deg 

Xit’an people, the entity Raven (sometimes 

referred to as “Crow”) is significant as 

cosmological narratives document how he 

brought light and helped create different 

aspects of their environment. Raven’s 

relationship with the puffball mushroom 

is likely further explained through stories; 

however, some of this information may have 

been lost with the passing of Elder storytellers. 

“Educate comes from Latin educare...

which is derived from a specialized use 

of Latin educere...meaning ‘to assist at 

the birth of a child’. This old meaning of 

the English word ‘educate’ is similar to 

our own Inupiat Eskimo word...which 

literally means ‘to cause to become a 

person’.” (Okakok, 1989, p. 413) 

For Alaska Native and other Indigenous 

peoples, goals of education might include 

Okakok’s Inupiat translation “to cause 

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to become a person” and a Yup’ik goal of 

nourishing “a right mind to think with” 

(Barker, 1996). Part of “becoming a person/

human being” includes understanding 

relationships and reciprocities between and 

among human and non-human worlds. Similar 

concepts from the Deg Xinag language include 

the terms dinayetr (literally, “our breath/way 

of life, our belief system”) that recognizes 

the responsibilities of humans to the natural 

world in maintaining life and balance as well 

as getiy xiyo t’anh (literally    “s/he has a good 

mind/is able to plan ahead”).   

DIVERSITY IN THE  

SCIENCES: OPPORTUNITIES 

IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Garcia and Shirley (2012) frame education as 

a “sacred learning landscape,” emphasizing the 

roles of institutions and teachers in nurturing 

critical consciousness and “origins of place” 

(pp. 77-78). Higher education institutions have 

numerous opportunities to offer authentic 

and interesting experiences for Indigenous 

students. In my experience, higher education 

offered a number of learning experiences and 

opportunities that were absent or erased in the 

K-12 system. For example, this was my first 

opportunity in a classroom setting to engage 

with my heritage language; a place where Deg 

Xinag was seen as interesting and important, 

rather than “primitive” and irrelevant in global 

contexts. It was also my first opportunity 

in a classroom setting to engage in any 

substantive way (beyond material culture) 

with my culture, other Alaska Native cultures, 

and authentic Alaska Native and Alaskan 

histories. Granted, institutions did and still 

do fixate on the “under-prepared” Alaska 

Native student or student-of-color, and often 

question the abilities of these students to finish 

programs and attain degrees. Institutions 

might consider re-orienting themselves in 

terms of “preparedness,” i.e. universities are 

often “underprepared” to serve Indigenous 

students or students-of-color, and instead 

focus on educational pathways that utilize 

“funds of knowledge” (Gonzalez et al., 2005), 

decolonizing (Battiste, 2013), Indigenous 

and/or other educational methodologies 

that would enhance diversity and capacity-

building in STEM fields. 

Another key challenge within academic 

institutions is the creation and expansion of 

both physical and intellectual landscapes for 

Indigenous students and students-of-color. 

These students often encounter barriers 

as they seek to maintain their personal 

identities while expanding their knowledge 

in disciplinary fields. Institutions also suffer 

from a lack of Indigenous faculty and faculty-

of-color. For example, Alaska Native students 

make up a significant percentage of students in 

the University of Alaska system (10%–20%), 

yet Alaska Native faculty numbers have never 

exceeded 5% (and are now closer to 3%), 

highlighting a significant parity issue. And 

there are very few, if any, Alaska Native faculty 

who teach and research in STEM fields in the 

University of Alaska system. Recently, the only 

two Alaska Native biology faculty teaching 

in the University of Alaska system relocated 

to universities in the eastern U.S. With 

relationships and reciprocity being key Alaska 

Native values and factors in student success, 

recruiting and retaining Indigenous faculty 

are significant challenges that can hinder 

that diversity and inclusion in the sciences—

especially when considering recruitment of 

Alaska Native students into higher education. 

Indigenous higher education research 

indicates that formation of relationships 

(mentoring/networks) is necessary for 

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Indigenous student success (Pihama et al., 

2019); for many Indigenous scholars, these 

relationships are more akin to a godmother/

father relationship than a “traditional” 

academic mentor relationship (Leonard et al., 

2020). Mentoring in an Indigenous way often 

goes well beyond preparation for academic 

writing, research, and “getting students 

through” their programs, to assisting with 

job searches, co-authoring publications and 

conference presentations, and continuing the 

relationship throughout the student’s/faculty’s 

career. 

CONCLUSIONS

With current advances in science that seem 

to converge or negotiate parallel paths with 

Indigenous knowledges/sciences, and the 

number of groundbreaking publications 

by Indigenous scholars and scientists, one 

might ask, “Who wouldn’t want to pursue 

a STEM field?” If used in science programs, 

Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, 

scientific knowledge, and the teachings of 

plants (Kimmerer, 2013), Who’s asking? Native 

science, Western science and science education 

(Medin and Bang, 2013), Native science: 

Natural laws of interdependence (Cajete, 

2016), and Blackfoot physics: A journey into the 

Native American universe (Peat, 2002) provide 

valuable new perspectives into the natural 

realms; these new perspectives and theories 

by established scholars are currently absent in 

STEM curricula. If science curricula could be 

renegotiated to explore its own philosophical 

ideologies and “other” ways of knowing, 

this approach could advance recruitment 

and retention of underrepresented students, 

but also “advance” scientific thought and 

knowledge in significant ways. Institutional 

changes are also necessary to recruit and retain 

Indigenous faculty and faculty-of-color to 

address parity issues. Reframing relationships 

in higher education and acknowledgement 

and action around reciprocities would 

extend possibilities for Indigenous students 

and students-of-color and might advance 

academia in unexpected and refreshing ways. 

FOOTNOTES

 1

https://www.alaskapacific.edu/valerie-

nurraraaluk-davidson-named-alaska-pacific-

university-president/  

2

https://firstalaskans.org/census-information-

center/overview/ 

3

https://uaf.edu/anlc/languages.php 

4

https://ancsaregional.com/about-ancsa/

LITERATURE CITED

Bang, M., A. Marin and D. Medin. 2018. If 

Indigenous peoples stand with the sciences, 

will scientists stand with us? Daedalus 147: 

148-159. 
Barker, R. 1996. A right mind to think with: A 

Yup’ik theory of human development. Unpub-

lished M.Ed. Project, University of Alaska 

Fairbanks, Fairbanks.
Battiste, M. 2013. Decolonizing education: 

Nourishing the learning spirit. Saskatoon, 

SK: Purich Publishing.
Battiste, M. 2002. Indigenous Knowledge and 

pedagogy in First Nations education: A litera-

ture review with recommendations. Prepared 

for the National Working Group on Education 

and the Minister of Indian Affairs. Indian and 

Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

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197

Cajete, G. 2016. Native science: Natural laws 

of interdependence. Sante Fe, NM: Clear 

Light Publishers. 

Cajete, G. 2000. Indigenous knowledge: The 

pueblo metaphor of indigenous education. In 

M. Battiste (Ed.), Reclaiming indigenous voice 

and vision (pp. 181-191). Vancouver, BC: UBC 

Press. 

Garcia, J. and V. Shirley. 2012. Performing 

decolonization: Lessons learned from Indige-

nous youth, teachers and leaders’ engagement 

with critical Indigenous pedagogy. Journal of 

Curriculum Theorizing 28: 76-91.
Gonzalez, N., L. Moll, and C. Amanti. 2005. 

Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices 

in households, communities and classrooms. 

Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kawagley, A. O. 1998. An alliance between 

humans and creatures. Sharing our Pathways 

5: 4-5. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Knowledge 

Network. Retrieved from https://uaf.edu/

ankn/publications/collective-works-of-angay/

An-Alliance-Between-1819DE.pdf. 
Kimmerer, R. W. 2013. Braiding sweetgrass: 

Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and 

the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: 

Milkweed Editions. 

Krupa, D. (Ed.) 1996. The gospel according to 

Peter John. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Knowl-

edge Network. 
Leonard, B., S. Nicholas, O. Skinner, and 

G. Tsinajine. 2020. Innovations in Indige-

nous scholar mentorship: Relationships and 

responsibilities. 2020 International Indig-

enous  Research  Conference,  Ngā  Pae  o  te 

Māramatanga. 
Medin, D. L. and M. Bang. 2014. Who’s ask-

ing? Native science, Western science and sci-

ence education. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Okakok, L. 1989. Serving the purpose of edu-

cation. Harvard Educational Review 59: 405-

422. 
Peat, F. D. 2002. Blackfoot physics: A jour-

ney into the Native American universe. Grand 

Rapids, MI: Phanes Press.

Pihama, L., J. Lee-Morgan, L. T. Smith, S. J. 

Tiakiwai, and J. Seed-Pihama. 2019. MAI Te 

Kupenga: Supporting Māori and Indigenous 

doctoral scholars within higher education. 

AlterNative 15: 52-61.

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D

isasters wreak havoc on communities no 

so much through their inherent destructive 

powers, but by their ability to expose existing 

fissures in poorly constructed systems. Two 

unique disasters upended normal academic 

social functioning in the Spring of 2020 in very 

different but also connected ways. COVID-19 

arrived to the shores of a skeptical United States, 

and quickly ground all operations requiring 

physical proximity, including institutions of 

higher education, to an abrupt halt. The chaos 

that ensued saw pedagogical models carefully 

crafted for the physical classroom struggling 

to adapt itself for remote learning. Though 

the virus itself can infect most people, even 

asymptomatically, its requirement for close 

contact for spreading meant that prevention 

required physical distancing. This simple 

reality allowed the virus to sort the population, 

By Dr. Bryan Dewsbury 

Assistant Professor,  

Department of Biology-

University of Rhode Island, 

Kingston, RI

What Have We Learned?  

Lessons and Strategies  

from the Chaos

each according to their privilege. Workers in 

the retail and service industries as well as the 

gig economy soldiered on, unable to “work 

remotely” or give up employment critical for 

keeping themselves economically solvent. 

In so doing, these workers continued to risk 

exposure to themselves and their families 

while those with means were safely ensconced 

behind closed doors and online meetings. 

Similarly, as faculty, staff, and students 

migrated to the online classroom, the ability 

to transition seamlessly depended on several 

factors that varied according to means. Many 

students returned to homes with internet that 

was either nonexistent or of inferior quality to 

that which existed on campuses. This, along 

with changes in the availability of ideal study 

environments, meant that the quality of the 

home environment (in turn impacted by 

economics) strongly predicted the ability of 

the student to continue to fully engage in the 

course. In many cases, students did not have 

the option to return home at all.

In the midst of the pandemic, hundreds 

of thousands of protesters spurred by yet 

another senseless Black death, braved 

quarantine protocols to bring attention to 

the deaths of more Black lives at the hands 

of  law  enforcement.  This  was  not  the  first 

time that activists have shone a light on the 

Dr. Dewsbury was the Plenary Speaker at Botany 2020 and his talk examined what the social re-

ality of inequity has taught us, and more importantly, how we can and must position ourselves to 

be agents of change.

A CHAOTIC SPRING

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physical danger Black lives face in the United 

States, but on this occasion, the Black Lives 

Matter movement’s message garnered much 

more widespread support (Dave et al., 2020). 

Activists and other academic advocates within 

the higher education space embraced this 

time with mixed emotions. On one hand, it is 

frustrating that much of the systemic changes 

suggested in response have been discussed 

and fully articulated by its proponents for 

decades, and that it took the cessation of many 

Black lives in public and graphic fashion in 

order for these proposals to be finally seriously 

discussed. On the other hand, the momentum 

that has been generated by the latest protests 

have brought a more diverse and expansive 

community to the table in favor of working 

towards more concrete equitable solutions.

If there is to be a message of hope from the 

darkness, institutions of higher education 

must position ourselves to look critically at 

this chaotic time and learn crucial lessons. 

In this process we might recognize that the 

chaos highlighted an existing system that was 

broken, particularly for those who depended 

on it the most. If we are to return to something 

different and improved, we must have a clear 

plan to address our historic shortcomings. I 

offer here a four-step process, undergirded 

by the paradigm of inclusive practices, as a 

mechanism for our community to collectively 

move forward. These are (1) having a clear 

vision, (2) being prepared to learn, (3) 

identifying  a  specific  achievable  strategy, 

and (4) having a mechanism to assess 

the impact of your efforts. My hope is 

that although the events of Spring revealed 

our collective failures, they also offer us an 

opportunity to re-envision the structure and 

delivery of education experiences in ways 

that are authentically inclusive. Elizabeth 

Moje (1996) said, “I don’t teach subjects, 

I teach students.” This simple but useful 

proclamation offers a powerful counter to the 

conventional mindsets of our current teaching 

practices. Pedagogy, even supposedly active 

ones, have long privileged the dissemination 

of content over the more socio-psychological 

goals of education. At best, it was assumed 

that the student cultivating a sense of meaning 

and purpose through the process was an 

existing by-product of classroom instruction, 

or at worst, that process was outsourced to 

the student affairs side of campus. Inclusive 

practices center the cultivation of relationships 

as the driver of pedagogical structures, in that 

what eventually occurs in the classroom is 

the result and the continuation of meaningful 

dialogue (Durakoğlu, 2013) between teacher 

and students. At its core, inclusive practices 

are not simply about “how to teach”; they are 

guiding principles for how members of civic 

society interact with each other. In so doing 

they offer us ways to think about and move 

forward from our chaotic Spring, and that 

begins with having a clear vision for equitable 

futures. 

HAVE A VISION

Activists inside and outside academia might 

view our current moment with a wary eye 

because many of us have seen too many 

instances like these end with the whimper of 

performative platitudes. The pattern is always 

the same. Incident takes place that generates 

collective outrage, thoughts and prayers are 

bestowed, and perhaps on a campus there is 

the  hiring  of  a  diversity  officer  or  creation 

of  a  diversity  office  in  response.  Once  the 

cameras depart and the news cycle moves on 

to other things, accountability for the response 

measures often fail to match the level of 

furor that generated the initial response. 

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What exacerbates this issue is the tendency 

to place the entire responsibility for racial 

progress on the newly hired officer, an act of 

careless deference that likely contributes to 

the high turnover seen for this role (Hartley 

III and Godin, 2010). It appears then to the 

marginalized that institutional responses 

are more about quelling institutional and 

personal guilt as opposed to accepting 

responsibility for implementing policy and 

behavior change to augur different futures. In 

the midst of a plethora of position statements 

and institutional proclamations about their 

commitment to Black lives, it is critically 

important that stated visions are reflected in 

the core of the university operations. Hiring 

practices, promotion and tenure review 

policies, and pedagogical support structures 

are just some examples of areas where 

colleges and universities can demonstrate their 

commitment to a stated vision. In other words, 

until well-crafted visions and statements are 

supported by budget line items and policy 

changes, the cycle is at high risk to continue, 

because the institutional position on equity is 

communicated to community members in the 

ways these policies are enacted, funded, and 

assessed, not in public bombast. 

Before embarking on major policy change, 

some aspirational questions are worth asking. 

What kind of social imaginary will unfold 

should equity work be successful on your 

campus? If I were to walk onto your campus 

in 20 years, what would the classrooms, the 

meetings, and the hallways feel and look like? 

These are not easy questions to answer. They 

are worthy of a retreat where the breadth of an 

appropriate vision is chartered and anchored 

by the desire to create a system that promotes 

equity. Without such a charge, institutions are 

left looking to their side at their neighbors, 

copycatting well-worn responses without 

disrupting the core functional elements 

of their operation. Ideally, the charting 

of  this  vision  should  reflect  an  ongoing 

dialogue between all stakeholders within the 

institution. Organizational change theory 

purports that neither fully top-down nor fully 

grassroots  efforts  are  sufficient  for  bringing 

about meaningful change (Kezar, 2012). It 

is when all parties feel like they have legit 

agency in shaping the structure and future 

of the institution. That agency comes about 

as a recognition of the power and privilege 

that each member has, regardless of their 

professional station within the organization. 

Too often, conversations about institutional 

change get derailed by complaints about the 

lack of power the individual has. Professors 

are not as powerful as Deans, who are not 

as powerful as Presidents, who are not as 

powerful as Boards of Trustees, etc. We can 

choose to focus on this academic food chain, 

or we can cultivate the power we do have and 

use it for good in our context. For practitioners 

in the classroom, this means having an 

aspirational vision for our students and our 

practice. I make no requests here for specific 

pedagogical techniques but instead ask that 

you pose tough questions about the course(s) 

that you teach. Are you confident that you are 

cultivating the full potential of the students 

who matriculate through your classroom? 

Is your course elevating equity outcomes 

by examining critical social questions in the 

discipline? Or by cultivating meaningful 

dialogue between classroom members? Once 

that vision is crafted, at either level, then the 

difficult work of backward designing begins 

from that vision to identify the specifics of what 

needs to be done in order to meet that vision. It 

is here that equity work becomes particularly 

challenging, since it exposes our collective 

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intellectual and experiential shortcomings 

in this area. However, our preparation and 

commitment to the learning process and its 

inherent supports will be crucial if success is 

to be achieved and sustained.

BEING PREPARED TO 

LEARN

The reality of the professoriate, particularly 

the STEM professoriate, is that most of us 

were trained, hired, and promoted over long 

periods of time with little careful attention 

to the scholarship of teaching, much less 

the enactment of inclusive practices. There 

seemed (and still seems) to be an implicit 

notion  that  expertise  in  an  acutely  refined 

content area constituted expertise in being able 

to craft a meaningful educational experience. 

Filtration pedagogical models, particularly in 

introductory STEM courses, perpetuated this 

myth with the “it’s not me, it’s you” mindset of 

science professors. As a first step, the learning 

process must recognize college teaching as 

a skill to be cultivated and not as a practice 

that is automatic. Secondly, to fully realize 

the power that inclusive teaching has to help 

create equitable futures, we must learn the 

history (and present) that informs the social 

context of the learning process. This means 

engaging literature that explains the broader 

context of American social structures as well 

as specifically trying to understand our own 

social positioning within it. 

These are not easy lifts. The evidence from 

studies on K-12 curricula suggests that if you 

had a fairly conventional education experience 

in the United States, your knowledge of the 

experiences of the marginalized are likely 

at best inadequate and at worst partially 

incorrect (Brown and Brown, 2010). Even in 

institutions of higher education, students in 

non-humanities majors may only engage these 

topics in general education courses and if so, 

rarely in the context of their STEM discipline. 

But understanding these contexts are crucial 

if we are to permanently move away from 

deficit  thinking  toward  empowerment  and 

working on structural change. For example, 

institutions such as the one where I work enroll 

students from a diverse cadre of secondary 

institutions. Preparedness level for college- 

level introductory biology (a course that I 

teach) varies widely and typically correlates 

with school location. But what does that 

correlation actually mean? Even a cursory 

look at the variables of “preparedness” 

and “school location” indicate there is a 

lot to understand with each. This led to me 

embarking on a course of study that explored 

the relationship between neighborhood 

ethnic and economic structures (particularly 

property values), school quality at the K-12 

level, and the relative choices that families 

have to meaningfully impact any of the above 

variables. I would not do this topic a disservice 

by attempting to summarize the issue here, 

except to say that federally sanctioned and 

unofficial  redlining  policies  have  been 

powerful forces helping social inertia in 

marginalized groups for almost a century. This 

means that by the time the student gets to my 

classroom, privileged or not, they have been 

impacted by social forces over which they had 

little control. So I, cognizant of that history, 

must enact a pedagogy centered on uplift, 

particularly for the historically marginalized, 

and help students identify skills that allow 

them to arrest and shape their own futures. 

The biology content is just a tool in service of 

the cultivation of those skills.

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The learning process must be sustained, 

continuous, and legislated. One-off workshops 

and conversations are not enough to fully 

reorient  praxis  once  fixated  on  delivery  to 

embrace humanistic principles. This learning 

process would have to be supported with the 

appropriate time and feedback structures that 

are customary to how any new skillset would 

be cultivated. This structure allows for the 

fine tuning of the practitioner’s psychosocial 

radar that, once piqued, precludes them 

from viewing the class in ways other than 

humans in STEM. From here, they can design 

strategies, however small, that are appropriate 

to their context. 

IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC 

ACHIEVABLE STRATEGY

One consequence of chaos is to leave us feeling 

so defeated by the darkness that we are frozen 

into inaction. One consequence of a carefully 

calibrated learning process, however, is that it 

helps us to not be dwarfed by the enormity of 

the issue. In so doing it allows us to identify 

simple scalable strategies that can make a 

difference today. The nature of those strategies 

might depend on where you consider your 

level of awareness to be. Your next project 

might be diversifying your syllabus and being 

more intentional about centering the voices of 

Black and indigenous people of color in the 

examples and histories told about the subject 

matter. Others may rethink how group work 

is structured and enacted, paying particular 

attention to how assignments can encourage 

and promote difficult dialogues around social 

relevant issues in STEM. Those wishing to 

promote institutional transformation might 

be thinking about strategies that identify the 

levers of power and policy changes needed for 

inclusive practices to become more prevalent 

on a campus. Identifying one’s current and 

potential sphere of influence is a critical part 

of this process. In the defeatist mindset, it is 

easy to lament the lack of influence that one 

has compared to the next level in the political 

hierarchy. However, in the uneasy mix of 

graduate students, professors of various 

“ranks,” administrators, and other personnel, 

each individual does have some power to 

make change. It would be a better use of time 

to figure out how to maximize the privilege 

that we currently have as a separate project 

to restructuring the ways in which power is 

defined,  structured,  and  operationalized  in 

higher education. 

The  difficulty  of  journey  means  that 

practitioners will always need a support 

structure. Support in this context means 

logistical, financial, and emotional. The first 

two represent the core commitments that 

an institution of higher education, serious 

about a change, makes to support its faculty. 

Emotional support can come in the form of 

faculty communities, where practitioners from 

across campus connect over the commonality 

of their cause. Though the department contexts 

may differ, much strength can be gained from 

working with allies across campus who are 

treading the same paths toward inclusive 

classrooms. A group like this, working on 

common inclusive strategies, can then provide 

the proof of principle needed for an institution 

to identify which are effective, and provide 

avenues for scaling. 

A faculty community group also provides the 

safe space for the continued exploration of the 

self through the continuous learning process. 

It is here that we need to be especially mindful 

and protective of each other’s growth. All 

too often, the path toward cultural humility 

turns into a fierce competition of wokeness. 

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Members of the community at times find more 

joy in pointing out the flaws and slip-ups in our 

allies than recognizing that the process, even 

within ourselves, involves mistake-making 

and atonement. The social consequences of 

inequity are too deep, and the fight against it 

is too critical, for us to spend our righteous 

indignation on friendly fire. 

ASSESSING EQUITABLE 

OUTCOMES

To repeat a question I asked earlier, if I were 

to walk onto your campus in 20 years, what 

would the classrooms, the meetings, and the 

hallways feel and look like? Addressing this 

aspirational question requires some careful 

thinking about how short-, medium-, and 

long-term outcomes are measured along the 

way. Too often, particularly in the celebration 

model of inclusive practices, the celebration 

itself is submitted as its own assessment. 

