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Issue: 2024-v70-1Actions

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SPRING 2024 VOLUME 70 NUMBER 1

PLANT SCIENCE  

BULLETIN

A PUBLICATION OF 

THE BOTANICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

Make plans to be at Botany 2024... p. 76

Art  

in the  

Botanical  

Sciences

(Part 2)

Jump into the #PlantJoy campaign!... p. 82

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                                        Spring 2024 Volume 70 Number 1

FROM the EDITOR

This issue of Plant Science Bulletin is our second special issue highlighting the 

relationship between science and art. There was such a great response to the 

initial call for papers on this topic that it could not be constrained to only one 

issue. I am once again delighted to thank the team of guest editors, Patricia Chan, 

Rosemary Glos, Ashley Hamersma, Kasey Pham, and Nicolette Sipperly, who put 

this fantastic series together and the talented contributors who shared their work. 

In this issue you will also find important news from the Publications Team. I will 

be stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of Plant Science Bulletin at the end of 2024 

when my term ends, and we are in the middle of a search for the next editor.  In the 

meantime, I’m excited about the features we have lined up for 2024.

Sincerely,

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

SPECIAL SECTION:  Art in the Botanical Sciences:  Past, Present, and Future

 ................5

Wunderkammer: Boundaryless Plants

 ...........................................................................................................6

Scientific Knowledge, Artistic Creativity and Pedagogical Reform:  

            The Botanical Wall Chart ......................................................................................................................11

Illuminations: Past, Present, and Future of Fern Research .............................................................15

The Four Noble Ones: Significant Cultural Elements Bridging Chinese Painting  

           and Botanical Sciences ..........................................................................................................................21

Art Is Not Only About Flowers: Ferns as a Source of Inspiration for Artists .........................29

The Artist-Scientist Symbiosis: A Dialogue .............................................................................................32

Attempts at Convergence of Science and Art That Blossomed Amidst Korea’s  

           Tragic History ..............................................................................................................................................38

How Scientific Illustration Impacts Presentation and Understanding of  

           Plant Adaptations at Multiple Scales  ............................................................................................44

An Abstract Scientist: Embracing Art as a Tool for Science Education ..................................50

Three Plants, Three Practices:  

Botanical Allies and the Creative Process ................................................................................................52

Plant Motifs Depicted in Kutch Embroideries and Its Integration in Sci-Art Collaborative  

           Educational Models in the Indian Educational System ........................................................55

Art-Making and Plant Biology as Synergistic Learning Tools: Reflections on a  

           Sci-Art Undergraduate Course About Climate Change ......................................................63

The Botanist and the Illustrator: A Long-Standing Partnership ...................................................65

Floral Acoustic Signaling in Bat Pollination Demonstrated by Percussive  

           Folk Music from Northeast Brazil .....................................................................................................68

Cross-Pollination: Building a Co-Taught Course to Examine Art and  

           Sex Through the Lens of Botany ......................................................................................................73

PLANT SCIENCE BULLETIN:  SPRING 2024 ..................................................................................

76

SOCIETY  NEWS 

Search for new Editors-in-Chief for 

AJB

 and 

PSB

 .............................................................................. 76

AJB

 and 

PSB

 Open Call for Associate Editors ...................................................................................... 76

BSA Leadership Responds to News of Duke University’s Herbarium Closure ................... 78

Botany 2024 Speakers, Field Trips, Workshops and More ............................................................. 80

MEMBERSHIP NEWS

#PlantJoy Campaign ...........................................................................................................................................82

Botany360 Updates ...............................................................................................................................................82

BSA Spotlight Series ............................................................................................................................................84

BSA Professional Highlight Series ................................................................................................................85

BSA Legacy Society .............................................................................................................................................86

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S

tart Planning for 

          Register Now! 

www.botanyconference.org

2023 Gift Membership Drive Winner ...........................................................................................................87

New BSA Sponsorship Opportunities .........................................................................................................87

SCIENCE EDUCATION

 Seeking Flora/Field Guide Recommendations to Update BSA’s State-by-State  

           Botanical Resource Page  ...................................................................................................................89

ROOT & SHOOT RCN Developing a New Culturally Responsive Mentoring  

           Certification Program to Pilot in Fall 2024 ..................................................................................90

PlantingScience Spring 2024 Session Update ......................................................................................91

STUDENT SECTION

Botany360 Webinar: How to Be a Successful BSA Student Representative .......................93 

Roundup of Student Opportunities ...............................................................................................................93

Papers to Read for Future Leaders ..............................................................................................................94

IN MEMORIAM

Nels Ronald Lersten (1932–2023) ...............................................................................................................97

BOOK REVIEWS

 ..........................................................................................................................................................100

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

SPECIAL SECTION 

Art in the Botanical Sciences:  

Past, Present, and Future

Greetings, 

We are thrilled to share the second issue in the special anthology, Art and the Botanical Sciences: Past, 

Present, and Future. The pieces in this issue continue the conversation started in our Fall 2023 issue: 

celebrating and re-examining the historical connections between art and botany, showcasing the varied 

experiences of contemporary artist-scientists, and presenting visions for future integrations of art and 

the botanical sciences. If you missed the first issue, we highly recommend perusing it (at https://

botany.org/userdata/IssueArchive/issues/originalfile/WebPSB_69_3_2023.pdf) for a vibrant selection 

of articles that explore the Venn diagram that is botany, creativity, and art. 
In this issue, you will continue to learn about the role of botanical art across histories and traditions, 

fruitful contemporary collaborations between artists and botanists, innovative means of merging art 

and science in the classroom, and much more. 
We are deeply thankful to the authors and reviewers who made this anthology possible. Special thanks 

to the PSB editorial staff for inviting us to craft these special issues, trusting us to try something new, 

and formatting an unprecedented number of manuscripts (!).  We’d also like to thank in particular the 

artists who graciously allowed us to use their work for the covers of these issues. Clarissa Rodriguez 

created the embroidery piece used for the cover of the first issue, and Sayeh Dastgheib-Beheshti created 

the illustration used for the cover of this issue. This is the last issue formally dedicated to this theme, but 

we anticipate and encourage future submissions to the Plant Science Bulletin that explore these topics. 

If these issues have proven anything, it is that there is huge enthusiasm, interest, and fresh ideas in the 

sci-art space. Let’s continue to maintain that energy into the future! We would especially love to hear 

that these issues have given people new ideas to try or new collaborators with whom to work. Lastly, if 

you see us around (maybe at Botany 2024 or IBC 2024?), please say hi! We love to talk all things science 

and art. 
Until then, enjoy this issue!

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 PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Wunderkammer:  

Boundaryless Plants

Sandra L. Talbot 

Far Northwestern Institute of Art and Science 

Alaska Center for Conservation Science 

University of Alaska  

 Anchorage Alaska  99508 

Email: akartscience@gmail.com

To the medieval mind, the ‘Order 

of Nature’ (Daston and Park, 1998) 

was reflected in the ‘typical’ form 

and function of natural phenomena. 

Anything rupturing this order—the 

novel, rare, capricious, ‘uncanny 

sports,’ monstrous objects brought 

back from distant lands—filled 

Wunderkammers (cabinets of 

curiosities), the precursors of herbaria 

and natural history collections, and 

evoked not only a sense of wonder, but 

collective terror, or at least trepidation. 

Collective terror of ‘uncanny sports’ 

still resides in some contemporary 

minds, as evidenced by response to 

fasciation in plants growing near the 

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear facility 

in years following the 2011 disaster 

(Fessenden, 2015).    

In her exhibition Boundary Plants, Black 

(2019) leveraged classically rendered botanical 

illustrations of three species to illuminate how 

Linnaeus’ taxonomic system obscures the physical 

complexities of earth systems. The target species 

included fasciated Chrysanthemum leucanthem 

[sic](=Leucanthemum vulgare Lam.), the ox-eye 

daisy, to illustrate how the varied and cumulative 

cellular effects of the industrial age reveals the 

permeability of  the ‘clean’ Linnean taxonomic 

boundaries. However, the levels, frequencies, 

and specific causes of ‘natural’ mutations in these 

species are unclear; in addition to radiation, 

causes include infection by pathogens, hormonal 

disruption, and genetic mutations (Iliev and Kitin, 

2011). Further, in previously glaciated northern 

high latitudes, polyploidy levels and frequencies 

increase (Brochmann et al., 2004), masking 

cryptic diversity (Brochmann and Brysting, 2010) 

and presenting another complexity that weakens 

already permeable taxonomic boundaries. 

The European native Leucanthemum vulgare 

sensu stricto is a diploid (2n = 18) invasive in 

North America, and it is closely related and 

morphologically similar to the Eurasian tetraploid 

(n = 36) L. ircutianum Turcz. (Stutz et al., 2018). In 

fact, the taxonomy and associated nomenclature 

of  Leucanthemum  remains unstable (Roskov 

et al., 2018). Leucanthemum vulgare has been 

globally introduced for ornamentation as well as 

phytoremediation, and often escapes cultivation 

and establishes viable populations that alter 

indigenous plant communities.  Ploidy levels in 

Alaska, where I live, have not yet been assayed, but 

tetraploidy in L. vulgare is reported from various 

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locales in Canada (including British Columbia; 

Mulligan 1958, 1968) and in Washington State.  

In North America, tetraploid L. vulgare may 

indeed be L. ircutianum, which has also been 

introduced to North America but is apparently 

less invasive (Stutz et al. 2018).  Via ploidy and 

collateral changeable taxonomic nomenclature, 

morphological variability, and invasiveness, L. 

vulgare and other non-native plants (Figure 1) 

have become “boundaryless plants” (Black, 2019, 

p. 224).  They breach the boundaries of classical 

Linnean nomenclature, which drew inspiration 

from Plato’s ancient call to “carve nature at its 

joints” (Plato, 1952, p. 265e); that is, the natural 

world is divisible into objective, discoverable 

categories. Invasive plants also breach the 

ecological boundaries of long-established 

indigenous plant communities. 
The SciArt exhibition Wunderkammer: 

Boundaryless Plants (International Gallery 

of Contemporary Art, Anchorage, Alaska, 

November 2023) leveraged imagery of artifacts 

collected during decades of floristic and plant 

community research on the far-flung, remote 

islands of the Aleutian Island Archipelago and 

allied island groups, such as the Shumagin Islands 

in southwestern Alaska.  The exhibition explored 

issues surrounding instability in taxonomic 

nomenclature, levels of ‘natural’ mutation, 

community species replacement, and myriad 

complexities in the invasive L. vulgare and other 

plants introduced during military and ranching 

activities. Highlighting the entwined history 

between humans and these boundaryless plants 

in Alaska, the exhibition used contemporary 

botanical art to call attention to the burgeoning 

communities of invasive plants in these remote 

geographies, where the conservation focus has 

been trained on invasive mammals. Thus, the 

imagery exposes and examines what Aloi (2019) 

referred to as “plant blindness…our cultural 

inability to conceive plants beyond the prefixed 

cultural schemata…which simultaneously reduces 

them to resources or aesthetic objects” (p. xx).  

While beautiful (Figure 1), these island invasives 

are akin to those disturbing medieval ‘sports’ that 

breach the boundaries of known taxonomies, 

engendering the rupturing unknown that we have 

unwittingly invited in. 
Invasive species have traversed the threshold 

between ‘introduced’ and a state wherein they 

expand into and a novel (to them) environment, 

and their ability to cross that threshold relies 

not only on their particular inherent biological 

characteristics, but also on the deliberate or 

passive actions of humans. By definition, invasive 

species are those initially introduced to novel 

environments by humans. Nevertheless, there 

is an argument that humans can (or should) be 

considered invasive species (Zielinski, 2011). 

Figure 1.  Artist: Sandra Talbot. But They Are So Beautiful (Crepis and Leucanthemum).  Archival ink printed on Strath-

more paper, 21 × 6.5 inches. 2023. Imagery from photographs of metal collected from the site, locale photographs, and 

digitized field press collections of the invasive Crepis tectorum and Leucanthemum vulgare collected from the abandoned 

NSGA military site, Adak, Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

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Figure 2. Artist: Sandra Talbot. The Pleasure of Natural 

Sports: Lusus naturae 3, Plot 9, View 1, ver. 2.  2023.  Digital 

photograph of field notebook and specimen collection of fas-

ciated ox-eye daisies, sampled from Simeonof Island, Shuma-

gin Island group, Alaska. Top: archival ink printed on metal, 

15.6 × 21.6 × 0.2 inches. Bottom: digital imagery showing a 

schematic of the original photograph, generated on an iPad 

using various applications to provide visual clarity of fascia-

tion less readable in the photograph.

Contemporary biologists largely view invasive 

species with trepidation, and perhaps sometimes 

not so differently from how the medieval mind 

regarded ‘uncanny sports’ that ruptured the Order 

of Nature (Figure 2). Referencing the Progressive 

Era—the widespread period (1890s–1920s) of 

social activism and political reform in the United 

States that addressed issues emerging from 

immigration, urbanization, industrialization, 

and political corruption—historian Philip Pauly 

(1996) writes that “attitudes towards foreign 

pests merged with ethnic prejudices: the gypsy 

moth and the oriental chestnut blight both took 

on and contributed to characteristics ascribed 

to their presumed human compatriots” (p. 54). 

Pauly further states that “…attitudes about foreign 

and native organisms were intimately linked…

to views on ‘alien’ and ‘native’ humans” (p. 70). 

It is noteworthy that the common name or the 

gypsy moth has recently changed to the spongy 

moth (ESA, 2023), hopefully decoupling inherent 

pejorative assessments and invasiveness.  
Whether we view invasive species through 

aesthetic, cultural, biological, ecological, or 

evolutionary lenses, we judge them from within an 

anthropocentric world paradigm. This perpetuates 

a hierarchical view of non-native species that 

displace others: invasive species are terrible and 

we need to kill them, even though (depending 

on our deep or recent ancestry) we share certain 

characteristics with them. Notwithstanding 

controversies emerging from our own invasive-

like characteristics, the history of invasive species is 

entangled with that of human history; by tracking 

the expansion of invasive species, we can track 

the bounding footprints of the human saga. That 

includes human footprints on even the remote 

Aleutian Islands, targets of myriad accidental and 

intentional introductions (Jones and Byrd, 1979; 

Ebbert and Byrd, 2002).  Those introductions 

commenced about 280 years ago, following the 

1742 culmination of the ill-fated Bering Expedition 

during which the southern coast of Alaska and 

the Aleutian Island Archipelago and allied island 

groups were ‘discovered’ (from western history’s 

perspective), then described by the Expedition’s 

naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller.  
Almost all the islands landed upon or sailed 

past during the Bering Expedition have endured 

negative ecological impacts associated with 

military, cattle ranching, fox farming, and other 

(western) human activities throughout the 19

th 

and 20

th

 centuries, including the introduction of 

non-native plants that have recently crossed that 

boundary between introduced to invasive. For 

example, following the removal of cattle between 

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1983 and 1985 from Simeonof Island, in the 

Shumagin Islands, ox-eye daisies have spread 

beyond the historical ranch house environs 

and have become an integral, even dominant, 

component of certain nearby plant communities. 

