Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2023-v69-3Actions

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in the 



Applications in Plant


Celebrates Its 10th 

Anniversary... p. 252

Botanical Society of America’s Award 

Winners... p. 244

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                                         Fall 2023 Volume 69 Number 3



I am thrilled to share this very special issue of PSB that focuses on the many connections 

between science and art. This issue has been brought to you by an impressive team of guest 

editors: Patricia Chan, Rosemary Glos, Ashley Hamersma, Kasey Pham, and Nicolette 

Sipperly. I want to thank this team for their creative visioning and hard work putting this 

issue together. I also want to thank the talented authors and creators who have shared their 

work with us. There was such a positive response to the call for articles on this topic that we 

anticipate continuing this subject in our Spring and Summer issues. 

In this issue, you will also find many of our regular PSB sections, as well as news and awards 

from Botany 2023 and profiles of our new Distinguished Fellows.


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PSB 69 (3) 2023





              AND FUTURE................................................................................................................................


Weaving Together Culture and Ecology to Express My Identity as a Scientist 

       (by Clarissa Rodriguez)......................................................................................................................... 162

Art in the Herbarium? (by Maura Flannery)....................................................................................... 165

The Significance of Illustrations as Nomenclatural Types in Botany: “Iconotypes”

       at the Natural History Museum Vienna and the Importance of Color Systems, 

       such as Those Utilized by Ferdinand Bauer [1760–1826] 

       (by Tanja M. Schuster et al.)............................................................................................................... 170

Celebrating the Launch of the UTEP Virtual Herbarium by Highlighting 

       Contemporary and Historical Art and Science of the El Paso Region 

       (Mingna V. Zhuang et al.)..................................................................................................................... 176

Celebrating Plant Diversity through Art (by Alice V. Pierce et al.) ........................................ 179

Brazilian Botanists Flirting with Arts: Valuing the Multicultural Heritage 

       (by Lucas C. Marinho et al.) ................................................................................................................ 182

Integrating Botany, History, Culture, and Contemporary Art in a Botanical Garden

       Museum  (by Nezka Pfeifer)............................................................................................................... 186

Science, Art, and the Allure of Photographs (by Benjamin-Goulet-Scott 

       and Jacob Suissa).................................................................................................................................... 189

Filling Out PhyloPic: Call for Adoption by Plant Scientists (by Mason C. McNair 

       and T. Michael Keesey)......................................................................................................................... 193

Can the Collaboration of Science and Art Broaden Our Understanding of Nature?

       (by Paul J. CaraDonna and Mark Dorf) ........................................................................................ 198

The Integration of Botanical Science, Art, and Agency (by Maria Park et al.)................ 202

“Art of Horticulture” Course Cultivates Creativity (by Emily Detrick 

       and Craig Cramer..................................................................................................................................... 206

Reaching Across Audiences: Connecting to and Communicating Botanical Concepts   

       Through Art (by Janette L. Davidson et al.) .............................................................................. 209

Reconnecting Science with the Visual Arts: Teaching the Art of Biology

       (by Lynne Gildensoph) .......................................................................................................................... 216

Nature Journaling: Sharing Perspectives Between Art and Science 

       (by Corinn Rutkoski et al.).................................................................................................................... 219

Plants as a Case for Creative Collaboration: Designing the Interactive Art-Science 

       Exhibition Meaningful Beauty (by Christopher Ault et al.) ................................................ 221

Understanding Plants Through Imagery: Functional Traits, Cuteness, and 

       Narrative (by F. Curtis Lubbe) .......................................................................................................... 227

Why Are You Doing That? Unexpected Varaition in Floral Traits of 

       Blue Cardinal Flower (by Gavin Hossack).................................................................................. 232

Wild Growth Paintings (by Daniel Philosoph)................................................................................... 237

Art + Botany: Making a Difference (by Kathleen Marie Garness) ......................................... 239

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Botanical Society of America’s Award Winners (Part 2) ........................................................................244

Publications Corner..................................................................................................................................................... 252

Botany 2023At A Glance......................................................................................................................................... 254


BSA Spotlight Series.................................................................................................................................................. 257

BSA Professional Highlight Series...................................................................................................................... 258

New AJ Harris Graduate Student Award........................................................................................................ 259

BSA Student Chapter Updates..............................................................................................................................259

It's Renewal Season .....................................................................................................................................................260


Print Subscription Change



Year-End Giving.............................................................................................................................................................260

2023 BSA Gift Membership Drive .......................................................................................................................261

New BSA Ad Hoc Committee................................................................................................................................261 


Updating BSA’s State-by-State Botanical Resource Pages Please Help!.................................... 264

PlantingScience Updates......................................................................................................................................... 264

Meet Our F2 Fellows .................................................................................................................................................. 265

Read About Digging Deeper.................................................................................................................................. 266


Botany 2023 Review................................................................................................................................................... 268


Dr. Joel Fry (1957-2023)....................................................................................................................................... 270


Dr. John Kiss Featured on The Space Show............................................................................................. 273

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



tart Planning for 

See logo description on inside back cover

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences


Art in the Botanical Sciences: 

Past, Present, and Future

As you may have guessed from the cover, this is no ordinary issue of the PSB! You are reading the first 

in a multiple-issue anthology dedicated to art and the botanical sciences. We, your guest editors, are a 

group of graduate students from four universities who are passionate about the intersections of botany, 

art, and personal expression. This anthology grew out of our first workshop on botanical art at Botany 

2022 in Anchorage, AK. As artist-scientists, we have worked to create spaces where our colleagues can 

discuss their complex, and sometimes challenging, experiences of bridging the gap between disci-

plines. The PSB editorial team invited us to expand on the ideas shared in our workshop via a special 

issue. We accepted with enthusiasm and set to work soliciting abstracts for an issue that celebrated 

the many ways that people integrate art and botany. We received so many exciting proposals that the 

resulting pieces will be published in three(!) consecutive issues of the PSB
In this issue, you will learn about a variety of artist-scientist collaborations, integrations of art and 

science in museums, scientists’ and artists’ accounts of what drives their curiosity and exploration, and 

the role of art in teaching and herbarium curation. 
In preparing this issue, we learned that “anthology” comes from the Greek anthologéō, or “I gather 

flowers.” How fitting for a collection of works that celebrate the beauty and wonder of the botanical 

world. We hope the pieces featured in this anthology inspire you to envision how creativity can enrich 

our lives as scientists, artists, and educators. 
The SciArt Collective
Nicolette Sipperly
, Stony Brook University

Rosemary Glos, University of Michigan

Kasey Pham, University of Florida   Patricia Chan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Ashley Hamersma, University of Florida

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences


To reach broader audiences, science 

communication must move towards imaginative 

and unconventional methods of conveying 

research and knowledge. I use embroidery to 

weave together my personal, scientific, and cultural 

experiences and share them with not only other 

scientists but general audiences and my family. 

I grew up helping my grandparents forage for 

medicinal plants, weed their crop fields, and herd 

our family cattle every summer in the grasslands 

of Mexico. Our daily work required knowledge 

of when and where plants grow, when to harvest, 

and when to rotate cattle. Despite my exposure to 

botany and ecology at an early age, I never linked 

my family’s cultural knowledge to these fields of 

science. The more I researched about my Mexican 

heritage, the more proof I found of various ways 

to transfer knowledge via cultural practices. 

Traditional embroidery has long been a way 

for people to record the plants and animals that 

Weaving Together Culture and Ecology to 

Express My Identity as a Scientist

were present on the land, as well as an important 

way to share important stories and lessons. As a 

scientist, I integrate my culture into my work by 

using embroidery to communicate my research, 

study species, and express my identity through 

art. This form of transferring knowledge also 

helps promote cultural diversity and inclusivity 

in science. Given that information is conveyed 

mainly through visualizations rather than text 

via embroidery and other art forms, SciArt also 

removes language barriers that may prevent 

individuals from engaging with science. Although 

I use embroidery here as an example of expressing 

my identity as a scientist, I encourage others to 

find ways to express their science using other 

forms of media (e.g., sculpture, dance, song) that 

provide creative avenues for passing knowledge 

from one generation to the next. 

I was fortunate to spend my childhood summers 

in the semi-arid grasslands of Zacatecas, Mexico 

with my grandparents. Surrounded by a diverse 

range of flora and stunning exposed cliffs, I 

was captivated. My grandparents taught me the 

importance of being land stewards, showing me 

how to rotate cattle to ensure plant regrowth 

the following year and how to identify and use 

plants with ethnobotanical properties. These 

were all lessons that had been passed down 

orally for generations in my family. Although 

I was not consciously aware of it at the time, 

these experiences were integral to developing 

my scientific worldview, but I would not begin to 

link my family’s cultural knowledge to scientific 

concepts in ecology until college. This realization 

Clarissa Rodriguez

Plant Biology Ph.D. Candidate, 

University of California-Riverside

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allowed me to self-reflect on my identity and 

explore other forms of transferring knowledge in 

Mexican culture that I may have overlooked. I was 

captivated by the use of artisan’s hand embroidery 

to convey stories and even record flora and 

fauna that were present on landscapes through 

beautiful images created on textiles using colorful 

threads. Today, I am continuing this tradition by 

using embroidery to communicate my science 

with broader audiences, express my identity as a 

Mexican-American scientist, and weave together 

my scientific training and heritage in hopes 

of encouraging the representation of cultural 

diversity and knowledge in science.
As a first-generation Mexican-American, I wanted 

to fit in with my peers, and sometimes fitting in 

came at the cost of suppressing my own Mexican 

heritage. My mother started to teach me how to 

embroider when I was 10, showing me the various 

stitching techniques my great-grandmother had 

taught her. As a child, I was eager to learn how 

to use stitches to display intricate flowers, birds, 

and mammals. But as I entered my teenage years, 

I spent less time practicing my embroidery until I 

stopped altogether to make time for other hobbies 

that I could share with my American friends. I had 

also stopped making my annual trips to Mexico 

due to heavy cartel violence that was rampant at 

the time. This change meant that I could no longer 

engage in ranching, farming, or family gatherings 

in Mexico—activities that had always been a 

central part of my life. Consequently, this led to 

an identity crisis where I found myself identifying 

more with my American companions and losing 

the firm grip I had on my Mexican roots.
During my college years, I wasn’t entirely sure 

about my cultural identity, but I knew for certain 

that I wanted to become a scientist to solve the 

environmental concerns plaguing our world. 

My understanding of science was limited to the 

Western perspective, where trained scientists 

collected data and validated it through peer review. 

However, it wasn’t until I took an undergraduate 

ecology course that I realized how much my 

grandparents’ traditional practices were rooted in 

the fields of community and restoration ecology. It 

was foolish of me to not recognize earlier that their 

knowledge of rangelands and natural resource 

management was science. Their ecological 

knowledge was accumulated over generations of 

trial and error, and this realization encouraged 

me to reflect on my identities. In turn, I found 

a creative outlet through SciArt embroidery to 

express my cultural ties and share science. 
My first attempt at merging science and art via 

embroidery was unsuccessful. I had forgotten 

how technical the work of embroidery was, and 

my work was riddled with crooked stitches and 

tension issues throughout. Although it wasn’t 

pretty, I wanted to show my grandma that I had 

finally found a way to share my love for science 

while paying homage to my Mexican roots. After 

ten years of not seeing my family in Mexico, I 

made the journey to reconnect, share my work, 

and seek advice on how to fix my technique. My 

grandma and my aunts gave me pointers on how 

to improve my technique, but also expressed joy 

that “the young generation is keeping our tradition 

alive.” My mother was especially proud of me for 

embracing my Mexican heritage within academic 

spaces, because she had witnessed my struggles 

with identity for years. This trip inspired me 

to design a series of hoops to convey important 

concepts and processes within the field of plant 

Given my scientific interests, plant invasions are 

a common theme in my SciArt. For instance, 

stinknet, a focal species of my dissertation, is an 

invasive plant that is difficult to manage due to its 

prolific seed production and persistent soil seed 

bank (Figure 1A). Likewise, I created a hoop that 

shows how the dispersal of introduced grasses 

into a community can establish an invasive grass-

fire feedback loop by increasing biomass and fuel 

continuity while suppressing native plant recovery 

(Figure 1B).
A large reason why I feel comfortable expressing 

myself within academic spaces is due to my 

advisor’s support, Dr. Larios, who is a fellow first-

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Figure 1. Embroidery hoops showing (A) stinknet (Oncosiphon pilulifer) accumulating seeds in the seed bank, and 

included a harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex rugosus) crawling along the soil surface to depict a collaborative study in-

vestigating the role of harvester ants in dispersing invasive plants, and (B) invasive grass-fire cycle that establishes once 

invasive grasses disperse into a community, which creates a litter layer that adds fuel and connectivity that carries fire 

easily and creates a feedback loop to maintain invader dominance while suppressing native recovery.

generation Mexican-American, and an incredible 

scientist. To show my appreciation for her 

dedication to creating an inclusive workspace, I 

designed and embroidered a hoop to represent the 

various research topics (e.g., trophic interactions, 

coexistence and land management) she studies 

Figure 2. A 12-inch embroidery hoop I made for my 

PhD advisor, Dr. Larios, to showcase the wide scope of 

her community and restoration ecology research pro-

gram in California, which was established in 2017.

throughout California (Figure 2). One of my 

favorite things about embroidery is the removal 

of a language barrier. One can stare at a hoop 

and recognize the heterogenous landscape of 

California, along with the biodiversity of plant 

species, herbivores (e.g., cows, kangaroo rats) 

and fire on the landscape hinting at ecological 

SciArt is a powerful tool for self-expression 

and knowledge transfer that can reach broader 

audiences and increase inclusivity in science. For 

many individuals who come from historically 

underrepresented groups within the fields of 

STEM, this is a way for us to help integrate forms 

of cultural knowledge and dissemination into 

a Western-dominated society. Peer-reviewed 

journals are already recognizing the power of 

art to convey information by requiring graphical 

abstracts (i.e., visual representations of the article’s 

main findings). Although I use embroidery here, I 

encourage others to find their own artistic outlet 

to promote their science and help them share 

their story. I urge my colleagues to try out visual 

and performing arts to discover their preferred 

creative outlet. Above all, do not hesitate to 

take the first steps toward integrating art with 

botanical sciences, whether that means making 

the initial brush stroke, threading the first needle, 

or collaborating with an artist.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

In the 1980s, only one species of the genus Anisotes

was known in Madagascar.  However, a specimen 

on loan to the California Academy of Sciences 

(CAS) from the National Museum of Natural 

History in Paris seemed to be from the same genus 

but with distinctive leaf and flower shape.  Daniel 

Thomas of the CAS wanted to know more, so he 

asked botanical illustrator Erin Hunt to draw the 

plant from the specimen.  The result was different 

from what he expected, but Hunt thought she 

had captured the form correctly.  When CAS 

botanists went to Madagascar with the drawing 

in hand, they found the plant, identifiable from 

the drawing.  Hunt had been right (Daniel et al., 

Such stories are rather common in botany. 


After the illustrator Patricia Fawcett at Fairchild 

Botanical Garden drew a flower from life with 

Maura Flannery

Doctor of Philosophy, St. John’s University, 

Department of Computer Science, 

Mathematics and Science, New York, NY

Art in the Herbarium?

too many floral parts to fit the taxon description, 

botanists realized intra-species variation required 

amending the description (Stevenson and 

Stevenson 2014).  Conceptualizing a given species 

can involve several different kinds of input ideally 

including fresh and preserved material, but also 

hand-drawn illustrations.  The emergence of 

modern botany in the 16th century was based on 

this assumption, which required the rejection of 

classical authorities’ deep distrust of hand-drawn 

illustrations (Reeds, 1976). It is not surprising 

that Luca Ghini (d. 1556), the director of the first 

botanic garden in Pisa, was a very early proponent 

of herbaria and field trips as well as a collector of 

drawings and printed artwork, some from the first 

printed herbals with good illustrations (Findlen, 

2017).  It quickly became common for botanists 

to trade or borrow both specimens and images, 

as they moved away from reliance on classical 

authorities who distrusted plant drawings.  
The Swiss naturalist Felix Platter (1536-1614) 

arranged his bound collection so that in many 

cases he would have one or more images on the 

left-hand page, and a specimen of the same species 

on the right (Figure 1; Benkert, 2016).  On the 

other hand, the Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi 

(1522-1605) stored his specimens and watercolors 

separately.  Some early modern botanists used 

other visual technologies including nature prints 

and rubbings to get information about plants into 

a portable reference format.  There were even 

some who painted in missing parts of a specimen.  

Because botanical terminology was in its infancy, 

visual representations could differentiate among 

similar species in ways that written descriptions 

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could not.  Those interested in plants preferred 

to receive drawings rather than text. Some argue 

that it was the illustrations that pushed botanists 

to write descriptions of equal clarity, and that 

the artists of the age were influential in causing 

botanists to observe more closely (Smith, 2003).
The relationship between drawing and knowing 

has become a topic of interest among historians 

of art and science.  The astronomer Omar Nasim 

(2013) describes how repeated drawing of nebulae 

in the 19th century clarified the concept of an 

astronomical phenomenon that, as its name 

suggests, was blurry.  As more observations were 

made, as drawings were repeated night after night, 

these hazy structures become more familiar to the 

observer’s eye, mind, and hand.  Drawings were 

tools in the process of discovery and knowledge 

stabilization.  In drawing, the hand slows down 

observation, allowing the mind to synthesize.  

Barbara Wittmann (2013) reports on a scientific 

illustrator’s experiences working on a new fish 

species where getting the drawings correct led him 

to discover novel anatomical features.  Botanists 

who choose to do at least their own preliminary 

drawings have similar experiences.  As they draw 

plant structures repeatedly, often from different 

perspectives or from different dissections, they 

find themselves learning more and having to 

correct their drawings and written descriptions 

along the way.
If a professional illustrator is doing artwork, there 

is a back-and-forth, with the botanist making 

corrections.  This is what Lorraine Daston and Peter 

Galison (2007) term “four-eyed sight,” producing 

a more informative image than one pair of eyes 

could.  Clarity and discovery arise from this give-

and-take.  A drawing helps both the botanist and 

the audience to understand more about the plant.  

The zoologist and illustrator Jonathan Kingdon 

(2011) appeals to research on the neurophysiology 

of sight to explain why pen and ink drawings and 

prints are particularly useful.  The human brain 

processes signals from the eyes by detecting edges 

and accentuating them.  This means that black-

and-white illustrations communicate information 

especially effectively because they are in tune with 

the brain’s visual processing system.  

Figure 1. From Felix Platter’s herbarium (volume 7, pp. 86-87). Hand-col-

ored woodcut image of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) from the Ger-

man edition of Leonhard Fuchs’s 1542 herbal, facing specimen of the same 

species. Courtesy of Bern City Library. 

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As more and more new plants were discovered 

around the world beginning in the 1500s, botanists 

were challenged with naming and describing 

them.  There was a fervor among many to publish 

new species as soon as possible, often based only 

on specimens or drawings sent to them.   Even 

Carl Linnaeus described many species solely on 

the basis of watercolors or printed black-and-

white illustrations.  When his species descriptions 

were later typified, these images became 

lectotypes since they were the only materials he 

had examined.  This was true for other botanists 

as well, although now the practice is only allowed 

in defined cases in the International Code of 

Botanical Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants 

(Turland and Wiersema, 2018).
Pragmatically, drawings of plants also serve as a 

back-up to specimens and descriptions. The plants 

of New Spain that were collected in the late 18th 

century by the Sessé and Mociño Expedition 

reached Spain safely, but their analysis and 

publication was disrupted by Martin de Sessé’s 

death and the Napoleonic Wars.  José Mociño 

fled to France, taking with him some written 

descriptions and nearly 2000 illustrations made 

during the expedition.  In Montpellier, he shared 

this hoard of information on undescribed species 

with Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, who was 

writing a comprehensive work on the world’s 

plants.  De Candolle regarded these watercolors 

and sketches as so valuable that he had them hastily 

copied by a large team of artists before Mociño 

returned to Barcelona.  After Mociño’s death there, 

the originals were lost until 1979!  Consequently, 

for more than 150 years, de Candolle’s annotated 

copies became the primary source of information 

about hundreds of New World species (McVaugh, 

In the 18


 and 19


 centuries, British colonial 

administrators in India created botanical gardens 

as a way to gather and observe many species to find 

those that could be sources of food, medicines, 

and useful items such as textiles and timber 

wood.  Meanwhile, botanists collected thousands 

of specimens in support of this effort.  It became 

standard practice to have Indian artists paint 

watercolors of many of these plants.  This was not 

just to have a record of a plant’s color and form, 

but also to ensure that there was any record at all.  

In tropical climates, conditions sometimes drove 

collectors to rely on nature prints and drawings.  It 

was difficult to preserve specimens in hot humid 

areas and to prevent insect and fungal damage.
In the 20


 century there were botanists like Oakes 

Ames at Harvard who included ink drawings and 

watercolor sketches by his artist wife Blanche Ames 

on his orchid specimens.  This approach continues 

as drawings of flower dissections and microscope 

enlargements of structures are added to sheets by 

botanists and artists.  Because of the importance 

of having different kinds of information about a 

plant available at the same time, such practices 

persist, but there has been a change in storage 

practices.  In the past, illustrations of a species 

were often stored in the same folder as specimens 

of that species.  This was handy for botanists but 

perhaps not so good for the art, which could be 

damaged by substances leaching from the plants.  

With the start of digitization projects, when 

folders that hadn’t received attention for years 

were examined, it became common to remove the 

illustrations, particularly if they weren’t physically 

attached to the specimens.  They are now usually 

stored separately, often in the library or archives 

affiliated with the herbarium.  
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RGBE) 

has a large number of Indian plant specimens, 

many collected by physicians who had trained 

in Edinburgh and later served Britain’s massive 

colonial enterprise in India. Henry Noltie, then 

a curator at the RBGE herbarium, spent months 

going through folders, removing the images created 

by Indian artists and successfully re-sorting them 

from taxonomic order into separate collections, 

many donated by one person or organization 

and in some cases created by a single Indian 

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artist or by a small group. Noltie was often able 

to identify the artists by name, but others remain 

anonymous. Through this work, Noltie learned 

a great deal about the collections and the people 

related to them, producing several books on these 

works (Noltie, 2002, 2017). The art is now stored 

in the RBGE archives, along with correspondence 

and other papers from those responsible for the 

specimen and art collections. The Royal Botanic 

Gardens Kew and many other institutions have 

done the same.  
This policy makes the illustrations more available 

to those interested in the historical and artistic 

significance of these works and keeps them 

together as collections so they can be compared 

in terms of style. In other words, the images are 

now treated more as works of art than of science, 

perhaps to the detriment of science.  What might 

be good for the botanical art and for the history 

of art and botany, might not be the best solution 

for botanical inquiry. Past collectors of Indian 

botanical art were often as interested in them as 

works of art as of science, and today this is true 

for many who collect botanical art.  However, both 

the art and specimens were created as scientific 

documents, whether or not they had any obvious 

aesthetic appeal. The botanist Peter Crane (2013) 

considers botanical illustration as important 

today as it was hundreds of years ago, but notes 

economics has changed the picture. Today, color 

images are rare in taxonomic treatments of new 

species, and even pen-and-ink illustrations are 

less prevalent, even though, for all the reasons 

discussed earlier, illustrations can provide vital 

information to botanists.
The works described here were created as adjuncts 

to specimens, living and preserved, and they should 

be able to continue to function this way. Opening 

up a species folder and finding illustrations can 

provide a botanist with information on color and 

form less likely to be documented in the specimen 

itself, thus making it easier to create a full mental 

image of the plant.  If the illustrations are stored 

elsewhere, this richness is lacking.  A trip to the 

archives would be necessary to see the relevant 

drawings. Since some of the art collections have 

been digitized, and herbaria are continuing to 

digitize their collections, it should be possible to 

link a specimen to one or more illustrations of that 

specimen as one facet of the extended specimen 

Implementing such an idea is hardly trivial. 

The databases used in science and those for art 

and archival materials are often quite different. 

There are moves toward standardization across 

platforms, but implementation will not be easy.  

The work of developing what is called FAIR 

data—Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and 

Reusable—is substantial (Manzano and Julier, 

2021).  The colonial origin of a good deal of both 

types of collections needs to be acknowledged as 

well.  However, my focus here is on the value of 

linking art to science, an important component 

since the 16th century.  It is as important today 

not only for what botanists can learn about 

plants but for the aesthetic lift that comes with 

examining these works, even if the goal is to seek 

out taxonomic information.  The botanist Richard 

Mabey’s (2015) comment is relevant here: “The 

quintessence of a plant can only ever be a fantastic 

goal, something to travel towards but never reach” 

(p. 27).  That’s why we need to dig into—and 

preserve—different types of information:  living 

plants, specimens, art, and photography, which 

should not be forgotten but is outside the scope 

of this article.


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Knowledge, environment, and image in Felix Platter’s and 

Caspar Bauhin’s herbaria. In S. Burghartz, L. Burkart, and 

C. Göttler (Eds.), Sites of Mediation, 211–239. Brill, Leiden. 
Crane, P. 2013. Gingko: The Tree that Time Forgot. New Ha-

ven, CT: Yale University Press.
Daniel, T. F., B. A. V. Mbola, F. Almeda, and P. B. Phillipson. 

2007. Anisotes (Acanthaceae) in Madagascar. Proceedings of 

the California Academy of Sciences 58: 121–131.

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Community in Late Renaissance Italy. In G. Manning, C. 

Klestinec (Eds.), Professors, Physicians and Practices in the 

History of Medicine, 127–167. Springer, New York.
Kingdon, J. 2011. In the eye of the beholder. In M. R. Can-

field (Ed.), Field Notes on Science and Nature, 129–160. Har-

vard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Mabey, R. 2015. The Cabaret of Plants: Forty Thousand Years 

of Plant Life and the Human Imagination. Norton, New York.
Manzano, S., and A. C. M. Julier. 2021. How FAIR are plant 

sciences in the twenty-first century? The pressing need for 

reproducibility in plant ecology and evolution. Proceedings of 

the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 288: 20202597. 
McVaugh, R. 1998. Historical introduction. Torner Collection 

of Sessé and Mociño Biological Illustrations, Hunt Institute for 

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lae in the Nineteenth Century. University of Chicago Press, 


Noltie, H. J. 2002. The Dapuri Drawings: Alexander Gibson 

and the Bombay Botanic Gardens. Antique Collectors’ Club, 

Noltie, H. J. 2017. Botanical Art from India: The Royal Bo-

tanic Garden Edinburgh Collection. Royal Botanic Garden 

Edinburgh, Edinburgh.
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nals of Science 33: 519-542. 
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bolts of doing the Flora of the Bahama Archipelago: How Don 

Correll worked. The Botanical Review 80: 135–147. 
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technique in contemporary biology. Science in Context 26: 


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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The Significance of Illustrations as Nomenclatural Types in 

Botany: “Iconotypes” at the Natural History Museum 

Vienna, and the Importance of Color Systems, 

Such as Those Utilized by Ferdinand Bauer [1760–1826]

Tanja M. Schuster


Mario-Dominik Riedl


Sarah Fiedler


Martin Krenn


Heimo Rainer


David J. Mabberley



Natural History Museum Vienna, Department of Botany, 

Herbarium, Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria


Natural History Museum Vienna, Department Archive for 

the History of Science, Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria


Natural History Museum Vienna, Libraries Department, 

Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria 


Wadham College, University of Oxford, Parks Road, 

Oxford OX1 3PN, United Kingdom


School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University, Mac-

quarie Park, New South Wales 2109, Australia


Australian Institute of Botanical Science (Royal Botanic 

Gardens and Domain Trust), Mrs Macquaries Road, New 

South Wales 2000, Australia 


Author for correspondence:


Aside from the more commonly selected 

herbarium specimens for this purpose, a botanical 

illustration—in particular, a historical one—

can also serve as type for the name of a taxon. 