When pressed on what strategies they are 

taking to enact equity, campuses point to 

heritage month celebrations, multicultural 

affinity  groups,  and  diversity  awards. While 

these events are welcome and appropriate, 

they are not ipso facto measures that equity 

on campus actually exists. Colleges and 

universities serious about equity should 

be able to quickly point to climate surveys, 

student interviews, disaggregated academic 

data, and focus groups as bodies of evidence 

they are constantly engaging to understand 

their collective growth process. More 

importantly, institutions should be able to 

point to specific political and policy structures 

that have been revamped with equity as its 

core goal. For example, in cases where there 

are  diversity  officers  and/or  offices,  what 

mechanisms are in place to ensure that their 

responsibilities do not exist on the periphery 

of the core functioning of the university? 

In what ways have hiring practices, review 

and promotion policies, and the support 

of inclusive pedagogies been revamped to 

reflect a commitment to equity? The answers 

to these questions require responses that go 

beyond position statements and necessarily 

involve budget line items and expenditure 

that is commensurate with the scale of the 

transformation process. 

In the classroom, a similar level of aspiration 

and critical feedback should exist. The STEM 

pedagogical enterprise has evolved to center 

content acquisition as its primary purpose 

with an implicit assumption that meaning 

and purpose comes about by virtue of simply 

being part of the experience. Therefore, 

teaching strategies, even some marketed as 

inclusive, are often measured solely in terms 

of how they impact academic performance. 

If education is in fact meant to be a practice 

of freedom (Hooks, 1994), then there should 

be mechanisms in the classroom space that at 

least attempt to capture how its participants 

are moving toward this actualization. Several 

options exist in this regard. Rovai’s (2002) 

Classroom Community Scale (CCS), for 

example, measures classroom community 

connectedness and has been validated for both 

face-to-face and online classrooms. However, 

other assessment structures should be 

considered, less sense of belonging, meaning, 

and purpose and things of this nature be 

always boiled down to a single number. If 

the inclusive classroom is meant to engender 

personal growth, then who better than the 

student to be positioned to speak to this process 

in a way that was unique to their experience? 

For my introductory biology classroom, I use 

the “Letter to a Future Freshman” prompt 

(Walton and Cohen, 2011). Here, students are 

asked to write (in 500 words or less) a letter 

to  a  hypothetical  future  first-year  student 

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advising them on strategies to successfully 

navigate their first semester at college based 

on the letter writer’s own mixed experience 

just completing the same. In “passing down” 

this advice, the student is forced to look 

critically at their own choices, good or bad, 

and in so doing learn for themselves how 

those choices might inform their own future 

navigation of college. I can think of no more 

powerful measure of the student experience 

than articulation of the students’ own voices. 

IN CLOSING

Many historians agree that the televising of 

the assault of marchers on Bloody Sunday 

in Selma, Alabama awakened a nation’s 

sensitivities to the violence of racism, and 

consequentially spurred Congress to pass 

the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (Augustine 

and Pierre, 2015). Similarly, viral videos 

of Black Americans dying at the hands of 

law enforcement over the Spring of 2020 

and prior, and the groundswell of datasets 

showing the disproportionate death rates 

during the pandemic, can supply a similar 

impetus for new, more bold action on a 

national scale on equity. To the extent that we 

are part of a historic moment on moving the 

needle on race relations, it behooves those 

of us committed to equity to ask what our 

individual responsibilities are, to not merely 

be well-wishers, and to be active participants 

in generating solutions.

For this we must first recognize that the 

college teaching profession in its current 

structure, especially in STEM, has long 

abdicated  its responsibility to liberation 

pedagogy. This is a tragic irony. During the 

chaos of the pandemic months, it became 

painfully clear that after the sports stadiums 

closed and social activities evaporated, the 

teaching of students is the one activity the 

university could under no circumstances 

discontinue. To reclaim liberation pedagogy 

as  an  expectation  of  the  field,  we  must 

institutionally and personally take some steps 

back and lay out an aspirational vision as it 

pertains to equity on our campuses and our 

classrooms. We must then commit to a long-

term process on understanding the scholarship 

of equity in education, backed by the political 

and financial muscle of our institutions. The 

reorientation of our radar should then lead to 

specific measurable strategies enacted with the 

goal of future, more sophisticated iterations 

informed by data, and scaling to campus-wide 

implementation where appropriate. Finally, 

we must assess the impact of our efforts with 

the same tenacity and rigor as we would any 

other compartment of our institutions, but 

ensure that no assessment is complete without 

the centering of the student voice. 

In the years to come, we will be called to 

account for the energetic motivation to 

join book groups and issue public service 

statements in the wake of a chaotic Spring of 

2020. When that time comes, it is my hope 

that we have more to show than book club 

membership. It is my hope that the allyship 

and fervor exhibited during the days of Black 

Lives Matter marches led to a transformation 

of our role and responsibilities as education 

practitioners. It is my hope that after 

statements were issued, there was then critical 

self-reflection that turned into leveraging our 

privilege to create a different type of education 

experience. An experience that turned us from 

mere purveyors of the information ubiquity, 

into humanistic cultivators of emerging 

adults, primed to shape their own, and the 

nation’s equitable futures. 

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LITERATURE CITED

Augustine, J. C. and J. K. Pierre. 2015. The 

substance of things hoped for: Faith, social 

action and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 

1965. Cumberland Law Review 46: 425.
Brown, A. L. and K. D. Brown. 2010. Strange 

fruit indeed: Interrogating contemporary text-

book representations of racial violence toward 

African Americans. Teachers College Record 

112: 31-67.
Dave, D. M., A. I. Friedson, K. Matsuzawa, 

J. J. Sabia, and S. Safford. 2020. Black Lives 

Matter protests, social distancing, and CO-

VID-19  (No. w27408). National Bureau of 

Economic Research.
Durakoğlu, A. P. D. A. 2013. Paulo Freire’s 

perception of dialogue based education. Inter-

national Journal on New Trends in Education 

and Their Implications 4: 102-107.
Hartley III, H. V. and E. E. Godin. 2010. A 

study of chief academic officers of indepen-

dent colleges and universities: Who are they? 

Where do they come from? What are they 

doing? Where do they want to go? Coun-

cil of Independent Colleges.  https://eric.

ed.gov/?id=ED510962

Hooks, B., 1994.  Teaching to transgress

Routledge.
Kezar, A. 2012. Bottom-up/top-down lead-

ership: Contradiction or hidden phenom-

enon.  The Journal of Higher Education  83: 

725-760.
Moje, E. B. 1996. “I teach students, not sub-

jects”: Teacher-student relationships as con-

texts for secondary literacy. Reading Research 

Quarterly 31: 172-195.
Rovai, A. P. 2002. Development of an instru-

ment to measure classroom community. The 

Internet and Higher Education 5: 197-211.
Walton, G. M. and G. L. Cohen. 2011. A brief 

social-belonging intervention improves aca-

demic and health outcomes of minority stu-

dents. Science 331: 1447-1451.

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ABSTRACT

William Francis Ganong (1864–1941) 

was the first Professor of Botany at Smith 

College (1894–1932), a founding member 

of the Society for Plant Morphology and 

Physiology and a driver in the unification of 

the three American botanical societies that 

became the Botanical Society of America. 

He was the second President of the unified 

Society. He had a strong publication record 

in morphology, ecology, and physiology 

but was most well known as a botanical 

education reformer who promoted learning 

about the whole plant by integrating 

anatomy, physiology, morphology, and 

ecology. He is best known for the first of his 

several books, The Teaching Botanist. Ganong 

promoted, and implemented, many of the 

“modern” pedagogies we encourage today, 

from “flippling” the classroom to inquiry-

based instruction that teaches science the 

way science is done.  While the Royal Society 

of Canada eulogized him as “one of Canada’s 

greatest scholars,” his reputation in the BSA 

had nearly faded even before his death. A 

goal of this paper is to begin to remedy that 

situation.

The Teaching Botanist:  

William F. Ganong and the  

Botanical Society of America

By Marshall D. Sundberg 

Roe R. Cross Distinguished  

Professor of Biology 

Department of Biological 

Sciences 

Emporia State University, 

Emporia, KS

I

 first learned about William Ganong as an 

undergraduate when I constructed and used a 

“modified Ganong Respirometer” in my plant 

physiology course. Later, as a graduate student, 

my major professor, Ernst Abbe, presented me 

with his copy of Ganong’s Textbook of Botany 

for Colleges and shortly thereafter I purchased 

The Teaching Botanist at a used bookstore. 

But over the years I pretty much lost track of 

him. Even when the Teaching Section decided 

to create a BSA award for teaching in 1988, we 

named it not after Ganong, but rather after his 

contemporary Charles E. Bessey (Sundberg, 

2016). I didn’t even think of Ganong again 

until a few years ago when he turned out to 

have a significant role in botanical education 

in the decades around the founding of the BSA 

(Sundberg, 2014). It’s time to take another look 

at the career of this Canadian polymath who 

happened to be a co-founder of our Society.  

THE EARLY YEARS:  

DEVELOPING A  

BOTANICAL REPUTATION

William Francis Ganong (1864–1941) became 

the first Professor of Botany and Director of 

the Botanic Garden at Smith College (1894–

1932). A charter member and driving force 

in the Society for Plant Morphology and 

Physiology, he helped coordinate its union 

with the American Mycological Society and 

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the Botanical Society of America in 1906 to 

form today’s Botanical Society of America 

(BSA) and was elected the 15th (2nd post-

merger) BSA President (Figure 1). 

Born on 19 February 1864, in Carleton, New 

Brunswick, Ganong remained a dedicated 

son of the province throughout his life. 

He began collecting and recording natural 

history specimens as a schoolboy. As an 

undergraduate at King’s College (now the 

University of New Brunswick), his mentor, 

George Frederic Matthew (who studied with 

both Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz at Harvard) 

stimulated Ganong’s interest in botany and 

geology. He graduated with a B.A. in Natural 

Science, with Honours, in 1884 and continued 

on for an A.M. (Master of Arts) in 1886 

(Figure 2). In between, he published his first 

biological paper on the invertebrate animals 

of Passamaquoddy Bay (Ganong, 1885). He 

established a remarkably persistent personal 

calendar during his undergraduate years, 

which alternated a nine-month focus on 

academics with three summer months of field 

work in New Brunswick (Figure 3). With the 

exception of a summer in Germany working 

on his dissertation, this pattern continued 

until his retirement when, free of teaching, he 

could concentrate year-round on the history, 

natural history, and physiography of his home 

province. “Almost every year of his adult 

life, Ganong spent months exploring New 

Brunswick, alone or with a companion, ‘on 

foot, by canoe, wagon, bicycle, and finally by 

car and carravan’” (Rees, 2016, p. 95).

Upon completing his Master’s study, Ganong 

followed the advice of his mentor and enrolled 

at Harvard where he received a second A.B., 

Summa cum laude, in 1887. Ganong, awarded 

the Morgan Fellowship, was hired by the 

Botany Department as Assistant Instructor 

of Botany. Promoted in 1889, he served two 

years as Instructor of Botany, specializing 

in plant physiology under the direction of 

Charles V. Goodale (Quinquennial Catalog, 

1895; Rees, 2016). In 1893 he travelled to 

Figure 1. William Francis Ganong, Professor 

of Botany, Smith College.

Figure 2. Graduation photo from King’s 

College, 1884.

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the University of Munich where he studied 

under Karl Ritter von Goebel. In less than two 

years he researched, defended, and published 

a thesis (in German) on the morphology of 

cacti: Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Morphologie 

und Biologie der Cacteen (Ganong, 1894).  

Goebel established a major botanical garden 

for his research institute in Munich and 

had recently published the two-volume 

Pflanzenbiologische Schilderungen (1889, 

1891), which included a major section on Cacti 

in volume 1, just prior to Ganong’s arrival in 

Munich. With materials close at hand and a 

major professor interested in development 

of adaptive plant structure, Ganong fell into 

a perfect circumstance. It is noteworthy that 

three years later, Goebel published his opus, 

Organographie der Pflanzen, in which he cites 

Ganong’s contribution to cacti (volume 2, p. 

452). Eager to return home, Ganong accepted 

a position as the first Professor of Botany 

and Director of the Botanic Garden at Smith 

College, Northampton, MA, where he spent 

his entire professional career.  One appeal 

was that Massachusetts is conveniently close 

to New Brunswick. Later, when asked about 

what part of his German experience he most 

enjoyed, he replied, “The part from New York 

back to Northampton” (Rees, 2016, p. 23). He 

never returned to Europe and rarely travelled 

in the U.S. except to meetings. There was 

always more to discover in New Brunswick.

During his first year at Smith, Ganong 

taught eight botany courses: General Botany, 

Microscopical Anatomy, Anatomy and 

Morphology of Cryptogams, Advanced 

Natural History of Cryptogams, Advanced 

Natural History of Phanerogams, Lectures 

Figure 3. Ganong at Holmes Lake, 1901 (photo is basis for commemorative statue erected in 

St. Stephen, New Brunswick, in 2017).

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upon the Physiology and Biology of Plants, 

Laboratory upon the Physiology and Biology 

of Plants, and Special Problems in Morphology 

or Biology of Phanerogams or Cryptogams 

Leading to Original Investigation. Six years 

later, the curriculum consisted of General 

Botany, Morphology and Ecology of the 

Groups, Classification, Cellular Anatomy and 

Embryology, Horticulture, and Physiology 

and Investigation (Smith Botanic Garden, 2020).

Ganong now began to expand his already 

extensive publication list on invertebrates in 

the Bulletins of the Natural History Society of 

New Brunswick with papers on the province’s 

flora.  With his dissertation published in 

Flora, he expanded his cactus research from 

comparative aspects of morphology and 

anatomy of major cactus groups, which 

allowed him to speculate on their evolutionary 

relationships, to the role of environment in 

driving xeromorphic adaptation (Ganong, 

1895a, b). An obvious gap in the literature 

concerned embryo and seedling development, 

which he filled with a series of papers on 

polyembryony and a pioneering paper in 

Annals of Botany—the first comparative 

study of the cactus seedling development 

that allowed him to conclude that adaptive 

changes in the size and form of the embryos 

Figure 4.  Tree based on embryology and seedling development published in Annals of Botany, 1898.

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are preceded by changes in the adult plant, 

not the other way around (Ganong, 1898a, 

b, 1899a).  Based on this study, he revised his 

evolutionary tree of the Cactaceae (Figure 4). 

The critical role of ontogeny in formulating 

evolutionary relationships was one of the 

“cardinal principles” in Ganong’s view of 

morphology (Ganong, 1901a).

His work on the cacti made him keenly aware 

of the role of environment on plant growth, 

what he called “Phytobiology” (presumably 

based on Goebel’s “Pflanzenbiologie”) but 

others were calling Oecology or Ecology 

(Ganong, 1895c), so he now began to expand 

on his earlier work in New Brunswick 

(Ganong, 1891). This resulted in two major 

papers in the Transactions of the Royal Society 

of Canada on raised peat bogs (Ganong, 

1897a, 1898c), a four-part series of papers in 

the Botanical Gazette on the “Vegetation of the 

Bay of Fundy Salt Marshes,” (Ganong, 1903a-d), 

and a study of the Grande Plaine of Miscou 

Island (Ganong, 1906). Rodgers (1944) states 

that the salt marsh studies are “ranking 

among the first great ecological studies made 

in North America.” For Ganong, it was critical 

that the ecological relationships observed 

in nature were based on the physiological 

and anatomical adaptations that evolve over 

time (Ganong, 1904). These studies were 

contemporary with those of his friend Henry 

Chandler Cowles on the southern shore of 

Lake Michigan.  

THE SOCIETY OF PLANT 

MORPHOLOGY AND  

PHYSIOLOGY

Beginnings

Participation in professional societies 

provided Ganong a mechanism for continuing 

professional development. A natural target 

for his initial interest was the Society of 

Naturalists of the Eastern United States, which 

was organized in 1883. An interdisciplinary 

organization of botanists, geologists, 

physiologists, and zoologists, among other 

scientific disciplines, it provided a perfect fit 

for Ganong’s interests.  It is unclear when he 

joined the Society, but at the 1895 meeting 

in Philadelphia he was elected secretary of 

a committee of five, which also included C. 

E. Bessey and L. H. Bailey, to investigate the 

formation of a botanical section or society 

to meet annually with the Naturalists. Both 

Bessey and Bailey were already charter 

members of the newly formed Botanical 

Society of America, which held its first 

meeting four months earlier in Springfield, 

MA, in association with American Association 

for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

The early history of the original BSA is well 

documented by Tippo (1958) and Smocovitis 

(2006).  

Tippo (1958) suggested that there was some 

degree of antipathy toward the new BSA on 

the part of many Eastern botanists, including 

Ganong.  Among their concerns was a 

preference for winter meetings over summer 

meetings, the relatively high dues of BSA, their 

preference for meeting with the American 

Society of Naturalists vs. the AAAS, and 

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most importantly, the elitism of BSA, which 

admitted “only American botanists engaged 

in research, who have published work of 

recognized merit” (Minutes, BSA, 1893, p. 

1). Membership was by invitation.  Many of 

the Eastern botanists felt that membership in 

a botanical society should be open to anyone 

who was interested in joining. The following 

year the Naturalists met in Boston. Ganong, 

William Farlow, Emily Gregory (who authored 

the first U.S. Plant Anatomy textbook the 

previous year) (Gregory, 1895), and six other 

botanists met in the Harvard Cryptogamic 

laboratory at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 

1896 to discuss a response to a circular Ganong 

sent out earlier that year about forming a new 

plant-oriented society (Table 1). Although 

only a few respondents expressed active 

interest, the group concluded that two or three 

more members would be sufficient and thus 

The Committee organized at Cambridge, Dec. 30, 1896

W. G. Farlow 

Harvard University

Emily Gregory 

Barnard College

H. M. Richards 

Barnard College

W. P. Wilson 

Philadelphia Museums

B. L. Robinson 

Harvard University

J. M. Greenman 

Harvard University

J. M. MacFarlane 

University of Pennsylvania

T. Thaxter 

Harvard University

W. F. Ganong 

Smith College

Added to the Committee, February, 1897

G. L. Goodale 

Harvard University

W. C. Sturgis 

Connecticut Expt. Station

L. H. Bailey 

Cornell University

Clara E. Cummings 

Wellesley College

J. E. Humphrey 

Johns Hopkins

G. F. Atkinson 

Cornell University

D. P. Penhallow 

McGill University

B. T. Galloway 

U. S. Dept. Agriculture

E. A. Burt 

Middlebury College

G. E. Stone 

Massachusetts Agr. College

E. F. Smith 

U. S. Dept. Agriculture

Elected at First Meeting, Ithaca (Sage College) Dec. 29, 1897

V. M. Spalding 

University of Michigan

D. G. Fairchild 

U.S. Dept. Agriculture

H. C. Porter 

University of Pennsylvania

H. J. Webber 

U.S. Dept Agriculture

R. A. Harper 

University of Wisconsin

Harriet L. Merrow 

Rhode Island Agr. College

W. T. Swingle 

U.S. Dept. Agriculture

A. F. Woods 

U.S. Dept. Agriculture

Theo. Holm 

“withdrawn”

W. W. Rowlee 

Cornell University

A. J. Pieters 

U. S. Dept. Agriculture

J. W. Harshberger 

University of Pennsylvania

G. H. Hicks 

U.S. Dept Agriculture

Table 1. Charter and first-elected Members, Society for Plant Morphology and Physiology. 

(women in bold)

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they should proceed to organize a botanical 

organization that would meet annually with 

the American Society of Naturalists.  They 

agreed to invite “other botanists known to 

sympathize,” primarily from the Eastern 

states, and focus on forming not a general 

group or one focused on taxonomy, but 

rather one targeting plant morphology and 

physiology “and it’s dependent (applied) 

subjects.”  Ganong, serving as secretary of the 

group, played a vital role in establishing the 

new society.  Twelve days after the meeting he 

sent the organizers summary minutes and a 

request for additional nominees (Society for 

Plant Morphology and Physiology [SPMP], 

p. 59). Ten days after that, “in the absence 

of definite instructions,” he preemptively 

nominated 11 other botanists to join the 

fledgling organization. This was sent as a 

ballot to the organizers for their approval 

(SPMP, p. 67).  Within two weeks a majority 

of the organizers agreed and Ganong posted 

a 3rd Circular, a formal invitation to the 

original 9 organizers and the 11 nominees, 

summarizing the December meeting and 

formally inviting each to present at the 

December, 1897, Naturalists meeting. While 

there, they would formally organize the 

new society (SPMP, p. 72). In April, Ganong 

sent out a 4th Circular verifying that all 20 

“members” indicated interest in participating 

and encouraging them to be “personally 

responsible for the success of the meeting” 

(Table 1).  It is noteworthy that two of the 

“select” 20 were women; Emily Gregory was 

among the original 9 members and Ganong 

invited Clara E. Cummings, a cryptogamic 

specialist, among the 11 he nominated (SPMP, 

p. 74). (By comparison, Elizabeth Britton was 

the lone female charter member [of 25] of the 

original BSA.) 

At the end of October, Ganong sent a 

reminder (Circular 5) that began with a sad 

notification that two original organizers had 

died, Dr. Gregory in April and Dr. Humphrey. 

Ganong then described the recent successful 

meeting of the BSA as evidence “of the widely 

and rapidly spreading activity in the pursuit 

of all departments of the science…with such 

a growing interest in morphological and 

physiological investigation, a winter meeting 

devoted especially to those subjects should be 

abundantly successful.” He reminded members 

of their obligation to actively participate in 

the upcoming meeting and encouraged them 

to recruit additional interested botanists to 

attend and participate. Finally, he included a 

questionnaire to be returned: Do you expect 

to present?  Do you expect to read your paper?  

Do you approve of inviting others? If so, whom 

do you suggest be invited (SPMP, p. 80)?

In early December, Circular 6 informed the 

committee members that 14 papers “were 

promised” for the upcoming meeting “with 

some others reported as probable.” Ganong also 

suggested that as the papers were scheduled 

to be presented early Tuesday morning, the 

group should meet at 8 p.m. Monday night 

to discuss “important subjects of scientific 

and geographical scope, name, constitution, 

conditions of membership, etc.” Attached was 

a survey to indicate acceptance for an earlier 

organization meeting and the full titles of 

papers for inclusion in the meeting program 

(SPMP, p. 94). Ten days later Ganong sent out 

the program (Circular 7), which included 13 

papers by “members” and an additional 16 

by other invited botanists. Among the latter 

were four women: a high school teacher, Dr. 