A fairly high percentage of those ox-eye daisies 

are fasciated, as documented using photography 

and digital imagery (Figure 2). The cause of the 

fasciation is unknown. Given a parallel to western 

colonial expansion into Alaska, such invasive 

plant species can be viewed as proxies for human 

expansion and community disruption, and 

imagery of these invasive plants can communicate 

these concepts.
Scientists during the European Age of Discovery 

were often competent to highly skilled artists, and 

art provided a critical means to communicate that 

Age’s scientific discoveries.  While a competent 

writer whose penned journal provided the 

majority of our knowledge of the geographically 

vast and historically influential Bering Expedition, 

Steller was not a skilled, or even competent, 

artist, as he himself acknowledged (Stejneger, 

1936). As a precondition of participation in the 

Expedition (something he wanted very much), 

Steller asked to be accompanied by a competent 

artist (Stejneger, 1936). That demand, fulfilled, 

recognized the enormous contribution of artists 

to scientific expeditions (McAleer and Rigby, 

2017), and to science as a whole, during eras prior 

to the 19th-century invention of photography that 

eventually rendered the competent artist–scientist 

dispensable and contributed to the estrangement 

of art from science. Wunderkammer: Boundaryless 

Plants conflated art and science explorations of 

multilayered and complicated, universal issues 

played out in a little-known, remote geography.  

It demonstrated that digital photography 

and image-clarifying software apps on smart 

phones and tablets can be used in real time by 

contemporary scientists to creatively document 

and communicate findings even on remote, 

uninhabited islands (Figure 1). Nevertheless, 

as suggested by Carlson (2017), while digital 

imaging has profoundly expanded potentialities of 

scientific research, some capabilities provided by 

traditional illustration procedures may be lost due 

to “distortions and visual limitations that single-

perspective (i.e., digital or photographic) imagery 

produces…revert[ing] the visual representation of 

data back to uninformed, surficial ‘snapshots’ of 

incomplete objects” (p. 269). 

References

Aloi, G.  2019.  About this book.  In: A. Giovanni [ed], 

Why look at plants? The botanical emergence in con-

temporary art, xx-xxv.  Brill Rodopi, Boston, Massa-

chusetts, USA.
Black, S. 2019.  Boundary plants.  In: A. Giovanni 

[ed.],  Why look at plants? The botanical emergence 

in contemporary art, 221–224.  Brill Rodopi, Boston, 

Massachusetts, USA.
Brochmann, C., and A. K. Brysting.  2010. The  

Arctic – an evolutionary freezer?  Plant Ecology and 

Diversity 1: 181–195. 
Brochmann, C., A. K. Brysting, I.G. Alsos, L. Borgen, 

H. H. Grundt, A.-C Scheen, and R. Elven.  2004. Poly-

ploidy in arctic plants.  Biological Journal of the Lin-

nean Society 82: 621–536.  
Carlson, E. S.  2017.  Representation and structure con-

flict in the digital age: Reassessing archaeological il-

lustration and the use of Cubist techniques in depicting 

images of the past.  Advances in Archeological Prac-

tice 2: 269-284.   
Daston, L., and K. Park. 1998. Wonders and the Order 

of Nature. Zone Books, New York, New York, USA.
Ebbert, S. E., and J. V. Byrd.  2002. Eradications of 

invasive species to restore natural biological diversity 

on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In: C. 

R. Veitch, and M. N. Clout [eds],  Turning the tide: 

The eradication of invasive species, 102–109. IUCN 

SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, 

Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 
ESA (Entomological Society of America). 2023. 

Spongy Moth Transition Toolkit.  ESA website: 

Spongy Moth Transition Toolkit | Entomological So-

ciety of America (entsoc.org) [accessed 1 September 

2023].

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Fessenden, M.  2015.  Don’t freak out over the 

funky  flowers  that  appeared  near  Fukushima  [on-

line].  Smithsonian Magazine July 24, 2015. Website: 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dont-

freak-out-over-funky-flowers-appeared-near-fukushi-

ma-180956021/ [accessed 1 March 2023].
Iliev, I., and P. Kitin.  2011.  Origin, morphology, and 

anatomy of fasciation in plants cultured in vivo and in 

vitro.  Plant Growth Regulation 63: 115–129. 
Jones, R. D., and J. V. Byrd. 1979. Interrelations be-

tween seabirds and introduced animals. In: J. C. Bar-

tonek and D. N. Nettleship [eds], Conservation of ma-

rine birds of northern North America, 221–226. U. S. 

Department of Interior, Washington D.C., USA.
McAleer, J., and N. Rigby. 2017.  Captain Cook and 

the Pacific: Art, exploration and empire.  Yale Univer-

sity Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Mulligan, G. A. 1958. Chromosome races in the Chry-

santhemum leucanthemum complex. Rhodora 60: 

122–125.
Mulligan, G. A. 1968. Diploid and tetraploid chromo-

some races of Chrysanthemum leucanthemum L. s.l. 

Naturaliste Canadien  95: 793–795.

Pauly, P. 1996.  The beauty and menace of the Japanese 

cherry trees: Conflicting visions of American ecologi-

cal independence. Isis 87: 51–73.
Plato. 1952. Phaedrus. Cambridge University Press. 

Cambridge, UK.
Roskov, Y. R., L. Abucay, T. Orrell, D. Nicolson, N. 

Bailly, P. M. Kirk, T. Bourgoin, et al. [eds]. 2018. 

Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 2018 Annual 

Checklist, Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands. 
Stejneger, L. 1936. Georg Wilhelm Steller: The pioneer 

of Alaskan natural history. Harvard University Press, 

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  
Stutz, S., P. Mraz, H. L. Hinz, H. Muller-Scharer, and 

U. Schaffner. 2018. Biological invasion of oxeye daisy 

(Leucanthemum vulgare) in North America:  Pre-adap-

tation, post-introduction evolution, or both?  PLoS One 

13: e0190705.  
Zielinski, S. 2011. Are humans an invasive species? 

[online]. Smithsonian Magazine, January 31, 2011. 

Website:  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-

nature/are-humans-an-invasive-species-42999965/ 

[accessed 15 March 2023].

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Karen L. Wellner

Chandler-Gilbert Community College 

2626 E. Pecos Road 

Chandler, AZ 85225 

karen.wellner@cgc.edu 

Scientific Knowledge, Artistic  

Creativity and Pedagogical Reform: 

The Botanical Wall Chart

Type the phrase “vintage botanical wallchart” 

into your browser and a plethora of old-style, 

poster-sized plant illustrations appear. A closer 

look will reveal original botany wallcharts 

from the late 1800s selling for around $1500. 

Updated reprints from the 1960s command 

anywhere from $200 to $600. Far more money 

than one would have spent in 1969 when 

Carolina Biological sold the same charts for 

$5 (Carolina Biological Supply, 1969).
Regardless of their age, the wallcharts will 

show use: nicked corners, folds, taped repairs, 

and penciled notes around the edges. While 

the resurgence of interest in wallcharts centers 

on aesthetics, there is historical significance as 

well, because the botany wallchart represents 

an early blending of artistry, careful 

examination of plant morphology and life 

cycles, and teaching pedagogy.
Mainly designed and printed in Germany and 

France, wallcharts typically measured 34 × 

45 inches. Wooden dowels were inserted in a 

sleeve at the top and bottom of the chart and 

from the top roller, heavy string was attached 

to hang the wall chart. The instructor only 

needed to supply a nail. Botanical illustrator 

Heinrich Jung boasted that the size and quality 

of his wallcharts were of such high grade that 

all students could recognize his plants from 

any seat in the classroom (Bucchi, 1998). 
Wallcharts occupied a prominent position 

as curriculum aids from 1820 to about 1920 

(Bucchi, 1998). While many of them hung in 

classrooms and laboratories, other wallcharts 

helped popularize science in museums and 

public lectures. As an alternative way to 

view plants, W. Gardiner stated in his 1904 

book detailing the Botanical Museum of the 

University of Cambridge, “Wallcharts do much 

to decorate and liven the whole collection, 

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which might otherwise stand in some danger 

of being deadened and overweighted by the 

presence of many dried specimens” (Gardiner, 

1904). 
German charts were highly valued. There 

were few American-made wallcharts available 

in the late 1800s, and even with differences 

in plant species between the two countries, 

American botany departments seemed quite 

content with the German wallcharts, even if 

they were only accompanied with pamphlets 

written in a foreign language.
There are several reasons why botanical 

wallcharts proved so popular. First, improved 

printing techniques in the early 1800s resulted 

in high-quality color wallcharts at affordable 

prices. Germany became the market leader, 

especially in the late 1800s (Van der Schueren, 

2011).
Second, the expansion of European and 

American education systems during the 1800s 

led to more students in the biological sciences 

and natural history. Although the number 

of students grew, funds for microscopes, 

textbooks, and laboratory materials did not. 

Most botany departments could not afford 

microscopes for each student, but they could 

buy many different wallcharts for the price of 

one good scope. 
Third, with more students, visual aids became 

an important teaching tool. Educational 

specialists believed that students should 

see and handle objects to better develop an 

understanding of their world. Combining 

wallcharts and illustrations with lectures was 

considered more effective than passive learning 

by lecture only. Even though wallcharts were 

visual models and not real plants, education 

departments (and publishers) strongly 

advocated wall chart images to help with 

laboratory work.
One of the more popular botany wallchart 

series resulted from the collaborative work 

of Heinrich Jung, Gottlieb von Koch, 

and Friedrich Quentell (hereafter, J-K-Q 

wallcharts). Von Koch (1849-1914) was a 

natural historian, painter, assistant to artist 

and evolutionist Ernst Haeckel, and finally a 

biology professor in Darmstadt, Germany. His 

work  with  Haeckel  undoubtedly  influenced 

how von Koch drew plants as an ideal type 

(Figure 1). Unlike many detailed plant 

illustrations drawn by artists, plant drawings 

for educational purposes were manipulated 

to create an average view of the specimen 

(Fletcher, 2017). The drawings removed 

imperfections  and  simplified  tiny  anatomic 

details. The result was a montage of flowering 

plants with an aesthetic appeal (Laurent, 

2016).
With von Koch as illustrator, and Quentell 

and Jung acting as authors and colleagues, 

the three created an impressive number of 

botanical illustrations for their 1902 book, 

Neuen Wandtafeln für den Unterricht in 

der Naturgeschichte (New Wall Charts for 

Teaching Natural History). The illustrations 

were converted to large wallcharts by the 

Formmann and Morian publishing house 

in Darmstadt. Formmann and Morian went 

out of business after World War II, and 

Wilhelm and Marie Hagemann acquired the 

publishing rights of the J-K-Q wallcharts. The 

Hagemann Company in Düsseldorf updated 

and refreshed the J-K-Q charts but kept them 

stylistically true to the original wallcharts. 

The newer editions were made available in the 

1950s through the 1980s. 

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The J-K-Q wallcharts were unique due to von 

Koch’s use of a black background, much like a 

blackboard (wandtafel). Artistically, drawings 

of large and colorful plants with spacing 

between them provide contrast. Combining 

spacing with a black background creates more 

spatial depth, which makes it easier to see the 

plants from a distance. 
Wallcharts, however, were not without early 

controversy. Naturalists were torn about the 

purpose of wallcharts—were they simply 

visuals that provided an aesthetic appeal or 

was their purpose to help in the pursuit of 

botany proper? During the early- to mid-

1800s, some believed that the eye was the 

inlet to knowledge. With this view, botanical 

wallcharts would help govern learning. Others 

felt that the brain was the principal gatherer 

of knowledge and could best be aided with 

lectures.
Wallchart antagonists declared that charts, 

while pleasant to look at, were designed for 

superficial learning—too much visual pleasure 

took the place of rational learning by reading 

and thereby sparked no interest in botany as 

a profession. Proponents of wallcharts argued 

that the aim of visual materials was for 

students to build their observation skills for 

the scientific study of plants in the field and 

laboratory. This was also the opinion of many 

science promoters who gave public lectures 

(Secord, 2002).
English botanist Edwin Lee claimed in the 

Naturalist  in 1838 that potential naturalists 

were more apt to be led to the path of science 

by using attention-grabbing pictures (Lee, 

1838). In response, naturalist Peter Rylands 

argued that visuals of plants made students 

too dependent on them for classification 

and led to unscientific practice. Students, 

he argued, should use written descriptions 

that required knowledge about technical 

plant anatomy terminology. Once mastering 

this, good observation skills would follow 

(Rylands, 1838).
More in tune with good teaching practices, 

many botany instructors did not use wallcharts 

to strictly establish a “botany by pictures” 

course, but integrated illustrations with actual 

specimens. In addition, many instructors 

believed that mastering the technical terms 

associated with plants was made easier with 

Figure 1. Rye grass wall chart (Heinrich Jung, Gottlieb 

von Koch, and Friedrich Quentell) showing large and 

simplified plant drawings on one poster. Published by 

Hagemann, Düsseldorf, Germany, 1960s. [Author’s per-

sonal collection / Photo by author]

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wallcharts and other botany illustrations. 

By the late 1800s, most science departments 

placed pedagogical emphasis on visuals for 

student success (Bucchi, 1998).
Over time, wallcharts gave way to lantern 

slides, early versions of 35-mm acetate 

slides. The slides consisted of hand-painted 

images on a piece of large glass. The images 

were projected on a screen with the use of a 

magic lantern, the forerunner to the modern 

slide projector. Wallcharts, though, did not 

suddenly disappear. Wallcharts still held an 

advantage in that they were less expensive than 

slides. The German graphic arts workmanship 

continued to produce highly scientific visuals, 

and with many countries still recovering from 

WWI, educational institutions were seriously 

underfunded and stuck with their wallcharts.
Wallcharts also helped with laboratory 

work for an obvious reason: since lantern 

slide projection required a darkened room, 

students had trouble taking notes and could 

not review the slide at his or her own leisure 

(Noé, 1928). Large charts allowed students to 

compare what was seen in the microscope or 

dissecting tray to the chart image in a room 

filled with light.
American biological supply companies such as 

A. J. Nystrom and Denoyer-Geppert continued 

advertising J-K-Q charts in the 1950s and 

1960s. A Denoyer-Geppert advertisement in 

the American Biology Teacher in 1954 assured 

teachers that updated J-K-Q botany wallcharts 

were still available, with all charts providing 

“outstanding combinations of beauty and 

instructional effectiveness” (ABT, 1954). The 

eventual demise for botany wallcharts was the 

emergence of the overhead projector in the 

1960s. 

Today, wallcharts are collector’s items or still 

languishing in storage cabinets, long forgotten 

how they contributed to botany and the start 

of  Anschauungsunterricht–teaching through 

images.