The Archive for the History of Science at the 

Natural History Museum Vienna holds many 

such “iconotypes.” These include illustrations 

used in Jacquin’s, Schott’s, and others’ taxon 

descriptions. Additional drawings of great value 

for taxonomy are annotated field sketches, such 

as those by Ferdinand Lukas Bauer. The field 

drawings, often with locality data and dates of 

observation, enabled him to produce colored 

plates of exceptional aesthetic and scientific 

quality by employing numerical and other codes 

to document color,  hue, brightness, opacity, and 

texture of morphological features.


Australia, Linnaeus, natural history collections, 

New Holland, Norfolk Island, nomenclature, 





Although the term “iconotype” is not formally 

used in the International Code of Nomenclature 

for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (ICN), it is generally 

understood to be an illustration that serves as 

the type for the name of a taxon. For example, 

the lectotypes of many Linnaean binomials in 

botany and zoology are illustrations (Jarvis, 2007, 

2008). When a type specimen is lost or destroyed, 

illustrations prepared from the original material 

can be candidates for types; such illustrations are 

obligate lectotypes when all other original material 

has been lost. 

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“Iconotypes” at the Natural History 

Museum Vienna Archive

The Archive for the History of Science at the 

Natural History Museum Vienna (NHMW) houses 

a significant collection of historical illustrations, 

some of which are types for names of animals, 

fungi, and plants (for example, illustrations by 

Nikolaus von Jacquin [1727–1817], Joseph Franz 

von Jacquin [1766–1839], and Heinrich Schott 

Most of Schott’s specimens of Araceae were 

destroyed in a fire at the end of WWII (see Riedl, 

1981) so that taxonomists (e.g., Coelho, 2000) have 

to rely on Schott’s illustrations of original material 

for typification (Figure 1). Other examples are 

mycological illustrations in Jacquin (1776), as 

few, if any, of Jacquin’s specimens of fungi have 

survived; for example, the published illustration 

of  Boletus cinnabarinus Jacq. (= Pycnoporus 

cinnabarinus (Jacq.) P.Karst., Polyporaceae) is the 

type (see link in References).

One Step Beyond: The Field 

Drawings of Ferdinand Lucas Bauer 

Use of illustrations as types is facilitated if they 

were made using standardized coloration. An 

outstanding example of this is the work of 

Ferdinand Lucas Bauer (FLB), whose pencil field-

sketches, now almost all at NHMW, were the bases 

for colored illustrations (mostly now at BM), some 

of which are types. The drawings are important, 

because they include information omitted from 

the final, colored illustrations, such as collection 

localities, dates, and additional detailed sketches of 

descriptive morphological characters (Mabberley, 

2021). The sketches also bear FLB’s notations using 

numerical and other codes, which indicate the hue, 

brightness, opacity, and texture of particular parts 

of the living organism (Figure 2). FLB did this to 

document rapidly the coloration of a specimen in 

the field with a view to his “reviving” this later in 


Figure 1. Note that this figure can only be accessed elec-

tronically via 

The lectotype for Philodendron imperiale Schott, a 

synonym of Philodendron ornatum Schott (Araceae), 

‘Schott Aroideae’ No. 3620 (see arrowhead). Most of 

Schott’s specimens were destroyed in a fire at the end of 

WWII, and taxonomists use the illustrations of original 

material commissioned by Schott (this one done by W. 

Liepoldt, double arrowhead) for typification.

FLB’s drawings recorded for the first time many 

Australian species then new to Western science, as 

he accompanied Matthew Flinders’ voyage (1801–

1803), the first documented circumnavigation 

of the continent. For example, Figure 2 shows 

an as-yet-undescribed species of Thomasia, a 

genus restricted to Australia (Malvaceae). This is 

likely T. sp. Vasse (Wilkins and Shepherd, 2019; 

but see Shepherd and Wilkins, in preparation). 

Exceptionally, the notation on the drawing 

indicates that FLB drew it at Kew Gardens, 

where the plant was raised from seed, most likely 

collected during the expedition.

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Figure 2. Drawing by Ferdinand Lucas Bauer of an undescribed species of Thomasia currently listed as T. sp. Vasse 

(Malvaceae). Note that the numbers on the drawing correspond to numerical codes Bauer used to indicate hue, bright-

ness, opacity, and texture of a particular structure. The arrows point to additional symbols, such as sigils.

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Color Charts for Standardization 

in Historical Illustration as 

Used by Bauer

FLB used the “painting by numbers” technique 

throughout his career (Mabberley, 2017). His 

color-code evolved over time and could have 

been derived from principles in, or partial use 

of, color systems developed by others. These 

include Brenner (1680); Estner (1794), which is 

specifically referenced on some of FLB’s Pacific 

drawings (Mabberley, 2017, 2019); Schäffer (1769); 

Schiffermüller and Denis (1771); Struve (1797); 

Werner (1774); Widenmann (1794); Willdenow 

(1799); and, perhaps, that associated with Haenke 

(see Lack and Ibáñez Montoya, 2004, but also 

Mabberley and San Pío Aldarén, 2012). FLB may 

also have utilized color tables used by various 

tradespeople (ceramics painters, printers, tanners) 

and chemists (Pörner, 1773; Gülich 1779, 1780, 

1781, 1786). Over time, he used an increasing 

range of numbers, and the later work, in Australia, 

included values close to 1000 (Pignatti-Wikus et 

al., 2000) for botanical subjects, and beyond in the 

later zoological drawings made on Norfolk Island. 

However, FLB’s elaborate color chart is lost (Riedl-

Dorn and Riedl, 2019), if it ever existed (Mabberley 

and San Pío Aldarén 2012; Mabberley, 2017, 2019, 

2022; Jelley, 2022). Jelley (2022) has a practical 

explanation for the numerical code based on an 

art practitioner’s process, showing that the layout 

of FLB’s paintbox may have functioned as his aide-

memoire and that the numbers could have been a 

two-part code. The first one or two digits specified 

which pigment to use, and the last digit(s) were 

directions on how to achieve the correct blend, 

brightness, opacity, etc. In other words, if this 

hypothesis is proved, there probably never was a 

physical color-chart of FLB's.
In addition to numbers, FLB used many additional 

ciphers, especially in his later zoological drawings. 

These include planetary symbols to convey 

information about color, in that they were then 

commonly understood to correspond to metals 

such as gold for the sun ( ), silver for the moon 

(  ), and so on. However, FLB sometimes also wrote 

the actual words “gold” or “silver” on drawings 

together with the symbols. We assume therefore, 

that the symbols had additional meaning and 

may also refer to particular color blends, pattern, 

texture, brightness, and/or opacity for that color 

(e.g., yellow for  ). Bauer also used upper- and 

lower-case letters, maybe corresponding to those 

in the tables of Schiffermüller and Denis (1771), 

but also see Pignatti-Wikus et al. (2000), sigils 

(symbols used in alchemy and magic; see Figure 

2), and the Greek alphabet. Roman numerals 

usually indicate the number of any particular 

structure (e.g., stamens in a flower, spines of a fish 

fin). It is currently mostly unclear, though, what 

these additional symbols exactly mean. Jelley 

(pers. comm.) is conducting further research into 

these more complex layers of information in FLB’s 

Australian work. 
The importance of Ferdinand Bauer’s drawings at 

the NHMW to taxonomic biology, as “iconotypes” 

and otherwise, is only now beginning to become 

clear. A thorough investigation of the collections, 

necessarily involving international collaboration, 

is much needed (Mabberley, 2021). In addition 

to their immeasurable scientific and aesthetic 

value, these drawings document the Australian 

flora largely before European settlement. It would 

therefore be important to make them available 

to a broader audience. This will require funding 

for a collaboration between Australian botanists, 

NHMW staff (archive, botany, and library), and to 

hire project-based digitization staff. 


We thank the reviewers for helping to improve 

the manuscript, as well as Trevor L. Blake, Kelly 

Shepherd (PERTH), and Carol Wilkins (PERTH) 

for refining our Thomasia identification. 

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High-resolution scans of the illustrations shown 

and other “iconotypes” are available upon request 

for research purposes via the Archive for the 

History of Science at the Natural History Museum 

Vienna (


The authors declare no potential conflict of 



This project was not supported by external 



S.F.: review and editing (equal); M.K.: review and 

editing (equal); D.J.M.: conceptualization (equal), 

writing – review and editing (supporting); 

H.R.: review and editing (equal); M.-D.R.: 

conceptualization (equal), writing – review and 

editing (supporting), figure preparation (lead); 

T.M.S.: conceptualization (equal), writing – 

original draft (lead), writing – review and editing 

(lead), figure preparation (supporting).


Brenner, E. 1680. Nomenclatura et species colorum miniatae 

picturae. Stockholm, Sweden. Website:

Coelho, M. A. N. 2000. Philodendron Schott (Araceae): mor-

fologia e taxonomia das espécies da Reserva Ecológica de 

Macaé de Cima - Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Ro-

driguésia 51: 21–68.

F. J. A. 1794. Versuch einer Mineralogie für 

Anfänger und Liebhaber nach des Herrn Bergcommissions-

raths Werner’s Methode, I. Bd. J. G. Oehler, Wien, Austria. 


Gülich, J. F. 1779. Die rechte und wahrhafte Färbekunst. C. F. 

Schneider, Leipzig, Germany. DOI:


Gülich, J. F. 1780. Vollständiges Färbe- und Blaichbuch 

zu mehrerm Unterricht, Nutzen und Gebrauch für Fabri-

kanten und Färber. A. L. Stettin, Ulm, Germany. Website:


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Gülich, J. F. 1786. Vollständige bewährte praktische Anwei-

sung zur Färberey auf Schaafwolle, Camellhaar und Seyde. 

Stettinische Buchhandlung, Ulm, Germany. Website: https://

Jacquin, N. J. von. 1776. Florae Austriacae sive plantarum 

selectarum in Austriae archiducatu sponte crescentium, Vol. 

IV. J. M. Gerold, Wien, Austria. Website: 

Jarvis, C. 2007.  The art and science of typification. In Order 

out of Chaos. Linnaean plant names and their types, 13–61

The Linnean Society in association with the Natural History 

Museum London, London, United Kingdom.
Jarvis, C. 2008. Linnaeus’ use of illustrations in his naming 

of plants. In M. J. Morris and L. Berwick [eds.], The Linnae-

an legacy: three centuries after his birth. The Linnean Special 

Issue 8: 75–84. 
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to Ferdinand Bauer’s colour code for the Flora and Fauna 

Graeca 1786–1794. Art and Perception. DOI: https://doi.
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lour in late eighteenth century botanical drawings: Sydney 

Parkinson, Ferdinand Bauer and Thaddäus Haenke. Curtis’s 

Botanical Magazine 14: 87–100.  
Mabberley, D. J. 2017. Painting by numbers: the life and 

work of Ferdinand Bauer. NewSouth, Sydney, Australia. 
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encounters with Australian plants before Darwin The Peter 

Crossing Collection. NewSouth, Sydney, Australia.
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tory drawings of Ferdinand Bauer (1760–1826) revisited. 

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Pignatti-Wikus, E., C. Riedl-Dorn, and D. J. Mabberley. 

2000. Ferdinand Bauer’s field drawings of endemic Western 

Australian plants made at King George Sound and Lucky 

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diaceae, Xyridaceae. Rendiconti Lincei, Scienze Fisihce e

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

As archives of historical plant specimens, 

herbaria provide snapshots of environmental 

landscapes across time that are continuously 

accessed, recontextualized, and reinterpreted 

through modern techniques. Moreover, specimen 

imaging in herbaria has been key to recent global 

digitization efforts that confer multiple benefits, 

including facilitating taxonomic revisions and 

enabling better access to biodiversity data (Soltis, 

2017). Specimens also become discoverable to 

non-traditional researchers, such as artists and the 

interested public.
From 2019 to 2022, the University of Texas at El 

Paso (UTEP) herbarium imaged and georeferenced 

all its specimens (~50,000 records) from the 

southwest US and Mexico, funded by two grants 

(IMLS IGSM-245733 and NSF DBI1902078).   

To celebrate these projects, largely conducted 

by biology undergraduates, we developed the 

exhibit “Where We Will Grow: Elsie Slater, Plants, 

and Art” at UTEP’s Centennial Museum and 

Chihuahuan Desert Gardens (Fall 2021–Spring 

2022) to showcase the history, art, and science of 

the herbarium. We chose to highlight Elsie Slater 

Celebrating the Launch of the UTEP Virtual Herbarium by 

Highlighting Contemporary and 

Historical Art and Science of the El Paso Region

Mingna V. Zhuang


Nabil Gonzalez


Michael L. Moody



UTEP Biodiversity Collections, Biological Sciences De-

partment, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W Univer-

sity Ave. El Paso, TX 79968


Art Department, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W 

University Ave. El Paso, TX 79968


Author for correspondence:

(1871–1952), a self-taught botanist, because her 

collections represented the earliest specimens 

from El Paso held by our herbarium and because 

her unique dual interests in both the arts and 

the sciences. Slater was a writer and artist whose 

works are held at UTEP (Centennial Museum 

and C. L. Sonnichsen Special Collections), which 

span the scientific (exceptional botanical art) to 

the impressionistic. Drawing from Elsie’s diverse 

interests, the UTEP Herbarium partnered with 

the Art Department’s Drawing I Class taught by 

Nabil Gonzalez to use specimens from Elsie’s 

collections as inspiration for student art. Because 

of COVID-19 restrictions, art students visited the 

new digital herbarium (Project Page: https://arctos. rather than 

the physical herbarium. Collections Manager 

Vicky Zhuang met with the students via Zoom 

during a class period to introduce the project. 

She described the herbarium, provided examples 

of how researchers used herbarium specimens, 

and guided the students through how to use the 

database to find images of specimens. Students 

were then instructed by Nabil to reinterpret Elsie’s 

point of view towards the botanical world and 

the romance of life. Each student researched their 

chosen specimens and subsequently created a 

composition representing a page out of a journal. 

The students were asked to restrict their search to 

the El Paso area and to focus on Elsie’s collections 

when possible. However, they were intentionally 

not exposed to Elsie’s artworks, so they would be 

inspired to develop their ideas independently and 

with few limitations. With regards to the exhibit, 

students were only told that their pieces would be 

paired with Elsie’s works and specimens in a botany 

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and art-focused exhibit and were encouraged to 

explore a variety of mixed media and concepts.
This project granted students the experience of Elsie's

creative world that blended botany and art. For 

example, Elsie’s specimen sheets often had poetic 

notes. When describing a Baileya multiradiata 

(UTEP 6602), she noted, “…one of the brightest 

gold flowers, very very beautiful for our city.” Digital 

collections allowed students to thoroughly examine 

these specimens by focusing on shape, form, color, 

and texture. Artists take inspiration from nature 

and the world around them (Flannery, 2013). 

Everything they see, touch, and feel is an important 

part of how artists understand and research the 

creative process. Thus, the collaboration gave 

art students a new perspective on the artistry 

of scientific specimens through Elsie’s unique 


Because students were not restricted in style, the 

students produced art pieces that represented 

a diverse range of interpretations, realistic to 

abstract, sometimes of the same specimens 

(Figure 1). However, additional check-ins to 

ensure the accuracy of scientific names and 

species associations would have been beneficial. 

Despite working independently, some students 

converged on similar motifs (i.e., eyes, bones, 

life, and death). Additionally, like some of Elsie’s 

botanical art, some of the pieces included text (i.e., 

Figure 1B and D), as well as true-to-life reflections 

of the specimens. Several art students found relief 

from the pandemic lockdown and discovered new 

inspiration in their local plant diversity. Finally, 

biology students curating the exhibit connected to 

the specimens they had been working on in a new 

and broader context. Overall, the exhibit revealed 

parallels in modern perspectives of science and art 

using historical specimens.

Figure 1. Botanical-inspired art and science exhibited during the “Where We Will Grow Exhibit.” (A) A portion of the exhibit 

pairing student art pieces with a description of Elsie Slater and her works, specimens, and art; (B) an example of Elsie’s art pieces; 

(C) a Porophyllum scoparium specimen (UTEP 6646) used as art inspiration in part D; (D) art piece by Julyet Carillo, using sev-

eral species (UTEP 6646, 6696, 6649) showcased in the exhibit; (E) tour stop at the purple prickly pear (Opuntia macrocentra) in 

the gardens, connecting living specimens to Elsie’s specimen (UTEP 6668). Photos courtesy of the Centennial Museum (A and B).

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The resulting exhibit, “Where We Will Grow: Elsie 

Slater, Plants, and Art,” combined Elsie’s botanical 

specimens, art, and writings with diverse pieces 

of contemporary student art. Curators selected 

specimens from Elsie’s collections that were used 

by students, represented in Elsie’s art or both 

(i.e., Figure 1C and D). To draw cohesion with 

the exhibit and living plants, patrons toured 

the museum’s Chihuahuan Desert Gardens via 

a self-guided tour app that linked living and 

herbarium specimens. To choose the stops, we 

cross referenced a list of specimens used by the 

art students and species represented by Elsie’s 

collections to species available in the Centennial 

Gardens (i.e., Figure 1D and E). At each stop, 

patrons scanned a QR code and viewed a specimen 

collected by Elsie, its locality information, and a 

few facts about the species. As a result, patrons 

could view the same species in multiple contexts, 

from the past, present, and future, through art, as 

well as historical and living specimens.
The digital exhibit can be accessed at https://www.



Flannery, M. C. 2013. The herbarium as muse: plant 

specimens as inspiration. Biology International 53: 23-34.
Soltis, P. S. 2017. Digitization of herbaria enables novel 

research. American Journal of Botany 104: 1281-1284.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Alice V. Pierce


Ian C. Anderson


Neelima R. Sinha


J. Grey Monroe



Department of Plant Biology, University of California, 

Davis, Davis, CA, USA, 95616


Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, 

Davis, Davis, CA, USA, 95616


Integrative Genetics and Genomics Graduate Group, Uni-

versity of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA, 95616


Plant Biology Graduate Group, University of California, 

Davis, Davis, CA, USA, 95616


Author for correspondence:


Especially in recent decades, plant scientists 

have had to develop new skill sets, becoming 

statisticians, bioinformaticians, evolutionary 

ecologists, visual artists, as well as experts in many 

fields of biology. In regard to visual arts, botanists 

have a long history of collecting plant specimens 

for herbariums across the globe to showcase plant 

diversity and  through illustrations, they raise 

awareness of the vast ecological importance of 

plants in their diverse habitats. With botanical art, 

plant scientists increase the public appreciation of 

plant diversity and provide access to diversity in 

regions where some of these plants had never been 

seen. Now, with huge online repositories of digital 

plant pictures, DNA/RNA sequencing, ChIP-seq, 

metabolomics, and proteomic/crystallography 

data, plant scientists have increased the ways to 

catalog plant diversity at the molecular level, and 

further increased the access of these resources 

Celebrating Plant Diversity through Art

to fellow scientists. In this series of illustrations, 

and through a modern digital twist of botanical 

art, we hope to celebrate the progress made by 

plant scientists around the world to accelerate our 

understanding of plant evolution and diversity 

and highlight a promising avenue for scientific 

illustration to play a role in depicting fundamental 

plant biological concepts and molecular diversity.


botanists, plant diversity, plant scientists, science 


New technologies, such as DNA/RNA 

sequencing, ChIP-seq, metabolite profiling, X-ray 

crystallography, and others, have expanded our 

methods for cataloging plant diversity by allowing 

scientists to study plants at the molecular level. 

In Figure 1, we celebrate the novel and impactful 

efforts made by plant scientists to catalog 

plant diversity across scales—from proteins to 

Petunias. Understanding the diverse interactions 

occurring at the molecular, cellular, organismal, 

and environmental levels accelerates our 

understanding of plant diversity and adaptation to 

their environments. 
Next to the chromatin, mRNA transcripts are being 

subjected to RNA interference (F). At the top is an 

homage to the petunia experiment where RNAi 

was first discovered (G). Some of these transcripts, 

however, can be transcribed by ribosomes and 

become proteins (H). Many proteins interact at 

the cellular level and work together to carry out 

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Figure 1. Several discoveries have revealed how plants interact and respond to their envi-

ronment. See the text of this article for further explanation.

a wide range of biological functions, including 

transcription, translation, signaling, metabolic 

processes (I), and carbon fixation (J).
On a larger scale, we see how cell types that have 

differential gene expression patterns and vary in 

protein populations can come together to form 

tissues, such as in the stomata-epidermal cell 

layer (K) and the leaf cross-section (L). These cells 

interact with each other to communicate with 

themselves and the environment to respond to 

stimuli they might encounter.
Plants can respond to hormones such as auxin, 

ethylene, and salicylic acid (M), which play a 

crucial role in the diverse interactions occurring 

within and between plants. Hormones regulate 

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plant growth, development, and response to 

environmental and pathogen stress.
On the bottom, we see variation in tomato leaf 

shape with age, known as heteroblasty (N). A 

subset of phenotypic variation of developmental 

traits allows plants to adapt and interact with their 

environment differently, potentially providing an 

advantage in various ecological niches depending 

on the circumstances.
In addition to interacting with their abiotic 

environment, plants interact with other 

organisms. Understanding the interactions of 

plants with other organisms such as microbes (O) 

or pollinators (P) is critical for understanding the 

role of plants in their ecosystem.
Continuing to catalog plant diversity at the 

molecular, cellular, and environmental levels is 

crucial to understanding and appreciating how 

plants interact with their environment, furthering 

our understanding of how plants have contributed 

to the diversity of life, and accelerating efforts to 

conserve plant species in a rapidly changing world.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Brazilian Botanists Flirting with Arts: 

Valuing the Multicultural Heritage


Lucas C. Marinho


Anderson dos S. Portugal


Vinícius dos S. Moraes


Marcelo G. Santos


Suzana Ursi


Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Departamento de 

Biologia, Avenida dos Portugueses 1966, Bacanga, 65080-

805, São Luís, MA, Brasil.


 Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Faculdade de 

Formação de Professores, Laboratório de Biodiversidade, 

Rua Dr. Francisco Portela 1470, Patronato, 24435-005, 

São Gonçalo, RJ, Brasil.


 Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, Laboratório de Inovações em 

Terapias, Ensino e Bioprodutos, Avenida Brasil, 4365, 

Manguinhos, 21045-900, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil.


 Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto de Biociências, De-

partamento de Botânica, Rua do Matão 277, Cidade Uni-

versitária, 05508-090, São Paulo, SP, Brasil. 

Author for correspondence:

Plants have always been a source of inspiration 

for many artists, and Botany often resorts to them 

so that plants “live” eternally—as is expected—in 

artistic works. And the plants, what can they “tell” 

us about these humans who try to understand them 

using Science and Art? Brazilian literature brings 

rich examples in which plants are the protagonists 

(see Clarice Lispector or Ana Martins Marques). 

In the book O pensamento vegetal: a literatura e as 

plantas (“Plant thought: literature and plants” in 

free translation), Evando Nascimento, a Brazilian 

writer, highlighted the relationship between 

literary text and the floristic universe at the 19th 

International Literary Festival of Paraty (Flip). 

In this edition, the focus was on “Nhe’éry,” the 

Atlantic Forest as named by the Guarani, one of 

the many native peoples of Brazil. 
Initiatives focusing on this powerful Art–Botany 

relationship are still germinating in Brazil 

(following  “ArtScience Manifesto”; see  Bernstein 

et al., 2011), with some botanists and teachers 

building upon the multisensory and poetic 

experience created by plants and the world. It 

is clear that, even though sparsely distributed 

throughout Brazilian history, there have been 

other non-scientific artistic initiatives between art 

and plants. But here, we present some of the Art 

and Botany (as a science) initiatives and, especially, 

contextualize the complex cultural interplay that 

shaped these two areas in Brazil.


The arrival of Europeans represented a breaking 

point in how art was seen and produced in Brazil. 

However, there is a rich recorded Brazilian Pre-

Cabraline Art (in reference to the Portuguese 

navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, the “discoverer” of 

Brazil), represented by cave painting, sculptures, 

and ceramics. Amazonian ceramics are probably 

the best-known artistic manifestations of 

Brazilian Pre-Cabraline Art (Prous, 2007). Prior 

to colonial contact, Indigenous art was sovereign; 

subsequently, other cultures, especially from the 

African continent, also set out their point of view. 

The art of the remaining Indigenous peoples is still 

quite expressive in Brazil (for more, see examples 

of Carmézia Emiliano and Uýra Sodoma). The 

presence of artists (e.g., Thomas Ender and Johann 

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Moritz Rugendas) in the field expeditions to the 

interior of Brazil showed the European vision of 

the Brazilian flora, and everyday aspects for the 

original people took on grandiose dimensions for 

those who were unfamiliar with it. 
Botany assumed the status of Scientia Amabilis

at the end of colonial period in Brazil, when the 

knowledge about plants was seen as an important 

social status with reverberations in architecture, in 

gardens, and in the great scientific expeditions to 

recognize the flora and the associated biodiversity. 

National Botany Day in Brazil celebrates the 

birthday of a Bavarian naturalist, Carl Friedrich von 

Martius. Although this symbolic date highlights 

how the European view is still hegemonic in 

Brazilian Botany, it is impossible to ignore the 

tremendous value of Martius’ legacy. Together 

with Johann Baptist von Spix, Martius traveled 

immense distances through Brazil between 1817 

and 1820 throughout a variety of domains and 

recorded all the floristic diversity they encountered 

in the magnificent Flora Brasiliensis compendia. 

They returned to Europe with a huge collection of 

preserved biological samples and live specimens. 

Two young Indigenous people from different 

ethnicities in Brazil, Miranha and Juri, were also 

taken to Europe and died some time later. The 

story of how those people were integrated into 

Martius and Spix’s expedition is still controversial 

and has more than one version (Costa, 2019). 

At the end of his life, Martius rejected the brutal 

behavior of including people as collectibles, which 

was sadly common among colonizing naturalists. 