Martha Bunting of Philadelphia High School; 

Dr. Adeline Schively of Philadelphia Normal 

School; University of Pennsylvania grad 

student Caroline Thompson, who became 

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professor of Botany at Wellesley; and recent 

graduate, Dr. Lucy Wilson who also took a 

position at the Philadelphia Normal School. 

Also presenting were five U.S. Department of 

Agriculture scientists including plant explorer 

David Fairchild, who presented two papers 

(SPMP, p. 97; Anon., 1913, 1916). It was 

agreed that the members would meet Monday 

evening at 8:45 p.m. in Dr. Atkinson’s office to 

discuss “the most important and critical steps 

in the history of the organization”  (SPMP, pp. 

97-100).

Ganong called the meeting to order and D. P. 

Penhallow moved to form a Society for Plant 

Morphology and Physiology; the motion 

carried.  There would be no geographic 

restriction on membership, but meetings 

would be held north of Washington DC and 

no further west than Buffalo.  There would 

be no annual dues; fees would be assessed 

to meet “necessary expenses.”  Two standing 

committees, Admissions and Program, were 

appointed with Ganong chairing the latter as 

Secretary/Treasurer of the Society. Candidates 

for membership should be nominated by 

two members and show “ability in original 

research.” A total of 16 rules for operating the 

society were adopted (SPMP, Records No. 1). 

Thirteen new members were elected (Table 1) 

(SPMP, pp. 1-3, Records No. 1; Smith, 1898). 

The first meeting exceeded expectations with 

22 papers presented. Abstracts of the papers, 

and brief histories of the organization, were 

reprinted in both The American Naturalist 

and Botanical Gazette as well as the records of 

the Society (Ganong, 1898d, e; Smith, 1898; 

SPMP, Records 1).  

We know much about the creation of the 

Society for Plant Morphology and Physiology 

because of the detailed organizational skills 

and meticulous notes that characterize 

Ganong’s work.  Rees (2016, p. 66) says, 

“He described himself as a pre-Raphaelite: a 

precise, small-details man, a pointillist not a 

brush-waving Romantic.” His handwritten 

notes, copied correspondence, detailed 

summaries, and copies of programs and 

annual records as Secretary/Treasurer fill 

a ledger documenting the 9-year existence 

of the Society, from 1897 to 1906, that is 

comparable in size, and considerably more 

detailed, than the corresponding volume that 

documents the first 32 years of the BSA from 

1894 to 1926.

Major Initiatives

Membership and participation in the Society 

grew every year and a variety of amendments 

were made to the rules. An interesting 1898 

resolution was “that this Society recognizes 

the metric system as the standard of 

measurement when employed in its working 

and members are requested to observe this 

rule in the preparation of papers” (SPMP, p. 

6). The following year, the Society initiated 

work on the first of two large initiatives.

Botanical Literature

In the last decade of the 19th century, the 

Botanical Gazette (published by the University 

of Chicago) was the primary journal for 

publishing—not only primary research, but 

also brief reviews of published or presented 

American research. This paralleled some 

major European journals, but there was little 

overlap across the Atlantic, which diminished 

exposure of American work. At the 1899 New 

Haven meeting of SPNP, President Farlow, in 

his outgoing address, noted the “increasing 

need and demand for prompt, synoptical, 

descriptive reviews of new botanical papers 

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and books…” (SPMP, Botanical Literature, 

p. 1). The Society decided to approach the 

Botanisches Centralblatt to see if better 

reviews could be obtained, and Professors 

Farlow, MacDougal, and von Schrenk 

were appointed to investigate this matter. 

MacDougal, who was Secretary of the Section 

G (Botany) of AAAS, invited them to the June 

AAAS meeting at the New York Botanical 

Garden to discuss an approach, but as we will 

see later, the SPMP chose not to meet with 

AAAS. Although not a committee member, 

as Secretary of the Society, Ganong took the 

lead, and on January 19, 1900 he addressed 

a letter to Dr. Oscar Uhlworm, Editor-in-

Chief of Botanisches Centralblatt, in which 

he summarized the request of the group. The 

committee realized that such reviews were 

already contained, in part, in the Centralblatt

but that many were relegated to the Beihesste

which required a separate subscription. They 

suggested that American botanists would 

strongly support collecting all of the timely and 

descriptive reviews of new botanical works in 

the Centralblatt (Ganong, 1900). At the end of 

April, Uhlworm replied to Ganong. Perhaps 

he misunderstood some of the Americans’ 

concerns, but one of his concessions would 

allow two or three American editors onto the 

editorial board. Yet, the main concern went 

unaddressed. In October, Ganong replied on 

behalf of the Committee that: (1) it would not 

be possible for the Americans to subsidize 

the change to the Centralblatt, (2) simply 

increasing the size of each volume would not 

be a solution, (3) if some material shifted to 

another journal, one should not be required 

to separately subscribe to both, and (4) the 

idea of adding American botanists to the 

editorial board “would contribute greatly to 

make the Centralblatt acceptable to American 

Botanists.” Uhlworm ultimately agreed, 

but ownership of the journal changed as it 

became the organ of the new International 

Association of Botanists.   Seven American 

editors, coordinated by William Trelease, 

were appointed to the board (Anonymous, 

1902; Bessey, 1901; SPMP, 1900–1902). This 

initiative was considered by many to be the 

primary accomplishment of the Society for 

Plant Morphology and Physiology as it added 

to the prestige of all American botanists 

(Rodgers, 1944, p. 220).

College Entrance Exam

As a new faculty member, Ganong was not 

invited to be a part of the “Committee of 

Ten” charged by the National Education 

Council (NEA) in 1894 to devise a common 

botany curriculum for schools. The botany 

recommendations closely follow Bessey’s 

Textbook of Botany (Bessey, 1896; Sundberg, 

2012; Table 2). But five years later Ganong 

had the opportunity to react. The NEA called 

for another report to specify college entrance 

requirements for botany. Committee members 

were drawn from the regional accrediting 

agencies, AAAS, and NEA. Both Ganong, 

representing the New England region, and 

Bessey, representing AAAS, served on the 

botany section. Much of the report paralleled 

the earlier work except now, thanks largely to 

Ganong, ecology and physiology composed 

about half of the botany course. The traditional 

recitation approach, focusing on memorizing 

morphological parts and using taxonomic 

keys to identify flowers, was “entirely 

inadequate.”  Ideally, instruction should focus 

on the laboratory and microscopic analysis of 

structure and development. The committee 

considered the compound microscope to be 

useful and necessary to demonstrate many 

important structures.  However, Ganong 

suggested, “The compound microscope is a 

difficult piece of apparatus for a young student 

to use intelligently…demanding considerable 

training…and longer periods than are 

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given in secondary schools.”  Alternatively, 

observational study should focus on plants as 

living things in the context of their ecology 

and physiology. These should make up the first 

half-year of the course. The second half-year 

should focus on comparative morphology and 

the evolution of plant groups. “In connection 

with both of these courses your committee 

would call special attention to the great 

importance of drawing as a means of securing 

definite observation.” Furthermore, Botany 

should be offered either in the junior or senior 

year (Table 2). At the end of the report Bessey 

authored a page of comments dissenting 

from the majority view on several points. Not 

surprisingly, given his focus on the microscope 

in laboratory instruction (see Sundberg, 2012, 

p. 115), he noted examples of successful use of 

microscopes in some “fourth, fifth, and sixth 

grades of certain public schools in Nebraska” 

(NEA, 1899, p. 175). He also objected to the 

focus on ecology because it was so new to 

botany that no teachers will have been suitably 

trained to teach it. Similarly, he thought that 

the emphasis on the processes of physiology 

would be a challenge for teachers to go beyond 

“any but the loosest way by secondary pupils.” 

He also thought too much had been cut from 

a survey of the plant kingdom to make room 

for these more advanced topics.   

Partially in response to the formation of new 

college governing boards for the Northeastern 

and Middle States and Maryland, and perhaps 

also in response to this dissent by Bessey, the 

following year Ganong presented a paper, 

“Suggestions for an attempt to secure a 

standard college entrance option in botany,” 

at the annual meeting of SPMP at Johns 

Hopkins.  In response to his paper, the Society 

appointed a committee of Ganong (chair), 

F. E. Lloyd, and George Atkinson to prepare 

such a document on behalf of the Society. 

They successfully argued that education in a 

scientific specialty “should be a chief care of 

any scientific society” (Ganong, et al., 1908, p. 

594). The committee completed a preliminary 

draft in April of the following year, followed 

by two revisions based on recommendations 

received from the membership (

Table 2)

.  The 

committee presented a third revision at the 

1902 meeting in New York. Ganong and Lloyd 

were appointed to a permanent committee 

charged to make the report “as useful, 

educationally as possible and to keep it in 

touch with changing educational conditions” 

(Ganong and Lloyd, 1902, p. 2). This report 

was accepted by the College Entrance 

Examination Board and served for several 

years as the basis for college admission to 

botany programs. This committee carried over 

through the merger with the Botanical Society 

of America to become the Committee on 

Education of the BSA with the fourth and final 

report published in 1908 as publication No. 35 

of the BSA and in The School Review (Ganong, 

1908).  Furthermore, as part of the vote for 

authorization, the BSA recommended: “That 

all members of this society who are connected 

with universities or colleges be requested to 

bring before their respective faculties the fact 

that examinations are now being held every 

June …in a year’s thorough course in botany…

and that it is desirable…that it be widely, or 

indeed universally, accepted by colleges as an 

option for entrance” (Ganong, 1908, p. 595).  

Not surprisingly, the recommended course 

follows very closely the outline provided in 

Part II of The Teaching Botanist (Ganong, 

1899b; Table 2).

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Merging the Societies: the 

Botanical Society of  

America

The final activity of SPMP was to participate 

in a mutually agreeable union of the three 

American botanical societies to establish 

the current BSA. As usual, Ganong played a 

major role.  In 1899, the SPMP met at Yale 

where D. T. MacDougal, newly elected to 

the Society but also Secretary of the botany 

section of AAAS, extended an invitation to the 

members to attend the next AAAS meeting, 

which would be held in New York in June 

of the following year. As mentioned earlier, 

MacDougal’s purpose was to allow BSA to 

also engage in the Botanisches Centralblatt 

negotiations. Rather than meet jointly with 

the BSA at AAAS, the SPMP chose to stay with 

the Naturalists who met at Johns Hopkins in 

December. The following year, when SPMP 

met at Columbia University, MacDougal 

initiated a discussion on “the most profitable 

relation of the American botanical societies to 

one another” (SPMP, p. 28). After all, at least 

seven of the 60 members of SPMP in 1901 

also belonged to the BSA: George Atkinson, 

Liberty Hyde Bailey, John Coulter, William 

Farlow, Byron Halstead, Conway MacMillan, 

and William Wilson. In 1902 the BSA also 

began to discuss the advantages of unifying the 

botanical societies.  The following year saw the 

formation of the third botanical society, the 

Mycological Society of America, and an SPMP 

Committee on Relations with other botanical 

societies, which included President George T. 

Moore, Ganong, and Past-President Duncan 

S. Johnson. Discussions favored a union, in 

principle, but only under certain conditions. 

First, all members must share an equal voice 

in the affairs of the combined society (there 

should be full members only, no associate 

members). Second, all sections should have an 

equal voice in nominating officers, preferably 

by some form of proportional representation. 

Third, membership of sections should be 

controlled by the sections. Fourth, fees should 

be kept down to an amount necessary to cover 

cost of administration, and there should be 

no separate admission fee. Finally, if a plan 

Author

Ecology

Physiology

General 

Morphology

Gross 

Morphology

Special 

Morphology

NEA (1894) Not 

Mentioned

Not 

Mentioned

Very 

Important

Not 

Mentioned

Not 

Mentioned

NEA (1899) Very 

Important

Important

Important

Important

Somewhat 

Important

SPMP (1901) Important

Important

Important

Important

Not 

Mentioned

Bessey (1896) Somewhat 

Important

Somewhat 

Important

Very 

Important

Important

Somewhat 

Important

Ganong 

(1899b) 

Important

Important

Important

Important

Not 

Mentioned

Abbreviated from the table in Trafton, 1902.

Table 2.  Comparison of botanical topics covered in Guidelines and Textbooks.

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for union was agreed upon by the respective 

committees, it should be printed and sent to 

the SPMP membership as soon as possible to 

allow ample opportunity for consideration 

before the next meeting (SPMP, p. 42). At 

the same time, two BSA Past Presidents, 

Bessey and Lucien Underwood, and President 

Charles R. Barnes served as the BSA 

Unification Committee. Rodgers (1944) has 

some interesting quotes that present a BSA 

perspective toward union of the societies:  

• Underwood to Bessey (p. 222): “…Altho 

[sic] this society was really organized as 

a sort of protest against our own… I do 

not see that we have anything to gain by 

any formal union with them and very 

much to lose if we modify in any way 

either the matter of our elections or our 

fees system….[organization of the my-

cological society] doubtless will have the 

effect to reduce the interest in the Soc. Pl. 

Morph. And Phys. Since several of the 

leading spirits of that organization are 

mycologists...I do not think it will affect 

us one iota…”

• Barnes to Bessey (pp. 222-223): “I believe 

it should be the policy of the B.S.A. to 

make itself the dominant force so far as 

organized botanical activity is concerned, 

and I believe it can only do this by unit-

ing all…”

• Bessey to Underwood (p. 223): “Let us 

not discourage them [other botanical so-

cieties], while on the other hand perhaps 

we need not give a boisterous encourage-

ment…In this way we may have for a 

time a ‘struggle for existence’ resulting in 

the ‘survival of the fittest….”

• Underwood to Bessey (p. 224): “They 

[SPMP] have certain members…that I 

could not honestly vote for and I believe 

they have quite a number what would not 

poll a majority of the votes of the Botani-

cal Society…”

In December, 1904, all three societies 

met jointly in Philadelphia with the three 

committees on unification negotiating and 

reporting back to their respective societies. 

The main order of the SPMP business meeting 

was to accept the principles recommended by 

the committees of conference for union and to 

authorize a new committee charged to bring 

the union into effect. The SPMP committee 

consisted of Past-President G. T. Moore, 

President E. C. Jeffrey, and Ganong.  

It was also announced that SPMP was 

invited to send a delegate to the International 

Congress of Botany at Vienna in June, 1905; 

the membership selected former President 

Farlow to represent the Society. Farlow did 

not attend, nor did a representative of the 

other two societies.  Although 16 American 

botanists attended as independent delegates, 

“American societies were sadly negligent, and 

many were unrepresented which might have 

delegated authority to some of the sixteen” 

(Barnes, 1905). Barnes observed that the 

display of materials for botanical instruction 

was “particularly noteworthy,” especially with 

apparatus for plant physiology experiments.  

“The equipment puts to shame all of our high 

schools and nine-tenths of our colleges” (p. 71).  

The final meeting of SPMP was held at the 

University of Michigan in December, 1905.  

Twelve papers were presented, including 

“On the erroneous physiology of elementary 

botanical text-books” by Ganong. The report 

of the Committee on Union of the Botanical 

Societies was adopted as presented. There 

would, after all, be two grades of membership 

with  one  fifth  of  the  members  of  SPMP 

(and the Mycologists) now being relegated 

to  associate  membership  of  the  unified 

society (all members of BSA retained full 

membership). Selection of associates from 

SPMP was simple: if your name began with D 

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or later and were elected in 1902, and all new 

members elected in 1903, 1904, and 1905, 

would become associate members (SPMP, 

Record #9, p. 3).  There was no election of 

officers;  current  officers  would  continue 

until union was affected the following year. 

Ganong signed off on the Society’s approval 

on 28 December and forwarded his report to 

the BSA (Minutes, p. 93).  

The  13th  annual  meeting  of  BSA,  and  first 

of the united BSA, was held at Columbia 

University on Dec. 27-31, 1906. The logistics 

of combining the Societies filled the first day. 

Ganong presented and was the signatory for 

the SPMP membership and financial records 

and was appointed to the auditing committee 

of the new BSA. He moved that the records of 

both SPMP and the Mycologists be deported 

to the library of the Missouri Botanical 

Garden for preservation “after having served 

the immediate purpose of the Secretary and 

Treasurer of the BSA” (Minutes, pp. 101-

104). He also moved that the SPMP Standing 

Committee on College Entrance Options in 

Botany be continued and offer a final report 

the following year. George Atkinson, one of 

two scientists with membership in all three 

merging societies, was elected 14th president 

of the BSA (and first of the unified BSA) in 

1906. Ganong was elected 15th BSA President 

in 1907.  (Margaret Ferguson, one of the six 

female botanists who transitioned from the 

SPMP in 1906, became the 36

th

 [and first 

female] BSA President in 1929.)  Interestingly, 

MacDougal, who was now President of Section 

G (Botany) of AAAS, was not listed at all on 

the combined BSA membership (Minutes, pp. 

96-101, Table 3).

In his address as retiring president of the BSA, 

Ganong reflected on the state of botanical 

education in America in 1910; it is uncannily 

prescient for today (Ganong, 1910a). He began 

by enumerating several widely recognized 

problems. First, that science tends to be 

difficult for most people because it depends 

on “reasoning, not feeling.” Second, students 

are not only generally unprepared for college, 

but specifically unprepared for the sciences. 

In the schools, responsibility for learning has 

been shifted from the student to the teacher 

and students bring that attitude with them to 

college. Third, science, as a laboratory-based 

discipline, had only a single generation to 

develop and propagate an effective educational 

strategy. Finally, an inquiry approach to 

Table 3. Membership in uniting Societies at time of union.

Botanical 

Society of 

America (B)

Society for Plant 

Morphology and 

Physiology (S)

American 

Mycological Society 

(M)

Total

Full

32

34 (5 women)

23

89

Associate

13

14

3

30

Total

45

48

26

119

Multiple

B & S

B & M

S & M

B, M & S

Total

11

8

3 (1 woman)

2

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teaching “is distasteful to the great majority 

[of students] … who prefer to absorb their 

knowledge from printed books upon which 

they can lean for authority” (p. 323).  

He then went on to enumerate some of the 

problems that scientists have bring upon 

themselves in regard to teaching science, the 

most important of which is that “we are not 

faithful to the genius of our subject” (p. 324). 

“In a word, the first great need of our science 

teaching is to make it scientific” (p. 325). 

The current mantra is that we should teach 

science as we do science (Handelsman et al., 

2004; Hanauer et al., 2006). Directly related 

is the generalization of introductory courses 

that “cover” the breadth of the discipline, 

an inch deep. Textbooks were, and continue 

to be, part of the problem. Much better is to 

concentrate on the basic ideas and go into 

enough depth to cultivate understanding. 

A second impediment to effective teaching, 

Ganong suggested, is to focus solely on the 

subject while ignoring the students. Success 

in teaching is directly proportional to one’s 

ability to communicate with others. Thus 

attitude and diplomacy are important: “gloving 

the iron hand of the scientific method by the 

soft velvet of gentle human intercourse” (p. 

325). Providing some context of the history 

and personalities of scientific discovery are 

also useful tools to engage students. Another 

problem, particularly in the laboratory, is 

putting too much trust in the technologies 

and not enough in the individuals. What’s 

important is not the equipment, but how 

you use it and how you interpret the results. 

Finally, the method of training teachers is 

wrong. Science professors at colleges and 

universities are good at cloning themselves to 

provide researchers for the future, but they are 

totally unprepared to teach future teachers, at 

any level. For his own part, he acknowledged 

a philosophical change:  

“It took me many long years to free 

myself from the feeling that I must 

continue research or else sacrifice the 

good opinion of my colleagues.  But I 

am free, and in the two or three years 

I have been so the added keenness 

of my pleasure …I propose to try 

to convince the society that its rules 

ought to be altered as to make teaching, 

of approved merit and service, a 

sufficient qualification for membership.  

Meanwhile, I advise all of my colleagues 

engaged in collegiate work to join in my 

declaration of independence.  Let us 

show the universities that teaching hath 

her victories no less than research” (p. 329).

Indeed, Ganong experienced a revelation that 

significantly shifted his goals and expectations.  

He continued his BSA roles on the Auditing 

Committee and Committee on Education for 

two more years and twice he was selected a 

Councilor (at-large member of the Council).  

In 1914 he served on the committee to 

nominate the first Editorial Board of the 

Society’s new journal, the American Journal of 

Botany, but he never again presented at a BSA 

meeting and only rarely published botanical 

(teaching) articles—notably dealing with 

plant physiology.  Instead, he focused on his 

teaching and his students at Smith.  

The Teaching Botanist

Graeme Wynn (2017) calls William Ganong 

a “prodigious polymath.”  Beyond all else, 

however, Ganong was “The Teaching 

Botanist.”  His philosophy of teaching stressed 

that instruction should be based on first-hand 

study of living plants, in the field or in the 

laboratory.  Furthermore, when the student 

is studying botany, the teachers' primary 

concern should be studying the student 

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and how best to facilitate learning.  One 

could easily argue that while writing about 

teaching botany for the 20th century, he was 

actually anticipating teaching botany in the 

21st century.  The Teaching Botanist, which 

went through two editions, is the teacher’s 

manual for how educate students about plants 

(Ganong, 1899b, 1910b).

His first precept is that college teaching 

should be carried out as an investigation, or at 

least in that spirit.  “The revival in students of 

the spirit of inductive inquiry, a spirit which 

they naturally possess, but which is usually 

crushed out of them by the school course, is 

the first and greatest task of any teacher of a 

Science” (Ganong, 1899b, p. 17).  Thus, for 

any topic, laboratory work should precede 

the lecture and the textbook should be used 

only as supplementary reading.  Especially in 

introductory courses, students bring a wide 

variety of preparation and the teacher’s task is 

to determine what each student is best fitted 

for, and then to set out to help the student 

reach that point.  Most students will not major 

in botany, but all will find some use for it in 

their lives and their instruction will need to 

be thorough and “in considerable amount.”  

Those few who intend to go on should be 

challenged to a level beyond their expectation.  

While he acknowledged the differences 

in opinion as to the content that should be 

covered in the introductory course, particularly 

compared with Bessey and others, his primary 

learning outcomes had nothing to do with 

content.  (1) Exact observation; start with 

the familiar, but focus on active seeing, not 

passive looking, and sketch what is observed.  

(2) Critical comparison and generalization. 

(3) Faith in causality: “anatomy and 

morphology should from the first be viewed 

in the light of the factors determining them …

physiology and ecology.” “The cultivation of 

testing the connection of causes and effects 

by experiment is a most important part of 

botanical training” (p. 26). (4) Evaluating 

evidence and forming conclusions, whether 

supported or not. (5) Promoting terse, logical, 

and complete expression of the results, using 

appropriate botanical terminology.  (6) 

Intellectual honesty and forming a habit of 

objectivity; eliminate anthropomorphisms 

and promote intellectual independence. 

 

Botanical content should focus on: (1) the 

position of plants in nature, (2) the structure 

of plants and how they live, (3) adaptations 

of plants to their environment, and (4) the 

nature of irritability and plants’ response to 

their environment.