References

ABT. 1954. Front Matter. The American Biology 
Teacher
 16: 99–100. 
Bucchi, M. 1998. Images of Science in the Classroom: 

Wall Charts and Science Education 1850-1920. The 
British Journal for the History of Science 31: 161-184.
Carolina Biological Supply. 1969. Biological Materi-

als 1969-1970. Carolina Biological Supply Company, 
Burlington, NC.
Fletcher, N. 2017. Botany on the Prairies: Dr. Regi-

nald Buller’s Botanical Wall Charts at the University 

of Manitoba. M.A. Thesis, University of Manitoba.
Gardiner, W. 1904. An Account of the Foundation and 

Re-establishment of the Botanical Museum of the Uni-

versity of Cambridge. Cambridge, England.
Laurent, A. 2016. The Botanical Wall Chart: Art from 

the Golden Age of Scientific Discovery. Octopus Pub-

lishing, London.
Lee, E. 1838. Observations on the popularity of natural 

history. Naturalist 3: 115-123.
Noé, A. C. 1928. The use of charts in the natural sci-

ences. Science 67: 571-574.
Rylands, P. 1838. On the use and abuse of plates of 

natural objects. Naturalist 4: 356-357.
Secord, A. 2002. Botany on a plate: Pleasure and the 

power of pictures in promoting early nineteenth-centu-

ry scientific knowledge. Isis 93: 28-57.
Van der Schueren, K. 2011. The Art of Instruction: 

Vintage Educational Charts from the 19th and 20th 

Centuries, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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15

From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

 

Dornith Doherty

Alejandra Vasco

Tiana F. Rehman

Ana Niño

 and 

 

Kimberlie Sasan

2,3

1

 College of Visual Arts + Design, University of North Texas, 

1155 Union Circle #305100, Denton, TX 76203, USA

2

 Botanical Research Institute of Texas at the Fort Worth 

Botanic Garden, 1700 University Dr., Ft. Worth, TX 76107, USA

3

 Author for correspondence: ksasan@fwbg.org

Illuminations: Past, Present, and 

Future of Fern Research

This article is about a tripartite environmental 

art exhibition is emerging from a research-based 

creative collaboration between Dornith Doherty, 

artist and professor at the University of North 

Texas; Dr. Alejandra Vasco, Research Botanist; 

Ana Niño, Librarian; and Tiana Rehman, 

Herbarium Director, at the Botanical Research 

Institute of Texas (BRIT) at the Fort Worth 

Botanic Garden (FWBG). This paper describes the 

installed artworks and reflects on the experiences 

of developing and presenting an integrated arts-

science exhibition.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Illuminations was on view at BRIT from January 

through June 2023. Dornith Doherty was an artist 

affiliate with BRIT from July 2021 through January 

2023, and during her residency, she worked with 

Alejandra Vasco, Ana Niño, and Tiana Rehman 

to research primary source materials housed in 

the BRIT Library and Herbarium. In the resulting 

exhibition, Dornith presented new large-scale 

artworks installed in the BRIT Madeline R. 

Samples Exhibit Hall and throughout the BRIT 

Building. 
Accompanying the artworks were vitrines 

containing archival materials from the library, 

the herbarium, and the Ferns of Colombia 

project, a National Science Foundation–funded 

collaborative study of fern diversity in Colombia. 

The co-exhibition of new artworks alongside the 

primary research materials from which they were 

derived highlighted the remarkable, irreplaceable 

record of botanical diversity captured by the Ferns 

of Colombia field research and preserved for the 

future by the BRIT Library and Herbarium. 

The installation of the artworks onto windows 

and projections onto walls in the gallery and 

throughout the BRIT research building established 

visual proximity to original materials—prompting 

dialogue between scientific, archival, and artistic 

disciplines. The three sections of the exhibition 

can be divided into temporal themes: artworks 

that engage with the past, chronicle the present, 

and project our possible ecological futures.

Past

On the second floor facing the entrance to the 

BRIT Herbarium, large-scale transparencies (6.5 

feet high × 14 feet wide) were installed directly 

onto existing windows (Figure 1A). Dornith 

created these brilliantly colored digital collages by 

photographing diaphanized plant slides archived 

in the BRIT Herbarium and originally prepared 

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around 1956 by noted botanist and imaging 

specialist Dr. Howard Arnott (Figure 1B). Located 

along the corridor nearby are vitrines containing 

Arnott’s field journals, original diaphanized plant 

slides, and his graduate-level academic writings. 

This interdisciplinary presentation of artistic 

practice alongside scientific research materials 

prompts meditation on the material traces of 

botanical life from the microscopic details of 

individual leaves to the universal importance of 

preserving and studying the world’s plant diversity.

Present

Global biodiversity is threatened by climate change 

and accelerating habitat loss, and exceptionally 

diverse tropical regions are particularly 

vulnerable. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse 

countries on Earth, but knowledge about its 

biota is taxonomically biased, and many groups 

remain poorly understood. Ferns are one of these 

conspicuous but understudied groups; despite 

having the most species of any country in the 

Americas, Colombia lacks a complete fern flora, 

and most species remain poorly known.

As the Ferns of Colombia team co-led by 

Alejandra works in the field, specimens are 

collected and pressed between sheets of 

newspapers and archived to be further studied 

in the BRIT Herbarium. Inspired by the poetic 

possibilities of the chance juxtapositions created 

when diverse ferns are pressed to dry on top of the 

daily news of Colombia, Dornith created artworks 

that mingle the cultural and natural histories of 

Colombia—chronicling the present time of urgent 

plant discovery in an era of declining biodiversity, 

political instability, and the longing for peace. 

More than 100 of these plant/news time capsules 

were illuminated with light boxes, photographed, 

and digitally edited, rendering the dried ferns 

into ghostly blue silhouettes floating above the 

background of contemporaneous news to create 

the 12 final artworks included in the exhibition 

(Figure 2). Some of the artworks highlight species 

not described by science and species not collected 

in over 150 years in one of the most diverse 

areas on Earth. The bilingual presentation of all 

exhibition materials in English and Spanish invited 

cross-cultural dialogue and connections between 

art, science, culture, and technology, through 

multilingual lectures, social media interactions, 

and tours. 

Figure 1. (A) Anthenaeum, Dornith Doherty (2023), translucent artwork installed onto alcove windows with Dornith Doherty 

(left) and Ana Niño (right) in the foreground. (B) Diaphanized plant slide made by Dr. Howard Arnott.

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Future

Completing the tripartite exhibition was a digital 

animation Dornith created from DNA sequences 

and specimen silhouettes from the Ferns of 

Colombia project. The genomic data (DNA 

sequences) that the Ferns of Colombia team is 

generating are critical for resolving taxonomic 

problems and placing Colombian fern diversity in 

an evolutionary context. These data are currently 

unavailable for most of Colombia’s fern species. 

The animation created by Dornith was projected 

onto the exterior of the BRIT building, identifying 

the building as a site of specimen-focused cutting-

edge research while proposing a future in which 

ecosystem rescue and revival is possible through 

equitable sharing of knowledge (Figure 3A). 
By displaying artworks through three distinct 

methods, the exhibition offered audiences 

different paths of engagement with the nature 

and complexities of botanical research and 

preservation—inviting guests to explore spaces 

in the building normally only occupied by 

researchers. 

OUTREACH

Initially, discussions about the intended audience 

were generalized to FWBG visitors, school 

students, and invited guests attending the opening 

reception, consisting of family, friends, botanists, 

and business associates of the collaborators. An 

estimated 250 to 300 in-person visitors were 

expected to view the exhibit. There were two 

main challenges to reaching a broad audience in 

this research space: weekend closures, and the 

tendency for Garden guests to overlook a visit to 

the BRIT building. Outreach efforts included an 

exhibition brochure and invitation card, YouTube 

videos, social media posts, group and self-guided 

tours, and two special gallery events: an opening 

reception and participation in a city-wide 

Spring Gallery Night (Fort Worth Art Dealers 

Association, 2023).
A panel discussion was held during the 

opening reception where the four collaborators 

discussed their experiences in developing this 

Figure 2. (A) Parablechnum lechleri | Preparing for the Future, Dornith Doherty (2023). (B) Fern specimen collected 

by the Ferns of Colombia project in the artist’s portable digitization studio.

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science-art collaboration (Figure 3B). The 

discussion was organized by BRIT Librarian 

Ana Niño and is available to view on the FWBG 

YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=QLEYprXqubA). 
More than 400 guests physically visited the 

exhibition, of which more than 140 attended 

the opening reception and panel discussion. In 

addition, an online lecture about the exhibition 

was viewed by 100 people; the exhibition 

received reviews in magazines (e.g., PaperCity, 

Madeworthy, and Patron); and social media posts 

(both from personal and institutional accounts) 

reached over 8000 impressions.
Audience feedback has been of the highest praise.  

The guestbook is filled with comments like 

“Wonderful exhibit, beautiful work” and “I love 

the pieces – all the interplay of elements!”  Visitors 

and colleagues alike have also shared many 

kind words with collaborators. The exhibition is 

documented on the FWBG website (fwbg.org/

events/illuminations-fern/), the Ferns of Colombia 

website (fernsofcolombia.com), and the artist’s 

website (dornithdoherty.com). 

Figure 3. (A) Ferns of Colombia, Dornith Doherty (2023), digital animation projected onto the exterior of the BRIT 

building. (B) Panel discussion during opening night. 

REFLECTIONS

 

 

Dornith Doherty 

 

Artist and Photography  

Professor

This project was made possible by the professional 

and personal generosity of my collaborators at 

BRIT. Their openness to collaboration allowed 

me to construct a small temporary studio in the 

herbarium and access to the Ferns of Colombia 

specimens, the mounted glass scientific slides in 

the herbarium, and the archival materials in the 

library. Casual lunch meetings filled with open-

ended conversation facilitated reflection and 

resulted in a fertile collaborative environment. 
I spent several months researching and 

photographing unaccessioned specimens in the 

herbarium and then worked with those digital files 

to create collages and animations in my studio. 

Ferns were the dominant lineage of vascular 

plants on Earth for millions of years before seed-

bearing plants became the most diverse and 

common plants in most ecosystems. As such, 

ferns have evolved remarkable adaptations to 

extreme conditions. Their resilience in the face of 

environmental change, and the hope that resilience 

inspires, became a key metaphor for my project.    

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The biggest challenge I faced was the elimination 

of the gallery program at BRIT and the departure 

of the curator. This placed extra communication, 

budgetary, and planning responsibilities on my 

collaborators. A few exhibition ideas were not 

possible because the BRIT gallery space was used 

for private rental events. 
The limitations related to the use of the gallery 

space led me to create artistic interventions 

throughout the building, which included the data 

animation projection onto the exterior of the 

building and the installation of the transparent 

collages onto the windows. This resulted in a 

more dynamic exhibition, which was a positive 

experience.

Alejandra Vasco

  

Research Botanist and Fern  

Program Leader at BRIT

The exhibition started as an exploration by 

Dornith of the botanical artifacts at the BRIT 

Herbarium and Library. She wanted to speak to the 

researchers who use these collections, and soon 

enough, our interactions and our fern research 

wound up inspiring the Present and Future 

parts of the exhibition. After arriving from the 

NSF-funded Ferns of Colombia field expeditions, 

Dornith and I would meet over lunch, and I 

would share experiences about field work, the 

many intriguing specimens collected, the forests, 

the food, the researchers and students, and the 

struggles of the people living and preserving their 

territories. These lunches catalyzed ideas on how 

art could tell the story of research and botanical 

preservation, while conveying the urgency of 

studying these ecosystems and species in the face 

of biodiversity loss and climate change. 
It was a delight to interact with Dornith. She is 

fascinated and curious about the work researchers 

do to document and preserve biodiversity. 

It was mesmerizing to see how the Ferns of 

Colombia stories and herbarium specimens were 

transformed through Dornith’s artworks and to 

learn from the many different layers and meanings 

physical artifacts of biodiversity preservation have. 

During the discussion we had at the exhibition 

opening, I also found it interesting how Dornith’s 

artworks allowed the public to open up and be 

more comfortable asking questions not only about 

the art, but also about the science, the collections, 

and research in the tropics.

Tiana Rehman

  

Herbarium Director

Herbaria protect specimens that serve as the 

foundation for investigation across spatial and 

temporal scales, whose stories are activated by 

their users. Dornith’s respectful approach to the 

collections quickly established a relationship 

of trust, allowing her freedom to explore our 

unaccessioned holdings and uncover her own 

stories. We were habituated to the sight of 

Dornith’s changing studio set-up in the herbarium, 

sharing our delight over her discoveries at 

our bilingual lunches. Initially, we shared big 

ideas for communicating the value of natural 

history collections to our community through 

an exhibition that reached across FWBG spaces, 

and although logistical and budgetary restraints 

limited our reach to the interior/exterior spaces 

of the BRIT building, the exhibition allowed us to 

engage new guests with our collections. 
Dornith drew attention to the beauty and utility of 

our legacy collections through the Past showcase 

of the Howard Arnott microscope slides collection, 

whose acquisition itself was a race against time 

(acquisition from garage storage, post-collector 

retirement). The contrast of all the data, images, 

and insight into contemporary botanical research, 

with the more investigative work it took to 

recreate these connections for the Past portion 

of the exhibit, was particularly illuminating. The 

concept of the ‘extended specimen’ (Webster, 2017; 

Lendemer et al., 2020) connects a single specimen 

with other related existing and yet-to-be-created 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

images, data, analyses, and object resources, 

allowing us a more complete understanding of 

organisms and their biological communities. 

Dornith’s careful documentation of the specimen 

origin of these art derivatives adds another layer 

to our understanding of these specimens and the 

social context in which they were collected.

Kimberlie Sasan

  

BRIT Research Assistant

Would we do it again? I certainly hope we would 

and use what we learned to make the next 

exhibition even better, but there is something 

special about pulling together and blazing new 

trails through the unknown. I remember how it 

taxed each of us beyond our expectations, and 

how that might make us hesitant to go into such 

a project again. Yet, the bond between the artist, 

researchers, and librarian is stronger for having 

had those challenges and overcome them.  I 

think they each gained personally more than 

the organization did.  As an audience member, I 

still reflect on the images of the art and how they 

humanize the work I do at BRIT every day.   I 

contemplate the fern specimens I touch being in 

newspapers printed and read by Colombians, and 

together how we are rescuing ferns, and with them 

important ecosystems, without even knowing 

each other.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This exhibit received funding from the Ferns of 

Colombia NSF grant (Division of Environmental 

Biology 2045319), and a Scholarly and Creative 

Activity Award from the College of Visual Arts 

and Design, University of North Texas. We 

also acknowledge funding from the Library, 

Herbarium, and Education department of the 

Botanical Research Institute of Texas at the Fort 

Worth Botanic Garden.

REFERENCES

Fort Worth Art Dealers Association. 25 March 2023. 

Spring Gallery Guide.(online). Website:

 https://fwa-

da.files.wordpress.com/2023/03/fwada-spring-gallery-
night-2023_brochure_final_webres-1.pdf

 [accessed 15 

May 2023].
Lendemer, J., B. Thiers, A. K. Monfils, J. Zaspel, E. 

R. Ellwood, A. Bentley, K. Levan, K., et al. 2020. The 

extended specimen network: A strategy to enhance US 

biodiversity collections, promote research and educa-

tion. BioScience 70: 23– 30. 
Webster, M. S. [ed. 2017. The Extended specimen: 

Emerging frontiers in collections-based ornithological 

research. CRC Press.