Martius and Spix produced valuable ethnographic 

descriptions, and the masks collected by them in 

Amazonia are an important record of symbolic 

practices by Indigenous nations, many of them 

now extinct (Santos, 2014). 
Gradually, not only was European culture brought 

to Brazil, but also species in vivo or in graphic 

representations, such as those that adorn the 

Portuguese tiles, or azulejos, of northeastern Brazil 

(Menezes et al., 2020). In this case, it was up to 

Brazilians to appreciate the Europeans’ paintings 

of non-native plants without the feeling of cultural 

identity (belonging) about the artifact or what it 

represented (Silva et al., 2021).
Brazilian flora began to be included slowly in 

art as part of sacred works and sculptures (e.g., 

Machado et al., 2018). At that time, art in general 

was closely linked to Catholic productions, and 

much of what was produced had underlying 

tendencies. In this sense, a devaluation of the 

arts produced by cultural groups that existed 

in Brazil (such as that by Indigenous people) or 

that were brought to Brazil (such as by Africans) 

was inevitable, since until then these local groups 

did not share the Christian faith. Although the 

quality and historical value contained in the 

Portuguese  azulejos and sacred sculptures are 

invaluable, the presence of plants is linked to the 

technical character, as part of the work, and not as 

something to be felt (Figure 1).
Contrary to the visual arts, music and dance had 

already been impacted by the presence of different 

cultures on Brazilian land. Orality carried out 

information about plants from north to south of 

the country. For example, in Samba or Capoeira 

(a dance/fight created by Brazilians of African 

descent) songs, the use of native plants in the 

production of percussive instruments and rituals 

is common (Hartmann et al., 2023). The fact is 

that, although the Brazilian population of the 

colonial period was composed of many people—

it is important to highlight that Indigenous and 

Africans were composed of countless different 

ethnic groups, and each one had its own way 

of seeing art and plants—the contribution for 

“botany and art” was unbalanced.

Decolonization Movements

In 1922, a great artistic exhibition called “Semana 

de Arte Moderna (SAM)” took place in São 

Paulo. Organized by artists and intellectuals, 

the movement suggested breaking up with 

artistic European traditions of the time. SAM is 

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considered a symbolic reference of the beginning 

of Brazilian Modernism period. One of the works 

that had a great impact on its configuration was 

the Manifesto Antropofágico, published in 1928 by 

Oswald de Andrade. The document proposes a 

process of swallowing European ideas, techniques, 

and cultural thoughts to transform them, without 

being submissive, but critical, in the promotion 

of Brazilian art in essence (Ajzenberg, 2012). The 

representations of Brazilian flora in modernist 

productions are vast and present the great 

Brazilian biodiversity. Ribeiro (2020) reports the 

mention of more than 200 plant species in these 

works of art. In her book, she discusses 19 of these 

plants, such as banana, cactus, corn, coffee, and 

Brazil wood. Moraes and Portugal (2021) reflect 

on the use of some of these species in teaching 

processes from a decolonial perspective.

Although it has great importance in the country’s 

historical and cultural scene, Brazilian Modernism 

is not marked as a genuine Brazilian movement. 

In the 1920s, the coffee-growing elite (known to 

be former enslaved peoples’ owners) financed 

SAM. The art movement was built by and for the 

Brazilian elite, without considering the knowledge 

and cultures of other populations living in a 

country as large and diverse as Brazil. 
Less prominent than SAM, the Movimento 

Armorial (MA) was a relevant artistic initiative for 

the appreciation of popular knowledge. MA started 

in 1970 and was led by playwright and writer 

Ariano Suassuna (1927–2014). The movement 

aimed to produce an authentic Brazilian art that 

is erudite but rooted in Brazilian popular culture. 

The movement guided the convergence of artistic 

expressions to produce a national art, having 

Figure 1. (A) Integration between Botanists and Designers to create new prints for “azulejos” in Maranhão using 

native species (an “azulejo” of babaçu [Attlaea speciosa Mart. ex Spreng.]; see Silva et al., 2021). (B) Artwork detail 

of the exhibition “Weavings of life - Art and Botany,” at Science and Technology Park of the University of São Paulo 

(described by Ursi et al., 2023). (C) Short course offered by Moraes and Portugal on the representation of botany in 

works of art of Brazilian modernism and its possibilities of use in teaching. In these materials, there is the possibility 

of educational work on: monocultures, different land uses and environmental degradation, capitalist mode of produc-

tion, exclusion of socially minority groups, and the production of paints from coffee fruits and these products. (D) 

Natureza-morta (1868; Agostinho José da Mota). Painting used in a guidebook of daily plants (Marcelo G. Santos, 

2023 in press) to discuss native and exotic fruit. Photo in (B) by T. Cesquim. 

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the northeastern region of Brazil as a source of 

inspiration. In these productions, the Caatinga 

domain was portrayed amidst the experiences of 

its people. Such initiative arises from the need 

to value local productions and northeastern 

scenarios, in which the great biological and social 

diversity of the Caatinga is highly valued.
The counterpoint to this thought is the production 

of Literatura de Cordel (LC), which uses popular 

language with rhymes and verses that present 

metric perfection. Despite its colonial heritage, LC 

is an artistic expression intimately linked to the 

Brazilian northeast. LC portrays the knowledge 

and experiences of the people of the Northeast. 

LC, rich in images produced through woodcut 

and use of a clothesline for its public exhibition, 

highlights Brazilianness. Because of this, it is used 

as a didactic tool by several educators, including 

in the teaching of Botany. For more on LC and 

Botany, see Oliveira and Cavalcante (2020) and 

Santos et al. (2022).

Embrionary Botany

Art Initiatives

From the Martius expedition until now, some 

Brazilian botanists seek to reconnect Scientia 

Amabilis  with art, but from a new perspective, 

valuing the diversity of environments, cultures, 

ethnicities, and regional characteristics (Figure 1).
These efforts of botanists in Brazil to merge plants 

and art have been successful. However, they are 

still stuck in a utilitarian metric—always trying 

to answer “what is this for?”—that underuses the 

driving force of art. We have a long way to go to a 

ScienceArt expression that promotes diversity, but 

starting this conversation is the first step to walk 

this path.


We thank Dr. Charles C. Davis (Harvard 

University) for critical reading of an earlier 

version of the manuscript. We are also indebted to 

the reviewers who carefully reviewed our article.


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vista de Cultura e Extensão USP 7: 25–29.
Bernstein, R., T. Siler, A. Brown, and K. Snelson. 2011. Art-

Science: integrative collaboration to create a sustainable fu-

ture. Leonardo 44: 192.
Costa, M. F. 2019. Os “meninos índios” que Spix e Martius 

levaram a Munique. Artelogie 14: 1–17.
Hartmann, J. S., E. M. Schneider, and L. Biral. 2023. Princi-

pais espécies vegetais usadas na capoeira. Botânica Pública 4: 

Machado, P. F. S., J. N. C. Marchiori, and D. Sanches. 2018. 

Anatomia do lenho de esculturas do Museu Vicente Pallotti 

(Santa Maria, RS, Brasil). Balduinia 63: 1-19.
Menezes, L. R., A. B. Ewerton, A. L. Garcia, S. S. Dominici, F. 

R. Fernandes, L. F. A. Campos, and L. C. Marinho. 2020. The 

Flora of Azulejos of Maranhão, Brazil. Ethnobiology Letters

12: 94–102.
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a Botânica: A construção de uma brasilidade e suas possibili-

dades de ensino decolonial. Vitruvian Cogitationes 2: 74–87.
Oliveira, R. L. C. and W. A. Cavalcante. 2020. Cordel para 

o Ensino de Botânica: Morfologia, 2. ed.  Boa Vista: UERR 

Prous, A. 2007. Arte pré-histórica do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: 

Ribeiro, A. C. C. 2020. Pequeno guia da botânica modernista. 

São Paulo: Editora da Autora.
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Brazil. Archiv Weltmuseum Wien 63–64: 38–59..
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J. S. Sousa, and M. M. S. Castro. 2022. Botânica em poesia: 

fotossíntese e respiração numa perspectiva cultural. Botânica 

Pública 3: 7–12.
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Campos. 2021. O patrimônio azulejar de São Luís e a flora 

maranhense: uma proposta conceitual para a criação de es-

tampas com uma identidade regional. Anais do 10º CIDI e 

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mas da Vida - Arte e Botânica”: encantamento e conhecimen-

to no Parque CienTec da USP. In: B. R. S. Cerqueira, L. C. A. 

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Nezka Pfeifer

Museum Curator, 

Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum,

Missouri Botanical Garden

Botanical gardens create a unique opportunity 

to intersect science, culture, and art to offer 

interdisciplinary experiences for the public. The 

Missouri Botanical Garden’s historic (ca. 1859) 

Botanical Museum was restored, renovated, and 

renamed the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum 

and reopened to the public in late April 2018 

after more than a century of alternate use. As 

the Museum Curator and sole staff member 

responsible for the Sachs Museum, I curate 

exhibitions using botanical science as the focus 

of the exhibition narrative, interweaving history, 

material culture, and inclusive perspectives, 

together with commissions of contemporary site-

specific work. As a part of the Science & Research 

Division at the Garden, the Sachs Museum 

collaborates with departments managing other 

plant-based collections, including the Herbarium 

(dried plant specimens) and the William Brown 

Integrating Botany, History, Culture, and 

Contemporary Art in a Botanical Garden Museum

Center’s biocultural (ethnobotany) collection, to 

feature the important work Garden staff is doing 

in botanical science.
Visitors to the Missouri Botanical Garden come 

from a spectrum of backgrounds—some are well-

versed in botany and horticulture, but many are 

not. The challenge is to engage these publics on 

the myriad ways plants are relevant to our lives, yet 

also include the botanical science that the Garden 

experts work on daily in St. Louis and around the 

world. I focus on subjects that embrace the ubiquity 

of plants, so that visitors enjoy the rediscovery of 

plants on a subject previously overlooked. The 

foundation of the exhibition subject is on botany 

(and horticulture and entomology when relevant); 

this topic might feature in Garden research or have 

a universal impact and appeal. Where possible, 

I include little-known connections from other 

disciplines and collaborate with other science and 

community organizations, museums, and lenders 

to highlight information that might impact 

visitors on a personal level, such as regional 

history or material culture. Finally, I commission 

contemporary artists to create artworks that 

interpret the botanical subject in unique and 

meaningful ways to expand understanding about 

the subject. The two most recent exhibitions at 

the Sachs Museum embodied the key goals I 

am trying to achieve with this multidisciplinary 

framework. I also create live in-person programs 

as well as digital content for exhibitions for both 

education and promotion; this includes musical 

performances, virtual tours, multiple blog posts, 

myriad social media posts on X (Twitter) and 

Instagram, and talk series highlighting the art and 

science connections.

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To celebrate Missouri’s bicentennial of statehood 

in 2021, I planned an exhibition to focus on a 

Missouri viticultural innovation with deep roots 

in the botanical history of the state and long-

lasting impacts on viniculture around the world. 

The exhibition intertwined this history with 

contemporary scientific research investigating this 

innovation through several site-specific artworks 

focused on the grapevines using contemporary 

media of film and machine learning. Grafting 

the Grape: American Grapevine Rootstock in 

Missouri and the World explored the millennia-

long human cultivation of wine from the grapes 

of  Vitis vinifera as a drink for social, religious, 

and economic power. The native American 

grape species that were used historically by the 

Indigenous peoples of North America were also 

used in the viticulture of early colonial Missouri, 

and continue in the state’s wine industry today. 

In order to address a global insect infestation in 

the 1860s, Missouri scientists and horticulturists 

grafted these native rootstocks with the Vitis 

vinifera grape scion, thereby enabling the survival 

of the wine grape. Without the research and 

innovation by 19th-century Missouri botanists, 

entomologists, and viticulturists, drinking wine 

from this species would not be possible today. 

Artist Dornith Doherty—renowned for her 

photographic work on seeds and global seed-

banking—created photographs and two short 

films for her series Roundabout (Circuition)

inspired by the intersection of the historical 

innovation and the contemporary scientific 

research taking place in Dr. Allison Miller’s NSF-

funded Vitis Underground project (exploring 

the impact of different rootstock species on the 

grafted grape berry). Artist collaborators inspired 

by the impact of climate change on grapevines, 

Lei Han and Lorraine Walsh focused their work 

for Grafting the Grape on environmental shifts as 

seen through the seemingly disparate practices 

of ancient horticultural grafting techniques and 

contemporaneous machine learning (a subset 

of artificial intelligence). Their art focused on 

the native grapevine species Missouri  Vitis 

aestivalis (also known as Missouri’s Norton grape) 

and the process of this mediation in order to bring 

a fruitful awareness of the significant effect climatic 

change has on life. They created drawings, digital 

images, and three short films for the exhibition, 

as well as a large sculpture titled The In-Between 

(Figure 1). This stylized wooden trellis held two 

horizontal rows of five plexiglass plates each, with 

the upper row featuring engraved drawings of 

the grapevines and the lower row engraved with 

drawings of the rootstocks; the negative space in-

between the plexiglass plates is where the grafting 

occurs, and the viewer’s imagination fills in the 

blank. Visitor feedback consistently was one of 

awe; for the beauty and character of the artworks 

on display, but also for the global impact of this 

integral innovation that is still relevant today.

Figure 1.  The In-Between, abstract grafted grapevine 

sculpture, by Lei Han and Lorraine Walsh, 6’6”L x 1.5”D 

x 8’9”H, ca. 2021. (Photo credit: Virginia Harold)

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The 2022 exhibition Botanical Resonance: 

Plants and Sounds in the Garden embraced how 

important plants are in the human soundscape—

both in nature and culture—and how these species 

are endangered globally due to overharvesting 

and climate change. A particular focus included 

how the Garden is working with scientists and 

musical instrument makers around the world 

to address some of these conservation issues. 

In conversation, visitors and other curators 

continually remarked on how they were previously 

unaware of how dependent humans are on plants 

to create sound and music. A series of live music 

performances featuring plant-based instruments, 

such as alphorns and west African idiophones, 

gave opportunities to experience (hear, feel, 

sense) the vibrations of sound making in person. 

I commissioned three contemporary artists to 

create artworks interpreting plants and sounds 

in different ways. Annika Kappner created two 

auditory guided soundwalks (accessed via QR 

code) that provided a meditative exploration of 

plants and sounds into the Garden. Brooke Erin 

Goldstein designed a full gallery quilted room 

installation visualizing the ways plant families 

communicate with one another, in which the 

world is bisected, above and below (Figure 2). 

As pictured, one half of the gallery featured a 

forest’s underground root system network, and 

the other half illustrated a manicured yard of 

grass that had just been cut, visualizing the grass 

screaming (we usually experience this as the smell 

of cut grass). Kevin Harris composed and built an 

electronically synthesized immersive rainforest 

sound installation as an offering to the botanical 

world that nourishes us every day. A virtual talk 

series with the artists gave detailed presentations 

on the creative process for the artworks in the 

Curating exhibitions to intersect plant science, 

human culture, and art expands the possibilities of 

interpretation for the public, opening up avenues of 

engagement that make botanical content relevant 

for many visitors who might be intimidated by 

science-only content. While anecdotal and not 

quantitative, feedback from my conversations 

with the public and other curatorial colleagues has 

made clear that approaching a subject of popular 

interest—while including botanical science and 

art—makes an impact on how people understand 

(and enjoy learning about) how connected plants 

are to our lives. These experiences remove barriers 

to information and build connections that will 

lead to deeper understanding of plants, as well as 

the larger world around us.

Figure 2.  Reverberations, an immersive quilted room 

installation by Brooke Erin Goldstein, 26’4”L x 19’10”D 

x 8’4”H, ca. 2022. (Photo credit: Virginia Harold)

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The raw form of scientific data is usually 

unfamiliar to a general audience. One exception 

to this are photographs. Lenses and cameras are 

common tools in scientific, artistic, and popular 

use, and the photograph represents a rare example 

of a shared medium across these contexts. For 

the scientist, a photograph is raw data (e.g., a 

scanning electron micrograph of pollen grains 

on a stigmatic surface or an in situ hybridization 

assay of gene expression in a developing leaf). For 

the artist, though, a photograph is an expressive 

object produced by their creative work. In both 

cases, the photograph is a visual record of a 

lens pointed at a subject, regardless of whether 

the primary intention is analytical or aesthetic. 

This is a remarkable confluence of two different 

approaches to learning about the world (science 

Science, Art, and the Allure of Photographs

Benjamin Goulet-Scott


Jacob S. Suissa



Let’s Botanize, Inc. Arlington, MA, USA


Harvard Forest of Harvard University Petersham, MA, 



Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Uni-

versity of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee, 



Pratt Institute Brooklyn, NY, USA

and art) that are often regarded as wholly distinct 

fields. Here, we explore the photograph and the 

cultural intersection between science and art, 

asking what consequences and opportunities arise 

from the shared practice of lens-based image-

making across these two disciplines. 
Science and art are both concerned with producing 

insightful observations of the world. Hand lenses, 

microscopes, and cameras augment how we see—

focusing, enlarging, or warping a visual field. Our 

view through the lens represents the world in a way 

that reminds us of our natural perception but may 

be impossible to achieve through unaided sight. 

However, lenses do not generate an image from 

nothing. Rather, they project only and exactly 

what the photographer frames in front of them. We 

say that photographs are taken—images plucked 

directly from the fabric of reality. Recognizing 

this, we imbue photographs with an objective 

authority over the truth not granted to other visual 

media. “More convincingly than any other kind of 

picture, a photograph evokes the tangible presence 

of reality. Its most fundamental use and broadest 

acceptance has been as a substitute for the subject 

itself—a simpler, more permanent, more clearly 

visible version of the plain fact” (Szarkowski, 1966). 

For artists, this makes photography unique from 

other visual media, such as drawing and painting. 

For scientists, this means that photographs can be 

regarded as trustworthy primary data. 
It is important to recognize that the status of 

photographs as objects of truth has been abused 

since the early days of the medium. We do, after 

all, have photographic “evidence” of the Loch 

Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and the Cottingley Fairies. 

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Digital technologies like Photoshop and generative 

Artificial Intelligence further complicate the 

photograph’s reputation for objective truth-telling. 

Furthermore, our belief that cameras are objective 

recording devices may lead us to downplay the 

influence of a photographer’s biases and agendas, 

which are expressed in a series of decisions about 

composition, focus, and moment of capture. Yet, 

our fundamental trust in photography endures, 

even if it is now, more than ever, accompanied by 

a healthy dose of skepticism. 
Plants are particularly well-suited to photographic 

observation because they do not move. In fact, 

the first two books to be illustrated by early 

photographic techniques both featured images of 

plants. One of the pioneering women in botany, 

Anna Atkins, created Photographs of British Algae: 

Cyanotype Impressions (1843), which was entirely 

devoted to plant subjects, and the 24 photographs 

in William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature 

(1844) are primarily of architectural subjects with 

the organic exceptions “Leaf of a Plant” and “A 

Fruit Piece.” We can also look to plants for an 

early example of the power of photography in 

the scientific record. In 1912, botanist Dr. Norma 

Etta Pfeiffer discovered a miniscule plant growing 

within the city limits of Chicago, which was then 

the second largest city in the United States. She 

described this plant as a new species, Thismia 

americana, recognizing that it belonged to a genus 

of small mycoheterotrophic flowering plants that 

had not been observed in North America before 

(or since). Unfortunately, this plant has not been 

found since 1916 and is presumed extinct due to 

habitat loss. So how can we be sure that such an 

unlikely plant even existed? Indeed, the possibility 

of a botanical hoax devised by Dr. Pfeiffer has 

been raised (see Wilhelm and Rericha, 2018). 

However, in addition to Dr. Pfeiffer’s reputation 

as an excellent botanist and plant morphologist, 

the T. americana story is believed in part because 

she took and published photographs of the plant 

in 1914 (Figure 1; Pfeiffer, 1914). The suspicion 

of a hoax would likely be much stronger had Dr. 

Figure 1. Norma Etta Pfeiffer’s photographs of Thismia 

americana published in 1914. These images confirm the 

existence of this species, now thought to be extinct. (Im-

ages in the public domain.)

Pfeiffer chosen to publish drawings of the plant 

instead of photographs. 
Today, photography (still or moving) is a primary 

mode of visual communication. The medium 

is a democratic one—most people make and/

or consume photographs every day. Due to the 

ubiquity of photographs and their relationship with 

the truth, looking at a photograph is an intuitive 

way for an audience to learn about the reality of 

the world. This suggests that photography-based 

platforms like most social media have enormous 

educational potential (provided that the content 

is unaltered and accompanied by credible 

interpretation; Figure 2). The global popularity 

of these platforms (exceeding 1 billion users) 

attests to the ability of photography to grab our 

attention and hold it. A photograph is memorable, 

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Figure 2. A soon-to-emerge leaf of Liriodendron tulip-

ifera is visible through large enclosing stipules. Visually 

arresting photographs are powerful teaching tools when 

accompanied by expert interpretation. This image was 

originally posted to Instagram (@letsbotanize). (Photo-

graph by Jacob Suissa.)

expressive, and persuasive with minimal barriers 

to engagement for broad audiences. Photography 

is, therefore, one of the most powerful tools 

available to educators, artists, and scholars aiming 

to communicate credible information with large 

audiences because it is both an aesthetically 

engaging and data-rich medium. 
The accessibility of photo-taking has also made 

possible a tool like iNaturalist, which crowdsources 

“research-grade” photographic data at a global 

scale. The iNaturalist image database has been used 

to train machine learning algorithms that attempt 

to identify organisms through the live camera feed 

of a smartphone. Interestingly, the capabilities of 

such algorithms are determined by (and reveal) 

trends and biases, including the way photos of 

other species are composed, which phenological 

stages tend to warrant photographing, which 

populations use iNaturalist, and which habitats 

are easily accessed by humans. These biases 

occur regardless of which angles, features, and 

habitats would be most taxonomically useful. 

For instance, details of the bud and leaf scar are 

very useful in distinguishing among species in the 

hickory family (Juglandaceae), but rarely warrant 

the photographic attention of non-botanists. In 

theory, such biases and gaps should only diminish 

over time as more images are added to the 

training dataset. iNaturalist takes advantage of the 

photograph’s dual identity as an object of beauty 

and an object of data to engage broad audiences in 

the practice of research.  
As science communicators, we are particularly 

excited about the unique potential of photography 

to provoke curiosity and excitement about 

the natural world. John Szarkowski describes 

photographers as recognizing that “the world 

itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness” 

and “the compelling clarity with which a 

photograph recorded the trivial suggested that 

the subject had never before been properly seen, 

that it was in fact perhaps not trivial, but filled 

with undiscovered meaning” (Szarkowski, 1966). 

Everything in frame and in focus is recorded with 

equal fidelity by a camera. Take a photo outside, 

and the unfathomable complexity of the natural 

world is all there at a level of intricate detail that a 

human mind could never generate from scratch; 

the only limit is the resolution of the photograph.   

Plants especially benefit from this feature of 

photography, since unlike people, cameras do 

not experience plant awareness disparity (Parsley, 

2020). Because plant life dominates terrestrial 

biomass, most photographs of “nature scenes” will 

contain plants (likely in abundance). Inevitably, 

bird photography, snake photography, and insect 

photography are also plant photography, even if 

the photographer themself only considered the 

plant life as patches of green to be balanced within 

the composition. Fortunately for the botanist or 

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the plant-focused science communicator, those 

plants lay in wait within the frame, ready to be 

discovered as anything but trivial. The medium 

of photography itself incites a sense of awe and 

curiosity and a spark to explore the image in 

search of beautiful moments. These are exactly 

the emotions that science communicators hope to 

inspire in their audience. 
The photograph is both scientific and artistic; 

composing and recording an image through a 

lens is one instance in which the two practices 

coalesce. Both endeavors value photography’s 

capacity for creating information-dense and 

captivating records of reality. Whether deployed 

in science, art, or in braiding the two together, 

photography wields enormous potential for 

learning and communicating about the world. 

Through photography, science communication 

has the capacity to reach larger audiences than ever 

on visual-driven social media platforms. At the 

same time, deploying photography for scientific 

research or education must be accompanied by 

a deep sense of responsibility to not abuse our 

intuitive trust of the medium.


Atkins, A. 1843. Photographs of British Algae: Cyano-

type Impressions.
Parsley, K. M. 2020. Plant awareness disparity: A case 

for renaming plant blindness. Plants, People, Planet 2: 

Pfeiffer, N. E. 1914. Morphology of Thismia ameri-

cana. Botanical Gazette 57: 122-135.
Szarkowski, J. 1966. The photographer’s eye. The Mu-

seum of Modern Art, New York.
Talbot, W. H. F. 1844. The Pencil of Nature. Longman, 

Brown, Green and Longmans, London. 
Wilhelm, G., and L. Rericha. 2018. Thismia Ameri-

cana: A Chicago Endemic or an Elaborate Hoax? The 

Great Lakes Botanist 57: 150-157.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences


PhyloPic is a crowd-funded database of organism 

silhouette images that currently contains 8364 

accepted submissions from 585 volunteers. Each 

silhouette image is associated with a taxonomic 

name via a network of phylogenetic nodes, 

enabling dynamic searches based on evolutionary 

relationships. The project has become an 

invaluable artistic resource for scientific 

publications, with more than 1900 references in 

published articles. Despite its success, adoption 

and contribution by plant scientists has been 

relatively low. Only ~8% of current submissions 

are for organisms within Archaeplastida (Plantae

sensu lato), representing just ~0.066% of named 

terminal phylogenetic nodes (i.e., species or 

Filling Out PhyloPic: Call for Adoption by 

Plant Scientists

Mason C. McNair

1, 3

T. Michael Keesey



Clemson University, Pee Dee Research & Education 

Center, 2200 Pocket Rd, Florence, SC  29506


PhyloPic, 22171/2 Addison Way, Los Angeles, CA  



Author for correspondence:

subspecies). To further improve the utility of 

PhyloPic and promote increased use across the 

plant sciences, we showcase fast and efficient 

methods for creating suitable silhouettes from 

multiple image sources including photographs, 

illustrations, and herbarium specimens. These 

methods will help increase adoption and quality 

of submitted images and complements the recent 

release of PhyloPic 2.0, which features faster 

performance, an improved user interface, and 

automatic conversion of submissions to infinitely 

scalable vector files.


creative commons, figure creation, open access, 

PhyloPic, scientific communication, silhouette 


Creating impactful figures to effectively 

communicate science is challenging. Many 

scientists aspire to create educational and inspiring 

figures but struggle due to a lack of artistic skills 

or limited access to high-quality graphics. These 

barriers can be eased through expansion of the 

PhyloPic platform.
PhyloPic is an open database of free silhouette 

images of organisms. Each silhouette is associated 

with taxonomic names via a curated phylogeny 

drawn from a variety of sources, primarily The 

Open Tree of Life (OpenTreeofLife et al., 2019) 

and The Paleobiology Database (McClennen et 

al., 2017). This enables dynamic searches based 

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on phylogenetic relationships, either manually 

through the website ( o

programmatically, through a public Application 

Programming Interface  (API;  https://www. or the R 

package (Gearty et al., 2023). Despite the PhyloPic 

platform being written in English, the binomial 

nomenclature used for searching the website 

is universal and enables use of the platform 

regardless of a user’s language. Website users can 

also create collections of silhouettes that can be 

used to create permanent links for attribution. The 

“Collections Drawer” tool enables users to create 

named sets of silhouettes for later use. Collections 

are private and stored in the user’s browser cache, 

but they can be turned into permanent shareable 


Currently, PhyloPic features 8364 accepted 

submissions from 585 volunteers. The project 

has become an invaluable artistic resource for 

scientific publications, with more than 1900 

references in published articles. However, plant 

taxa are noticeably underrepresented on PhyloPic, 

with only 669 silhouettes, making up just ~8% of 

all contributions. For comparison, there are 1552 

dinosaur silhouettes (~18.6% of contributions). 

Single images often represent extremely large 

and variable clades like Austrobaileyales and 

Pandanales.  Even for groups with multiple 

silhouettes, there is usually only a single silhouette 

per species. With this article, we hope to 

demonstrate methods that can be used by plant 

scientists to help expand the collection of plant 

silhouettes and showcase the morphological 

variability, plasticity, and growth stages of plants.