The heart of the book is Chapter 3, “On things 

essential to good botanical teaching.” “The 

true teacher of Botany, as of any other subject, 

is born, not made.  But a chief birthmark is 

a determination for incessant improvement” 

(p. 46).  The path to teaching begins with a 

college career dedicated to providing a depth 

of understanding of the major fields.  Beyond 

college, this should extend to summer schools 

and workshops to stay current in the field.  

A program of self-study and some kind of 

original investigation hones the skills to be 

taught.  This could also include what today 

we call the scholarship of teaching and 

learning: “investigation into better and more 

economical ways of utilizing the science in 

education… and this line of investigation is 

as legitimate, as difficult, and as important for 

the advancement of botanical science as is the 

elucidation of vegetative parts, chromosome 

numbers, or transpiration currents” (p. 50).   

In terms of teaching temperament, one should 

be sympathetic, but an uncompromising and 

yet genial critic of students’ accomplishment.  

“He was kindness itself to his students but he 

never once told us anything we could find out 

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for ourselves” (Brixter, 1942). He notes that 

the tendency in education had been to shift 

responsibility for learning from the student 

to the teacher, but that “this is a very wrong 

attitude; the responsibility for learning should 

be kept upon the student” (p. 53).  

The laboratory is the primary focus of 

investigation and ideally should have no more 

than 16 to 20 students (the ideal is 10) over at 

least a 2-hour period, preferably twice a week. 

The amount of work should be adjusted to 

“rather above the average student.” The best 

students may complete the work in the allotted 

time and be held to a high standard, but make-

up work should be completed outside of class. 

The laboratory should always be accessible to 

students.  Considerable freedom of movement 

and conversation must be allowed “during the 

laboratory and students must be expected 

to clean up after themselves.”  Whenever 

possible, answer questions with questions to 

promote the thinking process—from known 

to unknown.  

Many of the laboratory manuals available in 

Ganong’s time (as well as our own) were very 

precise in their instructions to students and 

designed to reinforce known expectations 

(Cookbook labs). Ganong’s philosophy 

allowed students to make mistakes and to 

analyze their results based on trust in their 

data. “The good teacher, too, will not be above 

employing many little tricks and devices to 

arouse interest, keep attention, and encourage 

application” (p. 62). Because of time and 

equipment constraints, many physiological 

experiments must be set up as demonstrations, 

but each student should observe and record 

her own results and deduce conclusions as if 

the experiment was her own. Lectures, which 

occur after the lab work on a topic, are valuable 

for reinforcing what was learned (the reverse 

of the traditional relationship between lecture 

and laboratory and a model of what we now 

call a “flipped classroom”).  “They do not like 

the process at first, but their satisfaction in the 

obvious worth of the results, and especially 

their pleasure in the exercise of a power 

they did not know they possessed, makes 

them in time like the process itself” (p. 68). 

Table 4.  Student publications.

Student

Year

Citation

Topic

Sophie Eckerson

1905

Bot. Gaz. 40: 302–305

Spectra of chlorophyll 

solutions

Sophie Eckerson

1908

Bot. Gaz. 45: 50–54

Root pressure

Grace Clapp

1908

Bot. Gaz. 45: 254–267

Transpiration

Grace Bushee

1908

Bot. Gaz. 46: 50–53

Protoplasmic streaming

Sophie Eckerson

1908

Bot. Gaz. 46: 221–224

Stomatal distribution

Sophie Eckerson

1909

Bot. Gaz. 48: 224–228

Starch production in leaves

Julia Paton

1922

Am. J. Bot. 8: 471–501

Pollen enzymes

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Figure 5. William Ganong, c. 1910, with botany honors class in the experimental house at Smith 

College. Next to Ganong is likely Helen Ashhurst Choat, Assistant in Botany. The students—

Elizabeth Green, Mabel Bray, Louise Elder, and Elizabeth Johnson (all class of 1913)—are shown 

gathering data from Auxograph devices, designed by Ganong to automatically measure and plot 

shoot growth. (Photo by Katherine McClennan, with permission of Smith College Archives.) 

Finally, one should teach by example.  “It is 

an inspiration to students to see their teacher 

himself a student always striving to learn and 

advance” (p. 65). One proof of his method is 

that several of Ganong’s students published 

their own undergraduate research done under 

his direction 

(Table 4).

  

As mentioned above, Ganong thought it was 

important for students to record observations 

in their notebooks, thus he included a chapter 

on scientific drawing and descriptions. His 

advice is as salient today as it was 100 years 

ago. To sketch requires careful observation 

first, before outlining, in light pencil, the 

general patterns observed. Later, once 

proportions are correct, details can be added, 

either to the original sketch or as an enlarged 

insert to highlight the detail. The scale should 

always be indicated, preferably in metric, and 

neat labels arranged so that straight-edge lines 

can connect labels to the appropriate parts. 

Diagrammatic accuracy should be stressed, 

which makes it easy for the instructor to 

evaluate what the student has seen. Ganong 

also included chapters on the design of 

laboratories and their equipment, botanical 

collections, and books for teaching. Critical 

to the teaching laboratory was the greenhouse 

and garden plantings (Ganong, 1897b, 1910c). 

The experiment house of the greenhouse 

range was directly connected to the laboratory 

classroom and was used extensively by 

upper division students for plant physiology 

experiments 

(Figure 5).

 Ganong designed 

a variety of physiology apparatus for the 

classroom. Most of these appear in his Plant 

Physiology textbooks (Ganong, 1901b, 1908) 

and the catalog of apparatus manufactured to 

his design and available from Bausch & Lomb 

Optical Co (Ganong, 1914)

 

(Figures 6, 7). 

The collections chapter includes suggestions 

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Figure 7.  Diagram of Ganong’s transpirograph ($75) with transpiration balance ($80).

B

A

Figure 6.  (A) Bausch & Lomb 1914 Catalog of 

Ganong Plant Physiology apparatus. 

(B) Ad from 1938 Science advertising Ganong 

Respirometer.

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Figure 8. Sampling of Ganong’s texts.

for living collections, charts, and models, 

and collecting and preparing both preserved 

and herbarium specimens. The nearly 100 

recommended books range from classic 

German and British texts to American floras 

and contemporary textbooks.  Also included 

are all of Darwin’s botanical books and 

Wallace’s Malay Archipelago.

The final chapter of part I is “On some common 

errors prejudicial to good botanical teaching.”  

In Gager’s review of the second edition, he 

says, “The writer believes that there is no error 

more widespread or more erroneous than that 

knowledge of a subject, alone and of itself, 

confers teaching power or is the sole need in 

the preparation of a teacher. ‘The Teaching 

Botanist’ is a protest against this point of view, 

and a positive, constructive contribution 

toward the solution of the problem of more 

effective botanical teaching” (Gager, 1910).  

Part II of the book, “An outline for a synthetic 

elementary course in the science of botany,” is 

an application of Ganong’s philosophy to the 

topical outline of content he espoused in the 

beginning with the NEA guidelines of 1899 

through the BSA guidelines for the college 

entrance course of 1908.

The philosophy and general organization 

found in The Teaching Botanist is mirrored in 

each of Ganong’s other texts but the target is 

now students, not their teachers

 

(Figure 8)

“I was once such a learner, and I have tried 

to write such a book as I would then have 

delighted to read” (Ganong, 1913, p. v).  His 

goal is always to emphasize the big ideas and 

go into depth to explain the interpretation 

or principles involved. Whenever possible, 

these principles are put into the context of 

humans’ relationship to plants. These were 

not typical texts.  The writing was a narrative, 

not a sequence of numbered concepts to be 

memorized for recitation. The convention 

for botany texts, introduced by Almira Hart 

Lincoln Phelps around 1830, numbered 

sequentially each of the concepts introduced 

in a textbook (Sundberg, 2012). Bessey and 

others still used this format into the late 1910s.  

Ganong was an early deviant. Ganong’s order 

of content coverage also differed significantly 

from Bessey. Bessey (1905) used the still 

familiar bottom-up approach beginning with 

the structure of cells, tissues, tissue systems, and 

organs before considering the structure and 

function of whole plants. Ganong began with a 

discussion of the scope and value of botanical 

study and the distinctive characteristics of 

plants followed by an integrated treatment of 

the structure and function of the distinctive 

plant organs: leaves, stems, roots, flowers, 

fruits, and seeds and their relation to the 

environment.  Both treated plant classification 

in part 2 of their text; Bessey concentrating 

on morphology and Ganong integrating 

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ecology and physiology with the morphology. 

Whereas Bessey concludes with the taxonomy 

of flowering plants, Ganong provides a chapter 

on the ecological classification of plants.    

By 1917 the Smith Botany Department 

expanded to seven faculty members serving 

about 200 students majoring in some aspect of 

botany. Most students followed the technical 

track in preparation for teaching or laboratory 

work. Required courses included Systematic 

and Economic Botany, Morphology, and 

Physiology with electives of Ecology and 

History of Botany.  Those in the Gardening 

track took Horticulture and Landscape 

Gardening and either Systematic Botany 

or Ecology. The Economic track required 

Bacteriology and Plant Pathology with 

electives of Systematic and Economic Botany 

or Physiology.  A research problems course 

could be taken in Physiology, Morphology, 

or Ecology. The enlarged greenhouse range 

now included experimental houses for both 

Plant Physiology and Horticulture and the 

Department shared a new Biology Building 

with the Zoology Department. “In all we 

try to remember that while good facilities 

are fine tools for skilled workmen, the ideal 

of education is still Mark Hopkins and the 

log.  If the spirit of Mark Hopkins be present 

I suppose it does not matter if the log be 

polished oak” (Ganong, 1917). After 38 years 

of service, Ganong retired from Smith in 

1932.  A tribute in the Alumnae Quarterly 

noted, “They [former students] remember 

the delight of his buoyancy and enthusiasm 

in lecture-room and laboratory, his whimsical 

humor, his eagerness in bringing to their 

immature minds the inspiration of the attitude 

of research” (Seelye, 1932).

The year prior to retiring, Ganong confided in 

a letter to a Canadian colleague that although 

he had not lost interest in teaching, he thought 

he was losing touch with his students and a 

“great gulf” had opened between them. While 

he remained idealistic with his head in the 

clouds, they had their feet planted firmly on 

the ground and focused on a career (Rees, p. 

197).  Free of teaching, “But Oh! The luxury 

of not having to go at any fixed time to 

classes!  The cartography goes on, however, 

I can always drop anything and turn to that 

with joy” (Rees, p. 198). He could now pursue 

BOX 1   

Some of Ganung’s  

Honors and Awards 

•  1893: Corresponding Member,  

Royal Society of Canada

•  1898: Honorary PhD,  

University of New Brunswick

•  1900: Fellow, American  

Association for the  

Advancement of Science

•  1909: Fifteenth (2nd unified) Presi-

dent, Botanical Society of America

•  1920: Honorary LL.D.,  

University of New Brunswick

•  1931: J. B. Tyrell Historical Medal,  

Royal Society of Canada

•  1940: Charles Reid Barnes Life Mem-

bership, American Society of Plant 

Physiologists

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the mountains of data from summers in New 

Brunswick and supplement with additional 

field work, new research, and publishing.  But 

that was another life.

Throughout the years he received several 

honors and awards, and in 1940, the 

year before he died, he received another 

(Box 1). The American Society of Plant 

Physiologists held their 17th annual meeting 

in Philadelphia and at the annual dinner, 

on 30 December 1940, awarded Ganong the 

Charles Reid Barnes life membership award. 

“Dr. Ganong was an excellent teacher, a very 

exacting and careful laboratory technician, 

inventor of many devices for physiological 

experiments, and a writer of textbooks and 

manuals which exerted a profound influence 

upon the teaching of plant physiology.” 

Furthermore, they dedicated Volume 16 (1) of 

Plant Physiology to Ganong “in celebration of 

the seventy-seventh anniversary of his birth 

(ASPB, 1941).  Although in poor health and 

suffering from Parkinson’s, he returned, as 

usual, to New Brunswick that summer.  He 

died on 7 September 1941. Upon his death he 

was eulogized in the Transactions of the Royal 

Society as one of Canada’s “greatest scholars” 

(Webster, 1942a, b) and in Science (Smith 

and Choate, 1941).  The BSA published no 

obituary and the council minutes state simply, 

“The secretary reported on the deceased, 

resigned, and dropped members of the society 

for 1941” (Minutes, 1941, p. 41). 

Conclusion

William Francis Ganong was a driving force 

during the early years of professional botany 

in the United States. He produced pivotal 

studies in plant morphology and systematics, 

plant ecology, and plant physiology and was 

the first to integrate these sub-disciplines in 

teaching botany. He was the first American 

botanist, if not the first scientist, to advocate 

using a scientific approach to teaching science. 

And all of this was his vocational occupation, 

that gave way every summer, and during his 

“retirement,” to pathbreaking achievements 

in a variety of other disciplines in which he 

demonstrated recognized expertise. Why 

do more botanists not recognize his name?  

Why does the BSA have a Charles E. Bessey 

teaching award and not a William F. Ganong 

teaching award?  Perhaps botanists were 

offended by his Presidential Address (Ganong, 

1910a) where he challenged the Society “to 

make teaching, of approved merit and service, 

a sufficient qualification for membership” (p. 

329). Perhaps it was because he admitted in the 

same paragraph that after many years he was 

finally “…able to free myself from the feeling 

that I must continue research or else sacrifice 

the good opinion of my colleagues.”  While 

researching a previous paper, I thought it 

peculiar that the BSA sponsored a symposium 

on Botanical Teaching at the 1911 meeting 

in Minneapolis and Ganong was not one of 

the presenters. Bessey spoke on preparing 

botanical teachers, Otis Caldwell focused on 

botany in the high schools, and Frederick 

Clements addressed the methods of botanical 

teaching. These presentations were followed 

by a discussion session let by John Coulter 

and Frederick Newcombe. The themes chosen 

were all from Ganong’s Presidential Address 

two years earlier (Sundberg, 2014). Did 

Ganong choose not to go or did the organizers 

choose not to invite him?

To answer the question “Why this grudging 

recognition?”, Ganong’s biographer suggests 

the following.  

"Ganong’s misfortune was to straddle 

two countries and several fields of re-

search, which he was careful to keep 

separate…His life was so thoroughly 

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compartmentalized that fellow workers 

in one compartment could not see into 

the next”. (Rees, 2016, p. ix)  

Upon Ganong’s death, the chief of the map 

division of the U.S. Library of Congress 

commented: 

“Few geographers interested in cartog-

raphy know that Ganong was eminent 

as a botanist and that his principal work 

was in that field. Conversely, I suppose 

many botanists do not know of his work 

in cartography and other allied geo-

graphical subject…his series of mono-

graphs on crucial maps in the early 

cartography and place nomenclature of 

the Atlantic coast of Canada constitutes 

one of the most important contribution 

in this field ever published in America” 

(Martin, 1942).  

Rees and Martin are correct. But one might also 

argue that Ganong simply stopped publishing 

and shifted gears to teaching. Botanical 

publishing, yes, but publishing scholarship? 

Definitely not. Ganong’s CV would list more 

than 600 published items (

Box 2)

. More likely 

is that he was working at a predominantly 

undergraduate college and was not producing 

PhDs to promote his school of thought. For 

instance, among Cowles students were Victor 

Shelford, William Cooper, and Paul Sears, 

and among Bessey’s were Fredrick Clements, 

Conway MacMillan, and Per Axel Rydberg—

all of whom were prominent male scientists 

in their own right. Ganong’s students were 

mostly undergraduates and all female. With 

this legacy, and at that time period, I suppose 

it is not too surprising that the BSA lost track 

of William Francis Ganong. I hope that now 

you will agree with me that he was indeed “the 

teaching botanist”!

LITERATURE CITED

American Society of Plant Biologists. 1941. Wil-

liam Francis Ganong, Plant Physiology 16(1): 

Plate 1 and dedication, 215-216.

Anonymous. 1902.  The International Centralblatt 

for botany. Science 15: 196-197.

Anonymous. 1913.  News and Notes. Science 37: 

948.

Anonymous. 1916.  Geographical Record.  The 

Geographical Review 1: 225.

Barnes, C. R. 1905.  The Vienna Congress. Bo-

tanical Gazette 40: 68-73.

Bessey, C. E. 1896.  The Essentials of Botany.  

New York, Henry Holt and Company.

Bessey, C. E. 1901. Reviews of current botanical 

literature.  Science 13: 298-301.

Bessey, C. E.  1905.  Botany for High Schools 

and Colleges, Seventh Edition.  New York.  Henry 

Hold and Company. 

 

BOX 2

 

Ganong’s Publications  

(more than 600 total  

published items) 

•  Bulletins of the Natural History  

Society of New Brunswick:  

138 articles

•  Botanical and other scientific writ-

ings: 64

•  Botanical education: 33
•  Historical Monographs: 14
•  Historical Geographical  

Document: 49

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Brixter, J. S. 1942. P. 16. In: J.C. Webster, Wil-

liam Francis Ganung Memorial.  Saint John, New 

Brunswick.  New Brunswick Museum. 

Gager, C. S.  1910.  Review of The Teaching Bot-

anist, Second edition, by William F. Ganong.  Tor-

reya 10: 208-210.

Ganong, W. F. 1885.  On the zoology of the inver-

tebrate animals of Passamaquoddy Bay.  Bulletin 

of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick 

4: 87–97. 

Ganong, W. F. 1891.  On Raised Peat Bots in New 

Brunswick.  Botanical Gazette 16: 123-126.

Ganong, W. F. 1894.  Beiträge zur Kenntniss 

der Morphologie und Biologie der Cacteen 

 

 

 

Flora 40: 1-40.  https://hdl.handel.net/2027/

hvd.32044107241259 [accessed 19 July 2020.  

(see also Canadiana.org [archives.org]). 

Ganong, W. F. 1895a, b.  Present problems in the 

anatomy, morphology and biology of the Cacta-

ceae.  Botanical Gazette 20: 129-138, 213-221.

Ganong, W. F. 1895c. The Term Phytobiology. 

Botanical Gazette 20: 38.

Ganong, W. F. 1897a.  Upon raised peat bogs in 

the Province of New Brunswick.  Transactions of 

the Royal Society of Canada. Section IV, number 

vi: 131-163. 

Ganong, W. F. 1897b. The Botanic Garden of 

Smith College. A study of an educational adapta-

tion. Garden and Forest December: 512-514.

Ganong, W. F. 1898a.  On Polyembryony and its 

morphology in Opuntia vulgaris.  Botanical Ga-

zette 25: 221–227.

Ganong, William F.  1898b.  Contributions to a 

knowledge of the morphology of cactaceae.  The 

comparative morphology of the embryo and seed-

lings. Annals of Botany 12:423-474.

Ganong, W. F. 1898c.  Upon raised peat bogs in 

the Province of New Brunswick. Transactions of 

the Royal Society of Canada. III, iv, 131-163.

Ganong, W. F.  1898d.  Society for Plant Mor-

phology and Physiology.  Botanical Gazette 25: 

106-118.

Ganong, W. F. 1898e. News. (History of the 

founding of the Society for Plant Morphology and 

Physiology).  Botanical Gazette 25: 143-144.

Ganong, W. F. 1899a. On polyembryoney and its 

morphology in Opuntia vulgarisRhodora 1: 127.

Ganong, W. F. 1899b. The Teaching Botanist

New York, The Macmillan Company.  

Ganong, W. F. 1900.  10 January and 5 October 

letters to Dr. Oscar Urlworm, Editor-in-Chief, 

Botanisches Centralblatt. In: Society for Plant 

Morphology and Physiology, Minutes and Re-

cords.

Ganong, W. F. 1901a. The Cardinal principles of 

morphology. Botanical Gazette 31: 426–434.

Ganong, W. F. 1901b.  A laboratory course in 

plant physiology. New York, Henry Holt and Co.

Ganong, W. F. 1903a, b, c, d.  The vegetation of 

the Bay of Fundy Salt Marshes – an Ecological 

Study.  Botanical Gazette 36: 161-186, 280-302, 

349-367, 429-455.

Ganong, W. F. 1904.  The cardinal principles of 

ecology. Science 19: 493-498.

Ganong, W. F. 1906. The nacent forest of the Mis-

cou Beach Plain. Botanical Gazette 42: 81-106.

Ganong, W. F. 1908.  A laboratory course in plant 

physiology, second edition, extended to form a 

handbook of experimentation for educational use.  

New York, Henry Holt and Company.  

Ganong, W. F.  1910a.  Some reflections upon bo-

tanical education in America.  Science 31: 321–

334.

Ganong, W. F.  1910b. The Teaching Botanist, 

New and Revised Edition.  New York, The Mac-

millan Company.

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Ganong, W. F. 1910c.  The place of botanical gar-

dens in collegiate instruction. Science 31: 644-

648. 

Ganong, W. F.  1913. The Living Plant.  New 

York, Henry Holt and Company.  

Ganong, W. F.  1914.  Ganong Botanical Appara-

tus for use in Plant Physiology A.  General Cata-

log (second edition).  Rochester, N.Y. Bausch & 

Lomb Optical Co.

Ganong, W. F. 1917.  The botanical equipment of 

Smith College: a study in educational adaptation.  

Smith Alumnae Quarterly 8: 183-191. 

Ganong, W. F. and F. E. Lloyd. 1902. Third Re-

port of a Committee Appointed by The Society for 

Plant Morphology and Physiology to consider the 

Formulation of a Standard College Entrance Op-

tion in Botany.  School Science May: 1-8.  

Ganong, W. F., F. E. Lloyd, and H.C. Cowles. 

1908.  Fourth report on the college entrance 

course in botany. School Review 16: 594-600.

Goebel, K. E. von. 1889, 1891. Pflanzenbiolo-

gische Schilderungen 1, 2.  Marburg, N.G. Elw-

ertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung.  Website: https://

www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/16695#page/9/

mode/1up [accessed 24 September 2020].

Goebel, K. E. von. 1898, 1901.  Organographie 

der  Pflanzen,  insbesondere  der  Archegoniaten 

und  Samenfllanzen.  1,  2.  Jena.  Gustav Fisher. 

Website: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/

item/84403#page/5/mode/1up [accessed 24 Sep-

tember 2020].

Gregory, Emily L. 1895.  Elements of Plant Anat-

omy.  Boston, Ginn & Company.

Hanauer, D. I., D. Jacobs-Sera, M. L. Pedulla, S. 

G. Cresawn, R. W. Hendrix, and G. F. Hatfull. 

2006.  Teaching Scientific Inquiry. Science 314: 

1880-1881.

Handelsman, J., D. Ebert-May, R. Beichner, P. 

Bruns, A. Chang, R. DeHaan, J. Gentile, et al. 