Other Sources

Dabney, C. 26 February 2023. Fort Worth’s World 

Class Botanical Research Institute Uses Plant Art to 

Tell a Striking Story of Species Loss: Artist Dornith 

Doherty and Renowned Researchers Come Together. 

PaperCity. Website: https://www.papercitymag.com/

arts/botanical-research-institute-texas-fort-worth-

showcases-dorinth-doherty-art/.
“The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Is Illuminating Fern 

Research.” 10 February 2023. Madeworthy Magazine.  

Website:  https://tanglewoodmoms.com/community-

news/the-fort-worth-botanic-garden-is-illuminating-

fern-research
Patron Magazine. 23 February 2023. The Past Present, 

and Future of Ferns with Dornith Doherty. Website: 

https://patronmagazine.com/the-past-present-and-fu-

ture-of-ferns-with-dornith-doherty/

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21

From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The Four Noble Ones: Significant Cultural 

Elements Bridging Chinese Painting 

and Botanical Sciences

Shengchen Shan

1,3

  

Abigail T. Uehling

1,2,3

1

 Florida Museum of Natural History, University of 

Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.

Department of Biology, University of Florida, 

Gainesville, FL, United States.

Authors for correspondence: Shengchen Shan 

(shan158538@ufl.edu); Abigail T. Uehling (aueh-

ling@ufl.edu

Plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and 

chrysanthemum come together to form the Four 

Noble Ones (also known as the Four Gentlemen; 

Chinese: 

 

四君子

). These four plants symbolize the 

ideal virtues of a person: perseverance, nobility, 

righteousness, and humility. The prominent use 

of these plants in art forms, including poetry, 

literature, and painting, emphasizes their 

importance in Chinese and East Asian cultures. 

In addition to their use in art, the Four Noble 

Ones serve important roles in other avenues of 

daily life, such as medicine, building materials, 

and traditional cuisine. The Four Noble Ones 

represent an excellent example of bridging art and 

botany, and they emphasize the significant role 

of plants in people’s spiritual life and well-being. 

In this essay, we focus on the Four Noble Ones 

as recurrent botanical subjects in Chinese brush 

painting, discuss their cultural significance and 

importance in everyday life as well as efforts to 

understand and preserve the biodiversity of these 

taxa.

THE FOUR NOBLE ONES IN  

CHINESE BRUSH PAINTING

Illustrations of the Four Noble Ones belong to 

bird-and-flower painting, a genre that originated 

in the Tang dynasty (618–907), reached its peak 

in the Song dynasty (960–1279), and continues to 

flourish in the present day. The Four Noble Ones 

are depicted in two main styles: gongbi (

工笔

; i.e., 

detailed painting) and xieyi (

写意

; i.e., freestyle 

painting).
Gongbi uses highly detailed brush strokes and is 

often colored. Painting plants in gongbi-style is 

similar to that of western botanical drawings, in 

that they closely resemble the real morphology of 

a plant. Figure 1a shows a gongbi-style painting 

of a plum branch by Ma Lin (1195–1264). Given 

the detailed depiction, the cultivar of the plum 

is presumed to be ‘green calyx’. Figure 1b shows 

Ma Lin’s painting of orchid, species Cymbidium 

faberi. Figure 1c, titled “Finches and Bamboo” 

by Emperor Huizong of Song (1082–1135), 

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showcases the meticulous style of bird-and-flower 

painting. “A Cluster of Chrysanthemums” by an 

anonymous artist from the Yuan dynasty (1271–

1368) is shown in Figure 1d; the cultivar names 

are noted in the painting, emphasizing the realistic 

appearance of plants painted.

Xieyi emphasizes the spiritual aspect of the subject 

and often uses monochrome brushstrokes. A 

painting done in the xieyi-style may represent an 

abstract idea. The plum painting by Wang Mian 

(1287–1359) depicts petals using dark ink (Figure 

2a); Wang believed that the omission of color 

exalts the purity of the plum blossom. Figure 2b 

shows a xieyi-style painting of orchid by Zheng 

Figure 1 Gongbi-style paintings of the Four Noble Ones. (a) Plum blossom by Ma Lin; (b) orchid by Ma Lin; (c) 

“Finches and Bamboo” by Emperor Huizong of Song; (d) “A Cluster of Chrysanthemums” by an anonymous artist 

from Yuan dynasty. Image credits: (a) The Palace Museum (Beijing); (b) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

(C. C. Wang Family Collection); (c) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (John M. Crawford Jr. Collection); 

(d) the National Palace Museum (Taipei).

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

Sixiao (1241–1318); Zheng used a rootless plant 

to symbolize the unjust appropriation of his 

homeland’s territory. “Bamboo in Monochrome 

Ink” by Wen Tong (1018–1079) is shown in 

Figure 2c. Wen invented the genre of ink bamboo 

painting and used light and dark ink tones to 

distinguish two leaf sides. Figure 2d shows the ink 

chrysanthemum by Shen Zhou (1427–1507); the 

ink tonal variations impart a sense of weathered 

crispness to the blossoms.

Plum Blossom

Plum (Prunus mume; Rosaceae), also known 

as  mei  (

), is a small deciduous tree native to 

China that has been cultivated for more than 3000 

years (Li and Liu, 2011; Zhang et al., 2012). The 

flowers are white, pink, or red, and bloom during 

late winter and early spring. Mei’s resistance to 

cold weather resembles a person’s perseverance 

(Bickford, 1985). An influential contribution to 

the history of mei painting is the invention of the 

Figure 2. Xieyi-style paintings of the Four Noble Ones. (a) Ink plum by Wang Mian; (b) orchid by Zheng Sixiao; (c) 

“Bamboo in Monochrome Ink” by Wen Tong; (d) chrysanthemum by Shen Zhou. Image credits: (a) The Palace Mu-

seum (Beijing); (b) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/  File:Zheng_Sixiao_-_Orchid_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg; 

(c-d) the National Palace Museum (Taipei).

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“ink plum” style (an example is shown in Figure 

2a). The ink tonal variation captures the nuances 

of color, making “ink plum” highly favored 

among the scholar-official class (Bickford, 1996). 

In addition to its ornamental values, mei was 

cultivated for fruit harvesting. The common mei 

products include mei wine, salted mei, and mei 

jam (Li and Liu, 2011).
The dedicated efforts to breed plum trees 

contribute to the proliferation of mei cultivars. 

Mei Treatise by Fan (1186)—the first monograph 

of mei in China—noted 10 cultivars. As of 2011, 

there are 381 internationally registered cultivars 

(Li and Liu, 2011). Recent molecular studies 

revealed plum’s diversity and the genetic basis 

underlying its hardy character. The genetic 

relationships among mei cultivars were evaluated 

using molecular markers (Fang et al., 2006). 

Zhang et al. (2012) sequenced the genome of 

Prunus mume and identified genes contributing to 

early dormancy release. Transgenic tobacco plants 

expressing the P. mume dehydrin genes showed 

enhanced tolerance to cold and drought (Bao et 

al., 2017).
Mei gardens exemplify efforts to conserve plum 

trees in China. Meihua Hill, located in Nanjing, 

covers over 100 hectares and contains more than 

40,000 plum trees of over 300 cultivars (Li and Liu, 

2011). Meihua Hill is also renowned for hosting 

the International Plum Blossom Festival. The East 

Lake Mei Garden in Wuhan contains over 200 mei 

cultivars and is home to the Mei Flower Research 

Center of China and the National Mei Flower 

Germplasm Conservation Garden (Li and Liu, 

2011).

Orchid

The genus Cymbidium of the family Orchidaceae 

includes approximately 80 species of orchids, 

which are mainly distributed in the subtropical 

and tropical regions of Asia and northern 

Australia (Zhang et al., 2021). Flora of China 

recorded 49 species, including 19 endemic 

species, in China (eFloras, 2008). Many species 

have been cultivated as ornamentals for centuries, 

including  C. ensifloium,  C. goeringii,  C. sinense

and C. torisepalum. Nowadays, Cymbidium plays 

an important role in the global orchid market 

(Yuan et al., 2021).
Orchid represents nobility in Chinese culture (Siu, 

2018). The plants grow in the remote forest and 

valley, where the flower is known for a pleasant 

fragrance. Confucius (551–479 BC) believed that 

the characteristics of orchids resemble a noble 

person’s self-cultivation, who will not abandon 

moral principles even in destitution (Siu, 2018). 

Orchid became an independent subject of Chinese 

brush painting during the Song dynasty, when 

gongbi-style was prevalent. Following the Mongol 

conquest of the Song, China entered a turbulent 

period (1235–1279). Many scholars refused to 

serve in the new regime, and painting of “ink 

orchid” became a metaphor for their loyalty and 

patriotism.
Recent genetic studies of Cymbidium have used 

various markers to understand the diversity 

of orchid cultivars (Huang et al., 2010). The 

molecular mechanisms of leaf color variation and 

floral development have been studied (Yu et al., 

2020; Yang et al., 2022). Two main approaches, 

in-situ and ex-situ conservation, have been used 

to preserve Cymbidium  diversity in China. By 

2018, over 2750 nature reserves were established 

throughout China, many renowned for their 

rich orchid diversity (Zhou et al., 2021). For 

example, C. elegansC. hookerianumC. tigrinum

and  C. tracyanum are protected in situ at the 

Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve, and C. 

nanulum at the Yachang Orchid National Nature 

Reserve. Several botanical gardens in China, 

including Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical 

Garden and Kunming Botanical Garden, are well 

known for their ex-situ efforts to conserve orchids 

outside their natural areas. Of the 51 Cymbidium 

species surveyed by Liu et al. (2020), 43 are 

protected in botanical gardens.

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Bamboo

Bamboo, which makes up the subfamily 

Bambusoideae of the grass family (Poaceae), 

symbolizes righteousness and humility among the 

Four Noble Ones (Lai, 2012; Cheng, 2020). Bamboo 

originated in southeast Asia, but it is common 

across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. There 

are currently more than 1400 recognized species 

of bamboo (Kelchner and Bamboo Phylogeny 

Group, 2013). Bamboo is a cosmopolitan group, 

with many species that have been able to adapt to 

new environments (Yang et al., 2008). Although 

the appearance of bamboo in painting may be hard 

to date exactly, Wang (1948) suggests that bamboo 

first shows up in the background of religious icons 

and figure paintings. Early depictions of bamboo 

outline the leaves and stems of the plant with 

occasional added color, while later styles painted 

stems and leaves with ink but no outline (Wang, 

1948).
Bamboo is valued in people’s daily lives because 

of its strength and flexibility, as well as its 

quick growing cycle (Dlamini et al., 2021). It 

is also a useful socioeconomic resource across 

many countries in Asia, serving as food and 

providing building material for structures such 

as scaffolding, bridges, and buildings, as well as 

being used to make instruments and utensils 

(Yang et al., 2004; Mera and Xu, 2014). Bamboo 

has become a popular subject of materials science 

research, because scientists are exploring bamboo 

composites as an alternative to wood (Nkeuwa et 

al., 2022). Xuan paper, made from bamboo pulp, is 

popularly used for calligraphy and painting (Yang 

et al., 2008). In addition to the many resources 

provided by bamboo, it has a long history of being 

used as part of classical Chinese gardens, and it 

was first recorded as being an essential part of the 

early Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) gardens (Yun, 

2014).

The depletion of bamboo resources has led to both 

ex-situ and in-situ conservation efforts. Bamboo 

gardens, as well as the establishment of reserves 

such as the Natural Reserve in Xishuangbanna, 

are in-situ approaches to conserving native 

species in their natural habitats (Yang et al., 2008). 

Because of its extensive rhizome system and rapid 

growth, bamboo conservation in these areas also 

provides many ecological benefits, including 

erosion prevention, carbon sequestration, water 

conservation, and use as windbreaks (Song et al., 

2011; Tardio et al., 2018; Dlamini et al., 2021). 

Botanical gardens such as Zhejiang Bamboo 

Botanic Garden, Bamboo Garden of Fuzhou 

Arboretum, and Xishuangbanna Tropical 

Botanical Gardens are ex-situ efforts to conserve 

biodiversity (Yang et al., 2008).

Chrysanthemum

Inflorescences from the genus Chrysanthemum 

(Asteraceae) are considered a symbol of nobility, 

due to their ability to bloom in chilly autumn 

weather (Shahrajabian et al., 2019). There are 

approximately 40 species (Liu et al., 2012).

 

In 

ancient China, they were also often associated 

with the poet Tao Yuanming (365–427), who was 

known to have a small garden of chrysanthemums 

and was frequently painted with blooms in his 

hand (Yuan, 2009).

This genus is native to China and was first 

cultivated in the 15th century BC as an herb 

before cultivation of the wild Chrysanthemum 

morifolium first took off during the Ming (1368–

1644) and Qing (1636–1912) dynasties (Imtiaz et 

al., 2019; Yuan et al., 2020). It has since served as 

an important component of traditional Chinese 

medicine for the past 2200 years and has been 

used for the treatment of fever, headache, sore 

throat, and many other common ailments (Yuan 

et al., 2020; Hao et al., 2022). The flower head of C. 

morifolium has been used as a dietary supplement 

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for thousands of years in China, most popularly as 

tea but also in wine, cakes, and other dishes (Yuan 

et al., 2020).
Chrysanthemum’s popularity eventually led 

it to dominate the horticulture market as the 

second most important floriculture crop after 

rose (Shinoyama et al., 2012). Chrysanthemum 

breeding has led to many varieties and eight main 

cultivars with different geographic origins (Liu 

et al., 2012; Hao et al., 2022). Increasing market 

demands for new varieties have led to improved 

breeding techniques that alter features such as floret 

number, petal size, and floral organ (Su et al., 2019). 

The worldwide popularity of chrysanthemums 

in the floral industry has motivated scientists to 

better understand the genetic diversity of cultivars 

to promote conservation. Breeders have also tried 

to determine cultivars that are least susceptible to 

white rust, caused by the fungus Puccinia horiana, 

which can easily spread if not contained quickly 

(Lu et al., 2018). Efforts to conserve genetic 

resources and optimize production systems can 

also help promote environmentally friendly 

horticulture practices (Zhao et al., 2009).

CONCLUSIONS

The Four Noble Ones are cherished botanical 

subjects of traditional Chinese brush painting 

that offer insight into the cultural significance of 

these four plants in China, as well as many other 

Asian countries. Through the use of both gongbi 

and  xieyi painting styles, artists honor the Four 

Noble Ones and the ideal values they represent, in 

addition to the many roles they serve in everyday 

lives. Modern efforts to conserve the diversity of 

these plants take many forms. We hope this essay 

has conveyed a meaningful example of the deep 

connection between art and botany in Chinese 

culture. 

Acknowledgments

The authors thank the National Palace Museum 

(Taipei), The Palace Museum (Beijing), and The 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (John M. 

Crawford Jr. Collection and C. C. Wang Family 

Collection) for their permissions to reproduce 

images.