Figure 1. Suggested silhouette creation 

pipeline. (A) Locate a freely useable and 

suitable image. Online search platforms 

include Creative Commons Openverse,, Global Biodiversity Infor-

mation Facility (GBIF), Google Image 

Search, Symbiota Portals, and Wikime-

dia Commons. (B) Segment the image to 

remove background and undesired parts. 

Programs include ImageJ, ImageJ2, Fiji, Il-

astik, and Meta AI Segment Anything. (C) 

Create a silhouette. The four silhouettes 

depicted are all suitable for upload to Phy-

loPic and show different approaches to sil-

houette creation. Programs include Adobe 

Illustrator, Inkscape, Adobe Photoshop, 

ImageJ, ImageJ2, and Fiji. (D) Upload 

the resulting silhouette(s) to 

( Programs and 

online search platforms mentioned are 

suggestions by the authors and not an ex-

haustive list of available options. Original 

image of Dionaea muscipula by Michal 

Klajban, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia 


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While finding images that can be used to make 

a silhouette is relatively simple, it is important to 

use personal images, images in the public domain, 

or images with permissive licenses (e.g., Creative 

Commons). Tools and sites like Creative Commons 

Openverse (https://search.creativecommons.

org/), Wikimedia Commons (https://commons., Google Image 

Search, iDigBio (, 

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF;, or Symbiota Portals 

(SEINet [e.g.,], 



index.php]) can be used to identify suitable 

starting images. Creating silhouettes that can 

be submitted to PhyloPic from these images is a 

straightforward process with multiple programs 

and methods available (Figure 1). Open-source 

and freely available programs used by current 

contributors include Fiji (ImageJ), Inkscape, 

Ilastik, and SegmentAnything (Schindelin et al., 

2012; Schneider et al., 2012; Rueden et al., 2017; 

Berg et al., 2019; Inkscape Project, 2023; Kirillov 

et al., 2023). Commercially distributed tools that 

can be used to create silhouettes include Adobe 

Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator (Adobe Inc., 

2023a, 2023b).
Creating a simple, solid black silhouette begins 

with image segmentation but can end in a variety 

of methods. In segmentation, the pixels that make 

up an image are grouped together into individual 

objects based on a defined criterion. Tools for 

segmentation vary in their ability to detect complex 

detail, but greater detail in segmentation typically 

requires either significant user input or a more 

powerful program. New web-based approaches, 

like Meta’s Segment Anything are particularly 

helpful for individual images whereas software like 

Ilastik can be used for batch processing of similar 

images. Once an image has been segmented, there 

are many different methods for silhouette creation 

including but not limited to border filling, solid 

filling, thresholding, manual tracing, as well 

as combinations of these techniques. We have 

created multiple instructional videos showcasing 

a variety of methods for silhouette creation and 

have generally outlined the process and provided 

examples of optimal silhouettes and a sample use 

of PhyloPic silhouettes (Figures 1 and 2). 
PhyloPic is accessible to users through email-

based registration. Once registered, users may 

submit image files using a chat-like interface via 

the Contribute Tool (https://contribute.phylopic.

org) as they are guided through three main steps:

1. Uploading an image file and optionally 

converting to a scalable vector graphic 


2. Identifying the specific taxon represented 

by the image

3. Selecting a Creative Commons license for 

the image

Uploaded files go through a manual review to 

ensure they accurately depict the organism. To 

minimize rejections, file size should be limited to 

5 Mb with submissions being a minimum of 1536 

pixels wide or tall. Acceptable file types include 

PNG, GIF, BMP, JPEG, or SVG and should be 

solid, pure black (#000000) on a white (#FFFFFF) 

or transparent background. Each silhouette should 

clearly show the entire organism or a specific, 

recognizable part of it (e.g., a leaf). To increase 

the utility of the linked taxonomic search, users 

should be as precise as possible when identifying 

taxonomy during submission, with species being 

the preferred level.
Submissions are reviewed by the site curator. 

Once approved, each silhouette is published on 

the website in a variety of sizes and formats. The 

graphics available on PhyloPic can be downloaded 

directly from the website, via the public API, or 

into R through the rphylopic package (Gearty et 

al., 2023).

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Scientific figures can quickly and concisely 

communicate detailed information, but without 

clear visual landmarks, they can be impenetrable. 

In biology, silhouettes are an easy way to instantly 

convey taxa to other scientists and the public. 

PhyloPic’s phylogenetic organization and open API 

make it simple to find and use relevant silhouettes 

for a given taxon. All silhouettes on PhyloPic are 

hosted under Creative Commons licenses in the 

public domain (PDM), CC0 (requires no credit 

given), or as CC BY (requires credit given to the 

author). It is up to the end-user to properly credit 

silhouette authors and PhyloPic when necessary.
To assist with the creation of silhouettes, PhyloPic 

has a “Silhouette Sponsorship” program (https://, where users can 

commit to creating silhouettes for their chosen 

taxon or donate to PhyloPic to request taxa to be 

added. Requested taxa are placed on a publicly 

accessible priority list that allows volunteer 

contributors to prioritize silhouette creation. 

However, creating a silhouette of your chosen 

organism following our how-to videos (Figure 1) 

is the most efficient option. 
PhyloPic affords plant scientists the opportunity 

to use free silhouettes on statistical charts, 

biogeographic maps, cladograms, and other data 

visualizations. However, plants are currently 

under-represented in PhyloPic, limiting the 

potential of this community-led tool. For 

perspective, if every member of the Botanical 

Society of America (n ≈ 3000, 2023) contributed 

just one silhouette, there would be nearly five 

times as many available plant silhouettes. With the 

Figure 2. A sample figure adapted from “One thousand plant transcriptomes and the phylogenomics 

of green plants” (Leebens-Mack et al., 2019) with silhouettes from PhyloPic added. Silhouettes down-

loaded from PhyloPic:

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submission process recently re-engineered and 

streamlined, we encourage everyone to contribute 

to this valuable community resource.


M.M.:  Conceptualization, Methodology, Data 

Curation, Writing, Visualization, Supervision, 

Project Administration; M.K. Conceptualization, 

Methodology, Validation, Resources, Writing 



All how-to videos and data used in this paper are 

freely available on the Open Science Framework 

repository (, 

on, or by request from the 

corresponding author.


Adobe Inc. 2023a. Adobe Illustrator. Website: 


Adobe Inc. 2023b. Adobe Photoshop. Website: 

Berg, S., D. Kutra, T. Kroeger, C. N. Straehle, B. X. Kausler, 

C. Haubold, M. Schiegg, et al. 2019. ilastik: interactive ma-

chine learning for (bio)image analysis. Nature Methods 16: 


Gearty, W., L. A. Jones, and S. Chamberlain. 2023. rphy-

lopic: an R package for accessing and plotting PhyloPic sil-

houettes. TBD.
Inkscape Project. 2023. Inkscape. Website:
Kirillov, A., E. Mintun, N. Ravi, H. Mao, C. Rolland, L. Gus-

tafson, T. Xiao, et al. 2023. Segment AnythingArXiv Web-

Leebens-Mack, J. H., M. S. Barker, E. J. Carpenter, M. K. 

Deyholos, M. A. Gitzendanner, S. W. Graham, I. Grosse, et 

al. 2019. One thousand plant transcriptomes and the phy-

logenomics of green plants. Nature 574: 679–685. 
McClennen, M., J. Jenkins, and M. Uhen. 2017. The Paleo-

biology Database.
OpenTreeofLife, K. A. Cranston, B. Redelings, L. L. S. Reyes, 

J. Allman, E. J. McTavish, and M. T. Holder. 2019. Open 

Tree of Life Taxonomy. Website:

Rueden, C. T., J. Schindelin, M. C. Hiner, B. E. DeZonia, A. 

E. Walter, E. T. Arena, and K. W. Eliceiri. 2017. ImageJ2: 

ImageJ for the next generation of scientific image data. BMC 

Bioinformatics 18: 529. 
Schindelin, J., I. Arganda-Carreras, E. Frise, V. Kaynig, M. 

Longair, T. Pietzsch, S. Preibisch, et al. 2012. Fiji: an open-

source platform for biological-image analysis. Nature Meth-

ods 9: 676–682. 
Schneider, C. A., W. S. Rasband, and K. W. Eliceiri. 2012. 

NIH Image to ImageJ: 25 years of image analysis. Nature 

Methods 9: 671–675.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Humans transform, filter, break down, and 

reassemble seemingly endless amounts of 

information as we make sense of the world we 

live in. For an ecologist observing a natural 

ecosystem, this process may produce a graphical 

figure summarizing a targeted property of the 

system to understand the consequences of 

environmental change; for an artist observing the 

same phenomenon, this may result in the formal 

use of abstraction, form, and color as an inquiry 

into the ways humans interface with “Nature.” If 

viewed only in this way. the two disciplines emerge 

as a simple dichotomy; yet in reality, the two have 

many approaches in common, both of which help 

us understand the world we live in. Since 2014, the 

two of us (a scientist who studies the ecological 

interactions among of plants and animals, and a 

visual artist utilizing video and digital media) have 

been collaborating at the intellectual confluence of 

the sciences and arts with the goal of generating 

novel perspectives on the world that surrounds 

us and our relationships to it. In this paper, we 

Can the Collaboration of Science and Art 

Broaden Our Understanding of Nature?

Paul J. CaraDonna


Mark Dorf



Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte, 



Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, USA


Plant Biology & Conservation, Northwestern University, 

Evanston, IL, USA


Correspondence: and

discuss our long-term, ongoing collaborations 

at the intersection of science and art, how it 

can influence our individual perspectives by 

building trust and exchange between scientists 

and artists, and how such collaborations have 

the potential to create new ways of knowing and 

understanding. To explore these ideas, together 

we created Figure 1: a creative appropriation 

of video still’s taken from Dorf’s (2021) film, 

New Nature, that was predominantly produced 

and conceptualized during the 2021 field season 

at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. 

Throughout the film, the viewer is provoked to 

consider not only the future of what Western 

culture commonly refers to as “Nature” in the face 

of a changing planet, but also what the term itself 

means in contemporary life and language. Figure 

1 functions as an illustration of the work produced 

from our long-standing collaboration, as well as a 

visual tool and metaphor to better understand the 

ways in which we collaborate. 

Ways of Seeing Nature

Taking influence from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing 

(1972), we begin by asking the question: when 

observing nature, what is it that we see and why 

do we see it in that way? This question sits at the 

center of our collaboration as scientist and artist 

and is one that we are continually investigating. 

Figure 1A presents an image that can feel both 

familiar and foreign. Recognizable elements of a 

spruce forest can be identified on a localized scale: 

needle-like leaves, tree trunks, color palette, and 

variation in light.  But when zooming out to see 

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the entire image, these familiar elements and the 

logic of the image and the forest itself fall apart. We 

have something that appears and feels like a forest, 

while simultaneously approaching nonsense. In 

other words, Figure 1A asks us to ponder: how can 

we recognize this image of a forest when there is 

in fact no forest represented; or, put another way, 

how do we understand something as it changes 

rapidly in real time? This idea is analogous to 

how, as we begin to understand many dimensions 

of ecological systems for the first time, they are 

simultaneously shifting in response to global 


Figure 1. An illustration of the work produced from the bidirectional collaboration between science and art as a visual tool and 

metaphor of the collaboration and how we understand nature. We created this figure together in Dorf’s art studio in New York 

City and then later at CaraDonna’s lab at a remote biological field station in Colorado (The Rocky Mountain Biological Labora-

tory). (A) Digital collage image of subalpine spruce forests. (B) Digital image of three identical 3D-rendered mountains split into 

the additive color channels of red, green, and blue. (C) Digital image of a hand reaching into a small pool of water that has a 

grid atop its surface. (D) A scientist in a subalpine meadow noting the timing of an observation of a pollinator visiting a plant. 

(E) Two series of five images illustrating the passing of time building up to a discrete event. All still images are from the film, 

New Nature (Dorf, 2021). 

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As we consider this tension in our observation 

and perception of nature, we turn to Figure 1B, 

which investigates how we filter, transform, split, 

and rearrange our observations as we try and 

make sense of them. In Dorf’s (2021) film, A New 

Nature, the form featured in Figure 1B rotates, 

undulates, and slowly separates as the voiceover 

asks: “Tell me what you see. Can you tell me 

what I see? What is there in front of you?” The 

voice over and rotating landscape are directly 

inspired by Piaget’s (1954) experiments with early 

childhood development and object permanence 

in which Piaget would present a model landscape 

to a child, ask them to describe the scene, turn the 

landscape, and continue to ask probing questions 

to see if the child recognized the landscape as 

the same form. The constant state of fluctuation 

renders Piaget’s request to describe the subject’s 

state nearly impossible. In the case of A New 

Nature (Dorf, 2021), the viewer is presented with 

an impermanent moving target that is not only in 

constant rotation, but also changing form from 

one moment to the next. Eventually the rotating 

landscape divides into three identical 3D-rendered 

mountains split into the additive color channels 

of red, green, and blue. When separated they 

are independent entities, but when combined 

they compose an image that represents the fully 

realized spectrum of color and light. Functionally, 

digital images are presented with all their color 

channels combined together so that the image is 

more or less a reflection of a sensory experience 

or an observation; similarly, scientific ideas are 

presented as cohesive and generalized frameworks 

that otherwise emerge from many disparate 

sources of empirical information. When an image 

is broken apart, as in Figure 1B, the viewer is 

challenged to consider how even the most basic 

ideas, observations, and environments can be 

infinitely split or combined, revealing something 

foreign and strange in a new and unexpected 

manner. This is a process that both scientists and 

artists are constantly enacting.

Conduits for Collaborative Seeing

The question of asking what one sees and how 

one sees it is a more complicated inquiry than 

it might seem. In the case of the 3D-rendered 

mountain splitting apart (Figure 1B), the challenge 

presented is that if everything is in constant flux, 

how do we interpret what we are observing? 

Despite their different approaches, scientists and 

artists both run up against this problem, whether 

considering, for example, plants adapting to 

rapidly changing climate conditions, or the ever-

shifting relationship among humans, technology, 

and nature. Figure 1C and 1D illustrate two 

different moments of interfacing with the world. 

Figure 1C shows the hand of an artist reaching 

into a small pool of water only to be met with a 

graphic grid that lays atop the water itself; Figure 

1D shows a scientist in the field noting the timing 

of an observation of an interaction between plant 

and pollinator. What both images help to reveal is 

that the human observer is the conduit for seeing, 

observing, and understanding. The scientist and 

the artist bring with them different histories and 

toolsets for interfacing with the world, but they 

both share the common feature of the human 

acting as the filter for translating the sensory 

experience of the world—the observation—into 

The methods of observation of the scientist and 

artist can be very different, but something that 

is not so obvious is that the goals of the scientist 

and artist are often shared. Figure 1E investigates 

this idea with two series of images that illustrate 

a narrative arc of the passing of time building up 

to a discrete event. The top row illustrates a slow 

zoom sequence of the formation and dissolution 

of an interaction between a flower and a bumble 

bee; the bottom row illustrates the sequence 

of a graphic-loading interface of a unicode 

flower, which spins in the center as the sequence 

progresses. From one perspective, they represent 

two divergent narrative arcs as seen from their 

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deeply contrasting aesthetic representations. But 

from another perspective, they both center on the 

passage of time and the temporal sequence of the 

completion of a natural event (e.g., CaraDonna 

et al., 2014, 2017, 2021; Post, 2019). What Figure 

1E seeks to interrogate with the juxtaposition of 

these two sequences is the question of seeing, 

observing, and interpretation. As with the other 

elements of Figure 1, we continually ask: what are 

we seeing, who is doing the seeing, what is the 

mode of observation, and how is it all interpreted? 

Critically, it is not so much that one way of seeing 

or knowing is better or more accurate—instead, we 

argue that together, we have a fuller understanding 

of the world that reaches beyond that of the 

quantitative, qualitative, logical, and emotional


Novel Ways of Knowing Nature

The scientist and the artist can begin with the same 

source of influence and the same set of information 

(plants, animals, and their interactions); use 

different means of analyzing, observing, and 

understanding (population dynamics, ecological 

networks; color, light, sound); and naturally resolve 

on quite different results (e.g., CaraDonna et al., 

2017; Dorf, 2021).  If the collaboration between the 

two is simply art in service to science, or science 

in service to art, then new ways of knowing do not 

easily emerge. What we have learned over nearly 

10 years of bidirectional sharing at the confluence 

of science and art is that there is much to be gained 

through trustful and open collaboration. Such 

collaboration has helped to reveal to us that there is 

no one result that is greater than the other. Instead, 

we find that knowing and knowledge production 

is constantly in flux like the surroundings that 

seed our inquiries. If we allow it, each approach 

informs the other, helps to challenge their mutual 

assumptions, and shifts perspectives. 


We thank Amy Iler, Cassandra Croft, Cory 

Zimmerman, Nick Waser, Mary Price, Jane 

Ogilvie, Will Petry, and the CaraDonna Lab for 

stimulating discussions and support. We thank two 

anonymous reviewers for their insight comments 

on the manuscript. We thank the Rocky Mountain 

Biological Laboratory (RMBL) for providing 

access to field sites and logistical support. Funding 

was provided by the RMBL, Northwestern 

University, and the National Science Foundation 

(DGE-1754518 to P.J.C.).


Berger, J. 1972. Ways of Seeing. British Broadcasting Com-

CaraDonna, P. J., A. M. Iler, and D. W. Inouye. 2014. Shifts 

in  flowering  phenology  reshape  a  subalpine  plant  commu-

nity. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, USA

111: 4916–4921. 
CaraDonna, P. J., W. K. Petry, R. M. Brennan, J. L. Cunning-

ham, J. L. Bronstein, N. M. Waser, and N. J. Sanders. 2017. 

Interaction rewiring and the rapid turnover of plant–pollina-

tor networks. Ecology Letters 20: 385-394. 
CaraDonna, P. J., L. A. Burkle, B. Schwarz, J. Resasco, T. M. 

Knight, G. Benadi, N. Blüthgen, et al. 2021. Seeing through 

the static: the temporal dimension of plant–animal mutualis-

tic interactions. Ecology Letters 24: 149-161. 
Dorf, M. (Director). 2021. A New Nature. [Film]
Piaget, J. 1954. The development of object concept (M. 

Cook, Trans.). In: J. Piaget, M. Cook (Trans.), The construc-

tion of reality in the child (pp. 3–96). Basic Books.
Post, E. 2019. Time in Ecology: A Theoretical Framework 

[MPB 61], Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The combination of art and the botanical sciences 

can address global and local issues in ways 

that resonate with communities. Marginalized 

societies, plant species, and whole ecosystems 

are suffering the consequences of a rapidly 

changing climate (IPCC, 2023). These challenges 

require multidisciplinary approaches, which 

extend beyond the field of botanical science. We, 

the authors, propose that socially engaged art 

practices rooted in a history of activism combined 

with a deep western scientific understanding of 

plant communities can help address the issues 

of climate change. We are a group of creative 

researchers from various disciplines, all part of 

the Backyard Phenology Project (BYP) at the 

The Integration of Botanical Science, 

Art, and Agency

Maria Park


Jessie Merriam2

Abbie Anderson3

Chotsani Elaine Dean4

Rebecca Montgomery5

Christine Baeumler6


 University of Minnesota (UMN) PhD candidate in 

Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; artist


 UMN Masters in Heritage Studies and Public His-

tory; artist

UMN Researcher, Department of Forest Resources


 UMN Assistant Professor of Ceramics, Department 

of Art


 UMN Professor of Forest Ecology, Department of 

Forest Resources


 UMN Professor of Interdisciplinary Art & Social 

Practice, Art Department Chair


 Author for correspondence:

University of Minnesota (UMN). In this article, 

we describe this project and related endeavors. 

We hope that these examples can help readers see 

their place in both local and global ecosystems 

and build communities through the integration of 

the arts and botanical sciences.

Backyard Phenology

The BYP is an ongoing art and community 

science platform that engages people to become 

more attuned to the seasonal cycles of nature 

(phenology) and foster dialogue about the 

influence of climate change on nature (Backyard 

Phenology, 2023). The project launched in 2016, 

with support from the Northern Lights arts 

organization and a UMN Grand Challenges 

grant. The project was founded by Professor 

Rebecca Montgomery, a forest ecologist, and 

Professor Christine Baeumler, a socially engaged 

artist. Other founding collaborators include 

Professor Mae Davenport, Beth Mercer-Taylor, 

and Kate Flick. The BYP team, assisted by various 

researchers and volunteers, listen to and record 

stories of people around Minnesota in a mobile 

recording studio called the Climate Chaser. 

Participants are invited to share stories of plants, 

the environment, and our changing climate with 

the BYP team, and then continue to document 

their natural observations on a printed phenology 

calendar. A BYP podcast featuring the recorded 

stories is available on the BYP website https:// The Climate Chaser is a 

retrofitted vintage chrome camper that has been 

brought to numerous events and sites, including 

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art festivals, an American Indian reservation, a 

local farm, and the Minnesota State Fair. In 2022, 

the camper visited Franconia Sculpture Park where 

Baeumler invited Minnesota artist Kimberly 

Boustead to lead a natural ink workshop alongside 

the Climate Chaser (Figure 1A). BYP encourages 

scientific observation and welcomes diverse ways 

of knowing and experiencing the environment 

through social engagement, collaboration, and 

empowerment of participants.


The themes and values of the Backyard Phenology 

Project are fully present in the courses that 

members of the BYP team co-teach at UMN. 

The Art and Ecology course, currently taught by 

Christine Baeumler and Maria Park, an artist and 

graduate student in ecology, takes an experiential 

and place-based approach to engaging students 

in learning about ecology, eco-art, and socially 

engaged art practices. Following the collaborative 

BYP event at Franconia, artist Kimberly Boustead 

joined Baeumler and Park to lead students in 

harvesting common buckthorn berries (Rhamnus 

cathartica) lining the Mississippi River. The 

non-native species has been reported in every 

Minnesota county and negatively impacts the 

environment in many ways (EDDMapS, 2023). 

Employees from the Minneapolis Park and 

Recreation Board supplied tools and taught 

students about the ecological implications of 

Figure 1. (A) The Backyard Phenology Project: The Climate Chaser recording studio is parked next to a natural ink work-

shop tent hosted by Kimberly Boustead at Franconia Sculpture Park. (B) Pedagogy: Students in the Art and Ecology class 

harvest buckthorn berries. (C) Maria Park and students experiment with shifting the pH of natural inks, thereby changing 

the colors. (D) Reframing Our Relations: The multi-course meal was prepared by team members from foraged and locally 

sourced ingredients including staghorn sumac, spruce tips, and crayfish. (E) A Plant People Project: bur oak (Quercus mac-

rocarpa) print and haiku next to various tinctures from oak bark. The class learned about the role of oaks in the Stop the 

Reroute fight (1999), and its role in oak savannas. Check out the Plant People archive-in-progress: 

(F) Seed Sharing: Seed packet preparation by Chotsani Elaine Dean. 

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buckthorn. Boustead then led students through 

the process of creating ink and painting with the 

buckthorn berries (Figure 1B, C). In one class 

period, students learned about the ecology, art, 

and chemistry of a plant in a completely hands-on 

During the semester, students in Art and Ecology

find a “sit-spot” location that they return to 

consistently. Based on the practice of taking 

phenology measurements, students are prompted 

to observe changes in the environment and reflect 

on their chosen location as the seasons shift. 

Setting aside the time to regularly disconnect from 

the busyness of everyday life and connect with a 

place in nature has helped students care for their 

mental health in addition to the environment. The 

sit-spot practice is also fostered in a UMN Grand 

Challenges Curriculum course titled Making 

Sense of Climate Change: Science, Art, and Agency

currently taught by Montgomery, Baeumler, and 



Reframing Our Relations

As noted above, Franconia Sculpture Park has 

been a site of artistic and ecological engagement 

for the BYP team. In 2022, the BYP team, led 

by BYP member Christian Bell, hosted an event 

titled,  “Re-framing our Relations: Complicating 

the invasive species narrative through participatory 

art and science at Franconia Sculpture Park.” The 

interdisciplinary team of artists and scientists 

engaged local stakeholders and community 

members in the sharing of food, stories, and 

knowledge about non-native species (Figure 

1D). A major goal of the project was to reframe 

the ways in which introduced species are viewed 

and managed. A more respectful vocabulary of 

animacy (Kimmerer, 2017) could be used instead 

of colonial language that vilifies species by referring 

to them as “invasive,” “novel weapons,” and in need 

of “eradication” (Estévez et al., 2015). Learning 

from Indigenous practices of land stewardship, 

and opening minds to the possibilities of long-

term ecological restoration practices, can allow 

for a more sustainable future (GLIFWC Climate 

Change Team, 2023).
The act of facilitating conversations over a shared 

meal is a socially engaged art practice that has 

been implemented by contemporary artists such 

as Seitu Jones and Marina Zurkow (Gruenewald, 

2014; Cadieux et al., 2019). This particular shared 

meal and conversation was curated to encourage 

participants to explore their own relationships 

with plants, particularly non-native species. 

Conversations spanned topics of ecology, land 

management, colonialism, reciprocity, and 

different ways of knowing. Participants exchanged 

stories and ideated pathways forward together.

Plant People

Plant People is a research initiative documenting 

oral histories of plant practitioners in Minnesota 

to uplift the history of healing plant knowledge 

in the midst of the Western medical tradition. 

Jessie Merriam, a graduate research assistant 

for Backyard Phenology and Plant People, was 

inspired by BYP workshops at Franconia to help 

Plant People identify the healing relationships 

artists also have with plants. Merriam and 

herbalist Emily Ryan developed an ongoing series, 

“The Ways of Plants,” at Fireweed Community 

Woodshop in Minneapolis to explore the history, 

sustainable harvest, and culinary and medicinal 

uses of native plants while teaching students to 

make their own woodblock print of the plant 

(Figure 1E).

Seed Sharing

Seed harvesting and sharing is a project that is 

essential in the studio practice of Chotsani Elaine 

Dean, a member of BYP and Assistant Professor 

in the UMN Art Department. While living in 

South Carolina in 2017, Dean learned where to 

find the seeds of a flowering plant by spending 

time with two of her garden plants. When Dean 

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noticed the open and offering seed pod of the 

pansy (Viola × wittrockiana) and nasturtium 

(Tropaeolum majus), her curiosity was sparked. 

Dean learned how to identify the flowers, followed 

the phenology of the plants, wrapped flowerheads 

in cheesecloth to catch seeds, and started to make 

her own seed packets (Figure 1F). Dean continues 

to give people her seed packets to continue the 

practiced tradition of across-the-fence gardening 

in this modern era.


The intersections of art and the botanical sciences 

can foster innovative community engagement 

initiatives that address the pressing challenges 

of climate change and dominating non-native 

plant species. People may initially question and 

misunderstand the role of socially engaged art 

in the botanical sciences. But by helping people 

interact and reflect upon plants and natural places 

they care about, we have seen shifts in attitude 

and perspective. We have found that approaching 

projects with an open mindset and willingness to 

engage with people from different backgrounds 

lead to exciting collaborations that cross societal 

boundaries and generate opportunities to co-

create a sustainable world.