2004.  Scientific Teaching. Science 304: 521-522.

Martin, L. 1942. Page 11 In: J.C. Webster, Wil-

liam Francis Ganong Memorial. St. John, New 

Brunswick, New Brunswick Museum.

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Rodgers, A. D. 1944.  John Merle Coulter: Mis-

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Seelye, A. B. 1932.  Professor Ganong.  The Smith 

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Smith,  E.  F.  1898.   The  first  annual  meeting  of 

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231

  SCIENCE EDUCATION

 

By Dr. Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

Dr. Jodi Creasap Gee, 

Education Technology  

Coordinator

The Botanical Society of America is 

extremely excited to announce that we have 

recently received a 5-year, $3.9M grant 

from the National Science Foundation! The 

NSF Discovery Research K-12 program 

(DRK-12) will fund the new project, titled 

“Comparing the Efficacy of Collaborative 

Professional Development Formats for 

Improving Student Outcomes of a Student-

Teacher-Scientist Partnership Program: 

PlantingScience F2”(Grant #2010556). We 

will be working closely with BSCS Science 

Learning, education researchers from the 

University of Colorado: Colorado Springs, 

BSA Awarded $3.9m Grant for 

PlantingScience

Grant will continue developing teacher/

scientist collaborative professional 

development and researching 

Plantingscience.org’s effectiveness

and PlantingScience partnering organizations 

to carry out the grant. We refer to the newest 

grant as “PlantingScience F2” as a reference 

to the second filial generation concept in 

genetics: the new project represents the 

recombination of ideas from two previous 

funding rounds.  The F2 project builds on 

previous research on PlantingScience, which 

showed improvements in student achievement 

and attitudes toward scientists.

PlantingScience.org

BSA developed the PlantingScience online   

mentoring program in 2005 as a low-barrier 

way for scientists to get involved in K–12 

education. Partnerships and mentoring 

support from 18 other scientific societies 

have enriched the program over the 

past 15 years. In  2011, the  program  won 

a Science SPORE prize as a valuable online 

resource.  One of the unique features of 

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PlantingScience is its availability to all 

students in the classroom rather than just 

to those who are high-achieving or able to 

participate in extracurricular programs. 

Each of 10 available PlantingScience themes 

takes small teams of students through 

guided investigations that prepare them for 

culminating, independent investigations 

of their own choosing. Each student team 

works with a volunteer scientist mentor who 

motivates and helps them develop research 

questions, design experiments, analyze data, 

and interpret results. One of the unique 

features of PlantingScience is its availability 

to all students in the classroom rather 

than just to those who are high-achieving 

or able to participate in extracurricular 

programs. Student teams communicate 

asynchronously with their mentors through 

the PlantingScience website, where they 

can discuss their research, upload photos 

and files, and ask for feedback. Students 

can also ask their mentor about what they 

do as a scientist. Over 30,000 students, 275 

teachers, and 1000 scientist mentors have 

participated in PlantingScience since 2005. 

Participating teachers come from 45 states 

and five countries, and mentors come from 

39 countries.

Digging Deeper (DIG)

The new F2 grant will include a replication of 

the research conducted as part of our previous 

NSF-DRK 12 grant, “PlantingScience Digging 

Deeper Together - A Model for Collaborative 

Teacher/Scientist Professional Development” 

(Grant #1502892, $2.9M, 2015-2021). We 

designed the DIG research as a cluster-

randomized, pre-test/post-test control group 

impact study to determine the effectiveness 

of PlantingScience’s Power of Sunlight 

photosynthesis and respiration module to 

improve students’ science achievement and 

attitudes about scientists. Sixty-four teachers 

and 1535 students participated in the research 

study. The students came from schools that are 

highly generalizable to the overall population 

of U.S. high schools according to available 

2012-2013 Common Core data. We randomly 

assigned teachers to either (1) participate in 

a week-long summer collaborative teacher/

scientist professional development and then 

participate in the PlantingScience online 

mentoring program with their students in 

the fall, or (2) teach photosynthesis and 

respiration topics as they usually would 

during the fall semester. We designed pre- and 

post-test questions to link science concepts 

and practices around photosynthesis and 

respiration. We gave both sets of teachers 

prior access to the assessment questions 

and learning goals. An additional pre- and 

post-test evaluated students’ attitudes about 

scientists. 

Our research’s core finding was that 

implementing the Power of Sunlight module 

combined with high-quality PD for teachers 

and scientists resulted in positive and 

statistically significant effects on student 

achievement and attitudes toward scientists 

(standardized mean effect size g = 0.284 and 

0.280, respectively). Future students of these 

teachers also benefited as 75% of participating 

teachers continue to use materials from the 

module, and evaluators reported significant 

gains in teachers’ preparedness to support 

student science learning generally. Early-

career scientists also benefited from the 

experience, making them more aware of best 

practices in instruction. As one interviewed 

PlantingScience scientist related, “...It made 

me realize that a lot more can go into a lecture 

than just PowerPoint... I want to give students 

experiences like those high school students 

are experiencing.” 

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The new project builds on 

PlantingScience and  

Digging Deeper

This newly funded research has the potential 

to add important data to the science education 

literature. First, it will serve as a replication 

study to substantiate and confirm the findings 

of the Digging Deeper research. These 

replication studies are rare but are increasingly 

recognized as important. A new component 

of the research will be the development and 

testing of an online collaborative teacher/

scientist professional development format so 

we can test the effectiveness of this approach 

compared with a face-to-face approach for 

professional development. The online format, 

if effective, should enable many more teachers 

to take part in a cost-effective way. When we 

recruit teachers to participate in this project, we 

will make sure to focus on teachers who serve 

rural and underserved areas. We want to reach 

students who do not have access to scientist 

mentors or who do not feel they can succeed 

in science. The new grant will also allow us 

to continue refining our PlantingScience 

web platform to make it easier to use and to 

implement new accessibility features. 

The BSA community's 

continued support will help 

make this project  

successful

Scientists who volunteer to serve as mentors 

for students are integral to the success of 

PlantingScience and this upcoming research 

study. We welcome scientists to sign up as 

mentors for PlantingScience, and we anticipate 

that this new project will require many new 

mentors. Stay tuned for a call for volunteer 

mentors as the grant moves forward. We will 

need your help and expertise to make this 

effort a success! 

We are incredibly grateful to the BSA 

community for the continued support of this 

unique and powerful program for bringing 

plant biology into middle and high school 

classrooms. Your volunteer mentoring efforts, 

the programmatic assistance you provide as 

part of the Master Plant Science Team, and 

your donations over the years have kept this 

program growing. We are proud of the success 

of PlantingScience and its value as a model for 

successfully leveraging scientists' passion and 

expertise in service to the next generation of 

scientists and informed citizens. 

THANKS TO  

PLANTINGSCIENCE’S  

EARLY-CAREER SCIENTIST 

SUPPORT TEAM

PlantingScience student teams need 

personalized attention and monitoring to 

ensure they get scientist feedback at key points 

in their investigations. To provide this level 

of support requires a strong and dedicated 

team. We are excited to welcome Dr. Gwynne 

Lim as our new PlantingScience intern for the 

fall 2020 session. Gwynne is also working as 

the Executive Secretary of the International 

Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. 

Before that, she earned her Ph.D. in Plant 

Biology at Cornell University in 2018, and her 

Masters and Bachelors of Science (Biological 

Sciences) at the National University of 

Singapore in 2010 and 2007, respectively. She 

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Learn more about the benefits and 

requirements of being on the MPST and 

consider joining next year’s MPST cohort 

of graduate students and postdocs:  https://

plantingscience.org/joinmpst. Applications 

will open at the end of this academic year.

THE TREE-MENDOUS  

BENEFITS OF TREES!  

NEW PLANTINGSCIENCE 

INVESTIGATION THEME

PlantingScience staff is pleased to introduce 

a new investigation theme created by 

PlantingScience mentor  Dr. Monica 

Lewandowski, with support from the American 

Phytopathological Society. Teachers and 

faculty can use the new “Tree-mendous 

Benefits of Trees” module as a stand-alone 

module if pressed for time in their curriculum 

or can use it to introduce or supplement one of 

our other investigation themes. In the module, 

students are encouraged to go outside—in 

their backyard, neighborhood green space, or 

on campus—and make detailed observations 

of the trees around them before investigating 

various ways to estimate the benefits those 

trees provide. The module is well suited for 

distance learning during the pandemic. More 

information on this new module is available 

at: https://plantingscience.org/benefitsoftrees.

has been talking peoples’ ears off about science, 

nature, and natural history as a volunteer or 

instructor for over 15 years. Interns help get 

the website set up for participating teachers, 

coordinate the Master Plant Science Team’s 

work, and help monitor and support hundreds 

of active student teams.

We’d also like to recognize the 2020-2021 

Master Plant Science Team (MPST) cohort. 

These graduate students and postdocs serve as 

mentors to teams of students and as liaisons 

for PlantingScience teachers. They help 

teachers find suitable mentor matches for their 

teams and step in to help keep all the student/

scientist and teacher/mentor conversations 

going strong. This fall BSA is supporting 16 

scientists on the MPST: Asawari Albal, Foong 

Chee, Chloe Drummond, Fiona Duong, Ana 

Flores, Sara Johnson, Jared Meek, Rebecca 

Panko, Lydia Paradiso, Chelsea Pretz, 

Klara Scharnagl, Tatyana Soto, Cameron 

Sweisthal, David Thomas, Lydia Tressel, and 

Bethany Zumwalde.

Members of the MPST make it easier for 

high-school teachers to teach more plant 

biology in the classroom, which is so essential 

to capturing student interest and increasing 

appreciation for plants. Please thank them for 

their service to the field!

Dr. Gwynne Lim interns with PlantingScience 

starting Fall 2020.

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RECORD ATTENDANCE 

FOR VIRTUAL 2020  

LIFE DISCOVERY:  

DOING SCIENCE  

CONFERENCE

The  Life Discovery: Doing Science   

Conference  is a stand-alone education 

conference for high-school teachers and 

undergraduate faculty cohosted by the 

Botanical Society of America, The Ecological 

Society of America, and the Society for the 

Study of Evolution. We recently held the 

sixth Life Discovery Conference with the 

theme  “Biology Education in an Evolving 

Landscape.” The virtual format made 

attendance easier and less expensive, and 

a record ~200 faculty and teachers were 

able to attend, about double the usual 

attendance. Highlights included daily 

keynotes: “Ecology Education goes 4D” 

(Dr. Ken Klemow), “Taking Steps Toward 

Multidimensional Learning with 4DEE” 

(Dr. Luanna Prevost), “Reclaiming the 

‘Intro’ in Introduction Biology” (Dr. Bryan 

Dewsbury), and a keynote panel on “Online 

Teaching and Learning - Undergraduate 

and High School” which featured “My very 

own Bioblitz” (Dr. Concepcion Rodriguez-

Fourquet), “The SIFT Virtual Experience: 

How being thrust into virtual learning was 

just the kick in the pants we needed!” (Andy 

Klingensmith), and “The Power of Place-based 

Ecology and Online Possibilities during Distance 

Learning” (Jordan Gonzales).

The Life Discovery Conference is a highly 

interactive conference, with many discussion 

opportunities around the conference themes. 

Despite moving to a virtual format, discussion 

and interaction were preserved through 

a program that included an Education 

Share Fair where participants could share 

work-in-progress, Panel Discussions and 

Breakouts, and small group Networking 

Topic discussions. Attendees enjoyed the 

practicality of the conference topics and 

the ease-of-access that the virtual format 

provided. One attendee wrote:  “I really 

appreciated this conference and the focus on 

practical applications of ideas. I’ve attended 

other similar events that were more focused 

on theories, analyzing effectiveness data, etc. 

(all of which are worthy pursuits, of course), 

but those experiences left me wondering, 

“How do I actually apply this?” I teach non-

majors classes at a community college and I 

was able to benefit by the presentations made 

by colleagues teaching at a variety of levels.”

The 7th Life Discovery: Doing Science 

Conference will be held next October in Estes 

Park, CO, from Sept 30-Oct 2, 2021. The theme 

is “Pushing Past Barriers: Ecological Science 

for All.” Please save the date and consider 

presenting. A call for proposals is open until 

December 27, 2020. Check out the conference 

website for more information: http://www.

esa.org/ldc.

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STUDENT SECTION

COVID-19 is continuing to shape botanical 

research moving forward, but it remains 

important, despite the barriers it may currently 

face. Recent publications highlight some of 

these changes; for example, Vandebroek et 

al. (2020) discussed the barriers COVID-19 

has placed on ethnobotanical research. 

Additionally, Weng (2020) highlighted 

that research involving plants is extremely 

important for treating infectious diseases, 

controlling future pandemics, and finding 

solutions to other crises (e.g., climate change).

This summer, we collected BSA members’ 

experiences with COVID-19. Since it remains 

persistent, we want to continue to share stories 

and advice from BSA members. Responses 

included messages of hope and moving 

forward, despite big changes to research 

plans and physical and mental well-being. In 

addition, there were stories sharing defeat. 

Shifting Gears: Fieldwork,  

Benchwork, and Greenhouse Studies 

during COVID-19

Everyone has been impacted differently from 

COVID-19, and returning to fieldwork/

benchwork/greenhouse work may be too 

risky for some. 

We know that this is a hard time for students, 

even more so for those starting or finishing 

degrees. If you are currently in transition, try 

to stay connected with your previous mentors 

and lab mates. Connect with other BSA 

students via the new BSA Slack. Find out more 

ways to interact with BSA at: https://tinyurl.

com/y82ff94b. Also check out the Botany2020 

Virtual Networking Board at: https://tinyurl.

com/yau5uqgb.

FIELDWORK 

Elena Loke

 

“This  spring I was going to be doing  lab 

work and in the summer  I  had planned 

to do fieldwork in Hawaii. My lab work 

has been shifted to this fall and winter, 

and to take the place of the fieldwork I 

included more phylogenetic analyses. When 

COVID-19 began, I had not started lab 

work or fieldwork, so my plans were not 

interrupted, only modified. However, the 

focus of my research has changed from being 

By Shelly Gaynor and Imeña Valdes 

BSA Student Representatives

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more about conservation, which would have 

involved the fieldwork, to more about testing 

newer analytical methods with the increased 

number of phylogenetic analyses. Despite 

these changes, I expect to graduate within the 

normal 2-year MS timeframe. Fortunately, 

I am still able to use all the funds from the 

grants I was awarded this winter/spring 

because I didn’t budget for any travel.  During 

these times, it has been very important for me 

to be flexible and adaptable and to maintain 

open, honest communication with advisors 

and peers. Every day I remind myself of the 

things for which I am grateful and that I am 

learning new things, even if they are not what 

I expected to be learning before COVID-19.” 

Diego Paredes-Burneo 

 

Louisiana State University

“I had a trip to Peru for this past September, 

but it got cancelled. Since it was a collaboration 

with the New York Botanical Garden, it gets 

more complicated (especially in the future) 

due to this institution’s budget administration. 

I am currently doing lab work, but I am doing 

everything (beginning with DNA extractions) 

from scratch: no one could guide me. Because 

of this, my learning process has become longer 

than planned."

 

Bryan MacNeill 

 

University of Alabama

“I was going to start my field work in Mexico 

this last summer with a single collaborator 

from National Autonomous University of 

Mexico (UNAM).  I had to cancel my field 

work completely because of travel restrictions. 

However, I’ve been able to get in contact with 

multiple herbarium curators and professors 

at institutions across Mexico to get specimen 

samples for my molecular work. Never be 

afraid to “cold email” someone to ask for 

help—you would be surprised how willing 

people are to help! Now I have cultivated 

collaborative relationships with professors 

and curators from across Mexico, and look 

forward to meeting with them when I 

eventually get to go!”

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“When COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were 

put in place, I had just returned home from 

a conference in Georgia. I was in the stage of 

preparing models for field validation during 

my field season from June to August. We put  

off the decision to cancel the field season as 

long as possible, but lodging was continually 

difficult to find, work permissions were 

challenging to get, and long-distance travel 

and coordinating safe logistics was consistently 

risky throughout the summer. Fortunately, 

this was the second year of data for my MS 

project, and essentially extra data; however, 

it was disappointing to miss out on a year of 

fieldwork, data collection, and experiences. 

Fortunately, I have been able to adapt my 

project and formulate a plan for wrapping up 

my thesis work mostly uninterrupted.  Also, 

we were fortunate to have our grant extended 

for continued and ongoing work. I am grateful 

for the extra time it has given me to focus 

on restructuring my thesis goals, work on a 

manuscript, and begin writing earlier than 

I had anticipated, as well as the time to take 

care of myself during these stressful times.”

BENCHWORK AND  

GREENHOUSE

Allison Miller

“We developed separate standard operating 

procedures, schedules, and maps to space 

people out in the lab. In the field, we put 

together detailed standard operating 

procedures for each individual field site. 

The Plant Growth Facility at my institution 

constructed detailed schedules, spacing plans, 

and protocols for safe greenhouse work. The 

result has been that we have fewer people 

working at any one time, the hours people are 

working have moved to earlier and later in the 

day to accommodate the most work at lower 

densities, people are spaced out in different 

areas of the lab/field, and everyone is wearing 

masks at all times.” 

Bethany Zumwalde

  

University of Florida

“Although my research was stunted by the 

pandemic, I was able to adapt my work and 

set reasonable goals to move forward. When 

COVID-19 began, I had just started to collect 

data for my project. When stay-at-home 

Sara Johnson

  

University of Illinois:  

Urbana-Champaign

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mandates were implemented, I utilized that 

time to work on writing grants and papers. 

Access to campus became heavily restricted 

and I had to quickly improvise by transforming 

my small apartment into a greenhouse and lab. 

My porch became jam-packed with cacti sent 

from collaborators, and I was able to purchase 

a cheap phase contrast microscope to set up in 

my living room for chromosome counts and 

epidermal peels. Fieldwork was the trickiest 

part to navigate during the pandemic. I had 

originally planned to recruit an undergraduate 

student to assist me with fieldwork in Texas, 

but this was simply not an option at that time 

since most students had moved home to 

quarantine. Luckily, a good friend and fellow 

researcher volunteered to help me in the field. 

We prioritized collecting at remote roadsides 

and limited our interactions in public spaces. 

Ultimately, my research was able to progress 

with resourceful solutions, maintaining 

reasonable expectations, and a huge amount 

of help from others!”

Sarita Muñoz-Gómez 

 

University of Antioquia

“By the time the pandemic started in Colombia, 

I was in my last semester. Since we are required 

to do an undergrad dissertation before we 

graduate, I was just finishing my lab work 

and starting my bioinformatics work, plus 

writing. I was lucky because I could continue 

with my work mostly from home. Sadly, we 

did have to leave a few experiments out of my 

dissertation, since for the first few months of 

lockdown, entry to the lab was completely 

restricted. Of course, all our lab meetings had 

to be online, which made work a bit harder. 

Only one person was permitted into the lab at 

least for the first months, so he had to make 

sure everything was still working. Since we 

have plants in our lab, they all had to be taken 

to our PI’s home to be taken care of, but our 

aquatic plant (Aponogeton madagascariensis) 

could not be transferred. I think my biggest 

tip is to keep communicating with your lab 

mates and to try to make the most of your time 

at home by writing, reading, or learning new 

skills. I also found a great science community 

on Twitter during quarantine, so I would 

suggest you join!” 

MUSEUMS

Anonymous

“Before COVID-19 I was starting to 

conduct lab work on the plant fossils. Due to 

COVID-19, I cannot conduct the collection 

visits I had planned to do at the Field Museum 

in Chicago and European Collections. I also 

planned using SEM to study my specimens 

at the Field Museum, which is no longer 

possible. Regarding collection visits, that part 

of my project is no longer possible, and I have 

decided to remove that aspect of my project. 

Instead of conducting SEM, I am attempting 

to take close up photographs on my own or 

pay to have my specimens scanned at different 

institutions.”

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MENTAL HEALTH AND 

MOVING FORWARD

Tracey Simmons

“I graduated in December [2019], right 

before the pandemic. This put me in a 

difficult position. Because I’ve graduated, 

my affiliation with the lab at my undergrad 

institution is different. I would like to continue 

on to a graduate degree, but the pandemic has 

impacted my mental health in such a way that 

I do not feel I could be successful before a 

vaccine is available. I have tried to apply for 

jobs, but strict protocols in my area mean 

there are almost none available. I’m essentially 

unable to do anything, despite wanting very 

much to be working or doing research.”

Unfortunately, this is only one example of how 

COVID-19 is negatively affecting students. 

It should be noted that COVID-19 affects 

different marginalized groups in a myriad of 

ways and to be conscious that your experience 

during this pandemic is not universal. We 

thank those who have openly shared their 

struggles with us and on social media and 

shed light that we are not alone in this. 

It is essential to destigmatize mental health in 

academia, to create an inclusive environment, 

and support those in our community 

struggling with mental health. Depression 

and anxiety are about two to six times more 

likely in graduate students compared to the 

general population (Levecque et al., 2017; 

Evans et al., 2018). The pandemic has most 

likely increased the prevalence of mental 

health issues among students; as noted above, 

it has already greatly impacted career and 

research trajectories. Specifically, mental 

health disorders were found to have doubled 

among graduate and professional students in 

2020 compared to 2019 (see Chirikov et al., 

2020). If you are currently struggling with 

mental health, know that you are not alone. 

We do recommend reaching out for help:

• Mental Health America, resources for 

finding the right mental health care for 

you: https://www.mhanational.org/find-

ing-right-mental-health-care-you

• ULifeline - mental health resources by 

university: http://www.ulifeline.org/stat-

ic/must_select_a_school 

• Active Minds (chapters at many univer-

sities) - resources for students: https://

www.activeminds.org/

Though we recommend seeking out a 

professional to discuss your mental health, 

we want to share apps designed to help with 

anxiety, stress, and mindfulness:

• Shine: https://www.theshineapp.com/

 º For calming anxiety and stress

• Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/

 º For meditation, sleep, stress, and 

mindfulness

As students, we play many roles in our 

communities and have the ability to shape the 

future of academia. Therefore, there are many 

ways we can support our peers, mentees, and 

community now and in the future. Below 

we summarize just a few and provide some 

relevant literature. 

Support Your Peers

Mental health resources have historically 

been limited. Do you know if your university 

provides mental health services? Know your 

options and share them with your lab mates 

and peers. At the University of Florida (UF), 

a Biology graduate student mental health 

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committee reviews the graduate student 

health insurance and UF options each year, 

providing the rest of us a list of resources we 

can take advantage of. Setting up informal 

support networks is an amazing way to 

support your peers. 

Support Your Mentees 

To briefly summarize Cooper et al. (2020), 

mentors can support undergraduate 

researchers with depression by: 

1.  recognizing students depression as a   

  valid illness, 

2.  encouraging a positive supportive   

  lab environment, 

3.  developing personal relationships, 

4.  treating undergraduates with re-  

  spect and praising them, and 

5.  normalizing failure. 