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29

From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Art Is Not Only About Flowers: 

Ferns as a Source of  

Inspiration for Artists

FERNTASTIC PLANTS

Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Monet’s water lilies, 

Tarsila do Amaral’s manacs, and a whole host of 

other flowering plants have been and continue to 

be a huge source of inspiration for artwork around 

the world. But artists cannot live on flowers alone. 

Ferns were the inspiration for the sculptures and 

photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932), a 

German artist whose organic ornaments heavily 

influenced the world of art and design. The beauty 

of ferns was also captured in a breathtaking series 

of photographs by Italian photographer Paolo 

Marcelo G. Santos

Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Facul-

dade de Formação de Professores, Laboratório de 

Biodiversidade.  Rua Dr. Francisco Portela, 1470, 

Patronato, São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 

CEP 24435-005

Email: marceloguerrasantos@gmail.com 

Monti (1908–1982) titled “Astratte Felci e Foglie” 

(Abstract Ferns and Leaves), and the beautiful 

mosaic “Mosaiksupraporte Farnkraut” (Fern herb 

mosaic overhangs) by Ernst Paar (1953/1954) in a 

housing complex in Vienna, Austria. These are just 

some examples of fern-inspired artistic expression 

around the world. 
Ferns also play a central role in the culture and 

artistic expression of the Maori, the indigenous 

Polynesian people of New Zealand (Figure 1). Their 

word for the spiral shape of young unfurling fern 

fronds is “koru” and holds immense symbolism in 

their culture. 
Although there are many interpretations of the 

meaning of “koru,” Henry and Pene (2001) wrote 

that the basic beliefs at the heart of “koru” revolve 

around “Io, The Supreme Being or origin of all life, 

from which came Papatuanuku, the earth mother 

and Ranginui, the sky father….
This essay highlights two artworks inspired by 

ferns—plants that are often overlooked in favor 

of their flower-bearing counterparts. However, 

art inspired by these plants goes beyond paintings 

to include objects, sculptures, photographs, and 

representation in buildings in which they appear. 

This subject is vast and will not be exhausted here. 

Against a backdrop of the arts, my goal is to evoke 

a more poetic perception of ferns that inspires the 

adoration these ferntastic plants deserve. 

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CRAZY ABOUT FERNS!

The Victorian Era, as the reign of Queen Victoria 

of England is known (1837–1901), was marked 

by so-called “fern fever” or pteridomania, an 

obsession with collecting and growing ferns and 

owning objects with pictures of them (Duggins, 

2015). “The Fern Gatherer” (1877), painted by 

Charles Sillem Lidderdale (1830–1895) (Figure 2), 

epitomizes this era when fascination for all things 

fern reigned. 
Are ferns still glamorous? According to 

McCulloch-Jones et al. (2021), there is still a 

large commercial market for ornamental ferns 

Figure 1. Image taken from page 109 of “Illustrations prepared 

for White’s Ancient History of the Maori”, 1891. The British 

Library, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

from Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, with an 

estimated annual commercial value of US$150 to 

300 million!

FERN FLOWER POWER

The fact that ferns have no flowers or seeds confused 

their first observers, who invented a myriad of, 

at times highly unlikely, stories to explain the 

biology of these plants, especially in European 

countries. In these tales, ferns’ flowers and seeds 

could only be seen and gathered on certain special 

occasions and anyone who possessed them would 

be blessed with supernatural powers, invisibility, 

extraordinary strength, and wisdom (May, 1978).

Figure 2. The Fern Gatherer, 1877. Charles Sillem Lidderdale. 

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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According to the Polish legend “Fern Flower,” wild 

ferns produce magical flowers on the evening of the 

summer solstice. This popular belief is ubiquitous 

in paintings and illustrations in adult and 

children’s books across Poland. It was depicted in 

the paintings “Kwiat paproci” (Fern Flower, 1900; 

Figure 3) by Antoni Piotrowski (1853–1924) and 

“Saint John’s Eve” (1875) by Witold Pruszkowski 

(1846–1896), among others.
Plant reproduction remains a difficult subject 

to understand in botany teaching and scientific 

divulgation, largely because of the challenges 

involved in observing plant phenomena and the 

complexity of the terminology (Barbosa et al., 

2021). I often hear my students say, “Professor, I 

always thought those little brown balls (sori) on 

fern leaves were fungi or a disease....” 

BUILDING BRIDGES

The

 

art discussed here can lay the groundwork 

for dialogue between art, culture, and botany 

and two pertinent themes: namely botanical 

imperception and plant reproduction. In the first 

case, depending on time and space, imperception 

can be accentuated in plants such as ferns, which 

are often overlooked. Lidderdale’s painting “The 

Fern Gatherer” reflects a time in European history 

when ferns were revered. In contemplating this 

work of art, our thoughts travel to other peoples 

who have ferns engrained in their culture, such as 

the Maori, and we are enthralled by the captivating 

beauty of these plants and learn to admire them. 

In terms of fern reproduction, their lack of 

flowers, fruits, and seeds still confuses people, 

who find it difficult to establish parallels with 

plants that have these structures. Piotrowski’s 

“Kwiat paproci” (Fern Flower) depicts a cultural 

perception of ferns inspired by popular legends 

that emerged at a time when little was known 

about the reproductive biology of ferns, especially 

among laypeople. At the time, their lack of flowers 

was explained using other types of knowledge, 

which should be reflected on by current admirers 

of the work. 

References

Barbosa, A. M., E. C. V. Castro, E. C. Prado, J. A. Vieira, and 

M. F. Silva. 2021. Ciclo de vida das plantas construindo o 

Ciclo de Vida dos grandes grupos vegetais. In D. T. Vasques, 

K. C. Freitas, and S. Ursi (orgs.), Aprendizado ativo no en-

sino de botânica. Instituto de biociências, 136-168. USP, São 

Paulo.
Duggins, M. 2015. ‘The world’s fernery’. New Zealand, fern 

albums, and nineteenth-century fern fever. In: K. Pickles, and 

K. Coleborne (eds), New Zealand’s Empire. 102–124. Man-

chester University Press, England. 
Henry, E., and H. Pene. 2001. Kaupapa Maori: Locating In-

digenous Ontology, Epistemology and Methodology in the 

Academy. Organization 8: 234–242.
May, L. W. 1978. The economic uses and associated folklores 

of ferns and fern allies. The Botanical Review 44: 491-528.
McCulloch-Jones E., T. Kraaij, N. Crouch, and H. Fritz. 

2021. The effect of horticultural trade on establishment suc-

cess in alien terrestrial true ferns (Polypodiophyta). Biologi-

cal Invasions 23: 3583–3596.

Figure 3.  “Kwiat paproci” (Fern Flower), 1900. Antoni Pio-

trowski. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The Artist-Scientist Symbiosis:  

A Dialogue

The disciplines of art and science have a lot in 

common in terms of their practice and research 

processes, a sameness that we have observed 

and frequently discussed in our artist/mother–

scientist/daughter symbiosis. Symbiosis is an 

intimate and often long-term relationship between 

two or more organisms, which can range from 

mutually beneficial to mutually challenging. Our 

artist-scientist symbiotic relationship has been 

beneficial, with each of us gaining from the other’s 

insights, expertise, skills, and ways of seeing.
The story of art and the story of science is a 

story of questions. We are inspired by questions, 

which we then explore and research by testing 

ideas, gathering data, drawing conclusions, 

disseminating ideas, returning to our hypotheses, 

and beginning again. We identify a problem, 

Gretchen Scharnagl

1  

and 

Klara Scharnagl

1

 Artist in Residence 2023 &2024 Deering Estate

Website: https://www.gretchenscharnagl.com 

2

 Tucker Curator of Lichenology, University & Jepson 

Herbaria, University of California Berkeley 

Website: https://www.symbiosiscontinuum.com

and we explore ways of solving it. Some of this 

exploration involves—requires—play, freedom, 

and open-mindedness. In the relationship between 

artist and scientist, we each invite the other to look 

through a different lens. We each inspire questions 

from a realm unfamiliar to ourselve

s.

COLOR THEORY AND  

PATTERNS ON TREES

[G.S.] While teaching a course on color theory 

for interior designers, I would emphasize 

Albert Munsell’s color relationships that occur 

frequently in nature. One color relationship, 

the split complement, is where you take two 

complementary colors, such as red and green, but 

split the green into yellow-green and blue-green. 

This beautiful color triad could be observed on 

the lower trunks of royal palm trees on campus, 

but only after the rain. I observed patterns of grays 

turning into vibrant reddish-browns, blue-greens, 

and yellow-greens: a gorgeous example of color 

harmony. I would instruct my students to run out 

after a rainstorm to look at these color patterns. 

I observed this phenomenon and instructed my 

students to observe this phenomenon, without 

thinking beyond the pattern of color, or what 

it was, or why it changed. Years later, when my 

daughter began studying lichens and immediately 

sharing what she learned with me, I connected the 

dots back to that Color Theory course, realizing that 

it was lichens changing color after being hydrated 

by rain. My daughter and I have discussed that my 

observations in my Color Theory class may have 

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given her the beginnings of what she now terms 

“the lichen eye.” This “lichen eye” is why we see 

whole worlds of organisms on the surfaces of 

rocks, trees and soil that most people overlook. 

One of the common denominators between 

scientists and artists is that we are acute observers, 

but the difference in the filters of the artist and 

scientist is the strength of our relationship.

THE UBER CONVERSATION

[K.S.] During my postdoc in England, I invited 

my mom to visit me for a long weekend to see a 

particular art exhibit in London and to visit as 

many other art museums as possible. To maximize 

our time, we took Ubers from one art venue to the 

next. Sitting in the back of the Uber, momentarily 

freed from any distractions, we could dive deep 

into conversation. I began by telling my mom 

about what I was working on in my postdoc. I 

was attempting to grow lichens in the lab in order 

to conduct experiments to better understand the 

mechanisms of the lichen symbiosis. Lichens 

are complex symbiotic organisms, consisting 

of a primary fungal and a primary algal or 

cyanobacterial partner. I described to her how we 

were growing whole lichens collected directly from 

the field, as well as isolated cultures of the fungal 

partner and the algal partner. Part of the challenge 

of experimental work with lichens is that they 

tend to grow very slowly, so I was looking for ways 

to promote lichen growth in the lab. I described 

how almost anything we tried failed, and how it 

defied logic since lichens seem to grow so well in 

challenging environments outside the lab. As we 

often do, my mom and I began to troubleshoot and 

brainstorm ideas on possible solutions to create 

growing conditions for the laboratory lichens. 
Brainstorming is a valuable tool in both art and 

science, because it is an opportunity to explore 

possibilities without restraint. My mom’s artistic 

practice emboldens childlike and playful questions 

of “Why?”, “What if…?”, and “Why not?” While 

engaged in brainstorming ping-pong, my mom 

and I discussed the potential use of different 

substrates and/or media in promoting lichen 

growth. Many of the potential substrates we could 

test in the lab quickly ran into affordability or 

feasibility issues, but the discussion also included 

the use of ceramics. Ceramics provide a freedom 

of size, shape, and texture at relatively low cost. 

My mom’s expertise meant she could share the 

uses of different clays, firing techniques, and 

impregnating the clays with different materials to 

create and test substrates with different properties. 

We also discussed the introduction of wind or 

other disturbances in the growth chamber—

perhaps you need the chaos and imperfections of 

the natural world to make them succeed in the lab. 

We even discussed the idea of building a structure 

around lichens in situ, but realized that wouldn’t 

work because it would alter the in situ conditions. 

Each conclusion made us realize we were backing 

ourselves into a corner, which then reminded 

me of one of my favorite books from childhood 

given to me by my mom: The Salamander Room. 

The children’s book The Salamander Room by 

Anne Mazer tells the story of a boy who finds a 

salamander in the woods and brings it home. 

But the salamander does not thrive, so the boy 

keeps adding things to his room in an attempt to 

make it happier: a rock, some leaf litter, a small 

pool, some insects to feed on, another salamander 

for company—but the more he added, the more 

he needed to add to keep everything in balance. 

By the end of the book, the boy’s bedroom has 

been completely transformed into the forest he 

collected the salamander from. The lesson of the 

book is that the best place for a salamander to be a 

salamander is in its natural environment. For me, 

during that Uber conversation, the book became 

a useful metaphor to examine what is gained 

and lost in our laboratory studies. My mom and 

I were brainstorming with such enthusiasm and 

gusto that our Uber driver could not help but 

also become engaged. He delightedly asked a lot 

of questions, and commented on how unique 

our mother-daughter, artist-scientist relationship 

was. My mom and I simply being ourselves led 

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to a beautiful interaction with a stranger, and a 

productive science communication moment in 

the midst of fun.
Following my mom’s visit, I applied a lot of what 

we discussed, testing a lot of variables in the lab. 

The more I did so, the more The Salamander 

Room seemed to ring true, and successfully 

growing lichens or their constituents in the 

laboratory remains challenging. The artist brings 

to the dialogue an irreverent acceptance of failing, 

imperfection, or the stray mark. To the artist, the 

stray mark is not a lie (or an outlier), it is the truth. 

It is part of the picture. The more I thought about 

The Salamander Room, the more I wondered 

whether there could be organisms, like lichen, 

that defy the lab—and not just in terms of rapidity 

of growth. If we alter variables enough, have we 

taken away the conditions that necessitate or 

facilitate the symbiosis of the lichen, such that the 

associations we are measuring in the laboratory 

are no longer the symbioses we set out to test?

LICHEN POETRY AND THE  

CONCRETE BENCH

[G.S.] The tradition in our family each winter 

holiday is to gather in Miami, Florida where we 

make our annual trips to Everglades National 

Park, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, and 

sometimes Deering Estate. My daughter Klara and 

I can often be found with our eyes two to three 

inches from almost anything, discovering lichens; 

their patterns and diversity, their interactions, and 

the surprising variety of substrates they grow on—

from the trunks of trees to concrete pavement to 

recycled-plastic boardwalks.
I have brought this “lichen eye” with me to my 

artist residency at the Deering Estate. The Deering 

Estate encompasses the historic home of Charles 

Deering and the Richmond family, protection 

of indigenous archeological sites, as well the 

protected site of threatened south Florida habitats, 

including pine rocklands, hardwood hammocks, 

and mangroves. These historic, prehistoric, and 

natural surroundings have been the subject of 

many previous artists in residence. I wanted 

to focus on something unseen, overlooked, or 

ignored. In the manicured lawn area surrounding 

the estate there is a sea wall that juts out into the 

bay, lined with rows of royal palms. These royal 

palms were also covered in patterns and color, 

which thanks to my daughter, I had learned to 

recognize as lichens. But it was not until I zoomed 

in with my iPhone on Macro settings that I realized 

that I was the one overlooking, ignoring, and not 

seeing. I began to snap pictures. When I stepped 

back and looked at the same lichen with the naked 

eye, I could not see what was now visible in the 

image on my phone. From these photographs 

I print enlarged images on acetate. Using a light 

table, I trace what is there. This allows me to 

trace without the mental biases that could lead to 

drawing what I don’t see, and not drawing what I 

do see—a bias that teaching drawing makes you 

excruciatingly aware of. The quick tracings done 

with script-like gestures and scribbles further free 

my mind of potential biases. Through this process, 

the patterns and structures of these lichens appear 

to expand exponentially, revealing things that 

were there in the photographs but hidden from 

me. Through my tracings, I discover smaller and 

smaller repetitious forms, each iteration leading 

to deeper, almost infinite levels of complexity. The 

more I see, the more I see (Figure 1).
From the beginning I decided I would trace 100 

drawings over a calendar year in a series I call 

Lichen Poetry. Approached with only poetic 

and artistic considerations, these drawings are 

still recognized by my lichenologist daughter 

as lichens, sometimes even to the species level. 