We are thankful for everyone who has been 

involved with the projects, including team 

member Christian Bell, collaborating artist 

Kimberly Boustead, past BYP coordinators Sam 

Graf and Jonelle Walker, researchers Emily Green 

and Bree Duever, UMN graduate students Jessica 

Lackey and Jenn Shepard, UMN undergraduates 

Rachel Nichols, K. Arsten Lennartson, and 

Lauren Schultz, and Professor Nicholas Jordan, 

an original founding member of BYP. We are 

grateful for funding from Northern Lights and 

former artistic director Steve Dietz, the University 

of Minnesota Grand Challenges Research Award, 

and the Institute on the Environment at UMN 

Mini Grant. The Climate Chaser camper rehab 

was done by ThreeSeven, graphics were created by 

This is Folly, and printing of BYP calendars were 

done by Smart Set. 


Backyard Phenology. 2023. The University of Minnesota

Cadieux, K. V., M. Zurkow, and S. Libertus. 2019. Eating 

Climate Change with Making the Best of It Dandelion: Col-

laborative Public Art as a Mode of Future-Oriented Learning. 

Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and 

Pedagogy 29: 210–233.

EDDMapS  (Early  Detection  &  Distribution  Mapping  Sys-

tem). 2023. The University of Georgia - Center for Invasive 

Species and Ecosystem Health. Website:  http://www.edd-
Estévez, R. A., C. B. Anderson, J. C. Pizarro, and M. A. 

Burgman. 2015. Clarifying values, risk perceptions, and at-

titudes to resolve or avoid social conflicts in invasive species 

management: Confronting Invasive Species Conflicts. Con-

servation Biology 29: 19–30.
GLIFWC Climate Change Team. 2023. Aanji-bimaadi-

ziimagak o’ow aki. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife 

Commission, Odanah, WI. 332 pp.
Gruenewald, B. 2014. A recipe for change: Public Art St. 

Paul to host community meal for 2,000 guests. Hmong Times

September 3, 2014: 3.

IPCC, 2023: Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Con-

tribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth As-

sessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate 

Change [Core Writing Team, H. Lee and J. Romero (eds.)]. 

IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, pp. 35-115, doi: 10.59327/


Kimmerer, R. W. 2017. Learning the Grammar of Animacy. 

Anthropology of Consciousness 28: 128–134.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Since 2003, Cornell University’s Art of 

Horticulture course has engaged students to 

use plants for creating art (natural dyes, willow 

weaving, papermaking, etc.) as well as the subject 

of art (botanical illustration, photography, 

printmaking, etc.). But founder Marcia Eames-

Sheavly’s learning objectives went far beyond 

the basics of plants and paints, challenging the 

traditional boundaries of university horticulture 

curricula. This unique course encourages students 

to develop a distinctive lens to view the world and 

to take a deep exploration into self, the classroom 

environment, and their broader community. 
The curriculum has continued to evolve and 

respond to changes in our scientific knowledge 

and social awareness under the leadership of 

“Art of Horticulture” Course 

Cultivates Creativity

Emily Detrick


Craig Cramer



Director of Horticulture, Cornell Botanic Gardens and 

Lecturer, School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), 

Cornell University


Communications Specialist, School of Integrative Plant 

Science (SIPS), Cornell University

Emily Detrick, who has taught the course since 


The course vision is as follows:

Ground Students in the Landscape

Detrick has strengthened deep connections 

between the course and Cornell Botanic Gardens, 

where she serves as Director of Horticulture. 

Plants from the Botanic Gardens provide both 

inspiration and materials for creating art and a 

seasonally changing palette that grounds students 

in the cycles of the natural world. The gardens 

offer a living laboratory where students participate 

in activities like a mindful botany walk, create 

plant-based installations that are accessioned into 

the living collections, and learn about biocultural 

diversity through interpreted displays (Figure 1).

Cultivate a Diverse and Inclusive 

Classroom Culture

Although based in Cornell’s College of Agriculture 

and Life Sciences, students come from across 

disciplines and with varying experiences in 

horticulture and art—majors as diverse as 

Engineering, Animal Science, Computer Science, 

Hotel Administration, and Architecture, in 

addition to Plant Sciences and Fine Art. The 

weekly sessions help students connect creativity 

and botanical sciences through hands-on activities 

that hone observation and plant biology skills as 

well as an understanding of the principles of design 

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in living forms. Students weave their personal 

experiences and interests with their botanical 

arts exploration, a process that naturally creates 

vulnerability. They engage with their peers to ask 

questions, seek ideas, and support one another 

when stepping out of their comfort zones. These 

practices help develop group as well as individual 

problem-solving strategies and contribute to an 

inclusive, collaborative classroom culture. 

Connect to Art-Science Community

Perhaps as important as the curriculum is the 

insight students gain into a variety of career 

paths through interaction with contemporary 

artist-scientists. In addition to hosting artists in 

the classroom, students take field trips to a local 

gourd artist’s studio and a fiber artist’s dye garden. 

Additionally, students engage with renowned 

artists who visit campus, such as Brazilian street 

artist Eder Muniz, who created a two-story 

botanical mural at the Botanic Gardens in 2019. 

Nigerian-American artist and poet Precious 

Okoyomon led students in a nature-inspired 

poetry workshop in 2022.

Deepen Knowledge of Campus 

Programs and People

Students visit Cornell University’s Herbert F. 

Johnson Museum of Art and Cornell Rare and 

Manuscript Collection to see examples of historic 

and contemporary plant-inspired art. Cornell 

artists-scientists lead classes, such as Cornell Soil 

Health Lab manager Kirsten Kurtz, who teaches 

the importance of soil health as well as how to 

paint with it. SIPS Communications Specialist 

Craig Cramer teaches botanical scanning and 

digital manipulation. He also documents student 

work and manages the course website, where 

images of past student work can be found (https:// 

Figure 1. Art of Horticulture students create moss “land art” installation at Cornell Botanic Gardens using native mosses 

and ferns. If conditions are right, the students’ individual moss arrangements will grow and merge into a single, natural-

ized composition of brocade moss (Hypnum imponens), haircap moss (Polytrichum commune), and marginal wood fern 

(Dryopteris marginalis)

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Develop Observation Reflection and 

Documentation Skills

Students learn creative ways to document their 

observations of plant life, such as cyanotypes, 

pressing and drying techniques, and ink 

impressions. Required readings and writing 

assignments hone their reflection skills to connect 

self, art, and the natural world in a broader 

context. Students apply their unique interests, 

perspectives, and expertise to create capstone 

projects. When presenting, they show evidence of 

their new botanical understandings by discussing 

the nomenclature, morphology, life histories, and 

ethnobotanical uses of plants they have come to 

know intimately through their projects, as well as 

their successes and challenges with newly learned 

artmaking techniques. 

Create Lifetime Impacts

Overall, students learn the value of engaging 

creatively with plants to foster their own and 

community well-being. One reflected, “I have 

gained… lessons not only about the intersection 

of art and science, but about reflecting in myself, 

taking time to look up at the natural world around 

me, connecting with my peers, using my voice 

with intention, and trying things that scare me.”

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

With increasing anthropogenic and climate-

induced changes to our ecosystems (Groffman, 

2014; Kidwell, 2015), it is more imperative than 

ever to foster a kinship between people and their 

environment and to enhance communication 

of ecological knowledge across audiences, from 

scientists to students and the public. Cultivating 

a personal connection to plants—from individual 

species to their foundational role in ecosystems—

is especially critical, because doing so promotes a 

desire for conservation and a deeper understanding 

of our world’s biodiversity. While many media 

platforms, such as nature documentaries, tend to 

focus on mammals (Howlett et al., 2023), plants 

account for 80% of total biomass on Earth (Bar-

On et al., 2018) and serve as the building blocks of 

food webs. Yet nearly 40% of all plant species are 

classified as rare (Enquist et al., 2019).

Reaching Across Audiences: 

Connecting to and Communicating 

Botanical Concepts Through Art

Janette L. Davidson


Sienna A. Wessel


Jennifer W. Shoemaker


Alexandra P. Rose


Lauren G. Shoemaker



Botany Department, University of Wyoming, Laramie, 

Wyoming 82071 USA 


Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, Colorado State 

University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521 USA 


Fine Artist, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526 USA 


Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of 

Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80303 US


 Author for correspondencce: jdavid21@uwyo.


Artwork presents one key avenue for promoting 

botanical literacy by creating an emotional, cross-

scale connection to plants and fostering a bigger-

picture context of plant responses to climate 

change. While detailed and highly accurate 

botanical illustrations date back centuries and 

were crucial in early efforts to record plant species 

prior to photography, recent trends in ecological 

education in STEAM (science, technology, 

engineering, art, and math) have moved toward 

a more holistic view of plants embedded within 

their abiotic and biotic environments. Parallel 

trends are occurring in the world of fine art, with 

pieces focusing on fostering a personal connection 

between humans and the botanical world. Here 

we examine how art promotes this connection 

between people and plants across biological scales.

Individual and Species-Level Scale 

One of the most direct paths humans may 

take to connecting with plants is by bringing 

houseplants into their homes. Greening a home 

through the introduction of houseplants benefits 

mood and task attentivity, with even individual 

plants inspiring creativity (Shibata and Suzuki, 

2002) and motivating artistic compositions that 

further botanical understanding. Houseplants 

skyrocketed in popularity during the COVID-19 

pandemic (Phillips and Schultz, 2021), quickly 

becoming muses for creative projects such as 

leaf preservations, still life paintings, and artfully 

arranged terrariums. Plants also inspired artistic 

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competitions, such as one hosted by the Denver 

Botanic Gardens inviting artists to submit pieces 

representing how houseplants, gardens, and 

nature supported them through the COVID-19 

pandemic (Denver Botanic Gardens, 2021) 

(Figure 1). During this time, an increase in 

emotional, sentimental attachment to plants 

also became evident. In addition to inspiring 

creativity, houseplants also benefit mental health 

as well as encourage mindfulness and self-care 

(Bringslimark et al., 2009). It is perhaps for this 

reason that many people who were quarantined 

away from both social and ecological interactions 

came to see their houseplants as sources of 

personal joy, inspiration, and comfort during this 

time. Through art, this quiet connection may be 

succinctly and poignantly shared with any who 

may relate or sympathize with a similar connection 

to their personal plants.
Interactions with plants at an individual and 

personal scale also improved many owners’ 

knowledge of botany. Plant ownership exposes 

non-academics to botanical concepts such 

as environmental requirements, anatomical 

terminology, key features for identification, and 

conservation concerns such as poaching of rare 

plants. From this increased knowledge arose 

artistic infographics and care sheets, spreading 

information on these concepts in a visually 

accessible medium (Briscoe, 2020).

Community and 

Ecosystem-Level Scale

The positive associations art can engender 

with indoor plants may be extended to connect 

people with larger natural systems, and botanical 

illustration continues to play a valuable role in the 

study of ecosystems. Artists may also look beyond 

the individual to capture the lives of plants within 

their larger landscape context.
Landscape fine artists often create artwork of 

plant communities at this moderate scale, moving 

beyond detailed renderings into the sphere of 

artistic interpretation of plants within their 

ecosystems. Using observation and knowledge 

of plant communities, artists convey the sense 

of a landscape using loose brushwork and rich 

color. The popular plein air movement (a French 

phrase meaning “in open air”), where artists are 

simultaneously inspired by and create directly 

in nature, began in the early 1800s, and was 

popularized during the Impressionism Movement 

(Callen, 2015) and continues to this day. This 

technique captures the effects of sunlight and 

shadow on a landscape, allowing artists to convey 

their emotional connection and impressions of 

Figure 1. Life Support, 2021. Digital art by Janette David-

son. Image symbolically depicts a connection between people 

and plants, in how houseplants supported their caretakers 

through the quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This piece was created for the 2021 online art competition 

hosted by the Denver Botanic Gardens, “Plants Through 


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the landscape directly to viewers (The Art Story 

Foundation, 2023) (Figure 2). Through landscape 

art, viewers are invited to become absorbed 

in the feel of a plant community, developing a 

sense of place and appreciation at an ecosystem 

level (Malafronte, 2009). In this medium, we 

see ourselves not only observing the world of 

plants within their landscapes, but becoming 

immersed and ultimately belonging to that same 

world. As such, these landscape paintings can 

foster a personal desire to conserve ecological 

communities (Ostendorf, 2017; Renowden et al., 


Global Scale 

Art also has the potential to deepen general 

understanding of abstract botanical concepts, 

such as the risks of climate change to both humans 

and plants. In the modern milieu, where 40% of 

plant species face extinction due to threats such as 

climate change (Antonelli et al., 2020), promoting 

education of how plants are being affected on 

a global scale is imperative in eliciting support 

for conservation of these species. Through art, 

seemingly abstract data such as changes in 

temperature and climate patterns through time 

(Figure 3) can come alive and inspire action. 

However, communicating such topics, especially 

to school-aged audiences, presents a challenge 

because the concept may seem remote. An 

interactive art medium is therefore well suited to 

reach this audience and inspire students to take 


Figure 2. Perfect Day Ahead, 2023. Oil on panel by Jennifer Shoemaker. Landscape of sage and lodgepole pine 

ecosystem, with a harmonious hiking trail snaking through. This piece was created as an example of integrating 

historical and modern plein air techniques. 

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For young students, art can serve as a colorful 

and captivating communicator of science—

particularly if the student is involved in the 

creative process. Studies show that incorporating 

art into learning environments may help students 

better retain information (Gullatt, 2008), and thus 

is a valuable tool in lessons about climate change. 

Through the creative process, students can directly 

connect to the data of their local environment 

(Figure 3A, B), promoting understanding for how 

this global problem can affect their smaller scale, 

local botanical communities. A similar artistic 

approach may be taken with communicating 

global science to a multi-generational audience. 

Involving citizens of varying ages can be powerful 

for demonstrating trends through time at different 

points in their lives, for example by asking 

participants to attach color-coded cloth strips 

representing the average temperature in a given 

location during their birth year to a timeline 

(Figure 3C, D). Having the public contribute 

to interactive art exhibits at local community 

events, such as at libraries or farmers’ markets, 

can convey a concise visual message on climate 

change impacts. Thereby, it can serve to initiate 

conversations about climate change or encourage 

families to contribute to conservation efforts 

themselves by fostering an emotional connection 

between plants, their ecosystems, and changes in 


Figure 3. Collection of Tempestry (Barber and Gilson, 2023) educational and community artwork projects led by Dr. Al-

exandra Rose, depicting changes in temperatures over time in two North American cities: Mazatlán, Mexico and Boulder, 

CO, USA (A, B), and illustrating the global temperature during the birth year of project participants at local community 

events (C, D)

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Promoting Scientific Literacy 

through Emotional Engagement

Art’s distinctive ability to establish emotional 

connections between viewers and the botanical 

world across scales, spanning from individual 

plants to botanical communities and a global 

context, make it an effective tool for communicating 

complex ecological concepts, eliciting pro-

environmental attitudes and behaviors in 

society (Kals et al., 1999) and garner support 

for solutions-focused conservation research. In 

an era of global change, public understanding, 

socio-political interest, and economic support 

for plant conservation are more critical than ever 

(Balding and Williams, 2016). However, people 

often struggle to connect emotionally with plants, 

and many of the concepts behind cutting-edge 

conservation research can be difficult to convey to 

non-specialists due to their abstract, multifaceted 

nature. Education about conservation topics can 

greatly enhance community engagement with 

conservation work (Ardoin et al., 2020) and 

scientists are increasingly reaping the benefits of 

artistic approaches to communicating complex 

topics (Curtis et al., 2012). Furthermore, art-

science integration can increase access to scientific 

knowledge that can be restricted behind paywalls.
For example, plant functional traits are grounded 

in theoretical concepts that can be used to generate 

general predictions for how species may respond 

to their environment and global change. However, 

few people are well-acquainted with traits, and 

the definition can be difficult to comprehend, 

especially for mathematically derived botanical 

traits such as specific leaf area (Violle et al., 

2007). In cases such as this, artwork can facilitate 

understanding and engagement with botanical 

concepts and conservation principles, such as 

how traits are used by research scientists to predict 

plant survival and adaptation in response to global 

change (Figure 4). The brevity and illustrative 

nature of the graphics served to share examples 

of conservation work and increase social capital 

for trait research by generating empathy for the 

pressures that plants face. This approach is merely 

one way art can distill abstract concepts into 

engaging visual stories that stimulate empathy 

and support for conservation. Other artists have 

leveraged similar approaches, such as comic 

strips (Kozik, 2021), to disseminate conservation 

science in a problem-solution framework. Artistic 

displays have immense potential to make science 

more approachable and to arouse curiosity and 

empathy for the botanical world.


Although art may appear, at first glance, to play a 

fading role in the academic world of botany, it is in 

fact one of our strongest tools for communicating 

science. Most people have an innate connection 

to nature, and whether it is strongest on a smaller 

personal scale with individual plants or a larger 

scale with landscapes, this connection can be 

utilized to increase awareness about plants and the 

challenges they face on a global scale. Botanical 

art can also serve as a gateway to awareness and 

aesthetic appreciation of the plant environment 

and its associated organisms, from microbes to 

pollinators. Art is a unique and valuable tool we 

must use to tap into humanity’s connection with 

plants, to not only improve the efficiency and 

clarity with which we communicate science, but 

also stoke a passion for botany and conservation 

outside of the academic world.

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Antonelli, A., C. Fry, R. J. Smith, M. S. J. Simmonds, P. J. 

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the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020. Royal Botanic Gardens, 

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water and climate emergency. Textile 19: 1-13.
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of Sciences 115: 6506-6511.
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chological benefits of indoor plants: A critical review of the 

experimental literature. Journal of Environmental Psychol-

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A. 2015. The Work of Art: Plein Air Painting and 

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monness of rarity: Global and future distribution of rarity 

across land plants. Science Advances 5: eaaz0414.
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2023. Wildlife documentaries present a diverse, but biased, 

portrayal of the natural world. People and Nature 5: 633-644. 

Figure 4. Functional Traits, 2022. Digital art by Janette Davidson, authored by Sienna Wessel and Janette Davidson. This 

shows two excerpts (A, B) from a five-part series of informational artistic graphics defining plant functional traits and 

describing how they can be used to inform conservation efforts. The series was shared to a broad audience via university-

affiliated social media and a public gallery showing


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Affinity toward Nature as a Motivational Basis to Protect Na-

ture. Environment and Behavior 31: 178–202. 

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torations…[Tweet]. Twitter.


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plants indoors. Australian Geographer 52: 373-389.
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through head, heart and hand. People and Nature 4: 519-533. 
Shibata, S., and N. Suzuki. 2002. Effects of the foliage plant 

on task performance and mood. Journal of Environmental 

Psychology 22: 265-272.  
Violle, C., M.-L. Navas, D. Vile, E. Kazakou, C. Fortunel, 

I. Hummel, and E. Garnier. 2007. Let the concept of trait be 

functional! Oikos 116: 882–892.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

“What is our mission? What do we have to do? 

I think our mission is to reconcile, to reinte-

grate science and the arts, because right now 

there’s a schism that exists in popular

culture. . .” 

Mae Jemison, TED Talk (Jemison, 2002)

The schism between art and science is relatively 

recent. Although scientific illustration has been 

around for centuries, and many artists have 

sought and seek inspiration from nature, after the 



 century the disciplines dichotomized, as 

scientists claimed their own space and the rise of 

technology changed the world. In 1959, British 

chemist, politician, and novelist C. P. Snow, in a 

lecture titled "The Two Cultures and the Scientific 

Revolution" (Snow, 1961), observed that the gulf 

Lynne Gildensoph

Professor of Biology, Emerita, 

St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN 55105

Reconnecting Science with the Visual Arts: 

Teaching the Art of Biology

between literary intellectuals and scientists was a 

deterrent to human progress, since those in the 

humanities had no way to communicate with 

those in the sciences, and vice-versa.
Mae Jemison—first African-American female 

NASA astronaut in space, MD, professor, 

entrepreneur, and dancer—makes a powerful point 

in her TED talk about this disconnect and argues 

that it is necessary to reunite the two to facilitate 

understanding and avoid societal problems 

(Jemison, 2002). In the College for Women at 

St. Catherine University, my art colleague, Carol 

Chase, and I developed a course that braided our 

disciplines. The Art of Biology offers both a botany 

laboratory and an art studio, satisfying core 

requirements in both areas (Figure 1).
We address historical connections between 

art and botany, the eventual separation of the 

disciplines, and current efforts to bring them 

together to support overall student learning. For 

the past 15–20 years, K-12 schools, colleges, and 

universities have worked to meld these disciplines, 

resulting in courses where art and science are used 

to complement learning in both. The K-12 realm 

has seen the rise of STEAM as a discipline, where 

art is used to facilitate student learning in science 

(STEM) courses (Snow, 1961; Hanriksen, 2014; 

Quigley et al., 2017) and in afterschool activities 

(Tott et al., 2020). Interdisciplinary courses 

in medical schools, nursing programs, and in 

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biological sciences (Baldwin and Crawford, 2012; 

Flannery, 2012; Frei et al., 2010) help students 

hone observational skills by creating works of art 

that help them better understand connections 

among, for example, the plant structure/function 

concepts they are learning about, the details of 

those structures they must “see” to draw, and how 

those structures relate to functions. Exploring the 

use of art as a learning mode in science is highly 

regarded in some areas of biology, where faculty 

have long recognized that developing drawing 

skills to depict what one sees under the microscope, 

in a dissecting pan, and in nature, allows students 

to deepen their ability to see similarities and 

differences in what they are studying (Klugman et 

al., 2011).

Our course also brings to the fore the concept that 

both artists and scientists are creatively engaged 

in their disciplines and use similar modes and 

practices. As noted by Beveridge in Seeds of 

Discovery (1980): “The basic process of innovative 

thinking is the same in science, the arts, business, 

or any occupation that is not purely routine or just 

following instructions.”
We meet for 5 hours each week: one 2.5-hour 

class is in a biology lab and the other 2.5-hour 

class is in an art studio. Lab time is spent learning 

the structure and function of members of the 

plant kingdom through lecture, lab, and field 

observation. In the studio, students learn to 

address a blank page creatively, and how to use 

various media, such as graphite, pen and ink, 

Figure 1. St. Catherine University Art major Blue Edwards created these two images for the Art of Biology class. The 

image on the left is a lab sketch (pen and ink) of one of the flowers dissected in lab that day. On the right is Blue’s digital 

drawing for the final creative art project—depicting a look through the holes in a Monstera leaf. Permission granted to 

use images and student’s name and major.

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and watercolor. We make explicit the connection 

between the biological observation students do in 

the lab and the drawing practice they complete in 

the studio. The text we use, Botany for the Artist: 

An Inspirational Guide to Drawing Plants by 

Simblett (2010), complements what students are 

learning in the lab and studio. Simblett reinforces 

the connection between history, art, and biology 

as she combines botanically correct and beautiful 

drawings and paintings with descriptions of 

plant organs, habitats, and instruction on how to 

produce clear botanical illustrations that are also 

works of art.
To enhance student learning, we invite local 

artists, such as Marilyn Garber, Founder of the 

MN School for Botanical Art, to teach classes, and 

visit museum special holdings, such as the Maria 

Sibylla Merian print collection at the Minneapolis 

Institute of Art. Walks in nature, from our campus 

full of flowering plants to the Eloise Butler 

Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis, help students 

understand the wide variety of plant structures 

and how they evolved to facilitate a plant’s ability 

to thrive, and gives them a chance to enjoy the 

natural world.
In addition to a weekly sketchbook and quizzes 

that test student knowledge of plant structure and 

function and art concepts and practices, students 

produce two exhibit-ready projects: one at mid-

term and one at the end of the semester, where 

they combine what they have learned to create 

pieces of art. These are presented at “openings” 

complete with an artist’s reception, which is great 

fun. The course is enjoyable to teach, and students 

bloom (pardon the pun) throughout the semester 

as they become more proficient in both art and 



I would like to thank my writing group (Jane 

Carroll, Joanne Cavallaro, Cecilia Konchar-Farr, 

and Cindy Norton) for many years of thoughtful 

and critical reading, great feedback, and for 

friendship, support and encouragement.


Baldwin, L., and I. Crawford. 2012. Does the science of 

botany need art? Does art need the science of botany? CBA/

ABC Bulletin 45: 10.
Beveridge, W. I. B. 1980. Seeds of Discovery: A Sequel to 

the Art of Scientific Investigation. Norton: New York, 130 

Flannery, M. C. 2012. Biology & art: An intricate relation-

ship. American Biology Teacher 74: 194.
Frei, J., S. E. Alvarez, and M. B. Alexander. 2010. Ways of 

seeing: Using the visual arts in nursing education. Journal 

of Nursing Education 49: 672.
Hanriksen D. 2014. Full STEAM ahead: Creativity in excel-

lent STEM teaching practices. STEAM Journal 1(2).
Jemison, M. 2002. TED Talk. Teach Arts and Sciences 

Together. Website:

Klugman, C. M., J. Peel, and D. Blackmann-Menendez. 

2011. Art rounds: Teaching interprofessional students visual 

thinking strategies at one school. Academic Medicine 86: 

Quigley, C. F., D. Herro, and F. M. Jamil. 2017. Developing 

a conceptual model of STEAM teaching practices. School 

Science and Mathematics 117: 1–2.
Simblett, S. 2010. Botany for the Artist: An Inspirational 
Guide to Drawing Plants.
 DK Publishing: New York. 256 pp


Snow C. P. 1961. The Rede Lecture, 1959: The two cultures. 

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tott, C. D., T. L. Even, and S. M. Frame. 2020. Merging the 

arts and sciences for collaborative sustainability action: A 
methodological framework. Sustainability Science 15: 1067.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

It is the height of summer and you’ve ventured 

out on your favorite trail. Late afternoon sun sets 

the overhead leaves aglow, and the scent from 

yesterday’s rain emanates from the soil beneath 

your feet. A bird, plumed with vibrant stripes of 

yellow and black, perches amid the pine boughs 

and calls a looping, muddled chirp. You pause 

in wonder, taking in this new sight and sound 

among the otherwise familiar landscape. Taking a 

notebook and pencil from your pack, you roughly 

sketch the bird’s shape and a map of the woods 

around you, jotting a few words to describe its 

distinctive call. Another bird calls back, and you 

note the number of birds joining the chorus. This 

bridging of scientific observation and artistic 

practice is nature journaling. 
Nature journaling invites us to connect with 

our curiosity for the natural world by keeping 

records of our observations (Figure 1). 

Nature Journaling: Sharing Perspectives 

Between Art and Science

Corinn Rutkoski


Taylor Scamehorn


Robin Waterman


Misty Klotz


Meredith A. Zettlemoyer



W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, Hickory Corners, MI, 



Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI 49007-



Current address: Division of Biological Sciences, Univer-

sity of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812-0003


Corresponding author: meredith.zettlemoyer@umon-

Documentation can include words, numbers, 

sketches, diagrams, photos, collage, maps, and 

found objects. Anyone—even those not trained 

in art or science—can use nature journaling to 

cultivate mindfulness and wonder, build critical 

thinking skills, develop greater perception, and 

deepen their understanding of the environment. 