Suggested Reading: 

• Cooper, K. M., L. E. Gin, M. E. Barnes, 

and S. E. Brownell. 2020. An exploratory 

study of students with depression in un-

dergraduate research experiences. CBE—

Life Sciences Education 19: ar19. 

• Cooper, K. M., L. E. Gin, and S. E. 

Brownell. 2020. Depression as a conceal-

able stigmatized identity: what influences 

whether students conceal or reveal their 

depression in undergraduate research ex-

periences? International Journal of STEM 

Education 7: 1-18. 

Build an Inclusive Lab

As we continue in our careers, we hope to see 

the academic culture shift to be healthier and 

more inclusive (of mental health and more). 

Evans et al. (2018) highlighted the need to 

enhance access to mental health support and 

cultural changes. The papers below discuss 

creating environments that support the 

mental health of students, post-docs, and lab 

members. 

Suggested Reading: 

• Maestre, F. T. 2019. Ten simple rules 

towards healthier research labs. PLOS 

Computational Biology 15: e1006914. 

• Ålund, M., N. Emery, B. J. Jarrett, K. J. 

MacLeod, H. F. McCreery, N. Mamooza-

deh, J. G. Phillips, et al. 2020. Academic 

ecosystems must evolve to support a 

sustainable postdoc workforce. Nature 

Ecology & Evolution 13: 1-5. 

• Dewa, C. S., K. Nieuwenhuijsen, K. J. 

Holmes‐Sullivan, A. K. Singh, and G. 

Drakakaki. 2020. Introducing plant 

biology graduate students to a culture of 

mental well‐being. Plant Direct 4: e00211. 

We hope to continue to recommend “Papers 

to Read for Future Leaders” to BSA Student 

members. If you have papers you would like 

us to include, please share it with us via this 

Google form: https://tinyurl.com/y5dp8r4m.

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LITERATURE CITED

Chirikov, I., K. M. Soria, B. Horgos, and D. 

Jones-White. 2020. Undergraduate and Grad-

uate Students’ Mental Health During the CO-

VID-19 Pandemic. UC Berkeley: Center for 

Studies in Higher Education
Cooper, K. M., L. E. Gin, M. E. Barnes, and 

S. E. Brownell. 2020. An exploratory study 

of students with depression in undergradu-

ate research experiences. CBE—Life Sciences 

Education. 19: ar19.
Evans, T. M., L. Bira, J. B. Gastelum, L. T. 

Weiss, and N. L. Vanderford. 2018. Evidence 

for a mental health crisis in graduate educa-

tion. Nature Biotechnology 36: 282.

Levecque, K., F. Anseel, A. De Beuckelaer, J. 

Van der Heyden, and L. Gisle. 2017. Research 

Policy. 46: 868–879.
Vandebroek, I., A. Pieroni, J. R. Stepp, N. 

Hanazaki, A. Ladio, R. R. N. Alves, D. Pick-

ing, et al. 2020. Reshaping the future of eth-

nobiology research after the COVID-19 pan-

demic. Nature Plants 6: 723–730.
Weng, J.-K. 2020. Plant solutions for the CO-

VID-19 pandemic and beyond: Historical re-

flections  and  future  perspectives.  Molecular 

Plant 13: 803-807. 

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Hi again everyone—this is your former BSA student 

rep, Minya. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy, and 

taking good care of your physical and mental health. 

Back in 2019, Shelly and I decided to do a fieldwork-

related student section for the Plant Science Bulletin 

to help everyone prepare for all the fieldwork that was 

supposed to happen in 2020. But then, as we know, 

COVID changed our world and we had to postpone the 

fieldwork issue. Now, as we are trying our best to improve 

the current situation, we are happy to finally publish the 

essay that we invited Dr. Kadeem Gilbert to write. 

When I was trying to find a friend who has a lot of 

fieldwork-related insights to share, Kadeem came to my 

mind immediately. Surely, Kadeem has done fieldwork 

many times, particularly in Southeast Asia, but I also 

believed that we can learn so much more from him 

besides the logistics of how to do fieldwork. He travels 

around the globe not just to study the pitcher plants in 

different places, but his curiosity about the histories and 

the cultures of the regions are also infectious. He embraces 

different cultures fully, learns the languages (he speaks six 

languages!), becomes a strong advocate for them back in 

the U.S., and shows the beauty of them to everyone. 

This fieldwork essay comprised two parts. In the first 

part, Kadeem gave some practical tips and guides for 

students who plan to do fieldwork. In the second part, 

Kadeem told us a vivid and thrilling story during one of 

his fieldworks that made even him have the thought of “I 

will stop doing tropical fieldwork.” 

Enjoy!

Getting Started in  

Tropical Field Research

By Dr. Kadeem Gilbert 

USDA-NIFA  

Postdoctoral Research Fellow 

Pennsylvania State University,  

University Park, PA 

E-mail: kjg5649@psu.edu

I have about a decade of experience doing 

tropical fieldwork, which began with in 2010 

as an undergraduate. It is now 2020 (I find it 

hard to believe), and in the past year I finished 

grad school and started a postdoctoral 

fellowship. Despite not being exceptionally 

outdoorsy as a child—I grew up in a fairly 

urban part of New Jersey and spent far more 

time reading about biology than I did actually 

going outside—I had always fantasized 

about going to distant countries to explore 

tropical ecosystems. How does one actually 

get started doing tropical fieldwork as part of 

their career? If you’re an undergrad and like 

me didn’t do much camping as a kid, I would 

recommend gaining some field experience 

(any field experience) as soon as possible to 

determine whether fieldwork is truly for you 

before fully committing to it as a career. 

The idea of fieldwork may sound exciting and 

glamorous in the abstract, but there are many 

difficulties involved: strenuous climbs, hot and 

muggy temperatures, torrential downpours, 

and biting mosquitoes. There are many great 

programs out there that offer experiences in 

tropical field biology for undergraduates, 

including Operation Wallacea and the 

Organization for Tropical Field Studies (OTS). 

It is a great idea to apply for programs 

like these if you think you may want to 

do a lot of field research in your career, 

whether in or outside of academia. 

To get my feet wet as a junior, I did 

both an NSF REU (National Science 

Foundation Research Experiences 

for Undergraduates) program based 

in Indonesia, as well as a Drexel-run 

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study abroad program, which is open to 

students from all universities and incorporates 

field research in addition to classes, in 

Equatorial Guinea. In my case, this was after 

I got acquainted with doing local temperate 

fieldwork. 

The best way to do fieldwork as a graduate 

student is to apply to work with an advisor 

who has experience doing fieldwork in the 

specific country you are interested in. Know 

that the exact process for getting all of the 

necessary permits to do research in a foreign 

country depends on the country, and it can be 

quite long and arduous—for some countries 

moreso than others. So, if you have a specific 

country in mind, it’s definitely to your 

advantage to keep that in consideration and 

factor it into your application process if you’re 

currently thinking about applying to grad 

school. If you’re already a grad student and it’s 

not the case that you’re working with someone 

who has an active research program in your 

specific country of interest, your advisor 

can at least help you find another researcher 

to connect with who knows the specifics of 

your target country. It may also be important 

to keep an open mind and be flexible about 

where to work. I went into graduate school 

strongly desiring to work in Indonesia, but I 

ended up doing projects in Singapore and the 

Philippines instead because it was easier to get 

permits to do the work that I wanted (I work 

on Southeast Asian pitcher plants) in a more 

convenient time frame.

All in all, my major tips for fieldwork 

(especially tropical fieldwork abroad) boils 

down to having a network of people to support 

you: 

• Make connections with researchers al-

ready working in your region of interest; 

they can help you with the specifics of the 

permit application process. It may also be 

possible to initiate your fieldwork more 

immediately by getting added to their 

existing permit and joining an upcoming 

expedition they’ve planned.

• The longer or more remote the expedi-

tion, the more important it is to have a 

team of people with you, including expe-

rienced fieldworkers who understand all 

of the logistics.

• The most successful field expeditions will 

include local guides on the team; they 

know the land better than any visitor 

could ever hope to, and they are the most 

prepared to respond to any emergencies 

that result from run-ins with dangerous 

flora or fauna. The cultural exchange that 

comes from interacting with local people 

is also one component that makes field-

work enjoyable and exciting. You might 

consider learning the local language to 

enhance this experience.

• Always be prepared for challenges at 

every step. This can refer to the research 

itself (you might sadly find that forces 

beyond your control impede data collec-

tion, maybe you get to your site and find 

out that a drought has caused your plants 

to dry up and die), but it also applies even 

more to personal safety. Be mindful of 

your steps (literally) when climbing pre-

carious slopes or walking through thick 

vegetation. Wear long sleeves and pants 

to protect your skin from insect bites 

and spiny vegetation, and make sure it’s 

a breathable quick-dry material. A wide-

brimmed hat can protect you from the 

oppressive heat of the equatorial sun, and 

wearing a bandana is useful for keeping 

sweat out of your eyes.

• Keep a resolved constitution in the face of 

an emergency.

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I initially wanted to talk about my fieldwork 

experience overall to expound upon some of 

these points above. I wanted to give a brief 

summary of an incident in 2014 to illustrate 

the principle of keeping a resolved constitution 

in the face of an emergency, but once I began 

writing, I felt compelled to go into more detail 

about the experience—a story that I have 

recounted many times to friends in person, 

yet up until now neglected to write down (I 

lament my constant failure to keep a journal). 

I decided to write out this entire narrative. I 

will preface this by saying that I don’t want to 

scare anyone out of doing fieldwork, but this is 

a tale of extreme danger and fear. It recounts 

a life-threatening event that did make me 

reconsider continuing to do fieldwork, but 

it did not stop me. It also, I believe, touches 

upon how some of the points above can keep 

you safe and secure in the field. I hope you 

enjoy.

FIELDWORK:  

BOTH PLEASURE AND PAIN

It is June of 2014, and I am in a small clinic in 

a small town almost in the middle of nowhere 

in the southern tip of the island of Luzon, the 

Philippines. My entire body is in pain like 

I’ve never felt before (or since). It’s difficult to 

even describe how intense it was at the time; I 

think my brain refuses to let me remember the 

full extent of the sensation. It was as if jolts of 

lightning were electrocuting my muscles, and 

I could barely move. How did I get here? Just a 

few hours ago, I actually was in the middle of 

nowhere, up on a ridge of a caldera on Mount 

Bulusan. My expedition team had hiked up 

something like 8 or 10 hours to get up to 

the point where we pitched our tents, in the 

flat crater surrounded by ridges on all sides, 

towering in a 360-degree panoramic view. 

(How surprised I was to still see such sharp 

relief in the landscape at that point, after all 

we had already scaled.) The site was absolutely 

breathtaking—some of the most gorgeous, 

awe-inspiring, unspoiled tropical forest that 

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing (and fortunately 

I’ve experienced a few such places both before 

and afterwards). 

When we had arrived at part of the caldera, 

it was late afternoon and we had time to rest 

and plan for the morning. You see, this was 

meant to be our home base for a few days, but 

not the final point—there was more climbing 

to do to find what I wanted. I mentioned I was 

with other researchers, but our goals were not 

the same. We (me, two other scientists, and 

our local field guides) had already broken 

apart from the larger group we had arrived at 

Bulusan with; the rest of the group remained 

at a lower elevation site. I was then going to 

break off from the other two scientists the next 

morning to work in a different part of the site 

(though of course the plan was for us to meet 

back up at the home base each evening for 

the 3 to 4 days we planned to be there). These 

two invertebrate zoologists quickly identified 

which of the surrounding slopes they would 

use to search for ants and harvestmen. I was 

actually kind of tagging along on this big 

expedition made up mostly of entomologists, 

and I as a fairly early grad student was just 

scouting the site as a possible new project site. 

I was looking for Nepenthes, and I asked one 

of the guides where I might find some of the 

plants (I pointed to photos in my Field Guide to 

the Pitcher Plants of the Philippines). Whereas 

the invertebrate zoologists had decided on a 

relatively flat slope to the left of where we were 

facing, the guide pointed to a slope on the 

exact opposite side—it looked almost vertical 

in its ascent. He said that they (some other 

park rangers were already stationed up here in 

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addition to the ones who climbed up with us) 

had just started cutting a trail up that section 

recently, and it might be a bit dangerous 

because the potential trail is still nonexistent 

and the slope is thickly covered in spiny rattan 

(Calamoideae). However, they caught sight 

of some Nepenthes during their initial bush-

whacking. He asked if that’s the spot I wanted 

to climb in the morning, even though it might 

be a bit dangerous, and I, keen to find my 

plants, thought about it seriously for a few 

seconds and answered, “Yes, definitely”. I did 

not know it, but the next day I would end up 

at the clinic. 

With our respective plans in place, we rested 

that evening and did a little exploring of our 

immediate surroundings. I tracked the sound 

of a calling frog and located him (possibly a 

Platymantis) calling from his perch in a water-

filled Pandanus leaf axil. On that same plant, I 

found a crab nestled in the furrow of another 

leaf—quite interesting to find a crab so far 

from the sea! I wondered if that species was 

fully terrestrial like the neotropical bromeliad 

crab; it would make sense, considering that 

the pockets of water in Pandanus  definitely 

host frogs as bromeliads do. I am all about 

studying the tiny ecosystems in plant-held 

waters (phytotelmata), which is the main 

thrust of what I continue to focus on with 

Nepenthes

Anyway, I realize I probably have held you 

readers in suspense for too long. First thing 

in the morning, the other two scientists and 

a couple guides headed to their slope, and I 

with one guide headed up mine. It was not 

the anticipated dangers that brought me 

to the hospital: the steepness didn’t end up 

bothering me that much, and my long sleeves 

and pants protected me from the rattan spines 

(I even had on thick work gloves, as suggested 

by my guide). My point in telling this story 

is that there is always a risk of unexpected 

incidents in fieldwork like this; I had accepted 

that risk by choosing to do tropical fieldwork, 

but experiencing a real emergency actually 

solidified my perception that the risks are 

worth it. Today, I do not regret making the 

decision to climb up that slope, even though it 

was the singular event when I most feared for 

my life. My climb that morning was cut short 

by a vicious bee attack. It came unprovoked, 

without warning; I never even saw their nest. 

We had climbed maybe only about an hour 

and had just gotten to a relatively flat point 

and took a brief pause, when the first one 

suddenly appeared flying toward me and 

bombarded me in the forehead.

I turned to my guide who was behind me at 

the moment to say, “I think I just got stung!?!” 

(with a tone of puzzlement), but in that very 

instant the rest of her swarm descended down 

upon us. Puzzlement then instantly became 

pure terror as bees entirely covered my view. 

There were literally hundreds of them (a 

conservative estimate) and dozens of them 

(again, a conservative estimate) proceeded to 

sting me all over my face and head throughout 

the course of this attack. I could smell the 

astringent scent of their pheromones as the 

stings continued. The sound of their loud 

buzzing filled the air (to this day, any buzzing 

sound can make my heart skip a beat), and at 

one point I felt one actually crawl into my ear.  

From the start of this attack, the guide shouted 

that we have to get down and urged me to 

move quickly, but after being stung several 

times that very first minute—they came one 

after the other—my body immediately felt 

weak. Numb is not the right word, as I felt 

the intense bodily pain, but I mean I was 

numb in that it became hard to lift my limbs. 

On top of that it was a very steep descent and 

gravity could overtake me even if I were in full 

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control of my limbs. Furthermore, I could not 

see where I was going due to my efforts to keep 

the bees away from my eyes at least (I swung 

my bandana in front of my face and angled 

my head down), but on top of that there was 

no trail to even see—it was thick vegetation all 

around. 

We were both getting stung, but I was 

apparently bearing the brunt of the attack as I 

was the larger target and less able to navigate 

away. Also, I had never been stung before 

in my life—I didn’t truly know that I wasn’t 

allergic. I owe my life to several brave guides 

who worked together to get me to safety. The 

one guide with me on the slope at this time 

got on his walky-talky to call up some more 

who were at the base camp. They helped 

me get back down to the tents as quickly as 

possible. The bees continued to sting me until 

we made it back to the tents, after maybe 30 

minutes that felt like an eternity. (Adding to 

the puzzlement of this unprovoked attack: 

if they were defending a hive, why continue 

attacking me long after moving away from 

the place that it started?) A couple of guides 

lay me down in a hammock and pulled the 

stingers out of my face and head. I said, “I 

think I may need to go to a hospital”; I could 

barely even move a finger and my entire body 

was on fire with pain. Also, I could not hear 

out of my right ear since there was a bee 

lodged in it. I told the guides about the bee 

in my ear, but they couldn’t see it and said I 

might be mistaken—maybe the hearing loss 

was an effect of all that venom. 

Using the hammock as a stretcher, a cadre 

of guides carried me down all the way to the 

base of the mountain (in apparently a fraction 

of the time that it took us to climb up, since 

the sun had not yet set when I left the hospital) 

and down further to the nearest road out here 

in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure, but 

I think it was luck that eventually a vehicle 

passed by, and eventually one with the capacity 

to take me in as a passenger. (It was one of 

those motorcycles with an attachment in the 

back—not a comfortable ride, but thankfully 

I did not throw up again as I did going down 

the mountain). 

So, to return to where I began the story: the 

doctor gave me an antihistamine shot at 

the clinic and said that my swelling should 

subside and that I’d recover in a few days. I 

asked if she could remove the bee from my ear. 

Puzzled, she looked in with an otoscope and 

didn’t see anything at first (it must have been 

deep in there), but then succeeded getting 

that dead Apis  dorsata breviligula worker 

out with forceps. We were all shocked to see 

just how large the insect was—it was difficult 

to imagine how it could fit in my ear. I kept 

the specimen in a vial of ethanol and carried 

it around with me throughout the rest of the 

trip like a trophy. I initially intended to bring 

it back to America with me to keep it always 

as a memento, but I ended up donating it to 

science when I ran into a bee taxonomist in 

Singapore who, after IDing the species for me, 

stated that he was working on doing a species 

delimitation for the Apis dorsata complex (he 

suggested that several subspecies might need 

to be elevated to species status) and asked me 

if he could keep the specimen.

This might all sound like an unimaginable 

nightmare to you, reader, and it certainly was 

to me at the time. However, my point is not 

to dissuade anyone from fieldwork; it did not 

discourage me. While I was being attacked, I 

honestly thought I was going to die and felt 

fear like I never felt before or since. One of 

the many thoughts that flashed in my head 

was that if I got out of this situation, I would 

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never decide to do fieldwork again. While I 

was being carried down the mountain in the 

hammock-stretcher, I amended this thought 

to, “I will stop doing tropical fieldwork.” Laying 

on the actual stretcher in the clinic, I thought, 

“I’ll never do fieldwork in a really remote site 

again, but I want to continue doing tropical 

fieldwork.” I felt unable to climb back up 

Bulusan to complete the plan of staying at the 

caldera site for the remainder of the week—

the attack happened on the first morning at 

the caldera, and sadly I didn’t even see any 

pitcher plants on that slope—but I chose not 

to leave the Philippines. 

After recovering for 2 or 3 days, I was flying 

over to the next island that my main expedition 

team had planned visiting, and I happily (if 

slightly apprehensively) climbed yet another 

remote mountain.  I am actually not a “thrill-

seeker-type.” Despite such adventures, I 

don’t see myself as an Indiana Jones rushing 

headlong into danger. I’m just so fascinated by 

the natural world and so love every moment 

of being out in the wilderness that it drives 

me to take these calculated risks. Even the 

negative experiences are worth the chance to 

experience nature’s grandeur, which is truly 

awesome in the classical sense of the word. The 

good and the bad, the pleasure and the pain, 

are two sides of the same coin that imparts 

upon me the intense, ineffable emotion that 

can only come from Nature. Nature to me 

is like living art, and while fieldwork has 

inspired me to write stanzas like “Only the 

cleansing/Rays of the sun upon me/Can distill 

my pain,” it has inspired many more stanzas 

of pure awe and wonder like “The mountains 

exhale/Ethereal white breath spews/Forests 

join with sky” or “Countless insects scream/In 

polyphonic chorus/Wondrous night music.”

All in all, I sincerely hope that any student 

reading this with the passion to do so gets to 

experience amazing fieldwork like I have—

and stay safe!

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249

FROM THE 

PSB

 ARCHIVES

60 years ago 

 

Wilson Stewart discusses recent controversies in paleobotany: 

“For the past five years I have become increasingly perplexed by the frequency of articles supporting the 

claim that vascular plants with lycopsid affinities occurred in the Cambrian. If the evidence justified the 

conclusion, then this would be one of the most spectacular paleobotanical finds since Lang and Cookson’s 

(1935) discovery of bona fide vascular plants in the Silurian rocks of Australia.”

--Stewart, Wilson N. “More About the Origin of Vascular Plants” PSB 6(5): 1-5.

50 years ago  

Harlan Banks presents the Address of the Retiring President of the Botanical Society of America, pre-

sented at the Society’s annual banquet, August 26. 1970, at Bloomington, Indiana.

“Yes, I visualize the day when we’ll know many Devonian plants as plants rather than as isolated organs, 

when we’ll be able to speak intelligently about habitats and associations, when we’ll know the length of 

time that was required to evolve new species, and the algae from which vascular plants did evolve. I think 

we’ll learn whether the origin of vascular tissue was related to the origin of metabolic pathways for the 

manufacture of lignin (perhaps in the Silurian). I think we’ll know much more about the possible role of 

O2 concentration in the atmosphere, its role in the formation of ozone, and their role in shielding Earth’s 

surface from lethal ultra-violet radiation, thus permitting the occupation of dry land. And of course I’ll 

be watching for confirmation of my wildest statement, actually a primitive attempt at precision, that all 

the phylogenetically important innovations among vascular plants are found during the 50-million-year 

adaptive radiation of land plants that occurred in the Devonian Period. Ted Delevoryas has picked me 

up on this one and allowed as how all the evolution after Devonian time was just ‘frosting on the cake.’”

--Banks, H. P. ”Chipping Away at Early Land Plants: Of People, Places, and Perturbations” PSB 16(4): 1-6.

40 years ago

Paul B. Conant, President of Triarch, Inc., a supplier of microscope slides since 1926, has asked that 

members of the Botanical Society write to him to assist in the decisions relating to the continuation of the 

firm. The squeeze between rising costs and reduced educational budgets has placed the company in the 

position where it is unable to meet increased salary requirements. Mr. Conant would like to hear from 

members as to their needs for prepared slides in years to come and other information on the problems 

associated with Triarch.

--HELP!. PSB 26(4): 29.  

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250

ANNOUNCEMENTS

In Memoriam 

BRIAN JOSEPH AXSMITH 

(1963–2020)

It is with great sadness that we share that our 

friend and colleague Brian Joseph Axsmith, 

57, of Mobile, AL, passed away on May 5, 

2020. Brian contracted the COVID-19 virus 

and in combination with other health issues 

succumbed to its virulence. His battle with the 

virus was brief but valiant.