During open studio visits, members of the public 

have engaged with the Lichen Poetry, often leaving 

with a new appreciation for lichens. These visitors 

include local scientists, one of whom days later 

texted, “You have me looking at things I’ve never 

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looked at,” and included images of lichens from his 

own backyard. I question who may be the ultimate 

audience for this work: the science world, the art 

world, or a broader audience.
[K.S.] During my mother’s forays to photograph 

the lichens on the royal palm trees at the Deering 

Estate, she noticed something on a concrete 

bench. This concrete bench was placed at the 

end of the arm of the boat basin that juts out into 

the salt water bay. There were lichens growing 

on the bench, bright orange ones. Because I had 

recently begun looking at lichens that grow on 

concrete, particularly sidewalks, my mother sent 

me a photo of it. After looking at her photograph, 

I got really excited and asked her to send me 

more photographs and samples. This appeared to 

be a lichen that is known to grow on rocks and 

concrete, but was not previously recorded in south 

Florida. I am in the process of sequencing the 

DNA of this lichen to confirm its identification. 

In pursuing her art and collaborating with me, my 

mother has potentially found a new locality record 

for a lichen. This opens up many new questions 

in my study of lichens on concrete, as well as an 

ongoing curiosity about the role of salt in fungal 

ecology.

Figure 1.  Lichen Poetry #15, #65, #24, #26. Series of 100 drawings, 2023-2024, 8.5 x 11 inches. Mixed media on 

75-year-old student engineer graph paper.

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Figure 2. Suburban Ledgers (from series) 6.75 × 3.75 

inches, 2017-2019. Mixed media on 50-year-old Bur-

dines notebook paper.

My mom and I have become lichen influencers, 

which proves that the most beneficial part 

of the artist-scientist symbiosis is a broader 

communication of ideas. In a seminar I recently 

gave, I talked about lichens that grow on sidewalks 

and other concrete surfaces. I have since been 

approached by multiple attendees of the talk who 

tell me that they have now taken a much closer 

look at the sidewalks and concrete near their 

homes, observing lichens there! Both my mom 

through her art, and I through my science, have 

inspired others not only in our own fields and 

each other’s fields, but to a larger audience—new 

ways of seeing and exploring the world.

THE LICHEN LINE

[K.S.] During a research trip to the Andes in Peru, 

I noticed a phenomenon that I have termed “the 

lichen line.” The lichen line occurs on any substrate 

or landscape where there is a visible edge between 

where lichens grow and where they do not grow. 

In the Peruvian Andes, the alpine glaciers are 

melting so fast that the lichens cannot colonize 

the newly exposed rocks fast enough. This has led 

to a stark difference between the rocks covered 

in lichens, which appear almost black from a 

distance, and a kilometer or so of bare rocks, 

appearing pale or beige, leading up to the glacier. I 

ran a transect along the ridge and sampled lichen 

communities leading up to the lichen line, and 

lichen communities between the lichen line and 

the receding glacier. The data clearly show that 

there is a dramatic difference in lichen presence 

and cover on one side of the lichen line versus the 

other. When I took photographs of this lichen line, 

it was difficult to capture the whole landscape in 

a single shot, and the topography and shadows 

made the lichen line not appear as stark as it 

looked in person. Frustrated, I told my mom this 

story, and shared the photographs with her that I 

had taken. At that time, my mom was delving into 

the idea of visuals that describe climate change. 

Melting glaciers are challenging to depict in a 

two-dimensional image. From my story and the 

photographs, my mom was able to create a visual 

that told both of our stories; glacial recession 

and the lichen line. I felt that her visual properly 

captured the starkness of the actual edge of the 

lichen line, eliciting a more dire and emotional 

response than my photograph or data may have 

done (Figure 2).

CONCLUSION

Through these stories, we have demonstrated the 

benefits of the artist-scientist symbiosis through 

the sharing of insights, expertise, skills, and ways of 

seeing. Our mother-daughter symbiosis facilitates 

uncomplicated occupation of the liminal space 

between the spheres of art and science, whilst 

remaining rooted in our respective disciplines. 

Just like in lichens, the value of the particularity 

of symbiosis is the continuous exchange of that 

which is beneficial to the other, without the design 

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of becoming the other. The strength of the artist-

scientist symbiosis is in the volleying of questions 

and hypotheses from two distinctive and often 

opposite ways of seeing. Both the scientist and 

the artist benefit from having one foot positioned 

in proven steps of exploration, and the other foot 

skipping along in play. 

SUPPLEMENTAL  

INFORMATION

Everglades National Park encompasses 1.5 

million acres, protecting a variety of south 

Florida ecosystems including freshwater 

sloughs, tropical hammocks, pinelands, 

cypress domes and prairies, mangrove 

forests, marine and estuarine, as well as many 

threatened and endangered plants and animals.  

 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was 

established in 1938 by a group of botanists and 

environmentalists including its namesake, Dr. 

David Fairchild. It encompasses 83 acres with 

a focus on tropical and subtropical plants with 

human uses, and includes a natural history 

collection, library, and archives. Fairchild 

Garden supports active research on botanical 

biodiversity, ecology, and applications. 

 

Deering Estate is a historic landmark in south 

Florida encompassing 450 acres preserving 

historic architecture, indigenous histories 

(including burial sites, middens, shelters, 

and historic hunting grounds), and native 

ecosystems. Deering Estate includes the following 

designations: National Registry of Historic 

Estates, Miami Dade County Environmentally 

Endangered Lands, Natural Areas Management, 

The Cutler Fossil Site, Paleo-Indian Archeological 

Site, Florida Fish and Wildlife, Department of 

Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Areas 

Management.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Attempts at Convergence of  

Science and Art That Blossomed 

Amidst Korea’s Tragic History

Abstract

The Japanese colonial era and the Korean War 

left many scars on the Korean Peninsula, and 

nationalistic and ideological conflicts resulting 

from them remain. But even in this turbulent time, 

Korean scientists made important contributions 

to biology. Among them were a few people who 

attempted to use taxonomic illustrations that fused 

biology and art. Bong-Syup Toh (1904–?) was one 

of the first Korean botanists and pharmacologists. 

Hyewoo Shin 

Email: hyewooshin@naver.com; www.hyewoo.com

His wife Chanyoung Jung (1906–1988) was a 

well-known painter and supported and assisted 

the botanical endeavors of her husband. The 

entomologist Pok Sung Cho (1905–1971) was one 

of the first zoologists in Korea. He was also a skilled 

scientific illustrator and provided an incredibly 

detailed and accurate set of butterfly drawings 

that demonstrated his scientific knowledge. 

Korea adopted modern taxonomy (Linnean 

system) relatively late, and therefore the work of 

the few taxonomic illustrators was exceptional. 

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the 

outstanding nature of and to bring awareness to 

their contributions, which have been virtually 

unknown until recently. Understanding their 

achievements and lives is also the beginning of 

understanding the history of modern Korean 

biology.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

After 500 years of rule, the Joseon Dynasty on 

the Korean Peninsula collapsed due to the forced 

opening of ports (1876) by foreign pressure. 

Subsequently, the Korean Empire (1897–1910), 

the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945), and 

the Korean War (1950–1953) all contributed to a 

history of suffering on the Korean Peninsula. As the 

traditional Korean social order began to change, 

Western culture, including modern science, began 

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to have more influence. Around the time that 

Korea opened its harbors, modern taxonomy was 

first introduced from the West. Although colonial 

countries had previously developed their own 

scientific fields, during the period of imperialism 

they were indoctrinated into or believed that 

Western-style modern science was essential to 

an advanced and strong nation. The Linnean 

taxonomic system also spread around the world 

after the 18th century in concert with imperialism, 

whose influence increased in the name of ‘modern 

universality’. During the Japanese colonial era, 

modern taxonomy was introduced by Japan into 

Korea to deliberately investigate natural resources 

in the name of colonial civilization. Additionally, 

Japanese scholars sought to promote Japan’s 

scientific capabilities to the world by reporting on 

the biology of the Korean Peninsula. Japan trained 

Koreans to aid their goals, but limited Koreans’ 

access to high-level science and technology. On 

the other hand, colonial Koreans thought that 

their country could become strong, developed, 

and independent if it had modern science and 

technology similar to what existed in Japan and 

Western countries. Some Koreans cooperated with 

Japanese scientists to learn science and technology, 

whereas others resisted and pursued independent 

studies. At that time, the relationship between 

Japanese and Korean scientists took on various and 

complex aspects such as cooperation, exchange, 

oppression, discrimination, consideration, and 

competition—all having an impact on everyone’s 

life (Kim, 2005). It was very difficult for Koreans 

to become taxonomists and very few succeeded. 

This is because Korea’s traditional academic and 

education system, before the opening of ports, 

was completely different and during the Japanese 

colonial period, Japan systematically restricted 

and discriminated against Koreans from receiving 

modern education. Korean universities were 

also limited, and it was not until 1926 that the 

first university was opened and only a very small 

number of Koreans studied internationally. 

Biological illlustration is a field that unites science 

and art, drawing pictures based on scientific 

study. Therefore, the situation for Koreans at the 

time to learn this field was worse than studying 

biology alone. Moreover, traditional Korean 

paintings up to that time were very different from 

biological illustrations. Confucianism dogma was 

the traditional field of study and the principle of 

social order in the Joseon Dynasty, and it was also 

the foundation of art. Although several genres 

of painting were practiced, most of them were 

based on the Confucian concept. Some paintings 

depicted living things realistically, but the objects 

and composition of these paintings were symbolic 

or decorative and were not intended to identify 

species. Since they are Eastern paintings, they 

did not depict identification keys to distinguish 

living things and were often patterned or had 

artificial compositions. Although they depicted 

living things, they were an effort to contain 

philosophical meaning. Biological illustrations 

were naturally introduced to the Korean 

Peninsula through biology-related books, but a 

scholarly understanding of this multidisciplinary 

field was lacking. There was not enough time and 

manpower to produce illustrations, and there was 

no educational institution to support the topic. 

Old records contain illustrations commissioned 

by painters without scientific knowledge or 

copies from foreign documents. There were few 

direct attempts by taxonomists, and professional 

and high-quality illustrations are extremely rare. 

The three Koreans introduced here were the 

starting points of Korean biological taxonomy 

and biological illustration during these turbulent 

times, and they were the people who created the 

framework of current Korean biological taxonomy 

that still has influence today

.

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BONG-SYUP TOH AND  

CHANYOUNG JUNG: A WORK 

CREATED BY THE LOVE OF A 

BOTANIST AND A PAINTER

Bong-Syup Toh (also written as Pong-Shyup Toh, 

Bong-Shyup Toh, and Bong-sup Toh) was one 

of the few of the colonized who took the elite 

course during the colonial era. He studied at the 

University of Tokyo in Japan and became the first 

Korean professor of the Gyeongseong Pharmacy 

College, which was the only pharmaceutical 

education institution in Korea during the Japanese 

colonial period. After liberation, he served as the 

Dean of the Private Seoul College of Pharmacy. As 

a colonized Korean, the process through which 

he could conduct scientific research was never 

easy

At that time, there was only one university in 

Korea, Keijo Imperial University, with no science 

departments. In addition, Japan restricted science 

education for Koreans, including limiting the 

number of Korean students studying science and 

making it difficult to qualify for entrance exams 

for Japanese universities. Toh graduated from 

Japanese schools twice to qualify for the entrance 

exam to the University of Tokyo. In 1919, there 

was the March 1st Movement in Korea, a strong 

national resistance movement against Japanese 

colonial rule. Afterwards, Japan slightly eased 

its oppression of Korea and Toh was able to 

enter university thanks to the added luck of the 

relaxed education policy at that time. It was very 

unusual that his outstanding talent and diligence 

overlapped with his wealthy family and fortunes 

caused by social upheaval. He is the first botanist 

of great importance in Korean plant taxonomy 

for his active plant collection and  taxonomic and 

distributional research. His representative book 

is 

韓國植物圖鑑:  草本部

 

 (Korean Flora:  Second 

Volume for Herbaceous Plants, 1956), one of Korea’s 

first botanical illustrations and a compilation of all 

Korean herbaceous plants. In 1933, he organized

 

朝鮮博物硏究會

 (Joseon Natural History Research 

Group) with Korean naturalists and made a 

considerable effort to educate and disseminate 

science in colonial Korea. Together with the 

organization’s naturalists, he published 

朝鮮植

物鄕名集

 (Vernacular Names of Joseon Plants

1937), a list of plant names with Korean names. 

He also published or participated in several other 

books and academic papers (Lee, 2012). He was 

abducted by North Korea during the Korean War 

and never saw his family again.

Chanyoung Jung, Toh’s wife, was a pioneer, 

becoming an established painter during a time 

when it was rare for a Korean woman to do so. 

She won several awards at 

朝鮮美術展覽會

 

(Joseon Art Exhibition, an art contest held during 

the Japanese colonial period) and painted lyrical 

works with detailed depictions of natural objects. 

Her representative works include paintings of 

birds such as egrets, chickens, and peacocks, and 

paintings of flowers such as water lilies, peonies, 

irises, and chrysanthemums, which are traditional 

Eastern  paintings.  She  developed  the  field  of 

color painting within the context of mainstream 

ink-and-wash landscape painting and pursued 

the formative beauty of living things. In the late 

1930s, she gave up painting because her second 

son died of illness and her eyesight deteriorated, 

working instead as a middle- and high-school art 

teacher. Her achievements were mostly forgotten, 

especially the taxonomic illustrations that she 

did for her husband’s botanical research. After 

their daughter Toh Chung-ae published books 

that depicted their achievements in 2001 and 

2003, their collaborations received recognition 

by the Korean botanical and art academia and 

were displayed to the public. Representatively, 

Jung drew all 64 plant illustrations in Toh’s co-

authored book, 

朝鮮植物圖說: 有毒植物 編

 (Taxic 

Plants in Korea, 1948). The illustrations are black-

and-white line drawings, like those in current 

botanical illustrations or papers, and include 

partial diagrams of botanically important roots, 

fruits,  and  flowers.  She  also  painted  botanical 

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drawings in her color painting style, which were 

also made into large hanging scrolls for the 

education of students. Jung’s plant illustrations 

are unique in that they express Toh’s botanical 

knowledge while incorporating her own painting 

style at the time. She preserved the manuscript of 

Toh’s illustrated plants of 

韓國植物圖鑑:  草本部

 

(Korean Flora:  Second Volume for Herbaceous 

Plants, 1956) during the Korean War, making its 

publication possible after the war (Bae, 2019) 

(Figure 1).