Nature journaling instruction can be adapted 

to any audience, from children curious about 

basic processes in nature, to biology students 

supplementing their academic training with real-

world observation, to those seeking to spend 

quiet, intentional time in nature.
To share the practice of nature journaling, we 

invite scientists, artists, and the public to engage in 

an annual Nature Journaling webinar series. The 

program was developed in 2020 as a partnership 

between W. K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) 

and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) with the 

goals of building participants’ understanding of 

ecology and evolution, developing nature drawing 

skills, and encouraging journaling practices. 

During each of four webinars, a KBS scientist 

teaches an introductory ecology seminar focused 

on a particular biological scale—landscapes, 

communities, populations, or organisms—and 

presents an example from their research. For 

example, a lesson on landscape ecology includes 

a case study on local habitat restoration (e.g., 

prescribed burning to maintain a native grassland) 

whose goal is to connect patches of habitat for 

native insect pollinators. A KIA artist then follows 

with a brief lecture on art concepts that correlate 

to the week’s themes and, using a photograph 

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from the scientist’s research, guides participants 

through an observational sketch of a landscape, 

species interaction, or individual organism, each 

week demonstrating a new technique. Participants 

reflect on the activity and talk through challenges 

they encountered.
Since 2020, we have partnered with ten scientists 

and two artists who have presented a range of 

ecology concepts and creative techniques in an 

accessible format. Ecology presentations have 

included topics such as prairie ecology and 

management, the role of soil microbes in bioenergy 

cropping systems, and moth species identification. 

Art segments have incorporated art history, math, 

and visual sciences to align instruction with each 

week’s science theme. For example, following 

a presentation on the mutualism between ants 

and extrafloral nectaries, an artist demonstrated 

that accurate proportions can be drawn by 

interfacing multiple visualization techniques. 

First, students were taught to reproduce correct 

shapes from observation using their reference 

image to measure lengths and a mutual angle at 

two scales. Then, by learning to visualize negative 

space, students effectively used geometric proofs 

to test their proportions. The blending of these 

two techniques demonstrated that in art, as in 

science, the more data that can be synthesized, the 

more accurate the results. Under the umbrella of 

“mutualism,” this lesson pairing facilitated deeper 

observation and understanding of the relationship 

between things that rely on each other, whether 

they are plants and insects, or lengths and angles.
Our four annual programs have reached 248 

participants from eight states. The majority 

of surveyed participants report improved 

understanding of scientific concepts (81%) and 

increased interest in starting or continuing their 

nature journaling (95%). Participants deepen their 

relationship with nature and art, are compelled to 

be observant, and gain new knowledge about local 

ecology in their own backyards.

Figure 1. Sample nature journaling page provided by 2023 participant Briar Hallowstone.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences


animation, augmented reality, Caprifoliaceae, 

interactive media, fusion, graphic design, 

honeysuckle,  Lonicera, science communication, 

undergraduate education

Plants as a Case for Creative Collaboration: Designing the 

Interactive Art-Science Exhibition 

Meaningful Beauty

Christopher Ault


Wendy L. Clement


Anna Bergen


Michael J. Donoghue


Dianella G. Howarth


Leann Janzekovich


Siya Kakumanu


Robert King


Ria Shah


Mansa Srivastav


Shania Welch


Haley Wright


Jingbo Zhang



Department of Design and Creative Technology, The Col-

lege of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ 08628 


Department of Biology, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, 

NJ 08628


Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale 

University, New Haven, CT 06520


Department of Biological Sciences, St. John’s University, 

Jamaica, NY 11439 


Co-authorship and corresponding author:,

Exploring Plant Diversity Through 

Exhibit Design

From the perspective of a botanist, one might 

describe honeysuckles (Lonicera, Caprifoliaceae) 

as a group of nearly 140 species largely distributed 

in the northern hemisphere, boasting an array of 

diverse leaf, flower, and fruit forms. To the general 

public in North America, however, awareness of 

honeysuckle is usually limited to the sweet smells 

of  Lonicera japonica on summer walks through 

the woods, or perhaps the tenacious creep of L. 

morrowii into their yards and gardens. Inspired by 

the ongoing research of a multi-institutional team 

studying honeysuckle evolution—substantially 

informed by the work of a graduate student at Yale 

University and led by faculty at The College of New 

Jersey (TCNJ)—a team of nearly 50 undergraduate 

students collaborated to develop an art-science 

exhibition that invited participants to view plants 

through a variety of lenses. This collaborative 

opportunity provided science communication 

training opportunities for undergraduate students 

in science, interactive media, art, and design. 

Our students used their strengths to broaden 

awareness of plant diversity and share novel 

research outcomes on evolutionary studies of 

honeysuckles through the design and display of 

the exhibition. Ultimately named Meaningful 

Scan this code with your 

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augmented content through-

out the article.

Keeping your phone’s 

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Beauty: The Vibrant Vocabulary of Honeysuckles

the exhibition featured a rich blend of artistic and 

scientific imagery, while employing digital and 

interactive technology 

to augment information 

and personalize the experience for each 


The exhibition was first on display at the 

TCNJ Art Gallery in Spring 2022, followed by the 

Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University during 

the sum


Project Development

The exhibition’s content, 

design, and overall visitor 

experience grew out of a 

months-long collaboration 

between student and faculty 

scientists, artists, designers, 

and creative technologists at TCNJ. Over the 

course of the project, scientists and non-scientists 

embraced the opportunity to share with each 

other the knowledge, objectives, processes, and 

tools of their respective disciplines. The primary 

conduit for this collaborative work was a course in 

Interactive Exhibit Design, offered by the college’s 

Department of Interactive Multimedia, and taught 

by Associate Professor Christopher Ault, as well 

as a summer undergraduate research experience.
Interactive Exhibit Design assembled a diverse 

group of student illustrators, animators, 

programmers, graphic designers, writers, and 

more. First offered remotely in the Spring of 2021 

due to the pandemic, 16 students collaborated to 

conceptualize various approaches to increasing 

the public’s appreciation of honeysuckle diversity, 

while also communicating specific insights 

from the science team’s ongoing research on 

honeysuckle evolution. Students received 

institutional guidance from former TCNJ 

students and the gallery directors from both 

TCNJ and the Arnold Arboretum. The course 

was offered again the following semester. Now 

in person, the course’s 17 students had access 

to the college’s “makerspace” to finalize designs 

and fabricate the components of the exhibition. 

A key improvement over the previous class 

was to recruit two biology students as “learning 

assistants.” As the interactive multimedia students 

developed artwork, text, interactive interfaces, 

and code, they could dependably turn to the 

learning assistants to clear up any uncertainty 

about the science. Some examples of this cross-

disciplinary peer teaching included deciphering 

and creating floral diagrams, assisting navigation 

of resources such as GBIF and iNaturalist, and 

commenting on the visual interpretation of fusion 

in honeysuckle leaves, flowers, and fruits. One of 

the learning assistants—Biology student Robert 

King—described the collaboration:

“Communicating with a group of students 

who had little to no biology background was 

a challenge, but it allowed me to increase 

my science communication skills along with 

my own understanding of honeysuckles. One 

example was explaining to the artists the 

orientation of flower morphology. Although I 

was a scientist on the project—not an artist—I 

am a visual learner, so I sketched all the flower 

morphologies as part of the process. It helped 

the artists understand the key concepts and 

keep the botanical accuracy intact. It also 

helped me appreciate the more than 140 

species of honeysuckles.”  

Between the two offerings of the course, the 

exhibition made significant strides through a 

summer research program at TCNJ that included 

two interactive multimedia students and four 

biology students. Anchored by weekly readings 

and discussions of Beronda Montgomery’s Lessons 

from Plants, both groups together considered some 

of the factors behind plant visibility—or rather, 

invisibility—on the part of the general public. 

The science students on the team were challenged 

to communicate their knowledge, methods, 

vocabulary, and tools to the non-science students, 

one of whom had a primary interest in animation, 

and the other in user experience design. Armed 

with these insights, the non-scientists conceived 

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of possible ways to communicate those ideas 

through art, design, and technology. As the science 

students came to understand both the goals of the 

exhibition as well as the tools and processes of 

their peers in interactive multimedia, they began 

to share their own ideas for what approaches might 

be effective for a gallery exhibition. This intensive 

summer effort established the framework for the 

entire exhibition and set goals for the exhibit 

design course in t

he fall.

Interactive multimedia student Haley Wright 

held the dual roles of project manager and major 

contributing artist, while participating in both the 

summer research program and the fall course. Of 

the collaboration with science students, Wright 


“We gained a better understanding of the 

bio team’s research by visiting their labs to 

observe their work, examining honeysuckles 

growing on campus, learning how to decipher 

and create various diagrams, studying 

images of live and pressed honeysuckle species 

online, and discussing what we can learn 

from honeysuckles and plants in general. We 

pushed each other to think differently about 

our work and how it can be communicated 

to those outside of our field. As designers, 

I believe this project helped prepare us for 

working with a wide variety of clients in the 

future, as it challenged us to infuse creativity 

into a subject in which we were not an expert 

ourselves and developed our ability to design 

iteratively with the feedback of a client.”

Through the two semesters and summer, the 

student collective generated a style guide—

including a color scheme, font, and tone—which 

guided all decisions for development of all pieces 

included in the gallery. Ultimately, the exhibit 

was organized around six walls exploring themes 

including regional diversity, morphological 

diversity, and fusion through a combination of 

illustration, animation, and graphic design made 

interactive through augmented reality. Here we 

describe how various forms of art were combined 

with scientific content to sustain engagement of 

visitors in an exhibition meant to communicate 

the diversity of forms and function of plants.


Animation is a prominent area 

of interest in the Interactive 

Multimedia major, and several 

students in the Interactive 

Exhibit Design course 

embraced the opportunity to 

apply their skills to a project 

that would be seen in person and at a large scale, as 

opposed to a more typical platform like a YouTube 

channel. Both animations were projected to fill 

entire walls, using short-throw projectors to allow 

visitors to view this “animated wallpaper” up 

close without casting shadows (Figure 1D). After 

considering various areas of the science that might 

lend themselves to striking visuals, the students 

arrived at two stylistically distinct approaches 

that effectively blended science with an aesthetic 

experience appropriate for the walls of an art 

One animation was inspired by herbarium 

specimens, displaying black silhouettes of 

fused honeysuckle leaves against bright colored 

backgrounds. Elements of the silhouettes moved 

and morphed, reminiscent of early abstract 

animation where shapes were painted directly on 

film stock. The other animation put into motion 

original botanical illustrations from one of the 

digital artists in the class, featuring honeysuckles 

swaying in the breeze, with hummingbirds 

and bees floating from flower to flower. Close 

collaboration between the botanists, illustrators, 

and animators led to a discussion on the nocturnal 

nature of hawkmoth activity and how to portray 

this in the wallpaper. As a result, when the scene 

shifts from day to night, the hummingbirds 

give way to hawkmoths, and fireflies blink like a 

midsummer evening. At full size, the animation 

was so striking that a group of visiting children 

put their noses right up to the wall and wondered 

aloud whether it was a movie or a painting.

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Augmented Reality

Augmented reality, commonly 

shortened to AR, is a technique 

by which digital, virtual content 

is layered on top of a real-world, 

physical environment. AR is 

most commonly experienced 

through phone screens—when a user scans a 

special symbol with their phone’s camera, the 

phone continues to display the “real” elements of 

the scene visible to the camera, while integrating 

digital content on top of it. This content might 

range from 3D objects that appear to be actually 

present in the space, to 2D text boxes offering 

“pop up” information about one’s surroundings. 

Early in the conceptual phase of the project, the 

team recognized AR as a sort of magic lens—a 

handheld translator—that would allow visitors to 

move back and forth between the art and science 

aspects of the exhibition. For example, when 

a visitor scans a floral diagram of a particular 

species, a 3D model of that plant extends out from 

the wall in augmented reality (Figure 1B). When 

a visitor scans a symbol on a playfully illustrated 

tourist-style map of the United States, they’re 

presented with a digital pop-up of essential facts 

about honeysuckles common in that region of the 

country. At the Arnold Arboretum, the team took 

advantage of an opportunity not available at TCNJ, 

placing AR symbols with corresponding species of 

honeysuckle on the arboretum grounds, allowing 

visitors to scan the symbols and learn more about 

these plants.
Augmented reality was also key to one element of 

the exhibition that aimed to establish a connective 

throughline as well as provide users with hands-

on appreciation for the range of morphological 

diversity in honeysuckles. Through a system 

the team dubbed Build Your Own Honeysuckle

visitors could scan AR symbols at key locations 

throughout the exhibition and choose from a set 

of options to create their own personalized, virtual 

honeysuckle plants on their phones. Tied to the 

theme of a particular wall—diversity, fusion, 

plant communication, etc.—one AR location 

would prompt visitors to choose the arrangement 

of flowers on their plant, while another location 

presented a choice of fused or unfused leaves. Once 

Figure 1. Selected works from the Meaningful Beauty exhibition at The College of New Jersey


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all choices were made, visitors scanned a final 

symbol to see their unique virtual plant bloom 

out of a real-world pot in a real-world garden 

cart, surrounded by fanciful, abstract cut-outs 

of honeysuckle-like shapes in other pots on the 

cart. Designing the Build Your Own Honeysuckle

system demanded a balance of accurate science 

communication with engaging user experience. 

The interactive multimedia students worked back 

and forth with the biology team to identify the key 

elements that vary between species and endeavored 

to portray these elements as accurately as possible 

in a vibrant graphic style consistent with the 

exhibition’s overall look and feel. After several 

rounds of iterative design among the scientists 

and graphic designers, the system included a total 

of 144 different flower graphics.

Interactive Evolutionary Tree

Many students in the Interactive Multimedia major 

are first and foremost interested in video game 

design. And while they might not have enrolled 

in the Interactive Exhibit Design course expecting 

to apply those skills, the fact is museums and 

galleries are meeting the demand and expectations 

of their visitors by providing more interactive 

content, often employing tools from game design. 

In working to match students’ interests with 

possible topics to explore, a phylogeny appeared 

to lend itself to game design and would help 

communicate novel outcomes from the research 

of the graduate student, Mansa Srivastav. The 

interactive evolutionary tree was the product 

of close collaboration among undergraduate 

scientists who studied these floral traits from living 

plants, herbarium specimens, and the literature; 

undergraduate graphic designers who created a 

cartoon form of honeysuckles that exaggerated 

the features that differentiated each species 

without the loss of accuracy; and undergraduate 

game designers who united these pieces with code 

and a simple joystick inviting users as young as 

4 years old to interact with the outcome (Figure 

1C). In observing visitors, we found many sought 

to find the path that led to a honeysuckle with a 

certain set of features—perhaps pink flowers and 

red fruits, or white flowers with small leaves, or 

orange flowers and fused leaves. This suggests users 

perhaps saw these plants as part of a pathway—

that is a tree marked by a series of changes along 

an evolutionary trajectory culminating at one of 

16 species. Our sense is that further development 

of this particular design element could yield 

additional innovations to provide users with a 

much better grasp of phylogenetic trees and their 

significance in interpreting evolutionary change.   

Outcomes of the Exhibition

After two semesters of the Interactive Exhibit Design

course, the summer research program, and one 

final flurry of work by the faculty, student project 

manager Haley Wright and Gallery Director 

Margaret Pazella-Granlund, the exhibition 

opened at the TCNJ Art Gallery in February 

2022. The exhibit was then reconfigured to fit 

the multipurpose space in the Hunnewell Visitor 

Center of the Arnold Arboretum the following 

summer, under the guidance of Sheryl White, 

Arnold’s Coordinator of Visitor Engagement and 

Feedback from visitors clearly and consistently 

suggested that the exhibition was effective in 

terms of communicating the science, including 

fostering understanding of honeysuckle diversity 

and evolution, and that the artistic and interactive 

elements of the exhibition served to increase their 

understanding. Throughout the development 

process, the team often discussed where the 

exhibition fell on a spectrum from a natural 

history experience to art experience, and visitors 

expressed appreciation for our hybrid approach. A 

tweet from one visitor offered: 

Is it art?√

Is it science?√ 

Is it more than the sum of 

art and science? √√√

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As the students from both disciplines move on to 

graduate school and/or positions in industry, they 

do so having learned insights into the challenge 

of conveying complex information in ways that 

are appealing and engaging. Furthermore, they 

can draw from an experience that demonstrated 

first-hand the value of shared knowledge, diverse 

perspectives, and earnest support between 

collaborators. To our audience, the combination of 

art and science gave permission to see and interact 

with plants from a multitude of perspectives 

that we hope increases their awareness and 

appreciation of plant diversity worldwide. 


The authors would like to thank gallery directors 

Margaret Pezalla-Granlund (TCNJ) and Sheryl 

White (Arnold Arboretum). We also thank 

Michael Dosmann and Kathryn Richardson for 

access to and support for working in the living 

collections at Arnold Arboretum, and Patrick 

W. Sweeney for Lonicera photography. We thank 

botanical collectors, arboretum, garden, and 

herbarium curators as well as citizen scientists 

for making the honeysuckles of the world more 

accessible to all through their collections. Funding 

was provided by TCNJ Center for the Arts, TCNJ 

Cultural and Intellectual Community Council, 

and National Science Foundation grants to W.L.C. 

(DEB-1929670), M.J.D. (DEB-1929533), and 

D.G.H. (DEB-1929674). 

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences


anthropomorphism, belowground storage 

organ, cuteness, functional traits, narrative, 


Although plants are all around us, they are 

complex, with many features difficult for humans 

to perceive and understand.  Thus, plant bodies 

and ecology are challenging to explain quickly 

and easily.  Most focus on plants is aboveground, 

but many perennial herbaceous plants need 

belowground storage organs to recover from 

seasonal dormancy or recurrent disturbance. 


These organs are poorly understood by the 

public and often 

ignored or under-represented 


scientists (Klimešová et al., 2020), perhaps 

Understanding Plants Through Imagery: 

Functional Traits, Cuteness, and Narrative 

F. Curtis Lubbe

Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of

Sciences, Dukelská 135, 379 01, Třeboň, Czech 

Republic  Email:

because they are hidden in soil.  Belowground 

storage organs store resources and coordinate the 

growth and connection of aboveground stems and 

leaves with belowground roots; in many ways they 

are the core body of these plants.  To really see and 

understand the lives of plants, we must consider 

the whole body of the plant and interpret the role 

of their traits in plant growth and stress response 

(Klimešová et al., 2020; Bartušková et al., 2022).   
To explain plant life more clearly, we can give 

plant belowground organs features and signs more 

readily understood by humans.  I will introduce 

visual signs of the plant belowground and discuss 

how anthropomorphized cuteness and narrative 

can bring additional levels of meaning and 

enjoyment.  These tools can be used by anyone 

trying to introduce or explain these topics to 

colleagues or the general public, particularly in 

more informal settings such as presentations, 

posters, and blogs.

The Visible Plant

Belowground storage organs have great variety 

in their size and traits, can be derived from roots, 

stems, or leaves (all three main organ types), 

and are frequently capable of clonal/vegetative 

reproduction (Klimešová et al., 2017).  Like 

humans, plant bodies grow, move, and heal, but 

they generally do this using belowground stems 

that grow in units to branch and form different 

structures that are lost and renewed annually 

or over many years (Klimešová et al., 2017).  

Belowground organs and their growth patterns 

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can be recognized by many different visible 

characteristics (i.e., morphological functional 

traits), although they are often obscured by soil, 

roots, or their own complex structure (Bartušková 

et al., 2022).  
Plants generally move via growth, and the structure 

of belowground plant bodies essentially depicts 

behaviour and maintains the visual signs of life 

history and response to the environment (Arber, 

1950).  Visible scars from previous stems can mark 

age, and the shape of the body can show how it 

has grown and moved in response to other plants 

or obstacles (Raunkiær, 1934; Bartušková et al., 

2022).  Plants can have round carbohydrate-rich 

bodies for prolonged dormancy, long spreading 

bodies that fragment and survive after damage, 

or compact and tough bodies to survive drought 

or cold (Klimešová et al., 2011, 2017; Bartušková 

et al., 2022).  To understand the complex lives of 

plants, it is important to represent and even draw 

attention to the belowground organs because 

of their importance in plant life as well as their 

hidden nature underground (Figure 1). 

The Cute Plant

We can add cute features to images to make 

plants and their lives more relatable and better 

understood (Lubbe, 2022).  Cuteness is visual 

appeal in an endearing way and portrayed using 

simplified imagery with the addition of signifiers 

(see von Ehrenfels and Smith [1988] and Ashwin 

[1984] for more on simplification and signifiers), 

typically human qualities that can be used to 

exploit human attitude toward anthropomorphism 

(Lorimer, 2007).  Anthropomorphism is the use of 

human qualities inferred onto non-human subjects 

(Epley et al., 2008), including body shape, limbs, 

activities, and recognizable facial expressions 

and emotions (Duffy, 2014).  Anthropomorphic 

interaction is an extension of relationship and 

empathy to a non-human subject, often used to 

cope and relate in the real world (Airenti, 2018).  

This can be held by people as a way of relating to 

outside subjects (Severson and Woodard, 2018) 

and can bring comfort and understanding (Epley 

et al., 2008; Airenti, 2018). 
Cuteness is most often applied to material that is for 

children or entertainment and may be best used in 

more informal settings, but when carefully applied 

(Geerdts et al., 2016), these signifiers can convey 

useful information that could help any audience 

understand a topic (Chan, 2012).  For example, a 

face on a plant storage organ can indicate its role as 

a body, and a sad expression can indicate an effect 

from damage or suboptimal conditions (Figure 

2; Bruni et al., 2018).  The compact and rounded 

belowground bodies of many plants adapted for 

stressful environments can make cuteness easier 

to convey and their situations are more dramatic, 

allowing for lively expressions. Designers 

frequently take advantage of the shapes and body 

arrangements very different from humans to make 

creative and appealing images (Duffy, 2014).  

Figure 1. Diversity of belowground storage organs. Rhizomes 

and tubers are stem derived.  Bulbs are short stems with leaves 

for storage.  Taproots are stem-tissue with a large root below.  

Rootsprouters are roots adapted to form new stems.


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The Cute Plant Tells Its Story

Narrative is another powerful tool to communicate 

information and increase understanding, which 

is especially important to explain concepts more 

distant from the human experience (Negrete and 

Lartigue, 2004; Dahlstrom, 2014; Lin et al., 2015).  

Anthropomorphism may aid in forming the 

subject as a relatable and recognizable character 

for use within narrative (Farinella, 2018) and bring 

levity and lightheartedness to a subject to engage 

the viewer (Yeo et al., 2020).  Anthropomorphic 

features and imagery are also part of pretense/

pretending, holding counterfactuals as imaginative 

play or amusement, commonly used by children 

to learn and grow (Severson and Woodard, 2018).  

Anthropomorphism and pretense can increase 

enjoyment, engagement, understanding, and 

retention of details for both children and adults 

(Geerdts et al., 2016; Yeo et al., 2020; McGellin et 

al., 2021).  These tools can also be used to correct 

possible misconceptions and illuminate obscure 

topics (Chan et al., 2012), which may be especially 

useful for understanding perennial herbs because 

they have a diverse range of belowground 

storage organs that form their central bodies, 

all hidden in the soil.  By making narratives that 

include the belowground organs of plants (and 

their informative traits) and including our own 

expressive features, we can thus see and relate to 

the full lives of plants (Figure 3).


The visual signs of plant functional traits, human 

expressions, and narratives can all convey 

information about plant life and be fun at the 

same time.  To learn about the lives of plants, we 

must dig them up, see these signs both above and 

below the soil, and show them to people to give 

greater learning and understanding.  Cuteness 

and narrative are not mandatory, but they can 

increase understanding and give viewers a more 

personalized view of how we view plants and the 

enjoyment we have in our work.

Figure 2. Plant expressions.

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This manuscript was supported by the long-

term research development project of the Czech 

Academy of Sciences [No. RVO 67985939] and by 

the Praemium Academiae award from the Czech 

Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.


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Epley, N., A. Waytz, S. Akalis, and J. T. Cacioppo. 2008. When 

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morphism. Social Cognition 26: 143–155. 
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Learning about real animals from anthropomorphic media. 

Imagination, Cognition and Personality 36: 5–26. 
Klimešová, J., J. Danihelka, J. Chrtek, F. de Bello, and T. Her-

ben. 2017. CLOPLA: a database of clonal and bud-bank traits 

of the Central European flora. Ecology 98: 1179. 

Figure 3.  Plant stories.

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Klimešová, J., J. Doležal, and M. Sammul. 2011. Evolution-

ary and organismic constraints on the relationship between 

spacer length and environmental conditions in clonal plants. 

Oikos 120: 1110–1120.
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Dominique. 2020. Half of the (big) picture is missing! Ameri-

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comics a good medium for science communication? The case 

for public learning of nanotechnology. International Journal 

of Science Education, Part B 5: 276-294. 
Lorimer, J. 2007. Nonhuman charisma. Environment and 

Planning D: Society and Space 25: 911–932. 
Lubbe, F. C. 2022. A Call for Cuteness: Imagery in Science 

Communication and Outreach. In Nature Portfolio Ecology 

& Evolution Community. Website: https://ecoevocommunity.

McGellin, R. T. L., A. Grand, and M. Sullivan. 2021. Stop 

avoiding the inevitable: The effects of anthropomorphism in 

science writing for non-experts. Public Understanding of Sci-

ence 30: 621–640. 

Negrete, A., and C. Lartigue. 2004. Learning from education 

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Raunkiær, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant 

geography. Oxford University Press.
Severson, R. L., and S. R. Woodard. 2018. Imagining others’ 

minds: The positive relation between children’s role play and 

anthropomorphism. Frontiers in Psychology 9: 2140. 
von Ehrenfels, C., and B. Smith. 1988. On Gestalt qualities. 

In B. Smith (ed.), Foundations of Gestalt Theory (pp. 11–8). 

Yeo, S. K., L. Y.-F. Su, M. A. Cacciat , M. McKasy, and S. Qian. 

2020. Predicting intentions to engage with scientific messages 

on twitter: The roles of mirth and need for humor. Science 

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

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Hossack, G. C. and C. M. Caruso. 2023. Simulated 

pollinator decline has similar effects on seed produc-

tion of female and hermaphrodite Lobelia siphilitica, 

but different effects on selection on floral traits. Ameri-

can Journal of Botany 110: e16106.


 Ellstrans, N. C., and R. J. Michell. 1988. Spatial and 

temporal patterns of floral inconsistency in plants and 

populations of Ipomopsis aggregata (Polemoniaceae). 

Botanical Gazette 149: 209–212. 


 Huether, C. A. 1969. Constancy of the Pentamerous 

Corolla phenotype in natural populations of Linanthus

Evolution 23: 572–588. 


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gan. 2003. Patterns and mechanisms of selection on a 

family-diagnostic trait: evidence from experimental 

manipulation and life-time fitness selection gradients. 

Evolution 57: 480–486. 


 Mickley, J. G. 2017. The adaptive nature of stasis 

for petal number: can pollinator-mediated stabilizing 

selection explain five-petaled flowers? Ph.D. disserta-

tion, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.


 Roonse De Craene, L. 2016. Meristic changes in 

flowering  plants:  How  flowers  play  with  numbers. 

Flora 221: 22–37.