Brian was born in Pottstown, PA on June 

3, 1963. He was the son of the late Joseph 

J. Axsmith. He is survived by his mother 

Kathryn Boyer Axsmith; son Jeffrey Tristan 

Axsmith, who often visited while he worked; 

his companion and loving wife Jennifer; and 

sister Doreen Axsmith Inmon, with whom he 

remained close.

Brian describes his early school years as a time 

when he was not an especially good student.  

But his curiosity about nature drove him to 

places where he collected snakes and frogs, 

but in a limited number because his mother 

was not particularly fond of having to share 

space with these creatures in her house. His 

interest in fossils and collecting them began 

at an early age. As is somewhat typical of kids, 

the captivation of dinosaurs and their ancient 

remains fueled his imagination and no doubt 

had some bearing on his interests in studying 

the ancient remains of the Earth. At this point, 

he had little interest in the fossil remains of 

plants, but it is apparent by his life’s work 

that his choice to focus on these important 

organisms became far greater than he could 

have possibly imagined.

Brian graduated high school (St. Pius X, 

Pottstown, PA) in 1980, and from there moved 

on to Millersville University of Pennsylvania 

in Millersville, PA. One of his professors at 

Millersville University, where Brian developed 

a curiosity for fossil plants, became his 

mentor.  In fact, he published his first paper 

before even contemplating graduate school, 

describing Triassic fossil plants from the 

Stockton Formation in Pennsylvania with his 

good friend Peter Kroehler (who now works 

on fossils at the Smithsonian Institution in 

Washington, DC). His botany classes with 

Millersville professors Dr. David Dobbins and 

the late Dr. James Parks played a key role in 

his interest in living plants.

His early educational experiences at 

Millersville University, Pennsylvania, where 

he received his Bachelor of Science degree, no 

doubt set a course for his continued interest 

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in biological sciences, a direction that would 

steer him toward paleobotany. This love of 

paleobotany subsequently guided him to The 

Ohio State University, where he would begin 

his pursuit of a doctoral degree under the 

guidance of Thomas N. Taylor. Apparently one 

of the reasons that Taylor accepted him into 

his lab was something Brian often related in 

a post-graduation story about a conversation 

between Tom and Brian’s father. It went 

something like this:

Joseph Axsmith: What did you see in Brian to 

accept him into your lab?

Tom Taylor: His intense work ethic—he is a 

hard-working S.O.B.

His time at The Ohio State University was 

cut short and a sudden change of venue sent 

him to the University of Kansas, where he 

completed the requirements for his degree. In 

1998 his status officially changed to Dr. Brian 

Axsmith, a title he achieved with honors. After 

a short post-doc, Brian secured a position 

as an assistant professor at the University of 

Southern Alabama in Mobile in 1999 and 

rapidly rose through the ranks to become full 

professor.

Over the next 20 years, he built an impressive 

academic career in which he played many roles 

within his department and the university. He 

was a committee member for multiple M.S. 

students in both the Biology Department 

at University of South Alabama and at the 

University of Mobile. He served as chairperson 

to three graduate students (Debra Stults, M.S., 

2003, and Ph.D., 2011; Elizabeth Creen, M.S., 

2006; and Patrick McAnerny, M.S., 2019) 

who completed projects focusing on various 

paleobotanical questions. Additionally, he 

provided guidance and mentorship to at 

least 10 undergraduate students involved in 

numerous paleobotanical topics. He also had 

the opportunity of hosting a post-doctoral 

Axsmith collecting near Monroeville, AL.

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PSB  66  (3)  2020        

252

palynologist from Nepal (Farhat Iqbal) in 

which they explored Mesozoic and Neogene 

localities. His work with colleagues from 

the U.S., South America, Europe, and China 

produced several significant publications, 

which are cited frequently.

Early in his career (1990), Brian received the 

Outstanding Biology Student Award from the 

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University 

Biologists, which is given to a student who 

best exemplified scientific scholarship and 

achievement. This extraordinary honor 

of distinction is given to one student. The 

award represents the qualities and knowledge 

possessed by students who attend the State 

System of Higher Education Universities. In 

1993 he received the prestigious Isabel Cookson 

Award, presented by the Paleobotanical 

Section of the Botanical Society of America. 

This award is given to the student who delivers 

the best contributed paper in paleobotany or 

palynology at the Society’s annual meeting. In 

2003 he received the Arts & Sciences Junior 

Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship 

and Academic Achievement. His many 

accomplishments were further recognized 

by the national honor society Mortar Board, 

which is made up of college seniors from 

around the country. Mortar Board members 

select outstanding educators for their devotion 

to academia, teaching style, accessibility, 

knowledge of their subject, and other special 

qualities unique to the educator. He received 

this honor in 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014. In 

the 2014–2015 academic year, Brian received 

the Dean’s Lecture Award, which is presented 

for excellent scholarship or academic 

achievement throughout the faculty member’s 

career. It was also at this time that he received 

the Olivia Rambo McGothern Outstanding 

Scholar Award, given by the USA National 

Alumni Association for excellence and high 

achievement in an academic discipline.

His academic activities were just a part of what 

made Brian tick. He enjoyed participating in 

various activities in and around the Mobile 

area. He also loved to get others involved in the 

collecting of fossils, be it students, interested 

local collectors, or local groups of teachers or 

geologists. His passion for his research and 

studies was reflected by the crowds he drew 

and his popularity among students. He was 

gifted with a talent for explanation and often 

could accept a sudden request for presentation 

without much preparation because he could 

develop the topic “on the fly.” He became 

involved in the Evolution vs. Creationism 

debates presented on campus, which were also 

open to the public. He adeptly presented the 

facts and handily countered the opposition 

so much so that he was asked to serve in this 

capacity several years in a row.

At all times Brian was on the lookout for 

new and previously discovered sites with 

fossil floras. His early research centered on 

Mesozoic floras and included those from 

multiple continents including Antarctica, 

Asia (northeastern China), and North 

America (Chinle Formation and Newark 

Supergroup). When he moved to Alabama, 

he became involved with one of the floras 

that Edward Berry had worked on during the 

early 20

th

 century. This “rediscovery” began 

a two-decade revival of the Citronelle Flora 

(late Pliocene).  He continued collecting and 

working on other localities including eastern 

North American Cenozoic floras extending 

from the Oligocene and into the lower 

Pliocene. He was particularly interested in 

these areas due to the lack of a good published 

fossil record for the region. His interests 

extended into the Pleistocene flora along 

the Mobile River. These floras are currently 

awaiting further investigation.

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By now his reputation and the fact that he was 

local (now from Alabama) opened additional 

doors for research, which included the Ingersoll 

Shale flora (Cretaceous). With the help of 

Mississippi paleontologist George Phillips and 

Mississippi geologist James Starnes, he was 

able to acquire local material, and Mac Alford 

from the University of Southern Mississippi 

helped with the acquisition of material from 

middle Miocene Hattiesburg Formation. 

Brian’s love of paleobotany and the many 

rewards that came with it provided 

opportunities for him to discover the treasures 

of past life. His love for fieldwork, whenever 

and wherever the opportunity arose, never 

wavered and his enthusiasm for removing 

tons of rock, which, on some occasions would 

reward him with a bounty of fossil plants or 

teach him the value of wearing gloves and 

digging in the right place, remained ever 

present. Working in the field with a diverse 

group of prominent or amateur collectors gave 

Brian a great sense of paleontological history 

and of those who contributed to it and to new 

types of collection techniques. The values of 

hard work and observation were subsequently 

passed on to his colleagues and students 

alike. He knew the benefits of teaching, 

especially when the facts were presented in 

an understandable and unbiased way. To keep 

science simple and interesting meant that he 

could reach a larger group of people where the 

benefits would be far reaching. His research 

and professional career allowed him to travel 

the world collecting material, from the back 

roads of Alabama to the remote wilderness of 

China. The collection of material, especially 

from the Mobile area, allowed him to publish 

numerous scientific papers representing his 

ideas and interpretations on various groups 

of fossil plants. Some of these papers will 

ultimately stand the test of time; others may not 

 

Note: A special fund has been set up 

in honor of Brian by the University of 

Southern Alabama. All contributions will 

be used to support the Brian Axsmith 

Memorial Scholarship in Biology: https://

giving.southalabama.edu/axsmith.

be so lucky. At times, his research challenged 

the ideas of his colleagues, which he thought 

was necessary to keep the field of paleobotany 

moving forward. His academic contributions 

will remain etched in stone, which ultimately 

show a legacy of career success through hard 

work and commitment.

Brian represented the best within us, and he 

knew that hard work and perseverance would 

ultimately provide rewards that few people 

could ever achieve. His role as a husband, 

father, scientist, colleague, and friend will 

forever be remembered and occupy a place in 

our hearts where it will live on. He will be most 

dearly missed by his wife Jennifer and son 

Jeffrey and by those who had the opportunity 

to cross paths with him. His kindness and witty 

humor will remind us that life is a precious gift 

that allows us a fleeting moment to pursue our 

dreams and to make the world a better place. 

For the short time that Brian was with us, he 

earned the trust, respect, and friendship of 

countless individuals from many walks of life. 

As we go forward, let us remember to use his 

many contributions and examples as a guide 

to enrich our own lives and the lives of others 

we know. May our friend rest in eternal peace 

and never be forgotten.

--Rudolph Serbet, University of Kansas, and 

Debra Stults, University of Southern Alabama

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254

 MEMBERSHIP NEWS

By 

Amelia Neely

BSA Membership 

& Communications 

Manager

 

E-mail: ANeely@</a>

botany.org

BSA is proud to provide over $125,000 in 

awards and grants to our members every 

year. Most of these are funded directly by 

the generosity of our members via donations 

to specific award funds. Professional 

members are also given the opportunity of 

increasing their annual dues by $25 in order 

to support the Graduate Student Research 

Award fund. We are pleased to say that over 

60% of our Professional members opted in 

to support the GSRA in this way, allowing 

for over $24,400 in additional funds for 

the GSRA in the last fiscal year. Thank you! 

 

We hope that you will consider making 

a donation to our many funds including 

student, professional, and sectional award 

funding when you renew your membership 

this year. You can also visit www.botany.org 

and click Donate to start giving.

YEAR-END GIVING

THIS IS THE SEASON OF 

GIVING   

GIFT MEMBERSHIPS!

Do you know a student or developing 

nations colleague that would benefit from 

being part of the BSA community? BSA 

offers gift memberships for these two 

membership types for only $10 each! You 

can purchase gift memberships during 

your renewal process or go to www.botany.

org,  click on  Membership on the top 

menu, and then click Gift Memberships. 

 

We are giving back! Any gift membership 

recipient who starts their membership before 

January 31, 2021 will be entered into a drawing 

for a free registration for Botany 2021! 

 

 

Got questions about your membership? 

 

Email Amelia Neely at aneely@botany.org.

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255

Around the World in 80 Trees 

Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat

Green Growth That Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance Mechanisms  

 

Around the  World 

Plant Anatomy: A Concept-Based Approach to the Structure of Seed Plants

Plant Names: A Guide to Botanical Nomenclature, Fourth Edition

Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines in Kansas (revised and expanded edition)

Vanishing Beauty, Native Costa Rican Orchids

Wild Plants for a Sustainable Future: Multipurpose Species

BOOK REVIEWS

Around the World in 80 

Trees

Jonathan Drori; illustrations 

by Lucille Clerc

First published 2018. Paper-

back first edition 2020. ISBN 

9781786271617 hardcover; 

978-1-78627-606-3, paper

Hard cover, $24.99; paper, 

$19.99; Kindle $16.25; 

£12.99; 240 pp. 

Laurence King Publishing 

Ltd., London.

Adapting Jules Verne’s title of Around the 

World in Eighty Days, Jonathan Drori’s 

fantastic adventure—his metaphorical 

circumnavigation—introduces reader to 

a selection of trees that are prominent 

to the cultures of each named country, 

organized geographically: Northern Europe, 

Southern Europe and North Africa, eastern 

Mediterranean, Africa, Central and South 

Asia, East Asia, South East Asia, Oceania, 

South America, Mexico, Central America and 

Caribbean, North America.
What a winning combination! The stunning 

illustrations by Lucille Clerc illuminate the 

rich text by Drori about iconic trees, from 

the mundane, Brooklyn’s Tree of Heaven 

(Ailanthus altissima), to Missouri’s majestic 

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). Trees as diverse 

as the bulky long-lived, fruitful Baobab 

(Adansonia digitata), are juxtaposed with 

delicate domatia-bearing whistling thorn 

(Vachellia drepanolobium), featured together 

in this compact volume, packed with botanical 

details. 
Drori’s writing is dense with facts and 

entertains on each page. Every tree 

biography is filled with dynamic writing (e.g., 

Pomegranate: “The turgid grains interlock 

satisfyingly with one another—a triumph of 

efficient packing” and “Perhaps we shouldn’t 

dismiss the psychological benefits of a fruit 

whose consumption requires our undivided 

attention”).  Sir Jonathan’s endeavors earned 

him the prestigious award in December 

2006—Commander of the Order of the British 

Empire (CBE), the highest-ranking Order 

of the British Empire award—rewarding 

contributions to the arts and sciences, work 

with charitable and welfare organizations, 

and public service outside the civil service.

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Drori brings decades of expertise to Trees, 

as a  BBC Executive Producer and Director, 

responsible for more than 50 popular  BBC 

science and technology documentaries  and 

series. He prepares short films for plant- 

and seed-collecting expeditions and is also 

known for several TED talks on pollen, seeds, 

and flowers that have been viewed more 

than 3 million times. He is Trustee of The 

Eden Project,  a member of the Council of 

Ambassadors of the World Wildlife Fund, and 

a former trustee of The Woodland Trust and the 

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is Chairman 

of Ravensbourne University London, a Fellow 

of the Linnean Society  and the Zoological 

Society of London,  a full voting member of 

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

and a Visiting Professor at Bristol University, 

specializing in science 

misconceptions. 

Clerc is a meticulous illustrator with seasoned 

artistic ability strengthened by intelligence 

that informs every stroke she places, applying 

subdued browns and green colors. 

She 

works within the field of editorial design and 

illustration and produces most of her work 

using hand-drawn images, with considerable 

attention to detail. 

She is also well known 

for her influential graphics of broken pencils 

following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Together, 

Drori’s essays and Clerc’s sketches present a 

visually rewarding travelogue crammed with 

botanical and cultural information. 
Associations of animals with the trees that 

support them are also featured, e.g., the 

mopane worm intrinsic to Colophospermum 

mopane, a large caterpillar in the Emperor 

moth lifecycle that feeds primarily on 

mopane tree leaves and is a popular snack 

in Namibia and Zimbabwe, which is a food 

staple in rural areas and regarded as a highly 

nutritious delicacy. Goats graze fruit and 

leaves in Morocco’s Argan trees, Argania 

spinosa, oblivious to their thorns. Thereafter, 

the 

goats excrete or spit out the nuts of argan 

fruits, which can later be retrieved from the 

goats’ manure, for processing into a precious 

edible oil, which is also utilized in expensive 

cosmetics.

The book opens with the English London 

Plane, Platanus  acerifolia, “a tree of pomp 

and circumstance,” first planted in Berkeley 

Square, Mayfair, in 1789. A hybrid of the 

American sycamore and the Oriental plane, 

it has been adopted by urban planners 

worldwide; in fact, it’s the most common 

street tree in New York City. India’s sacred 

Banyan tree, Ficus benghalensis, revered in 

temples, offers sanctuary and inspiration; 

Berlin’s best-known boulevard, Unter den 

Linden, is named after Tilia  europaea with its 

intoxicating, sweetest, most powerful perfume 

known to the plant kingdom.
This book’s paper cover is heavy, thus durable; 

the book is well bound and stitched, and the 

pages are sturdy to withstand being thumbed 

through often. The script, which reads like a 

love letter to Mother Earth, should be required 

reading in biology classes, introducing a 

semester’s worth of environmental science 

study in delightful form. I am completely 

won over by this collaboration. It may seem 

unusual to gush over visual aids in a reader 

about trees, but this beautiful volume is a 

page-turner, propelling readers forward with 

imaginative drawings of each tree, and its 

folklore and uses.
–Dorothea Bedigian, Research Associate, Mis-

souri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 

USA

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PSB 66 (3) 2020

257

Fruit from the Sands: 

The Silk Road Origins of 

the Foods We Eat

Robert N. Spengler III. 

2019. ISBN 9780520303638

Hardcover, $34.95; £29.00; 

eBook, $34.95; £29.00. 392 pp. 

University of California Press, 

Oakland

The Nobel Peace Prize 2020 awarded to the 

World Food Program for its efforts to combat 

hunger and its contribution to bettering 

conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas 

sparked my interest to read Fruit from the Sands

Robert Spengler’s interdisciplinary endeavor 

refers to a broad array of archaeological, 

botanical, and historical evidence as he traced 

crop movement from every direction: north, 

south, east, and west across the regions of 

Central Asia. Through the preserved remains 

of plants found in archaeological sites, his 

field exploration, revealed through photos, 

encompasses Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, 

Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, 

along with Central Eurasia, adjacent regions 

to the north and east: western Mongolia, the 

Tuva region of Russia and Xinjiang, Qinghai, 

and Tibet in China. The focus of previous 

renowned scholars (e.g., Vavilov and Harlan) 

has been on major agricultural centers of crop 

origin: the Near East, the Far East, etc. Here, 

Spengler introduces the vast region between 

these centers, the core of a complex network 

of interaction and exchange. Central Asia was 

the crossroads of the ancient world for five 

millennia; some of the largest empires in the 

ancient world were located there.
Spengler, Archaeobotany Laboratory 

Director of the Max Planck Institute for 

the Science of Human History, presents the 

subject with a geographic introduction to the 

region and chapters tackling many regional 

foods: millets, rice, barley, wheats, legumes, 

grapes and apples, leafy vegetables, roots 

and stems, spices, oils, and tea. Spengler 

devoted considerable research to expanding 

information about the domestication of the 

“charismatic” apple, sufficient to result in 

additional extended scholarly publications 

(Spengler, 2019, 2020). 

One of the most 

economically and culturally significant 

temperate 

fruit crops, apple provides the 

opportunity to study the domestication 

process in trees. The number and identity of 

the progenitors of the domesticated apple and 

the erosion of genetic diversity associated with 

the domestication process have been debated. 

The Central Asian wild apple has been 

identified as the main progenitor, but Spengler 

examines other closely related species along 

the Silk Route. Beyond originating in the 

Tien Shan Mountains, along the core artery 

of the ancient Silk Road, the trade routes 

themselves gave rise to our modern fruit. 

Genetic studies have demonstrated that the 

apple is a hybrid of at least four wild apple 

species. Three of these wild apples had large 

fruits before humans came along, and they 

represented easy targets or “low-hanging 

fruit” for early foragers. People were likely 

maintaining the populations of these wild 

apple trees for thousands of years before they 

started moving the seeds along the Silk Road. 

Eventually, as people started planting apple 

trees across Eurasia, they brought these four 

wild populations into contact. Bees naturally 

pollinated them, and the resulting offspring 

represent distinct hybrids with desirable 

traits, notably larger fruits. 
Spengler depicts a surprising concentration 

of archaeological remains across the fertile 

mountain foothills of Inner Asia. Increasingly, 

as archaeobotanical finds become more 

prevalent in these regions, the sites are 

providing evidence for crop cultivation and, 

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258

in many cases, elaborate farming systems. The 

past residents of this region fostered the spread 

of innovations along the Silk Road, along 

with advances of their own, including the 

domestication of a series of fruit trees. Parts 

of Central Asia were centers of intellectual 

thought during the Islamic Golden Age, and 

vast luxurious palaces with elaborate gardens 

were erected for various Turkic rulers. 

However, increased nautical trade in the 13th 

century, clinched by the Mongol invasions, 

caused overland trade via Central Asia to 

gradually lose its prominence. The destruction 

of irrigation systems, salination of soils, and 

the deforestation of the mountain foothills 

likely contributed to the fall of Inner Asia. 

The final defeat was undoubtedly colonial 

advances from Europe—starting with Russian 

conquests.
Together with my admiration for this work, 

I have a few slight criticisms. The index is 

incomplete; it omits entries that I located 

during careful searches for specific terms. 

Surprisingly, some crops of importance in 

the region were omitted (e.g., Spengler barely 

mentions mulberry, widely consumed in 

the region [Bedigian, 2020]). Assessing the 

book by way of his single page on the subject 

of sesame, it is disappointing to note that 

Spengler fails to cite any primary source (e.g., 

Bedigian 2011, 2014, 2015), referring instead, 

twice, to a secondary source. He reports no 

archaeobotanical investigation, omitting our 

archaeobotanical evidence from Xinjiang 

(Qiu et al., 2012).
The unique contribution of this book is its 

ability to bring evidence from archaeological 

plant remains to life, in a style that could be 

readily appreciated by readers with a variety 

of interests.

LITERATURE CITED

Bedigian, D. ©2011. Introduction. History of the culti-

vation and use of sesame, pp. 1-31. In D. Bedigian (ed.) 

Sesame: the genus Sesamum. Medicinal and Aromatic 

Plants - Industrial Profiles series. CRC Press, Taylor & 

Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL.
Bedigian, D. 2014. A new combination for the Indian 

progenitor of sesame, Sesamum indicum L. (Pedalia-

ceae). Novon 23(1): 5-13.
Bedigian, D. 2015. Systematics and evolution in Sesa-

mum L. (Pedaliaceae), part 1: Evidence regarding the 

origin of sesame and its closest relatives. Webbia: 

Journal of Plant Taxonomy and Geography 70: 1-42. 
Bedigian, D. 2020. An extended commentary about 

Mulberry by Peter Coles [2019. Reaktion Books, Lon-

don]. Plant Science Bulletin 66: 145-150; 164. 
Qiu, Z., Y. Zhang, D. Bedigian, X. Li, C. Wang and H. 

Jiang. 2012. Sesame utilization in China:New archaeo-

botanical evidence from Xinjiang. Economic Botany 

66: 255-263.
Spengler, R. N. 2019. Origins of the Apple: The role 

of megafaunal mutualism in the domestication of Ma-

lus and Rosaceous trees. Frontiers in Plant Science 10: 

617.
Spengler, R. N. 2020. Anthropogenic seed dispersal: 

Rethinking the origins of plant domestication. Trends 
in Plant Science
 25: 340-348.

–Dorothea Bedigian, Research Associate, Mis-

souri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 

USA

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Green Growth That 

Works: Natural Capi-

tal Policy and Finance 

Mechanisms Around 

the World

Lisa Mandle, Zhiyun Ouyang, 

James Salzman, and Gretch-

en C. Daily (eds.)

2019.  

ISBN: 978-1-64283-003-3

Paperback, US$35.00.  

336 pp.