POK SUNG CHO:  

A COMBINATION OF  

OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC AND  

SCIENTIFIC TALENTS

Pok Sung Cho had been interested in animals since 

his youth

He was educated by Doi Hironobu (

居寬暢

), a natural history teacher who recognized 

his talent when he was at 

平壤高等普通學校 

(currently a middle and high school established as 

part of the Japanese colonial education policy in 

Pyongyang, four-year school). After graduation, 

he attempted to study entomology at a Japanese 

Figure 1. (Left) Bong-Syup Toh and Chanyoung Jung. © Toh Chung-ae, Seoul, Korea. (Right) Illustrations for plant 

taxonomy by Chanyoung Jung were known to the public through an exhibition Rediscovery of Korean Modern Art-

ist 1: When Brushes Are Abandoned at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art at Deoksugung 

Palace in 2019. 

university, but he ran into policies and institutional 

problems that discouraged higher education 

for Koreans during the colonial period, and he 

eventually became an elementary school teacher. 

Professor Mori Tamezo 

(

森爲三

) of Keijo Imperial 

University, who came to lecture at the elementary 

school where Pok Sung Cho works, recognized 

Pok Sung’s insect specimens and extensive 

morphological knowledge and helped him 

conduct entomological research. After working 

as an elementary school teacher for six years, Cho 

became an assistant at Keijo Imperial University 

and began research in earnest. He became an 

entomologist because of the mentoring and 

support of two Japanese scholars who recognized 

his talent. At that time, cases like Cho’s were very 

rare and fortunate. He was able to conduct his 

studies across the entire Korean Peninsula as well 

as Taiwan, China, and Mongolia with the support 

of his Japanese teacher. After liberation, he served 

as the director of the National Science Museum and 

professor at Korea University and Sungkyunkwan 

University. Through many field studies, he 

collected, classified, and reported various types of 

insects, including butterflies, moths, beetles, and 

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dragonflies. He studied the ecology and habitat 

of insects and organized the names of insects 

and entomological terms. He also conducted 

research on animals other than insects and 

published the first biology and zoology textbooks 

in Korean. He was the first Korean to publish an 

entomology paper

 

鬱陵島産鱗翅目 

(Lepidoptera 

from Ulleungdo Island) in 1929 and published 83 

papers throughout his life. Beginning with 

原色朝

鮮の蝶類 

(Colored Butterflies from Korea, 1934), 

he also published 22 books, including university 

textbooks, encyclopedias of insects, and science 

books for the public. In these works, he was able to 

distinguish himself and prove his talent to Japanese 

scholars via his artistry. All the butterfly paintings 

in

 

原色朝鮮の蝶類 

were drawn by him, and the 

paintings in his papers and books are presumed 

to be his (Kim, 2008). Cho’s original butterfly 

illustrations were very small because they were 

drawn in the size of actual butterflies, which is 

different from the current general style of enlarged 

illustrations so that the shapes of small insects 

can be clearly seen. However, even at their small 

sizes, he produced detailed and scientific drawings 

sufficient to identify the species with excellent 

drawing skills and a wealth of morphological 

knowledge. He also wrote books for children and 

teenagers, such as 

곤충이야기

 (Story of Insects

1948) and 

곤충기

  (About Insects, 1948), which 

confirms his passion for education and his aspect 

as a creator. Text and illustrations for books and 

papers for the public are different from those for 

academic reporting. In particular, he made books 

for children and teenagers easy to understand and 

interesting. He personified the characteristics of 

insects, chose topics that would interest readers, 

and wrote terminology to suit the reader’s level. 

He attached illustrations showing the ecological 

characteristics and anatomical structure of insects 

(Jin, 2019) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. (Left) Pok Sung Cho © 관정장학위원회.  (Right) 

Original illustration of butterflies drawn by Pok Sung Cho.

REBORN AS A PIONEER 

THROUGH GENIUS  

IN A TRAGIC SITUATION

As modern biology was introduced late in Korea, it 

was very urgent to investigate and organize living 

things throughout Korea. The research materials of 

Toh and Cho are the foundation of Korean biology, 

and later scholars have added to or modified 

them based on their research. They gave Korean 

names to native Korean organisms and produced 

educational materials in Korean to train younger 

generations. In Europe, where modern biology 

began early, many living things were investigated 

and drawn in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, 

in Korea, which only accepted modern biology in 

the 1900s, the current level of biology was reached 

without that process. Photographs were used 

rather than drawings, and there was a rush to 

keep up with the flow of the world by embracing 

new experimental technologies. During the 

turbulent times, a lot of data were lost, and much 

remains buried because of widespread ideological 

conflict. The multidisciplinary creative art that 

these three attempted is a significant discovery 

in Korea, where it has only recently begun to be 

widely recognized as an independent field. Their 

pioneering results were judged to be of value as an 

auxiliary necessity in biology, but they need to be 

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newly illuminated in the arts and multidisciplinary 

fields. Jung’s paintings demonstrate her unique 

style that combines oriental painting and 

scientific illustration. Cho can be considered 

the first Korean biologist to draw pictures at the 

level of a professional scientific illustrator. Their 

illustrations are an important asset in Korean 

biology, but they are also an important asset in art 

and multidisciplinary fields. The efforts of these 

pioneers without interdisciplinary training need 

to be studied along with those of similar pioneers 

in other countries.

References

Bae, W. J. 2019. Chung Chan-young, modern female 

painter, the color painting on flowers and birds. Korean 

Bulletin of Art History 53: 7-33.
Jin, N. Y. 2019. A Study on Jo Bok-seong’s Insect-re-

lated Books Published in 1948: Focused on Story of 

Insects and About Insects. Journal of the Korean Soci-

ety for Library and Information Science 53: 267-294.
Kim,  G.  2005.  The  emergence  of  modern  scientific 

technology manpower in Korea. Seoul: Moonji Pub-

lishing.
Kim, S. W. 2008. The context of a Korean naturalist’s 

career-building in colonial Korea: Cho Pok Sung as an 

example of colonial entomologist. Journal of the Ko-

rean History of Science Society 30: 353-382.
Lee, J. 2012. Contested botanizing in colonial Korea 

(1910-1945), conflicting visions of modernity emerg-

ing through colonial interactions between Korean and 

Japanese researchers. PhD dissertation, Seoul National 

University, Seoul.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

How Scientific Illustration Impacts  

Presentation and Understanding of Plant 

Adaptations at Multiple Scales 

Sayeh Dastgheib-Beheshti

1* 

Zane G. Long

Gemma R. Takahashi

and  

Rachel W. Martin

2,3*

Abstract

Scientific illustration is an integral part of how 

scientists communicate work to colleagues, 

students, and the public. Historically, the 

connection between biology and art was widely 

recognized, because naturalists had to make 

drawings to document their observations in the 

field. However, despite its continued importance, 

modern scientists generally receive little to no 

formal training in effective visual communication. 

On the other hand, artists, even those who are very 

well equipped to produce accurate and attractive 

representations of plants, may not appreciate all 

of the subtle or even microscopic features that are 

important to scientists.
Here, we discuss the interplay between art and 

science using the example of a carnivorous 

plant, Drosera capensis. We present strategies for 

promoting effective communication between 

1

Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York 

University, Toronto, Canada

 

2

Department of Chemistry, University of California, 

Irvine, CA, 92697-2025, United States of America

 

3

Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, 

University of California, Irvine 92697-3900

 

*Corresponding authors: rwmartin@uci.edu, 

sayehdb@yorku.ca

artists and scientists, with examples of art 

illustrating important features at different scales. 

We also discuss how artists and scientists can 

collaborate to engage the public and disseminate 

results in an accessible manner. 

Keywords

botanical drawing, carnivorous plant, chemically 

specific imaging, in situ chemical analysis, 

metabolites, protein structures, scientific 

communication

INTRODUCTION

In scientific articles, illustrations and graphics 

draw attention to particular features, simplify 

complex systems, and reify abstract concepts. 

High-quality visual elements can greatly enhance 

the readability of scientific work, potentially 

drawing students and colleagues to a study 

species and widening scientific circles. Further, 

effective scientific communication can engage the 

public, enabling scientists to achieve goals such 

as recruiting for community science projects, 

promoting conservation efforts, or simply sharing 

the joy of discovery and the beauty of nature. Even 

though high-quality visualizations are central to 

effective communication, very few scientists are 

trained to produce them. Further, many scientists 

do not know how to commission art on a practical 

level, and connections between scientists and 

artists may be difficult to forge because of the lack 

of overlap between these communities. 

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Here we discuss some strategies for addressing 

these issues, using the example of the carnivorous 

plant  Drosera capensis L. (Slack, 1979). Drosera 

capensis, a native of the Cape region of South 

Africa, grows in wet environments with poor 

soil. Its long, strap-like leaves are covered with 

glandular trichomes, each of which is tipped in a 

drop of sticky mucilage. Once an insect is trapped, 

trichomes adjacent to the contact area curl to cover 

and further trap the insect. In cases where the 

insect is larger and continues to struggle to escape, 

the leaf blade itself curls around the prey, further 

immobilizing it and maximizing surface area for 

digestion. The digestive process is fascinating from 

a molecular perspective; unlike in animals, plant 

digestion takes place in the open, under ambient 

environmental conditions, and in competition 

with bacteria and fungi that cannot only steal the 

nutrients from the prey, but potentially infect the 

plant, causing disease. The plant manages these 

difficulties using biochemistry. When stimulated 

by prey acquisition via the jasmonic acid pathway, 

the leaf secretes hydrolytic enzymes that break 

down insect tissue, as well as antimicrobial peptides 

that protect against infection. These processes are 

mediated by a host of small-

molecule signals. 

Thus, D. capensis presents a challenging variety of 

adaptations to illustrate, spanning a range of length 

scales from the macroscopic to the molecular. 

CROSS-POLLINATION

The first obstacle to communication between 

scientists and artists is that they often simply do 

not know each other. Academic communities are 

often fragmented or siloed, and making trans-

disciplinary connections is difficult. Further, field-

specific norms for how original work is presented 

and credited can make it difficult for academics 

in different fields to collaborate. Initiatives such 

as this special issue of the Plant Science Bulletin 

provide opportunities for joint work, but it is still 

necessary for collaborators to find each other. We 

have found in-person or online hobby groups 

useful for this purpose: S.D.-B. and R.W.M. first 

met in an online group devoted to growing African 

violets; we then worked together on a series of 

articles published in Chatter, the newsletter of the 

African Violet Society of Canada. Hobby groups of 

this type are excellent for introducing people with 

very different backgrounds, but with a common 

interest in plants. They attract a mix of hobbyists, 

practitioners (e.g., professional horticulturists and 

landscapers), and other members of the public. 

We do not endorse any specific social media sites 

here because their popularity waxes and wanes, 

but online groups are often very active and can 

have diverse members from all over the planet. 
Another model for successful interaction is one 

where scientists commission artists to produce 

compelling visualizations for their publications 

and presentations. Informal discussions with 

other scientists (by R.W.M.) have revealed that 

many do not know how to find an artist to work 

with, believe the costs to be prohibitive, and/or 

find the process of commissioning custom art 

intimidating. Although hiring an artist as a full-

time member of the team is indeed beyond the 

budget of most research labs, many offer one-

time commissions at affordable prices. Depending 

on the agency, these expenses can sometimes be 

covered by the communications budget of a grant, 

or unrestricted funds can be used. Artists can be 

found on online social networks, where those who 

are open to performing work for hire will generally 

indicate this with a “commissions open” tag on 

their profiles. Websites designed for creators to 

find patrons (e.g., Patreon, Etsy, or guru) offer 

another way to hire artists for specific projects.  

Producing artwork is time-consuming and may 

require multiple rounds of editing; therefore, it is 

important to commission the drawings as early 

in the writing process as possible in order to 

minimize the time to submission.
After finding an artist whose style fits the desired 

work, the next step is to inquire about price. It 

is important to be as specific as possible about 

the subject of the piece, the required size, any 

particular features that should be emphasized, 

and what it will be used for. The latter question 

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is critical, since 

many artists only allow certain 

types of usage or charge different fees for 

different types of licensing. For example, a 

design that will be used in a scientific paper 

may have a different price than one that will 

be used as a logo for a commercial website. 

It is best to discuss all potential use cases 

up front to avoid misunderstandings. For 

scientific papers and presentations where the 

artist is not a co-author, the best practice is to 

acknowledge them for creating specific figures 

or parts of figures in the acknowledgments. 

DRAWING ON THE HERITAGE OF  

BOTANICAL ILLUSTRATION

Before the advent of high-quality photo and video, 

botanical illustration was essential for sharing 

knowledge about the discovery, basic morphology, 

and ecological context of new plant species. Most 

students did not have the opportunity to travel to 

see their study species and had to make do with 

dried herbarium specimens. Detailed drawings 

helped fill the gaps between the preserved 

specimens and the living plant. Although 

humans have been drawing plants since before 

recorded history, botanical illustration, along with 

preserving specimens in herbaria, became more 

systematized in the 18th century, particularly 

after Carl Linnaeus introduced his classification 

system, the Systema Naturae (Thiers, 2020; Blunt, 

2021). 
Because drawing was considered a suitable 

occupation for young women in a time when 

their options were otherwise limited, this is an 

area where women could participate in science 

before they were allowed to do so in other ways. 

For example, Elizabeth Blackwell, better known 

for her status as the first female physician in the 

U.S., published an illustrated book of medicinal 

plants in order to finance her husband’s release 

from debtors’ prison (McDowell, 2023). 

IMAGING ACROSS MULTIPLE  

LENGTH SCALES

One of the biggest challenges in imaging plant 

samples and conveying the information we learn 

is that the key features occur on very different size 

scales. Just as the earliest botanists did, we need 

to show pictures of the whole plant, preferably 

in the context of its habitat, but also close-ups 

of individual organs such as leaves and flowers. 

We need systematic protocols for showing all of 

these things in the diagrams. In addition to the 

accuracy of the representation, selecting and 

editing appropriate features and characteristics 

play an important role in drawing the reader in, 

generating enthusiasm for the study species and 

supporting conservation efforts. 
Features of interest are sometimes difficult to 

notice in even a high-quality photo without 

visual cues to draw attention to them. For 

example,  D. capensis is a relatively large, showy 

plant with long, dramatic flower scapes (Figure 

1), but many of its important features (e.g., the 

trichomes bearing sticky mucilage), are very 

small. Further, a typical plant will not display all of 

the significant characteristics, such as blooming, 

seedpod formation, or trapping and digesting 

insects, all at the same time; therefore, creating an 

illustration that showcases these characteristics at 

the same scale is extremely useful for providing a 

holistic overview of D. capensis. Figure 2 shows a 

botanical illustration of D. capensis created with 

Adobe Illustrator vector-based digital illustration 

software using live plants and pictures for 

reference. Although this diagram is traditional 

in most respects, it also includes structures of 

proteins that were discovered from the D. capensis 

genome (Butts, 2016) and are thought to be 

important during feedin

g. 