Gavin Hossack

Port Perry, Ontario Canada

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

I am a painter and a graduate of the Bezalel 

Academy of Art and Design. I have my own studio 

in Rechovot, Israel, where I paint my personal 

art. I also do wall paintings, and live painting 

The painting shown in Figure 1 is part of a series 

called substrate, in which I paint visions from a 

small bowl containing soil fungi and slime mold 

that I grew. The bowl serves as the central stage 

for the unplanned wild growths from my pots at 

home; in this sense, it is a tiny uncivilized jungle 

Wild Growth Paintings

Daniel Philosoph

Figure 1. Daniel Philosoph, Substrate 6, oil and acrylic on canvas, 250×180 cm, 2020.

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growing in my civilized bowl. In this painting I 

looked through a window of about 2 × 1.5 cm from 

a side angle that creates a view of a landscape. The 

observation is done through different macroscopic 

magnifying glasses, which produces multiple 

perspectives and focuses on every detail in the 

painting—a combination of depth and flattening.
The painting shown in Figure 2 is a “far-out.” I 

mean that I treat it like a close-up painting, only in 

reverse. This is a piece of landscape located at the 

edge of the city where wild crops have taken over 

what was once a field/cultivated area and is now 

abandoned, allowing the wild growth of invasive 

vegetation. It is a type of an unplanned jungle 

that reclaims its grip on the ground using leftover 

remnants. This painting is based on a photo I took 

with a drone, and it simulates a magnifying-glass view.
In these paintings I look at the wild biology that 

is at the edge of my existence, the edge of my 

flowerpot, or my city. These are multi-layered 

process paintings that try to draw from the visual 

of the wild biology and create a parallel process 

of the growth of the painting on the canvas. This 

is done by breaking down the visual into different 

actions that represent parts in visibility and 

structure (the light, the branches, the parasitic 

plant, the biology that serves as a growing 

medium, etc.). Each operation uses a certain 

shade or two, a certain dilution, and a different 

character. Any such operation is blind, and as 

soon as its properties are determined, it runs over 

the painting and rises above the previous layers. 

The painting is the result of all the processes that 

took place on the canvas—a kind of biology of a 

In my work, I draw inspiration from the way in 

which science examines biology and describes 

the processes that take place. This biological 

information serves me, as a kind of internal, 

subconscious information that exists in nature 

and provides me with another perspective on the 

sights of nature.

Figure 2. Daniel Philosoph, On the way to Mayan, oil, acrylic, and spray on canvas, 180×120 cm, 2020.

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From the P SB Special I ssue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Sometimes a book changes the trajectory of your 

life. Frederick Case’s Orchids of the Western Great 

Lakes Region was that turning point for me. There 

are 40+ species of orchids in the Chicago region?? 

What a revelation! But how were they doing now? 

My son was collecting Boy Scout merit badges at 

the time, and we used that as an excuse to visit 

natural areas and look for orchids and to learn 

more about where they lived. The naturalist 

leading a tour at Volo Bog told us how she had 

found a Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides

lying on the boardwalk, plucked up and then cast 

aside. “How could they?!” I thought. A lack of 

deep awareness and empathy for nature seemed 

to be commonplace, so was it possible to make a 

difference somehow? Synchronistic events led to 

enrollment in Principles and Practices of Rare 

Plant Monitoring, with Susanne Masi, one of the 

founders of the North Branch Restoration Project 

in Cook County, IL, and then co-founder of the 

Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Plants of Concern 

program. That led to becoming part of the natural 

Art + Botany: Making a Difference

Kathleen Marie Garness

Scientific affiliate, Field Museum

Science and conservation affiliate, 

Morton Arboretum

area’s stewardship and restoration community, 

then to painting midwestern orchids and teaching 

others about them.
One dilemma most stewardship volunteers have 

is identifying the plants in their preserves. How 

could you tell the invasive species you needed to 

remove, from the native ones who had evolved 

there? Field botany is seldom taught in colleges 

anymore, much less high schools, and popular 

field guides are incomplete. Most of us had 

little familiarity with scientific (dichotomous) 

keys—those were considered the province of 

the elite botanist. During restoration workdays, 

experienced stewards would point out a plant, tell 

us its common and scientific names, with the hope 

that we would remember them at next encounter. 

There seemed to be no middle ground between 

generic botanical guides and exhaustive keys such 

as those found in Gray’s Manual of Botany (Fernald, 

1950) or Gleason and Cronquist’s 

Manual of 

Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and 

Adjacent Canada. How can one appreciate and 

protect biodiversity if one cannot recognize it? 

How do you shift from seeing masses of vegetation 

into seeing this dazzling array of plants as friends 

and companions on your journey who you’d like 

to get to know better?
Although the iNaturalist app has become 

increasingly widespread and may help with some 

identifications, there are many situations where 

you simply have to use a dichotomous key and 

invest the time and work in order to learn how to 

do it.  Admittedly, that is an advanced step. Can 

there be a middle ground that is scalable?

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Twelve years ago, Cook County steward Barbara 

Birmingham asked me to help her develop some 

illustrated plant family pages for her volunteers. 

Collaborations with professional botanists and 

ecologists were necessary so the pages could be 

both accurate and succinct. Other pages followed. 

The Field Museum offered to publish them, 

seeing they met a wider need to learn about 

our diverse flora here in the Chicago region

The free download, Common Plant Families of 

the Chicago Region, introduces students to 23 

regional plant families, including examples of 

non-native invasive species that threaten remnant 

ecosystems. Other guides followed, including an 

illustrated glossary to the regionally respected 

Flora of the Chicago Region as well as several other 

genus-level treatments published by Conservation 

Research Institute. There are so many features 

covered in dichotomous keys, it is important to 

have a visual reference for when you run into a 

new term. And there is really no substitute for that 

level of study, nor should there be. Working with 

Flora of the Chicago Region co-author Dr. Gerould 

Wilhelm and other botanists taught me that to 

draw plants accurately, you first must take time 

to observe them very carefully, then read the keys 

carefully, drawing only what is essential to see how 

that species differs from those similar. I worked 

primarily from herbarium material.

With over 7000 downloads by 2019, Common 

Plant Families of the Chicago Region was showing 

its usefulness. The joint Chicago Botanic Garden/

Northwestern University masters and doctoral 

programs, the University of Illinois Master 

Naturalists’ program, the Forest Preserves of Cook 

County, and local restoration contractors continue 

to use it to train students, staff, and interns. 

As of June 2023, the guide has been translated 

and downloaded 13,826 times in the English 

version, 4831 times in Spanish, and 172 times in 


recently with a colleague tasked with 

hiring ecologists for a regional forest preserve 

program, she recounted how many applicants 

with Masters degrees in ecology knew only a 

few native plants and their plant community 

associates, and appeared flummoxed when asked 

what they knew about plant taxonomy. This lack 

of plant knowledge is disqualifying them for good 

jobs in the profession.  The situation is even worse 

in the growing field of natural areas restoration 

contractors, who need to know the difference 

between the native Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea 

purpurea) and purple Blazing Stars (Liatris spp.) 

from the non-native, invasive Purple Loosestrife 

(Lythrum salicaria), and who are set loose with 

chemicals and only rudimentary training in plant 

identification. This ought to be avoidable, but I 

hear this story again and again. It is our hope these 

guides and others will make a difference.

Another question surfaced: how do we reach out 

beyond our rather insular, aging, community 

of well- educated people, mostly of European-

American descent,  involved with botany and 

natural areas restoration work? How about 

through art? Art is a universal language. In 2013 

the American Society of Botanical Artists funded 

our project to bring botanical illustration to new 

and diverse audiences, supplying materials to over 

70 students of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities, 

in ten regional venues: nature centers, forest 

preserves, and nature museums. In 2022 they 

funded our research based around Illinois Beach 

State Park, to document and illustrate the 23 

species of orchids identified there from herbarium 

records. The Volunteer Stewardship Network of 

the Illinois Nature Conservancy provided funding 

for more art materials for three children’s classes, 

one for teens, and two for adults in Zion and 

Waukegan, IL, where almost 50% of the residents’ 

primary language is Spanish.
Art is a way of seeing things more deeply and 

clearly. In order to draw a plant accurately, you 

need to study all its parts, observe it from all angles, 

touch it, smell it, and develop a relationship with 

it. Old botany textbooks featured drawing plant 

parts at each level of the curriculum. We hope 

to recapture some of the wonder and curiosity of 

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childhood in each of these lessons, to help others 

experience the beauty and complexity of the plant 

world and find inspiration in it.


is a spiritual thread in all of this—a quest 

to find meaning and beauty in the world, to 

deeply engage with our native flora. We know that 

nature is a refuge for our spirits; during COVID, 

people flocked in droves to the forest preserves 

and other natural areas, in visitation numbers not 

seen in many years. But do the visitors make the 

connection between how they feel out in nature 

with nature’s pressing need for compassionate 

stewardship? The goal of my art, therefore, and 

especially the teaching of botanical art, is to engage 

people with plants—to see them more precisely, to 

learn the language of botany, and to identify and 

describe what they see. And learn to care for them 

and participate in millennia-long human-cultural 

relationships that will benefit all of us.


Fernald, M. L. 1950. Gray’s Manual of Botany, ed 8. 

Dioscorides Press: Portland, OR. 1632 pp.

Figure 1. Sedges and grasses.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023



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PSB 69 (3) 2023


OUP Plant Science Hub

Bringing together hundreds of articles from across all our

plant science journals, organized thematically for the first time.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




Dr. Thomas Givnish is an internationally 

renowned scientist who is acclaimed for 

his “sharp intellect, breadth of knowledge, 

creativity, and productivity.” He is known 

for his unique interdisciplinary research 

Botanical Society of America’s 

Award Winners (Part 2)

Distinguished Fellows of the Botanical Society of America 

The “Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America” is the highest honor our 

Society bestows. Each year, the award committee solicits nominations, evaluates candidates, 

and selects those to receive an award. Awardees are chosen based on their outstanding 

contributions to the mission of our scientific Society. The committee identifies recipients who 

have demonstrated excellence in basic research, education, public policy, or who have pro-

vided exceptional service to the professional botanical community, or who may have made 

contributions to a combination of these categories.

Dr. Thomas Givnish

University of 


and for his breadth of expertise, making 

major contributions to such diverse areas as 

ecophysiology, systematics, biomechanics, 

plant-animal interactions, adaptive radiation, 

and species diversification and extinction. 

Over the past 51 years, Tom has authored, 

coauthored, or edited more than 160 papers, 

books, and book chapters, which have been 

cited more than 21,000 times. And he has 

sustained substantial funding from the 

National Science Foundation to support his 

research for many years.

Tom has made foundational contributions in 

the fields of ecology and systematics: “his work 

on the evolution of monocots, bromeliads, 

and carnivorous plants, among other groups, 

has been equally as transformative as his 

experimental and theoretical studies on plant 

functional traits, plant height, leaf form, and 

photosynthetic physiology.” Tom’s early work 

in plant ecology was grounded in his keen 

interest and background in mathematics 

and economics. He developed mathematical 

models inspired by economic theory to 

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


explore and explain the adaptive nature of leaf 

form and plant height. He was an early adopter 

of molecular techniques for studying ecology 

and evolution, and he blended his work on 

adaptation with phylogenetic resources, 

applying the concept of adaptative radiation 

to plants. His 1997 book Molecular Evolution 

and Adaptive Radiation, co-edited with Ken 

Sytsma, remains authoritative. His work in 

phylogenetic systematics, and his embrace of 

new methods and approaches, has kept him 

at the forefront of developments in the field. 

Tom’s focus on monocots has transformed our 

understanding of the evolutionary history and 

higher-level relationships of that group. And 

he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Tom has immense and infectious enthusiasm 

for both fieldwork and the lab, and his 

knowledge of plant diversity, natural history, 

and ecology is encyclopedic and insightful. 

He shares his knowledge and passion for 

plants with his students and colleagues and 

reaches beyond the University as well through 

the “Wednesday Night @ the Lab” televised 

outreach talks, presentations to naturalist and 

gardening groups, and engagement with local 

conservation groups. He is also involved in the 

DNR Citizens Advisory Board for Wisconsin 

Dells Natural Area and the U.S. Fish & 

Wildlife Service National Recovery Team for 

the Karner Blue butterfly. He is a botanist 

well-deserving of the BSA Distinguished 

Fellow Award.

Dr. Steven Manchester

Florida Museum of Natural History

Dr. Steven Manchester is one of the world’s 

leading specialists in fossil plants, whose 

research has had “a profound impact on the 

directions in the scientific exploration of 

angiosperm diversification and biogeographic 

patterns, particularly through the Cenozoic.” 

Through extensive field work throughout 

the world, including in the western US, 

eastern Asia, India, Europe, and Panama, and 

through careful study, he has documented 

some of the earliest known fruits for several 

families of flowering plants, including the 

banana (Musaceae), kiwi (Actinidiaceae), 

grape (Vitaceae), and walnut (Juglandaceae) 

families. Dr. Manchester often works at the 

“interface of the living and the dead, working 

closely with angiosperm systematists to 

integrate fossils into phylogenetic trees of 

living species.” He also has worked with 

molecular systematists to provide fossil 

calibration points for molecular dating 

analyses. His broad network of international 

collaborations has included researchers from 

all career stages and backgrounds, and he is 

known to be generous with his time and ideas.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023



Corresponding members are distinguished senior scientists who have made outstanding 

contributions to plant science and who live and work outside of the United States of America. 

Corresponding members are nominated by the Council, which reviews recommendations and 

credentials submitted by members, and elected by the membership at the annual BSA business 

meeting. Corresponding members have all the privileges of life-time members.

Dr. Gonzalo Nieto Feliner, Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid




Paleobotanical Section

Ruth A. Stockey, Oregon State University

In addition to his impressive publication 

record, his many invited presentations and 

research grants from NSF and other funding 

sources, Steve has also been deeply engaged in 

public outreach engaging amateur collectors 

and students in his field campaigns. He is 

described by several colleagues to be hard-

working, with a passion for field work, which 

he considers essential to paleobotanical 

research. He is also described as kind, 

thoughtful, modest, having a great sense of 

humor, and intensely dedicated to student 

training and mentorship.

Steve is a life member of both the Botanical 

Society of America and the American 

Society of Plant Taxonomists. He has held 

leadership roles in the Paleobotanical Section 

of BSA and the  International Organisation 

of Palaeobotany (IOP), in which he served 

as President for many years. He is a Foreign 

Representative Member of The Gondwana 

Geological Society based in Nagpur, India, 

and is active in the Association of Wood 

Anatomists and the American Association 

of Stratigraphic Palynologists. He has served 

on his department’s Natural History Advisory 

Committee and chairs his institution’s 

IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and 

Accessibility) Committee, which recently 

developed an endowed scholarship fund for 

graduate students of minoritized groups and 

an internship program for students from 

groups that are underrepresented in science in 

the US. He is a great model for service to the 

professional community and well deserving of 

the BSA’s Distinguished Fellow Award.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023



Pteridological Section and the American Fern Society

The Edgar T. Wherry Award is given for the best paper presented during the contributed papers 

session of the Pteridological Section. This award is in honor of Dr. Wherry’s many contributions to 

the floristics and patterns of evolution in ferns.

Katelin Burow,  Purdue University, For the Presentation:  Genetic Mechanisms of Sex 

Determination in Ceratopteris richardii. Co-authors: Grace Estep, Brian Dilkes, Jody Banks, 

Jen Wisecaver.

Sonia Molino,  Universidad Complutense de Madrid, For the Presentation:  Discovering 

Parablechnum: a complex evolutionary history within the youngest fern family. Co-

authors: Weston Testo, Mario Mairal, Guillermo Santos-Rivilla, Rafael Medina


Genetics Section 


he Margaret Menzel Award is presented by the Genetics Section for the outstanding paper presented 

in the contributed papers sessions of the annual meetings.

Lauren Frankel, University of Wisconsin-Madison, For the Presentation: Summary tests of 

introgression are highly sensitive to rate variation across lineages. Co-author: Cécile Ané



Paleobotanical Section

The Award is to provide funds for those who have completed a PhD and are currently in a

post-doctoral position or non-tenure track position.

Ana Andruchow-Colombo, University of Kansas, For the Paper: Placing the Voltziales: A 

study of the origin and evolution of modern conifers.

Michael D’Antonio, Field Museum, For the Paper: Reconstruction and systematics of conflictive 

late Paleozoic plants using tomography and microphotography on Mazon Creek nodules and 

coal balls.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




The PLANTS (Preparing Leaders and Nurturing Tomorrow’s Scientists: Increasing the diversity of 

plant scientists) program recognizes outstanding undergraduates from diverse backgrounds and 

provides travel grant.

Nico Andrade, University of Florida, Advisor: Drs. Pam and Doug Soltis
Sofia Baez, Old Dominion University, Advisor: Lisa Wallace
Cari DeCoursey, Weber State University, Advisor: Dr. James Cohen
Fitzwilliam Dettmer, Rutgers University New Brunswick, Advisor: Dr. Lena Struwe
Natalie Heaton, University of Florida, Advisor: Lucas Majure
Chinyang Huang, Purdue University, Advisor: Dr. Daniel Park
Anij Mackey, Texas Tech University, Advisor: Matthew G. Johnson
Marife Minaya, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Advisor: Carrie Kiel
Hashel Orquiz, University of Texas at El Paso, Advisor: Dr. Michael Moody
HeavenLee Pagan, Auburn University at Montgomery, Advisor: Dr. Vanessa Koelling
Dominique Pham, University of Richmond, Advisor: Dr. Carrie Wu
Ethan Richardson, University of Pittsburgh, Advisor: Tia-Lynn Ashman
Tajinder Singh, Mississippi State University, Advisor: Dr. Ryan Folk
Isabella Soto, Auburn University at Montgomery, Advisor: Dr. Vanessa A. Koelling
Trinity Tobin, SUNY Cortland, Advisor: Elizabeth McCarthy




ABLS/Bryological and Lichenological Section

This award is given for the best student paper presented in the Bryological and Lichenological sessions.

Blair Young, Rutgers University, For the Presentation: A Potential Symbiosis of Nitrogen Fixing 

Bacterial Endophytes and Their Bryophyte Hosts. Co-authors: Nicole Vaccaro, Lena Struwe, 

James White

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




Uzezi Okinedo, University of Massachusettes Boston, For the Poster: Discovering the Genetic 

Basis of Rice Grain Shape. Co-authors: Dr. Annarita Marrano, Dr. Brook Moyers


Historical Section

Ryan Schmidt, Rutgers University, For the Presentation: Hidden Cargo, Death, Survival, and 

Dispersion of Ballast-Associated Plant Species in the Northeastern USA. Co-authors: Megan 

King, Jacquelyn Johnston, Myla Aronson, Lena Struwe



Bess Bookout, Kansas State University, For the Presentation:  Bison wallows bolster 

plant diversity and semi-aquatic habitat in tallgrass prairie. Co-author: Zak Ratajczak.

Maya Shamsid-Deen, University of New Mexico, For the Presentation: The Little Mustard That 

Could: Is Phenotypic Plasticity Associated with Colonization Success in Arabidopsis thaliana

Co-author: Kenneth Whitney


Helena Mieras, University of New Mexico, For the Poster:  Management Short-Term 

Implications on Lupinus perennis, Duff, and Supporting Vegetation in the Concord 

Pine Bush. Co-authors:  Jennifer Rudgers, Cooper Kimball-Rhines, Heidi Holman

Amber Stanley, University of Pittsburgh, For the Poster: Historical climate change shifts flower 

shape and production of a common annual plant, Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Co-

author: Tia-Lynn Ashman

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PSB 69 (3) 2023



Paleobotanical Section

Established in 1976, the Isabel Cookson Award recognizes the best student paper presented 

in the Paleobotanical Section.
Jeronimo Morales Toledo, University of Michigan, For the Presentation: Reexamination of 

Arthmiocarpus Hesperus from the Late Cretaceous of South Dakota: Expanding the fossil record 

of bisexual climates in Araceae. Co-author: Selena Smith


Developmental and Structural Section

This award was established in 1985 with a gift from Dr. Esau and is augmented by ongoing 

contributions from Section members. It is given to the graduate student who presents the out-

standing paper in developmental and structural botany at the annual meeting.

Yesenia Madrigal, Universidad de Antioquia, For the Presentation: Assessment of the flow-

ering genetic regulatory network in tropical orchids with different lifeforms. Co-authors: Mi-

chael Scanlon, Marian Bemer, Lena Hileman, Natalia Pabón-Mora


Physiological Section

Each year, the Physiological Section presents the Li-COR prize to acknowledge the best presentation 

made by any student, regardless of subdiscipline, at the annual meeting. The Li-COR prize is 

presented annually at the BSA Awards Ceremony.

Best Student Oral Presentations

Spencer Roop, Idaho State University, For the Presentation: Quantifying genetic variation 

in physiology and functional traits in subspecies of big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in a 

common garden setting. Co-authors: Keith Reinhardt, Matthew Germino, Bryce Richardson

Best Student Poster

Leigha Henson, Appalachian State University, For the Poster: Light and Moisture Content as

Determinants of Photosynthetic Activity in Southern Appalachian Mosses from Open and 

Shaded Habitats. Co-author: Howard Neufeld

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PSB 69 (3) 2023



Developmental & Structural and Paleobotanical Sections

The Maynard F. Moseley Award was established in 1995 to honor a career of dedicated teaching, 

scholarship, and service to the furtherance of the botanical sciences. Dr. Moseley, known to his 

students as “Dr. Mo”, died Jan. 16, 2003 in Santa Barbara, CA, where he had been a professor 

since 1949. He was widely recognized for his enthusiasm for and dedication to teaching and his 

students, as well as for his research using floral and wood anatomy to understand the systematics 

and evolution of angiosperm taxa, especially waterlilies. (PSB, Spring, 2003). The award is given 

to the best student paper, presented in either the Paleobotanical or Developmental and Structural 

sessions, that advances our understanding of plant structure in an evolutionary context

Madison Lalica, California Polytechnic University, Humboldt, For the Presentation: Probing 

the origin and evolution of periderm: what can extant plants and the fossil record tell us? Co-

author: Mihai Tomescu



Best Student Oral Presentation

Steven Augustine, University of Wisconsin, For the Presentation: Life at the extreme: un-

derstanding how hydraulics constrain some of the longest living pines to unique elevational 

positions. Co-author: Katherine McCulloh

Best Student Poster

Katherine Charton, University of Wisconsin - Madison, For the Poster: An encroaching 

woody species (Cornus racemosa) does not alter gas exchange in response to drought as much 

as the dominant herbaceous species in a managed temperate grassland. Co-authors: Steven 

Augustine, Ellen Damschen



Best Student Oral Presentation:

Evin Magner, University of Minnesota, For the Presentation: Post-secretory synthesis of a 

natural analog of iron-gall ink in the black nectar of Melianthus spp. 

Best Student Poster:

Jayani Wathukarage, Rice Research and Development Institute, Sri Lanka, For the Poster: 

Phytochemical compounds from Eucalyptus with herbicidal activity

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




Applications in Plant Sciences

Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary

2023 marks 10 years of publication for Applications in Plant Sciences, the BSA’s open access 

methods journal. To celebrate this milestone, the APPS staff has collected 25 articles spanning 

the history of APPS and highlighting the breadth and depth of the journal’s portfolio. The 

featured articles are just a few examples of the protocols, software, and genomic resources that 

have established APPS as a destination for methods in plant biology, with a new impact factor 

of 3.6. We thank our editors, reviewers, authors, and readers for making this growth and success 


Enjoy this collection of APPS articles at and consider submitting your 

novel technique, software, or review to APPS in the future. The BSA looks forward to the next 

10 years of innovation and service to our authors and readers.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


Do you aspire to lead a 
horticultural institution 
or business? 
Are you passionate about 
using your career to make 
a positive global impact?

Your Path

to Leadership

Applications for the 2024–2025 cohort are 
open through July 31. Learn more and apply 


to our graduating 


Longwood Fellows 

Cohort. From top 

left: Danny Cox, 

Amanda Hannah, 

Rae Vassar, Rama 


Anamari Mena, and 

Ryan Gott, Ph.D.

The Fellows Program develops tomorrow’s leaders, 
preparing them to successfully navigate pressing 
challenges, develop thoughtful strategies, and lead 
organizations that are equitable and sustainable. 
During the fully funded, cohort-based residency, 
Fellows engage in project-based learning that 
allows them to hone their professional skills while 
delving into issues relevant to the horticulture 
industry today.

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Some Scenes from Botany 2023!

I had a great time at 

Botany 2023. It con-

tinues to be an ex-

tremely friendly and 

supportive conference 


This was the first 

"normal" Botany con-

ference since COVID 


I liked the energy 

people had.

It was nearly back to "nor-


and, boy, did I need that.

By far, Botany remains one 

of the best scientific meet-

ings I attend regularly

California Botanists Brown Bag Lunch!

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I thought this was 

a great confer-

ence. There were 

tons of interest-

ing talks, and the 

poster session 

was well attended.

Thank you for all 

the coffeeeee!!!!

 I perceived the conference as a welcoming and 

respectful environment where everybody had a 

chance to participate and discuss science. I loved 

seeing students and scholars from so many dif-

ferent cultural backgrounds come together and 

thrive. I especially liked the breakfast time and the 

celebration at the end, they were wonderful oppor-

tunities to connect with colleagues and meet new 

 In grad school I a


another scientific conference 

and went back for the first 

time this year - I realized 

how much more enjoyable 

Botany is and that will be 

my main plant conference 

in future years. Keep do-

ing what you're doing, it's a 

wonderful community!

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




Amelia Neely

BSA Membership & 



E-mail: ANeely@&lt;/i>


The BSA Spotlight Series highlights early-career scientists in the BSA community and shares 

both scientific goals and achievements, as well as personal interests of the botanical scientists, 

so you can get to know your BSA community better.

Here are the latest Spotlights at


• Trinity Depatie, Graduate Student, University of South Carolina
• Adriana I. Hernandez, Postdoctoral Fellow, California Academy of Sciences
• Matias Köhler, Postdoctoral Fellow, São Carlos University (UFSCar), São Paulo, Brazil
• Jesús Martínez-Gómez, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley

Would you like to nominate yourself or another early career scientist to be in the Spotlight 

Series? Fill out this form:

BSA Spotlight Series

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




This year, we are including a BSA Professional 

Member Highlights section each month in 

the  Membership Matters newsletter. If you 

would like to be highlighted, email Amelia 

Neely at

Keri Maricle

Life Sciences Instructor, 

Adjunct, at 

Barton Community College


Keri is a biologist and educator with 

experience teaching K-12 and college-level 

courses in the life sciences. Currently, Keri 

is working on a psychology degree with 

research focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion and 

sense of belonging in STEM education.