Island Press, Washington, DC

Amidst the dire news about environmental 

degradation and climate change, an 

international network of scientists and 

social leaders has been steadily generating 

positive change in the way we perceive and 

use natural resources.  Building on the idea 

that ecosystems provide services essential to 

human life—for example, fresh water, soil 

fertility, climate and air quality regulation—

the 1992 United Nations Conference on 

Environment and Development (UNCED), 

also known as the Earth Summit, called 

for nature valuation, or the integration of 

environmental and economic value, as a 

component of sustainable development 

(Potschin and Haines-Young, 2016). A decade 

later, a tremendous effort resulted in the 

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a series 

of global-scale status and trends reports 

that document the links between economic 

development, ecosystem impacts, and human 

well-being.  These two steps, nature valuation 

and ecosystem assessment, are at the heart 

of the natural capital approach to “inclusive 

green growth” described in Green Growth That 

Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance 

Mechanisms Around the World.  The book is an 

edited collection of case studies that highlight 

the many ways that cities, watersheds, and 

even nations have utilized spatial data and 

innovative partnerships to design policies 

that acknowledge the true costs of natural 

resources extraction.

The editors and authors of Green Growth 

That Works are experienced practitioners 

of the natural capital approach.  They are 

experts from the government, financial, and 

research sectors that, along with civil society 

organizations, compose the partnerships 

necessary to implement “nature-based 

solutions” to the main challenge of our time: 

How will we raise the standard of living for 

all humans while securing the irreplaceable 

benefits of nature for future generations?  

Green Growth That Works is intended 

to function as “a practical guide to how 

policies and finance mechanisms have been 

implemented… across a diversity of contexts” 

(p. 7).  A tone of optimism pervades the book 

and inspires action in an arena notoriously 

difficult to navigate.
The book is organized into three parts: an 

overview of the natural capital approach, 

descriptions of successful finance and policy 

mechanisms, and examples of system-

wide change and innovation.  Each chapter 

includes case studies illustrating the diversity 

of geographic contexts, scales, and ecosystem 

services involved.  A standard format for the case 

studies includes details such as: the ecosystem 

service(s), beneficiaries and providers, terms 

and mechanism for the transfer of value, 

and key lessons learned.  This feature is the 

book’s key strength; it demonstrates how to 

transform a tangle of location-specific details 

into an approachable problem and provides 

practitioners with a framework for dialogue 

and action.  Capacity-building, for example, 

emerges as a precondition to financing in 

cases as diverse as Indonesia’s Readiness 

Fund and Belize’s Integrated Coastal Zone 

Management Plan.  How to redesign existing 

policies is demonstrated across different 

geographic scales by a catchment-scale study 

of the Fowey River in England and an analysis 

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of forest conservation mechanisms in Costa 

Rica.
Green Growth That Works uses standardized 

flow diagrams to depict the flow of money and 

assignment of tasks for six finance mechanisms 

and their modifications.  The diagrams enable 

a quick comparison of the mechanisms and 

function as reference points for navigating 

the case studies.  Government subsidies, for 

example, flow from the government to the 

providers of an ecosystem service needed by 

the public, while eco-certification is a market-

based mechanism that relies on consumers 

paying for services directly.  In both cases, the 

public benefit originates on private land, and 

quality is determined by land management 

practices.  The Conservation Reserve 

Program (CRP) in the U.S. and the Rainforest 

Alliance (RFA) coffee certification program 

illustrate these two approaches to agricultural 

payments.  
The CRP recognizes that securing public goods 

derived from private land requires landowner 

support.  Private landowners may resist 

absorbing the cost of improved management 

that lowers yield, such as reducing fertilizer 

to improve downstream water quality.  The 

alternative is that society must bear the cost of 

treating water through higher payments to a 

water utility.  The CRP incentivizes improved 

management by paying farmers an annual 

rental fee to convert sensitive croplands to 

natural vegetation.
The RFA program is an example of 

commodity, or supply chain, certification 

that uses performance standards to generate 

a premium price for sustainably produced 

coffee.  Agricultural commodity certification 

can secure a number of ecosystem services 

related to soil, water, land cover, and 

biodiversity.  Again, these services benefit the 

public, but the funding mechanism is private: 

both the farmers paying for certification and 

the consumers purchasing certified coffee 

support the enhancement of natural capital.  

The RFA standards also include social benefits 

such as fair treatment of workers.  The CRP 

case study highlights the role of government 

in both securing and monitoring water quality 

improvement, whereas the RFA example 

demonstrates the use of third-party certifiers 

to evaluate compliance.
Additional case studies in Part II explain 

regulatory mechanisms, voluntary 

mechanisms, water funds, and multilateral and 

bilateral mechanisms.  The chapter on water 

funds is especially insightful; it demonstrates 

the synergy resulting from coordination 

of diverse stakeholders and the range of 

benefits secured by implementing long-

term investments.  For those new to nature 

valuation, the two tables describing the Upper 

Tana-Nairobi Water Fund explain benefits in 

both environmental and economic terms.  In 

fact, Green Growth That Works includes many 

figures and maps that, although small and 

grayscale, serve to communicate the types of 

data that are generated during an ecosystem 

assessment and reveal why this approach 

is crucial for empowerment, inclusion, and 

discussion of alternatives.
The systemwide application of the natural 

capital approach in China and Costa Rica, 

described in Part III, provides a glimpse of a 

future in which we prioritize the preservation 

of socio-ecological systems and stem the tide 

of environmental degradation.  Opportunities 

remain for proactive planning and greater 

inclusion of poor and marginalized people 

who often live in areas with high-value 

natural capital.  Green Growth That Works 

is an excellent sourcebook of ideas and 

demonstrates that the acquisition of natural 

capital through inclusive and life-enhancing 

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PSB  66  (3)  2020        

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strategies is no longer theory but a real 

possibility.  The writing is accessible, and 

reference lists at the end of each chapter can 

further guide readers who are unfamiliar 

with the philosophy and science of ecosystem 

assessment.  This book should be added to 

the toolkit of anyone directly involved in 

natural resources policy, including educators 

and science communicators who seek to 

share information about developments in 

conservation finance.

LITERATURE CITED

Potschin, M. and R. Haines-Young. 2016. Ecosystem 

services in the twenty-first century. In: M. Potschin, R. 

Haines-Young, R. Fish, and R.K. Turner (Eds.), Rout-

ledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services (pp. 1-9). Rout-

ledge.

—Andrea G. Kornbluh, Member, Botanical 

Society of America

Plant Anatomy: A 

Concept-Based Ap-

proach to the Structure 

of Seed Plants

Richard Crang, Sheila Lyons-

Sobaski, and Robert Wise

2018. ISBN: 978-3-319-

77208-0 

e-book: 51 €. 725 pp. 

Springer

Plant Anatomy: A Concept-Based Approach 

to the Structure of Seed Plants by Crang, 

Lyons-Sobaski, and Wise is a beautifully 

illustrated, 600+-page textbook highlighting 

the wonderful diversity of anatomical form 

in plants. The layout of the chapters follows 

many traditional plant anatomy textbooks, as 

one would expect from a book designed for 

the classroom. Plant Anatomy begins with an 

overview of plant morphology and proceeds 

through evolutionary time and across systems 

(Chapter 1: The Nature of Plants) before 

zooming into the microscopic, internal world 

of plant structures and their function (Chapter 

2: Microscopy and Imaging, through Chapter 

8: Phloem). Quite fortunately, historical 

context is described throughout these sections, 

highlighting seminal studies that have shaped 

the plant sciences over the past 300+ years. 
The book includes an overview of the 

fascinating diversity of the major plant 

groups, stunning microscopic images that 

scientifically and artistically present the 

comparative shapes and structural proportions 

across groups. My attention was focused on 

photos and microscopy images so much (e.g., 

Fig. 2.9 of autofluorescence of a blade of grass) 

that I almost missed some of the interesting 

biographical sections of founders of the 

field. For example, Katherine Esau was an 

immigrant due to war who worked to develop 

a disease-resistant sugar beet before being 

recruited to graduate school, after which 

she wrote multiple, foundational textbooks 

in plant anatomy and received the National 

Medal of Science in 1989. Plant anatomy 

students will easily engage with this historical 

overview and introductory material but 

should be encouraged to focus on microscopy 

images and ensure they understand them early 

on since they are a prominent component 

throughout the textbook. 
The vegetative structures section (Chapter 

9: Epidermis, Chapter 10: Roots, Chapter 

11: Stems, Chapter 12: Leaves) includes 

contemporary studies and goes deeper into 

function than similar textbooks in plant 

anatomy. Each chapter includes colorful 

photographs to show living examples of the 

anatomical characteristics and functions 

being described. Most chapters also include 

diagrams and microscopy images of major 

characteristics and important, sometimes 

recent findings in the field. All readers 

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will appreciate the bolded text indicating 

corresponding definitions in the substantial, 

20+-page glossary. 
The most interesting and engaging chapter 

describes the structural diversity of external 

and internal anatomical features that secrete 

oil, tannins, resins, salts, etc. from trichomes, 

cavities, ducts, and idioblasts (Chapter 13: 

Secretory Structures). This might be the most 

interesting chapter because of how easy it is to 

anthropomorphize plants when reading about 

and seeing microscopy images of physical 

defense structures including trichomes, 

colleters, and stinging hairs. Or maybe it’s 

reading about and seeing floral nectaries of a 

milkweed plant, learning how they manipulate 

pollinator behavior with complex anatomical 

structures that force the pollinator to remain 

on the flower long enough to ensure pollen 

will likely transfer to the next flower it visits. 

This chapter might also be the most engaging 

because of the images of calcium oxalate 

crystals that are illuminated with polarized 

light, showing the sharp, pointed, almost fear-

inducing structures that, when consumed, “…

can lead to a severe numbing of the mouth 

and throat and a temporary loss of speech.” 
Each chapter concludes with a Chapter 

Review section including a Concept Review 

subsection, which does exactly that. These 

sections also have standard quiz-like review 

questions, some multiple-choice answers or 

free response, and some with fill-in image 

identification or matching definitions to 

representative images. The value of visual aids 

in recalling information and definitions in the 

Chapter Review is clearly demonstrated when 

reading about diagnostic characters in wood 

(Chapter 15: Wood: Economics, Structure, 

and Composition). A challenge here is to go 

through microscopy images for 10 species and 

match the images to descriptions one would 

use to identify species or products, possibly for 

forensics in the global furniture and lumber 

economies. Readers will learn the difficulty 

of taxonomic identification with fine-scale 

descriptions including, “Diffuse-porous; 

solitary and radial multiples; large to very large 

pores in no specific arrangement, very few; 

tyloses abundant; parenchyma vasicentric, 

lozenge, confluent, and marginal; narrow to 

medium rays, spacing normal.” Fortunately, 

the authors make the process of learning plant 

anatomy concepts non-burdensome since 

the layout and progression of the chapters 

allows instructors to slowly build on concepts 

presented in previous chapters. 
Overall, Crang, Lyons-Sobaski, and Wise 

clearly created Plant Anatomy to make the 

topic accessible and engaging to students at 

both undergraduate and graduate levels. The 

gorgeous pictures and colorful diagrams draw 

attention to interesting patterns and processes 

in the plant world and act as the backdrop to 

well-written, engaging, and contemporary 

text that will enable readers to enjoy learning 

about the structure of seed plants. 

Author’s note: Any use of trade, firm, or product 

names is for descriptive purposes only and does 

not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
-Daniel E. Winkler, Research Ecologist, U.S. 

Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Sci-

ence Center

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Plant Names: A Guide 

to Botanical Nomencla-

ture, Fourth Edition

Roger Spence and Rob Cross

2020.  

ISBN-13: 

978-1486311446

Hardcover, US $29.95.

  

212 pp.

CSIRO Publishing,

 Clayton, 

Victoria, Australia

The rules and requirements surrounding the 

naming of plants can be quite daunting: the 

language is full of jargon and terms in Latin, 

the smallest difference in spelling can mean a 

big difference in plants, and the names seem 

to be constantly changing. Plant Names: A 

Guide to Botanical Nomenclature, Fourth 

Edition lays out the complications associated 

with naming plants in a clear, concise, and 

beginner-friendly manner. Roger Spence and 

Rob Cross, horticultural botanists at the Royal 

Botanic Garden Melbourne, carry on the work 

originally started by the late Peter Lumley, to 

whom this latest edition is dedicated. This 

book is separated into four main sections 

that address different aspects of botanical 

nomenclature.

Part one is dedicated to the naming of wild 

plants. The authors discuss the historical and 

cultural uses of common names as well as the 

utility of Latin or scientific names. Multiple 

examples help the reader understand both 

the value and confusion that can arise with 

both types of names. This section moves 

on to discuss the International Code of 

Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants, and 

the fourth edition includes references to the 

updated ICN. This section also explains the 

hierarchical nature of biological classification, 

the naming of new taxa, and what to do with 

name changes. Overall, part one is a great 

primer for plant systematics.

In the second section, the authors discuss the 

naming of cultivated plants, or cultigens. This 

includes detailed definitions (including the 

differences between “cultivated plants” and 

“cultigens”), as well as the details of introducing 

and naming new cultigens, with references to 

how this process differs from wild plants. They 

also discuss aspects of marketing names, plant 

breeder’s rights, and trade designations. The 

fourth edition includes new information on 

intellectual rights as they relate to cultigens. 

I enjoyed the historical illustrations found in 

this section and learned quite a bit about the 

cultigen side of plant names!

The third part discusses the usage of plant 

names, including a short section on writing 

and pronouncing plant names, proper usage of 

capitalization, italicization, and punctuation. 

The basic guide to Latin pronunciation was 

helpful, and I appreciated the caveat that 

there are no strict rules when it comes to 

pronouncing these plant names. The final 

part is a list of various resources to assist 

the reader in future endeavors, including 

books and websites for accurate and up-to-

date names, the naming codes, and guides 

to pronunciation, classification, and plant 

breeder’s rights. Many of these are divided 

and organized by region of the globe, and thus 

are accessible to a broad readership.

This book is extremely aesthetically pleasing, 

as the authors harness their knowledge of the 

wonderful flora of Australia to highlight plant 

names and features stunning photographs of 

some of these iconic plants. The tables are 

extremely helpful, and flowcharts elegantly 

outline the decision-making process for 

various questions related to plant names. 

Within the main text there are also useful 

“boxes” for additional information, asides, 

and real-world examples.

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I believe that this book is a handy resource for 

anyone interested in plant diversity, including 

both wild and cultivated plants. It is extremely 

useful for both teachers and students of plant 

systematics or horticulture and is also written 

in a way that is accessible to a much broader 

audience of plant enthusiasts interested in 

gardening, house plants, or agriculture. This 

updated fourth edition not only reflects the 

most recent naming codes, but also includes 

conventions regarding intellectual rights and 

reading plant labels, which deal with the 

industry aspects of plant names. This book 

was a pleasure to read cover-to-cover and will 

also serve as a great resource in the future.

—Nora Mitchell, Department of Biology, Uni-

versity of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Eau Claire, 

Wisconsin, USA

Trees, Shrubs, and 

Woody Vines in Kansas 

(revised and expanded 

edition)

Michael John Haddock and 

Craig C. Freeman

2019.   

ISBN: 9780700627684  

Paperback, US$26.95.  

428 pp.  

University Press of Kansas

H.A. (Steve) Stephens’ 1969 first edition of this 

book is well known, and well used, in Kansas 

and has gone through seven printings.  Finally, 

we have an attractive, revised, and updated 

edition thanks to Haddock and Freeman.  

The authors have expanded the treatment 

from the 114 species in the original to 166, 

primarily by adding full treatments for the 49 

species Stephens specifically excluded because 

they were not native.  They also provide brief 

notes, within species descriptions, to nearly 

100 additional related woody species found 

in the state and include a brief enumeration 

of 28 “other Woody Species” at the end of the 

book.  Even these are included in the keys to 

species at the beginning of the book, unless 

they are rare ornamentals that do not appear 

to be capable of reproducing and spreading.  
The general format remains the same except 

that color photos replace the black-and-

white images of the original edition.  Most 

species are treated in two facing pages with a 

distribution map and descriptive paragraphs 

for key characteristics of twigs, leaves, flowers, 

fruits, trunk, and some general comments on 

the top of each page and representative images 

filling the lower half of the treatment.  The 

authors updated the distribution maps and 

added several useful new categories including 

the general Habit and Habitat, as well as 

Inflorescence description and the status of the 

plant: is it native or naturalized? With regard 

to the latter, the authors list four plants in the 

introduction that have become weedy pests: 

Elaeagnus  umbellate, Euonymus fortunei, 

Lonicera maackii, and Pyrus calleryana. It 

would be useful to include this in the Status 

information on the respective species pages.  
The general comment discussions have been 

rewritten rather than just edited.  I think this 

strikes both ways.  For instance, for Maclura 

pomifera (Osage Orange), Stephens informs 

us that the early American geologist William 

McClure is honored by the genus name and 

pomifera refers to “fruit-bearing”—some 

interesting “tidbits” for a general reader. 

 

Haddock and Freeman tell us that a current 

theory is that fruits and seeds may have 

been distributed by extinct megafauna—

again interesting to the general reader, but 

also to specialists.  This is actually a good 

representation of the main difference in 

focus of the new vs. the older edition.  The 

original definitely targeted a lay audience and 

technical terms were kept to a minimum.  It 

would be especially useful for middle school 

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and high school biology or nature-study 

students. For instance, Stephen’s description 

of the shape of the leaves as “egg-shaped, with 

long, tapered tip, rounded or bluntly tapered 

base…” becomes “blade ovate to ovate-

lanceolate or elipitic lanceolate…base cuneate 

to rounded or subcordate…” in Haddock and 

Freeman.  Similarly, the only taxonomic key 

in the original was to Kansas oaks, although 

there was a general guide based on a few leaf 

characters.  Haddock and Freeman provide an 

extensive, but very workable, key to species, 

dividing first into major groups and providing 

genus keys where appropriate.  Appended 

to the end of the book is an extensive, but 

succinct, glossary of terms and a bibliography 

of more than 80 works cited in the text.  As 

a professor at one of the state universities, I 

much prefer the new edition as a resource for 

my students.  

The obvious audience for this book lives 

in Kansas, but it will also be a very useful 

reference for anyone living in the prairie or 

plains region of the U.S. or Canada and an 

excellent addition to herbarium libraries 

and the libraries of botanists interested in 

taxonomy and plant distribution. 

—Marshall D. Sundberg, Department of 

Biology, Emporia State University, Emporia, 

Kansas

Vanishing Beauty: Native 

Costa Rican Orchids

Franco Pupulin and 18 Col-

laborators 

2020.  

ISBN 978-3-946583-12-7 

Hard cover: $280.  

Color and line drawing illustra-

tions,  

pages 425-1003 (previous 

pages are in volume 1),  

16 unnumbered pages. 

Koeltz Botanical Books, Oberreifenberg, Germany

Despite being a small country, Costa Rica 

(19,730 mi

2

 or 51,100 km

2

) is reported to 

have more than 1600 orchid species. The first 

volume of this series, which I reviewed in 

2006 (Arditti, 2006) covered Acianthera to 

Kegeliella. 
This, the second volume [33.7 (h) × 2  (w) 

× 3.5 (thick), 4.28 kg] covers Laeaena to 

Pteroglossa.  It is as magnificent as the 

first and now, like its predecessor, one of the 

most beautiful books in my orchid library, 

even when compared to the old tomes from 

Victorian England, which are illustrated with 

watercolor paintings. (Full disclosure: Franco 

and I have been friends since my visit to Costa 

Rica in 2003 to participate in an orchid lecture 

series.) It is certainly one of heaviest because 

of the very high-quality paper on which it is 

printed.
Every genus is described clearly and in 

detail. The descriptions include historical 

information, classical taxonomy details, and, 

when available, recent molecular findings. 

These data are followed by a discussion 

of the genus in Costa Rica. Horticultural 

information is included for species that are 

in cultivation (for example, Lankesterella). 

The results in each case are scholarly essays 

of varying length and content, which should 

satisfy even the most demanding readers. 

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Species are illustrated by at least one 

 

photograph and in some cases by line 

drawings. There are several photographs 

of species, which have more than one form 

(color, shape, size). For example, there are 

four photographs of Laelia rubescens (pp. 428, 

430, 431). 
Great care was taken in photographing (for 

details, see pp. 986-987) the orchids (with a 

Nikon D200 camera), which are described 

in this volume. The results are magnificent 

photographs of very beautiful orchids. Sadly, 

printing of some photographs does not always 

do justice to their photographic excellence 

and several illustrations are fuzzy (pp. 525, 

598, 716, 838, 895, 957, and some others). 

All authors can do is provide their publishers 

with high-quality photographs. If these 

photographs are not printed properly, the 

responsibility is solely the publisher’s. 
Many of the statements in the books are well 

referenced. Cited literature is on pages 992–

995. The number of literature-cited pages 

does not seem large, but due to the large page 

size of this book, they contain more references 

than usual. 
The book concludes with two indexes: 

taxonomic novelties (p. 906) and scientific 

names (pp. 997-1003). As a rule, I do not 

consider an index that contains only species 

names to be sufficient, but since this is a flora, 

additional indexing is not needed.
For its size and quality, Vanishing Beauty is 

not expensive. It would be an excellent book 

to acquire for private book collections or 

coffee tables, give as a present, or, at the least, 

recommend its purchase (and also volume 

1) by institutional libraries. It is a good book 

to have, give, refer to, and use as an example 

of what an orchid flora should be. The only 

problem I have with it is the need for someone 

to help me lug it from my desk to a shelf in my 

library. It is heavy!

LITERATURE CITED

Arditti, J. 2006. Vanishing Beauty. Plant Science Bul-

letin 52: 105.

–Joseph Arditti, Professor of Biology Emeritus, 

University of California, Irvine 

Wild Plants for a Sus-

tainable Future: 110 

Multipurpose Species

Tizinia Ulian, César Flores, 

Rafael Lira, Avhatakali 

Mamatsharaga, Kebadire K. 

Mogotsi, Patrick Muthoka, 

Samodimo Ngwako, et al., 

Eds. 2019. 

 ISBN 9781842466735;  

e-ISBN 9781842466742

Hardcover, £40.00. 490 pp.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

https://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/

Sustainable%20wild%20plants.pdf  

Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has 

produced a noteworthy volume intended for 

practitioners in governmental institutions and 

non-governmental organizations working in 

Africa and Latin America. The publication 

forms one of the main dissemination 

achievements of the MGU-Useful Plants 

Project, to conserve and use sustainably wild 

plants important for rural communities. 

Institutional partners led the project in 

each country, involving rural communities, 

local authorities, and schools. The name 

MGU reflects the support provided by the 

philanthropist who funds the work of the 

Useful Plants Project.
Since 2007, the Useful Plants Project has 

been working collaboratively to conserve