Dr. Jordan Metzgar

Curator of the Massey Herbarium 

(VPI), Department of Biological 

Sciences, Virginia Tech

X (formerly Twitter):

Dr. Metzgar received his B.S. in biology from 

Cornell University and earned his Ph.D. 

from the University of Alaska Fairbanks 

for his dissertation on the evolution of the 

parsley ferns (Cryptogramma). His current 

job involves researching the ecology of 

various southeastern U.S. plants and running 

an active STEM outreach program in the 

local community. He became entranced by 

ferns when he was an undergraduate, and 

his favorite plant is walking fern (Asplenium 


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PSB 69 (3) 2023






We are very excited to share that, thanks to 

the generous support of over 70 donors, the 

Society has established an  endowed fund 

to support an annual graduate student 

research award in memory of AJ Harris. The 

online portal for applications will open in a 

few months. Learn more about AJ, see a list of 

donors, and read the Memory Wall at https://

We want to show our appreciation to AJ’s 

friends and family for helping us fulfill the 

goals in our strategic plan by supporting 

students and botanical research. To discuss 

the ways in which you can support the 

Society through endowed gifts, please email 

BSA Executive Director Heather Cacanindin 




Help us to welcome to the new BSA 

Student Chapters:

• Botanical Society of St. Cloud State 


• The Gustavus Botanical Society

This is a reminder to BSA Student Chapters’ 

officers about the upcoming deadline of 

December 31, 2023, for the following items:

• Chapters will need to fill out the 

event form at

for at least two events for 2023. This 

will include a description of the event, 

possible photos of the the event plus 

captions, the number of people who 

attended, and if you would like us to 

share your event with the BSA com-


• BSA Student Chapter Presidents 

and Secretary/Treasurers will have 

to have a current BSA membership.

This means if your current member-

ship expires in 2023, you will need 

to renew it by December 31, 2023. 

Student chapter members have a dis-

counted membership costing just $10. 

We encourage all student chapter 

members to have a BSA member-

ship. Financial aid is available by 


• This is a great time to start thinking 

about your leadership for the next 

year and to have an election if needed. 

Please send any leadership changes 

to as they become 

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


available. New leadership in the Presi-

dent and Secretary/Treasurer posi-

tions will be required to be a current 

BSA member for 2024 by December 

31, 2023, or when they are elected if 

after that date.

If you want to see the full list of BSA Student 

Chapters, or learn how to start a chapter at 

your institution, go to



Thank you for your current BSA 

membership support! BSA provides annual 

memberships that run from January to 

December of each year.  October is the start 

of our membership renewal season, so if your 

membership expires in 2023, you should have 

started getting renewal notices since early 


Please note the following changes starting 

October 1, 2023:

• One-Year Affiliate Memberships will increase 

by $5, totaling $55.

• One-Year Student Memberships 

will increase by $5, totaling $25.

Three-Year Student Memberships will in-

crease by $10, totaling $60.

• One-Year Student and Developing Nations’ Gift 

Memberships will increase by $10, totaling $20.

Three-Year Gift Memberships will increase by 

$25, totaling $55.

While renewing, you can also renew  your 

sectional affiliations,  donate to the BSA 

endowment, award funds, and section 

award funds,  purchase gift memberships, 

and purchase a print subscription of the 

Plant Science Bulletin (see below). If you 

are not due to renew this year, we hope you 

will consider donating to BSA and giving 

gift memberships during the fourth quarter.

To renew your membership, go to https:// If you do not need to renew, 

please consider donating to BSA funds, or 

purchasing gift memberships, go to https://




Starting with the Spring 2024 issue of 

the PSB, print copies will require a $10/

year subscription that will run from 

January to December of each year and 

will include the three issues for that year.

Subscriptions are now available for 2024 when 

you renew your membership. Members who 

do not need to renew will be able to purchase 

a subscription by going to https://crm.botany.

org/ and choosing the corresponding menu 



BSA is proud to provide over $120,000 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. 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. and click Donate to start giving 

right now. 

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


Professional members are given th

opportunity of increasing their annual dues by 

$25 in order to support the Graduate Student 

Research Award fund. Together with GSRA 

donations, over $32,202 in additional funds 

were raised for the GSRA in the last fiscal year 

and 31 GSRA awards were able to be given in 

2023. Thank you to all of our members who 

made this possible.

The Endowment Fund and the Unrestricted 

Fund both have very important roles in the 

stability and longevity of BSA. We hope you 

will consider making donations to these funds 

when choosing your year-end donation plans. 

Donations to these funds are being used to 

move BSA into the future, and to support our 

global community like never before.

Want an even more lasting way to support 

BSA? Consider joining the Legacy Society

To learn more about the society see our latest 

Legacy Society email by going to https://

2022-dr1 or visit our Legacy Society web 

page at


2023 BSA GIFT 




The 2023 Gift Membership Drive has 

begun!  This year our goal will be 175 gift 

memberships through December 31, 2023! 

BSA Gift Memberships are a great way to 

introduce students and developing nations’ 

colleagues to the BSA community. You can 

purchase one-year ($20) or three-year ($55) gift 

memberships by visiting https://crm.botany.

org and choosing “Give a Gift of Membership”. 

Don’t  have  anyone  specific  for  whom  to 

purchase a gift membership? Not a problem! 

You can put an “X” in the gift membership 

recipient  fields  and  we  will  make  sure  they 

get to those students and developing nations’ 

colleagues  who  need  financial  assistance. 

Questions about gift memberships or other 

ways  to  donate?  Email  Amelia  Neely  at 

We are giving back! Any gift membership 

recipient who starts their membership before 

January 31, 2024 will be entered into a 

drawing for a free registration for Botany 




Thank you to everyone who applied to be on 

the Ad Hoc Committee on Climate Change, 

Membership Ad Hoc Committee, and the Ad 

Hoc Committee for AI and Publications. We 

appreciate the time and effort taken by those 

who did not get chosen and hope that you 

will consider applying for open committee 

positions as they become available in the Fall.

To see the new committee members, go 



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PSB 69 (3) 2023


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PSB 69 (3) 2023





60 years ago

Albert Robinson Jr. from Kansas Wesleyan University discusses research 

collaborations with Mexican universities. 

“In very recent years an increased emphasis has been placed upon botanical 

research in tropical areas. Expanding populations and rapidly developing 

industries are placing increased pressure on the existing undisturbed 

lands. A sense of urgency has arisen to study and record the biota of 

these areas before they are irrevocably altered by man’s quest for a better 

life. In this respect, our neighbor to the south, the Republic of Mexico, 

offers an excellent opportunity for North American botanists to assist in 

this important task, and to work in a tropical region of high botanical 

importance which is rapidly being affected by industrialization.”

      -Robinson Jr., Albert. 1963. Botany in Mexican Schools. PSB 9(3): 6-7

50 years ago

“At the annual meeting of the Society at Amherst in June, the Council 

authorized the establishment of an endowment fund, the income of which 

will be used to subsidize the publication of papers in the American Journal 

of Botany, and other publications of the Society written and submitted by 

students. Immediately upon the establishment of the Endowment Fund a 

total of $350 was pledged to the fund from among members of the Council.”

     -Endowment Fund Started. 1973 PSB 19(3): 40

40 years ago

“The Teaching Section’s Slide Exchange Program was again very successful 

and will be continued and expanded. During the past year over 2500 color 

transparencies were duplicated for society members.”

      -Teaching Section Slide Exchange Program. 1983. PSB 28(5): 35.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




By Dr. Catrina Adams

Education Director

Jennifer Hartley,

Education Programs 


Have you ever had an undergraduate student 

or other early-career botanist leave the area(s) 

you know best to pursue their botanical 

interests in another state? Do you wish you 

could easily provide them with the best, most 

up-to-date flora or field guide for their new 

location? Or have you ever been asked where 

someone could find a degree program in 

botany or a botanically focused organization 

outside of your location?

The BSA Education Committee is seeking 

to update the state-by-state resource lists 

available on the website by 

crowdsourcing from BSA’s knowledgeable 

members. We’re looking for information 

about up-to-date floras and field guides, 

academic programs (where in your state can 

people pursue a botany-related degree?),  as 

well as organizations and quality, durable web 

resources focused on the botany of the state or 

region. To start, we are focusing on U.S. states 

Updating BSA’s State-by-State 

Botanical Resource Pages

Please Help!

and territories, but we may expand this project 

to cover other regions where BSA members 

live and work if this project is successful and 

members find the information useful.

To submit a resource, please use this link:

Together, we can build a valuable reference list 

that will help botanists and aspiring botanists 

orient to high-quality botanical resources 

of states and territories with which they are 

not already familiar. It should take less than 

5 minutes to submit your resource(s), which 

will be vetted by the Education Committee 

and then added to the website. 

Thank you very much for your help with this 

low-lift but (hopefully) high-value project!



Summer and Fall of 2023: 

F2 Research is Underway

The PlantingScience team has been working 

at full tilt this session!   With more than 40 

teachers signed up between our current 

F2 research participants and our returning 

teachers from previous years, we are having to 

keep more plates spinning than usual.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


Fortunately, we had a great summer of 

professional development workshops.   We 

had 21 teachers and 15 scientists take part in 

our in-person workshops in Colorado Springs 

and St. Louis, and another 18 teachers and 

14 scientists participate in online training 

via Zoom.   These trainings introduced 

participants to the activities that comprise 

our Power of Sunlight investigation theme, 

which focuses on photosynthesis and cellular 

respiration, and gave them an opportunity to 

experience online “mentoring” as teachers 

designed their own exploration with support 

from their scientist partners.

In addition, we have 18 teachers who are 

acting as a control group this session, teaching 

the same topics using their usual curriculum 

and activities. These teachers will be included 

in workshops during summer of 2024 and will 

use PlantingScience with students during the 

Fall 2024 session.

MEET OUR 2023 


Please join us in welcoming and congratulating 

the early career scientists who are participating 

in the F2 research work this session:

Abdulkabir Abdulmalik

Hannah Assour

Israel Borokini

Meghan Britton

Jessica Carstens-Kass

Snehanjana Chatterjee

Cael Dant

Natalie Dietz

Kasia Dinkeloo

Chloe Fackler

Josh Felton

Melinda Findlater

Julie Gan

Audrey Geise

Kajal Ghoshroy

Devani Jolman

Harkirat Kaur

Janet Mansaray

Deannah Neupert

Wanderson Novais

Sofia Ocampo

Varsha Pathare

Adam Ramsey

Philippa Stone

Jessica Szetela

Nicole Vaccaro

Imeña Valdes

Gabriela Villani

Renate Wuersig

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PSB 69 (3) 2023









An article on the efficacy of the PlantingScience 

Power of Sunlight program has been selected 

as the free article in the September issue of the 

American Biology Teacher


This article reports on the results of our 

2015–2019 research studying the efficacy 

of the PlantingScience Power of Sunlight 

module. The research showed positive gains 

in participating students’ content knowledge 

and attitudes about scientists over students 

who learned photosynthesis and cellular 

respiration the way their teachers normally 

taught those topics.

We’re honored to be selected and hope that 

the article will have a wider reach since it is 

open access!



Torrey Botanical Society


Field trips

held in the

NY/NJ/CT area

Journal of the Torrey

Botanical Society

free to publish

low open-access fees

Virtual lectures

watch our past

lectures on YouTube


graduate, and early

career fellowships

application deadline:

January 15

Since our founding in New York City in 1867, the
goals of the Torrey Botanical Society have
remained the same: to promote an interest in
botany, and to collect and diffuse information
on all topics relating to botany.

Staten Island, 1914

upstate NY, 2012

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


Plant Conservation &

Restoration Program

U.S. Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management

Native plants are the true green infrastructure we rely on

for healthy, resilient, biodiverse ecosystems. As

wildfires and other climate-driven disasters continue to

devastate the U.S., the BLM Plant Conservation &

Restoration Program is implementing the National Seed

Strategy and conserving and restoring the native plant

communities that define America's iconic landscapes

and provide wildlife habitat, ecosystem services, and

recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023




By Eli Hartung and Josh Felton

BSA Student Representatives 

It was so great seeing so many of your faces 

again in person at Botany 2023 in Boise! 

Students made up 53% of the total conference 

attendees with 494 total students. About a 

quarter of the students were undergraduates 

and three quarters were graduate students. 

About 85% of total students attended the 

conference in person. The popularity of face-

to-face attendance at Boise highlighted how 

important it is to have in-person interactions 

to cultivate our botanical network. At the 

same time, about 15% of students attended 

virtually. We hope the opportunity to tune 

in remotely helped students stay connected 

to the botanical community this year, even 

though they couldn’t be there in person. 

The Student Reps worked to encourage 

more interactions between students and the 

botanical community at a variety of events. 

Our first event of the week was the Writing 

Your CV and Translating it Into a Public Facing 

Website on Sunday, where seven superstars in 

their respective areas of sci-comm shared tips 

for engaging audiences about plants. The next 

day, we held the widely popular Careers in 

Botany 2023 Review

Botany Luncheon where we had 12 panelists 

for students to connect with. We then helped 

host a very well–attended Student Social at 

the Linen Building where we chatted late 

into the night. We also held a virtual Student 

Chapter Meetup where we discussed ideas to 

connect members with other chapters across 

the country.

Reach us by email or X (formerly Twitter): 

Eli at / @hartung_

eli or Josh at / 




At the Careers in Botany Luncheon, 

we had 12 panelists with careers in 

academia, government, non-governmental 

organizations, consulting companies, 

herbaria, botanical gardens, and museums. 

They represented the spectrum of career 

stages, and collectively, they work in five 

countries and ten U.S. states. A total of 106 

students attended—one of our best attended 

luncheons yet! Below was the flier we used to 

advertise the event, and here is where you can 

read more about the panelists at the Careers 

in Botany Profiles:



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Thank you to the 143 of you who attended the 

Student Social! We had a great time getting 

to know each other at the Linen Building in 

Boise.  Hope to see you all again at the next 

student social in Grand Rapids, Michigan!





Our first CV writing/website building 

workshop was a great success with 7 panelists 

and 12 attendees. The workshop panelists 

were a diverse group of plant scientists with 

experience in both CV building and website 

management. First, the panelists spent a few 

minutes introducing themselves and their 

work. Then, panelists presented tips on CV 

building/formatting and provided feedback 

to students on their CVs. Finally, panelists 

showed their websites and provided advice as 

students built their own websites. We learned 

so much from the panelists, both through 

their engaging presentation content and style, 

and in the super interesting small discussions. 

Read the section “Heard at the Writing Your 

CV and Translating it Into a Public Facing 

Website Workshop” to learn some tips from 

our panelists. 



We held our first ever Virtual Student Chapter 

Meet-up at the conference this year. The event 

was initiated and organized by our very active 

student chapters. We would love to host this 

at the conference each year. To maintain this 

momentum, the Student Reps are planning 

more of these Student Chapter Meet-ups as 

part of the Botany360 program. Stay tuned on 

the&nbsp;@Botanical_ X (Twitter) and BSA Student 

Newsletter to hear more details. 


For our conference Networking Board, we 

heard from 7 labs recruiting for more than 13 

positions including Masters and PhD student, 

research assistant, post-doc, and technician 

openings in 7 states across the country. Be 

sure to reach out to them using the contact 

information listed on the board!

We also heard from 18 early-career 

researchers looking for graduate school 

positions, post-docs, jobs in industry, 

government, and lab or field positions. Those 

of you recruiting, please check out this list!

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PSB 69 (3) 2023







It is with great sadness that we note the 

passing of Joel Fry on the 21 March 2023. 

Joel was a world-renowned scholar centered 

at Bartram’s Garden, America’s oldest 

surviving botanic garden, founded in 1728 

by John Bartram and still a working historical 

garden on the western bank of the Schuylkill 

River running through Philadelphia. Joel’s 

work at Bartram’s Garden encompassed 

archival history, archaeology, anthropology, 

horticulture, gardening, field botany, and so 

much more. Joel generously shared his wealth 

of knowledge with scholars, amateurs, and all 

who showed an interest in the world around 

us. He reached across disciplines and counted 

historians and gardeners and botanists among 

his numerous friends and colleagues.



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As just one example of Joel’s ability to work 

across disciplines, during digitization of 

specimens at the Herbarium of the Academy 

of Natural Sciences (PH), a specimen collected 

shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg was 

discovered. The specimen was collected by 

Thomas Meehan who, in addition to being a 

member of the Academy of Natural Sciences 

of Philadelphia (Botany Department) and 

a prominent nurseryman in Philadelphia, 

had worked at Bartram’s Garden early in his 

career, shortly after he arrived in the U.S. from 

England. This connection led to a scholarly 

partnership that Joel dove into, providing 

numerous and eloquently written inputs, 

which led to a publication in 2022 (McCourt 

et al., 2022).

Joel got his MS in Historical Archeology from 

the University of Pennsylvania and began 

working at Bartram’s Garden in 1992. He 

worked there for more than 30 years until his 

death at age 66. Joel always welcomed visitors 

to Bartram’s Garden, including neighbors and 

people visiting from near and far, including 

numerous visitors from all over the world; 

students from local colleges and universities; 

and members of local natural history 

organizations like the Philadelphia Botanical 

Club and the Delaware Valley Ornithological 


The first field trip of the Philadelphia Botanical 

Club was to Bartram’s Garden, in 1892, and 

in 2012, to celebrate the 120



of that event, Joel led a botanical excursion 

at Bartram’s. Only three species were listed 

from that 1890s field trip report (Eranthis 

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


hyemalis  [winter aconite],  Ptelea trifoliata

and Aralia spinosa). Joel assiduously researched 

where those species might and might not 

be at Bartram’s, and only one, E. hyemalis

is still found at Bartram’s Garden  (https://


philadelphia-botanical-club/). This is an 

example of the diligence and thoughtfulness 

that Joel put into all his work.  Joel’s scholarly 

publications are nonpareil, and his work 

outside of academic publishing equaled the 

excellence of his more formal scholarly work. 

However, the thought of calling anything 

having to do with Joel “formal” would seem 

outlandish to all of us who knew him—Joel’s 

lack of formality undergirded everything he 

did. If he could learn something and share it 

with the world, he did all he could to do that 

work with excellence.

Joel traced the movement of plants across the 

Atlantic (Fry, 1996) and throughout North 

America (Fry, 2000). Joel’s rigorous research 

on the archival history and the botany of plant 

movement leads to knowledge that critically 

informs the biology of the movement of plants, 

in cultivation, as well as naturalization, and 

increases our understanding of how extinction 

in the wild interacts with horticulture and 

conservation in gardens.

Joel contributed freely to a range of scholars, 

as a glance through the acknowledgments 

of numerous papers clearly shows (e.g., 

Schoonderwoerd and Friedman, 2016; 

Gladfelter et al., 2020). Acknowledgment of 

Joel’s contributions in many books also shows 

his generosity of spirit (for example, Andrea 

Wulf’s  Founding Gardeners; and Victoria 

Johnson’s American Eden).

Joel Fry showing off the newly acquired Bartram desk in the Historic Bartram House in 

Summer 2022. Photo provided by Bartram’s Garden.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


One of Joel’s unfinished projects was a study of 

southern New Jersey plants the Bartrams knew. 

This began with his and Bill Cahill’s realization 

that the Sutro Herbarium at the Huntington 

Library contained specimens John Bartram 

must have collected in “Jersey,” because this 

hortus siccus predated his trips further south 

than Delaware (then part of Pennsylvania) 

and Maryland. They recognized, for example, 

the Diapensia species Pyxidanthera barbulata 

from a shriveled, disintegrating specimen, 

and the pine barren gentian Gentiana 

autumnalis, which Bartram couldn’t have 

found closer to home. With this they began 

to look further, eventually listing a few 

hundred plants from the Sloane Herbarium 

in London (once it became available in digital 

online images) and other sources that gave 

a detailed understanding of the Bartrams’ 

local botanical knowledge. John and William 

Bartram were famous botanical travelers, but 

the evidence of this study showed that they 

learned much of their botany locally, even as a 

preparatory study for understanding plants in 

the far-off regions they visited. Fry and Cahill 

also traced reiterations of this botanic interest 

in the flora of Philadelphia and southern New 

Jersey in the work of William P.C. Barton 

(1818), Nathaniel Lord Britton (1880), and 

Ida Keller and Stewardson Brown (1904). 

They also found Bartram provenances for 

taxa named by others, such as the pine barren 

shrub Leiophyllum buxifolium Bergius, which 

was communicated to Bergius by a Swedish 

correspondent who knew the Bartrams in 


On the 7th of September 2023, a gathering 

was held at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia 

in remembrance of Joel, in a place that not 

only was a center for him, but in many ways, 

one might say, was centered on him. Many 

gathered and remembered his knowledge 

(phenomenal), his erudition (brilliant), his 

sense of humor (high spirited), his generosity 

(endless), and most of all, his friendship, 

which will be dearly missed.


Fry, J. T. 1996. An international catalogue of 

North American trees and shrubs: the Bartram 

broadside, 1783. Journal of Garden History

16: 1: 3-66.
Fry, J. T. 2000. Franklinia alatamaha, A His-

tory of That “Very Curious” Shrub. In: Bar-

tram Broadside, Special Franklinia Edition

published by the John Bartram Association 

for the ‘noble & curious friends’ of Historic 

Bartram’s Garden. 
Gladfelter, H. J., L. K. Yadav, S. A. Merkle, 

et al. 2020. Genetic diversity and population 

structure analysis of Franklinia alatamaha, a 

tree species existing only in cultivation. Tree 

Genetics & Genomes 16: 60.
McCourt, R. M., J. T. Fry, and E. Benamy. 

2022. A Flower from Gettysburg. Bartonia 

71: 1–8. 
Schoonderwoerd, K. M., and W. E. Friedman. 

2016. Zygotic dormancy underlies prolonged 

seed development in Franklinia alatamaha

(Theaceae): a most unusual case of reproduc-

tive phenology in angiosperms. Botanical 

Journal of the Linnean Society 181: 70–83. 

--By David Hewitt, Richard McCourt, and 

William Cahill

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477 Jarvis Ave, Winnipeg, Canada, R2W 3A8

Toll Free: 1-800-361-7778




BSA Member John Kiss was recently featured 

on an episode of the radio show The Space 

Show.  Topics included  gravitational and 

space plant biology for the Moon, Mars, 

free space, Cislunar space, and more. Kiss 

also talked about plant needs, challenges, 

human components, radiation, the role of 

microgravity, and the quality of light plus 

water needed for space biology.
The episode can be found at: https://www.


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PSB 69 (3) 2023



A Generic Classification of the Thelypteridaceae

Flora of Colorado, Ed. 2

Getting In: The Essential Guide to Finding a STEMM Undergrad Research 

       Experience. 2



Jackfruit: Botany, Production and Uses 

Mistletoes of the Continental United States and Canada     

Moving Crops and the Scales of History


Planting Clues: How Plants Solve Crimes

Putting Down Roots: Foundations of Botany at Carolina with a Concluding Chapter on the

       History of the Department of Botany

Stelar Evolution and Morphology In Selected Taxa Based On The Study Of Vascullotaxy

       (Studio Nov.), Ed 2

Taylor’s Seedling Drawings: A Catalog of Cotyledons


A Generic Classification of 

the Thelypteridaceae

Susan Fawcett and Alan R. Smith

2021.  ISBN 13: 978-1-889878-68-3

Flexbinding, US$25.00; 112 pp.  

BRIT Press

Although presented as a book, 

this work is more like a long 

journal paper covering the classification of 

the Thelypteridaceae. It is laid out just like 

any other such paper with an introduction, 

illustrations, keys, etc. The classification of the 

fern genera reflects phylogenetic work done 

by the authors that was also published in 2021.  
Many gardeners bemoan the name changes 

that angiosperms have undergone in the last 

few decades, but if only they knew what has 

happened with fern classification!  The advent 

of next-gen sequencing has given us a much 

deeper insight into the evolutionary history 

of these fascinating plants; therefore, many 

new names have been created and old ones 

reinstated. Fawcett and Smith’s work here 

clarifies this particularly complicated family 

and provides a new classification that was 

sorely needed. The authors publish 176 new 

names and recognizes 37 genera. The authors 

do a good job reviewing the taxonomic 

history of the family and the botanists that 

came before them who tried to make sense of 

these plants. A number of line drawings and 

photos are included to illustrate the ferns. The 

bulk of the paper consists of the taxonomic 

descriptions of each genus, which also include 

the history of each one’s circumscription, 

geography, and references.  
The wealth of information in this work is 

wonderful and it is apparent that the authors 

truly enjoy working with these plants. Anyone 

looking to know more about the family 

or put updated and correct names to their 

Thelypteridaceae specimens should purchase 

-John G. Zaborsky, Botany Department, 

University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, 

Wisconsin, USA;

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


Flora of Colorado, (ed. 2)

Jennifer Ackerfield

2022. ISBN 978-1889878898

US$80; 872 pp.

BRIT Press

Colorado’s flora is rich due 

to the diversity of habitats, 

from the Eastern Plains to 

the Rocky Mountains and the high deserts 

of the Western Slope. To help botanists 

identify the plant species, there have been 

numerous floristic works, from the checklist 

of Porter and Coulter’s “Synopsis of the Flora 

of Colorado” (1874) to the seminal “Manual 

of the Plants of Colorado” (1964) by Harold 

Harrington. More recently, William Weber 

and Ronald Wittmann divided the state 

at the Continental Divide and published 

separate floras for the Eastern and Western 

Slopes, with the fourth editions published in 

2012. These floras contained keys but lacked 

species descriptions and distribution maps, 

and often used unconventional nomenclature. 

For many users, this last feature made Weber 

and Wittmann’s floras difficult to use. As a 

resident of western Colorado, I appreciated 

a flora that focused on plants of my region 

while excluding those of the eastern plains. 

However, a modern flora covering the entire 

state was lacking.
In 2015, Jennifer Ackerfield published the first 

edition of the Flora of Colorado. This up-to-

date flora used conventional nomenclature, 

taxonomic changes ushered in by the 

molecular age, succinct species descriptions, 

distribution maps, and 912 images covering 

nearly one third of the plant species in the 

state. I appreciated the county map on inside 

of the front cover and the ruler on the inside 

of the back cover, an indispensable feature for 

field identification.  To say the first edition 

was well-received by Colorado botanists is an 

understatement! It quickly became the go-to 

flora for Colorado botanists.

The second edition of the Flora of Colorado

includes many updates. Nomenclatural 

changes have been included as have new 

taxa that have been recognized, collected, 

or identified since the first edition. The first 

edition contained 3322 taxa (including 645 

varieties and subspecies) whereas the second 

edition contains 3352 taxa. Among the new 

taxa are two species of Cirsium described by 

Ackerfield in 2022.
The second edition is beautiful, with a cover 

photo of a misty mountain meadow with 

Veratrum  and  Delphinium.  The cover of the 

second edition seems to be made of thicker, 

tough paper then the first edition. This is a 

welcome addition, given how torn and tattered 

my well-used first edition has become. The 

second edition is a full centimeter thinner 

than my first edition due to the slightly wider 

pages. It is still a rather large volume to take 

into the field, but the ability to key out any 

plant in Colorado is well worth the extra 

weight in a backpack.
New distribution maps are one of the major 

and most eye-catching updates. The first 

edition included county-level distribution 

maps. These provided a rapid overview of 

distribution, but the new dot-distribution 

maps give more detail as to exactly where 

collections have been made as well as a 

general idea of how frequently specimens 

are collected. These improvements are due to 

large-scale databasing efforts and availability 

of specimens online. It took a little time for 

me to get used to the dot-distribution maps 

and the dots are small, making them a bit 

difficult to see; however, I appreciate the added 

precision. The discussion of the maps as well 

as the heat map of herbarium collections (p. 

14) are quite interesting, and I appreciate 

that Ackerfield takes the time to discuss their 

creation, what data were included, and what 

data were excluded.

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PSB 69 (3) 2023


The images in the second edition are greatly 

improved. There are 1296 color images on 108 

plates (versus 912 images in the first volume).&nb