Vector-based graphics 

use shapes, curves, and lines that do not lose 

resolution when enlarged. In the past, S.D.-B. has 

used traditional media (paper, graphite pencils, 

and watercolor) to draw botanical illustrations 

with the final illustration scanned and stored as 

a raster image, comprising individually colored 

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pixels that limit the final resolution 

and possible 

edits. The highly detailed and repetitive 

features of D. capensis as well as the need for 

constant communication with the scientists 

during the generation of the imaging process 

diagrams led to the selection of the non-

traditional vector-based illustration tool for 

this collaboration. Figure 3 illustrates how 

vector-based software allows for enlarged 

views of details without the loss of resolution, 

as well as enabling details such as colors to be 

changed easily.

Figure 1. Photo of several Drosera capensis plants in cultiva-

tion with a U.S. penny for scale.

Figure 2. Traditional botanical drawing with additional 

features of varying length scales, including proteins pro-

duced by the plant.

Figure 3. Detail of Figure 2B, with a leaf wrapped 

around a fly. This expanded image shows how the vec-

tor-based software allows for enlarged views of details 

without the loss of resolution and enables adjustment of 

the colors for different purposes.

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VISUALIZING THE INVISIBLE

The length scale problem is even more pronounced 

when we focus on chemical adaptations. Plants 

are talented and prolific biochemists: they have 

produced many of our medications, from the 

earliest (e.g., salicylates from willow bark) to the 

most sophisticated (e.g., taxol) (Verpoorte, 1998; 

Lautié, 2020). These molecules have fascinating 

structures and play important roles in our society, 

yet our representation systems for displaying 

them are complex and difficult for non-experts 

to appreciate. A study of cultural overlap among 

different fields has found that molecular biology is 

highly intellectually isolated from other disciplines 

because of the barriers presented by its specialized 

terminology (Vilhena, 2014). Carefully chosen 

visualizations can help bridge this gap, from 

highlighting important parts of molecules to using 

visual analogies to explain molecular function. 
To explore the challenges of communication about 

complex scientific concepts, we chose to illustrate 

the example of plant tissue imaging conducted 

using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization 

mass-spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI), 

which was recently applied to D. capensis (Long, 

2023). This chemical imaging method maps 

the spatial distribution of molecules on the leaf 

surface. Figure 4 shows the process of generating a 

scientifically accurate schematic of the experiment. 

The creation of this diagram required extensive 

discussion. First, R.W.M. provided a general 

description of how the experiment works, with 

molecules being extracted from the leaf surface 

and sorted by mass. S.D.-B. then drew the diagram 

in Figure 4 (top). The scientific team (R.W.M., 

Z.G.L., and G.R.T.) then discussed the image and 

concluded that it did not accurately represent the 

experiment, as molecule collection and separation 

happen in discrete steps (Figure 4, center). Finally, 

S.D.-B. incorporated this feedback to create the 

final image in Figure 4, bottom. The fact that 

the scientific and artistic collaborators are not in 

the same physical location added an additional 

challenge; this was addressed using a combination 

of videoconferencing, photos of the experimental 

apparatus, and sketches of the desired image. 

CONCLUSION

Artwork has always been central to the practice 

and dissemination of botany. Accurate and 

evocative drawings not only enable scientists 

to show and highlight important plant features, 

but also generate interest in and respect for 

their study species. Collaborations between 

scientists and artists can improve the quality of 

scientific communication while also forging new 

connections across disciplinary boundaries. 

Author Contributions 

R.W.M. designed the study. R.W.M. and S.D.-B. 

wrote the first draft of the manuscript. S.D.-B. 

created all vector graphics. Z.G.L. provided small 

molecule data, took the photo in Figure 1, and 

contributed to image design. G.R.T. provided 

protein sequence data and contributed to image 

design. All authors edited the manuscript. 

Acknowledgments 

This work was supported by a Graduate Proposal 

from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity 

Program at University of California, Irvine, to 

Z.G.L. 

Conflict of interest 

The authors declare no competing interests. 

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McDowell, M. and J. S. Tyson. 2023. A curious herbal: Eliza-

beth Blackwell’s pioneering masterpiece of botanical art. Ab-

beville Press Publishers, New York, USA.
Slack, A. 1979. Carnivorous plants. MIT Press, Cambridge, 

Massachusetts, USA.
Thiers, B. M. 2020. Herbarium: The quest to preserve and clas-

sify the world’s plants. Timber Press, Portland, USA.
Verpoorte, R. 1998. Exploration of nature’s chemodiversity: 

The role of secondary metabolites as leads in drug develop-

ment. Drug Discovery Today 3: 232–238. 
Vilhena, D. A., J. G. Foster, M. Rosvall, J. D. West, J. Evans, 

and C. T. Bergstrom

.

2014. Finding cultural holes: How struc-

ture and culture diverge in networks of scholarly communi-

cation. Social Science 1: 221–238.

Figure 4. Illustration demonstrating the process of making a diagram showing how chemically specific imaging is performed to map 

the spatial locations of small molecules on a leaf. This diagram required edits for accuracy. (A) Initial diagram of the experiment 

drawn by S.D.-B. based on a description from R.W.M. (B) Sketch by Z.G.L. showing how introducing the molecules into the instru-

ment happens in a separate step from sorting them by size. (C) Final schematic showing the key experimental steps. 

References

Blunt, W., and W. T. Stearn. 2021. The art of botanical illus-

tration. ACC Art Books, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, UK.
Butts, C. T., J. C. Bierma, and R. W. Martin. 2016. Novel pro-

teases from the genome of the carnivorous plant Drosera 

capensis: Structural prediction and comparative analysis. 

Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics 84: 1517-

1533.
Lautié, E., O. Russo, P. Ducrot, and J. A. Boutin. 2020. Un-

raveling plant natural chemical diversity for drug discovery 

purposes. Frontiers in Pharmacology 11: 397.
Long, Z. G., J. V. Le, B. B. Katz, B. G. Lopez, E. D. Tenenbaum, 

B. Semmling, R. J. Schmidt, F. Grün, C.T. Butts, and R. W. 

Martin. 2023. Spatially resolved detection of small molecules 

from press-dried plant tissue using MALDI imaging. Applica-

tions in Plant Sciences 11: e11539.

A

B

C

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50

From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

An Abstract Scientist: Embracing 

Art as a Tool for Science Education

Patricia Leyva

Art is essential for the spread of scientific 

knowledge. In botany, for instance, anatomical 

illustrations of plants are imperative to 

understanding the physiology, morphology, and 

evolution of diverse plant species. Before the 

invention of cameras and the advanced imaging 

we have today, botanists relied on the precise 

illustrations of plants. Sixteenth-century German 

herbalist Leonhart Fuchs states in his publication, 

De historia stirplum, “Those which are explained 

and depicted to the eyes on panels or paper adhere 

to the mind more deeply than those described 

by bare words” (Kusukawa, 1997). Fuchs's work 

was highly influential and set a high standard for 

botanical illustrations. Understandably, scientific 

illustrations must be accurate and meticulous. 

For instance, illustrations in herbal books, like 

that of Fuchs, were used to correctly identify 

medicinal plants. In the 16th century the accurate 

identification of medicinal plants was a matter of 

life and death. However, because of the advanced 

imaging of today, scientific illustrations can now 

serve a different purpose.
I believe that art can be used as an outlet to 

process and express complex science ideas.  My 

career goal is to be an educator; however, as a 

person with attention deficit disorder (ADD), it is 

challenging for me to process and communicate 

complex ideas using words. Through art, I use 

my imagination and creativity to overcome this. 

As both a scientist and an artist, I enjoy creating 

drawings that defy the laws of nature. For instance, 

my ideas for drawings of herbs are far from 

accurate. I envision turmeric as a sunset whose 

rays of light penetrate the soil forming a glowing 

web. The sunset, for me, represents the color of 

turmeric and the penetrating rays of light into the 

soil remind me of the benefits of turmeric for the 

skin and as an antioxidant. As an undergraduate 

taking biochemistry, I would study the ten steps 

of glycolysis by visualizing a candy bar going 

through a conveyor belt and being broken down 

to its different components. 
I am currently working on earning a PhD in plant 

biology, and my work focuses on the transport of 

organic acids in plants to aid in the resistance to 

metal toxicity. My drawing The Gateway into the 

Cell (Figure 1) is of a cell membrane transporter 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

as a massive gate made of unique blocks that 

affect what passes in and out of the cell. I instruct 

a botany laboratory course for undergraduates, 

and I advise them to study by thinking of creative 

connections among the course material. Also, I 

want to communicate the purpose of my research 

in a meaningful and unique way to my students. 

In my drawings, I see the beauty of a biological 

process, which validates my work’s meaning. 

Biology is an art, and that captivates me. I want 

people to be intrigued by an eccentric drawing 

of cellular transport and curious about how the 

process works and why it is essential. My goal as 

an educator, scientist, and artist is to sow a creative 

seed in the scientific minds of my students.

Figure 1. Leyva, Patricia. The gateway into the cell. 2023 Ink draw-

ing. “Drawing of a plant cell with a membrane transporter resembling 

a gate for which selected substrates pass through the lipid bilayer into 

the cell.” 

References 

Kusukawa, Sachiko. 1997. Leonhart Fuchs on the Importance 
of Pictures. Journal of the History of Ideas 58: 403–427.  

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Three Plants, Three Practices:  

Botanical Allies and the Creative Process

 

I’m a non-traditional scientist. I didn’t get my start 

as a fresh-faced teenager with a science degree; 

I meandered and took back alleys and talked to 

plants, arriving at the start of my botany Master’s 

degree with silver streaks visible at my temples. I 

have neurodivergencies that prevented me from 

walking a straight line, and a queerness that never 

let me belong there anyway. These experiences 

allowed me to merge creative practices with the 

world of plants and opened the doors for me 

to their realm. Over the course of three plants, 

I’ll discuss the ways three different art and craft 

practices enabled me to develop bonds with 

plants and the importance these non-quantifiable 

connections have for our mental health, our sense 

of belonging, and our connection to the plants.

Peri Lee Pipkin

I. DRAWING: SAGEBRUSH

The great silence of Oregon’s high desert caught 

me off guard. A hushed expansiveness only 

interrupted by a snapping twig, the footsteps of 

the group, the occasional grove of flustered aspen. 

I had never seen an openness like this before. I’d 

arrived only days earlier from a city crawling with 

vines and air thick with the aroma of fried food 

and exhaust, with movement a constant, and I was 

now waist-deep in sagebrush. I’d never carried a 

hiking pack before, and I’d never been around so 

many loud and confident Americans, but I was 

thirsty to join the pack. Very rapidly, it was made 

clear I wasn’t going to make the cut. I talked too 

fast or didn’t talk at all, I wasn’t from there, wasn’t 

interested in boys, was too different. The list of 

lacking went on. I’d spent most of my life as an 

outsider, a foreigner, and here I was in the place 

that was advertised as this land that accepted all, 

and I didn’t belong here either. 
As the trip went on, the nights in the tent began 

to feel like eternities. At dusk, we were supposed 

to be reflecting and journaling, but dwelling on 

the experiences of the day felt suffocating. I’d 

stopped sitting near the group, sore from their 

slicing comments and instead would slink off into 

the sagebrush and lay low. At dusk, a habit began 

to settle in: pick the slender flowering tops of the 

sagebrush, only the softest. Climb into the hand-

me-down sleeping bag. One bundle of leaves and 

flowers under one armpit, another under the 

other, for freshness. One small bundle to hold 

and to smell. Roll onto stomach, open notebook. 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

Mechanical pencil to scrappy notebook paper. 

From there, small lobed leaves sprouted between 

notes and half-finished thoughts. Detail, detail, 

detail. The curve of the leaf tips, the tiny flowers, 

the texture of bark, small things that made the jeers 

of the group anchor under my skin less deeply. It 

made the human world, a world proving to me 

more and more unforgiving with its boundaries 

of acceptance, fall out of view. In a way, sitting 

with sagebrush and moving my pencil across 

the pages was where I first learned to meditate. 

That plant spoke to my teenage loneliness, its 

continued presence becoming a friend. It was in 

that tent that I learned that botanical drawing is 

an experiment in intimacy with the plant world. 

It forces you to notice the small details, and it 

forces you to be present with the plant. It elevates 

your experience with a plant from just something 

of interest growing in the landscape to an entity. 

Maybe this is just the first step in seeing the plant 

world outside of the linear boxes so many of us 

have drawn and fit ourselves into. 

II. PIGMENTS: POKEWEED

Keep moving. Throughout my early 20s, those 

words felt like excellent advice. Hitch a ride, try 

a city out for a while, hop a train, meet some new 

people, admire some weeds. I felt as if I stopped 

moving, my blood would stop flowing. To be 

honest, I don’t know how many houses I lived in 

during this time, or if some of those structures 

even counted as houses. All I knew was that there 

wasn’t really anywhere in particular I belonged 

to, and there wasn’t anywhere in particular I was 

headed. In Oakland, I moved into a dilapidated 

punk house and impulsively enrolled in a 

community college course called “Alpine Labs.” 

Before I knew it, I was in a well-loved rental van 

headed to the Eastern Sierra in a group of Bay 

Area community college students. I had slept 

outside many times since my last backpacking 

trip as a teenager but hadn’t officially been tent 

camping since then. Memories of that trip flooded 

in, and I felt a heightened anxiety and impulse to 

isolate myself and turn to the plants. However, I 

quickly realized that aspiring botanists are equally 

as interested in focusing on the plants, so I was in 

good company. Throughout that week, I got the 

opportunity to slow down and sit with the plants 

and some of the people that love them. 
Returning to the city, I felt a less urgent sense to 

go. I thought about the plants I’d walked right past, 

without the opportunity to get to know them. 

I thought about all the places I’d fled based on 

narratives I’d constructed for myself. That’s when 

I noticed it: glowing magenta berries hanging in 

neat clusters. The lanky plant reached through the 

chain link fence of an abandoned lot filled with 

the ruins of smashed electronics, dangling their 

fruits across my path. I stopped and inspected 

the berries. “Poison!” My roommates warned. 

“But a nice ink!” Another added. Intrigued, I 

clipped some clusters and brought them home 

to experiment. After smashing them in a mortar 

and pestle, I added vinegar and salt—the advised 

binders and preservatives. From my paintbrush 

flowed a color so saturated and unrealistically lush 

that I felt like I had unlocked a secret. What colors 

were hiding in the plants? What would the plants 

show me if I slowed down long enough to listen 

to them? Did they tell their stories in colors and 

aromas rather than through sounds and words? 

By slowing down and taking the time to work 

with the plants, the plants can reveal their hidden 

stories through their language of pigments. If 

such vibrancy can find its way up through a trash-

filled empty lot, how can I let my own vibrancy 

rise through my own personal challenges? Maybe 

rooting somewhere long enough to learn the 

colors of the landscape can help us ground when 

we feel groundless.

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

III. DYEING: CREOSOTE 

Of all things to finally tie me down, it was the 

Mojave Desert and the smell of creosote during 

the rain. From my window in the Mojave, my 

world was composed of the scattered shrubs, 

ephemeral desert dandelions, and cactus wrens 

calling from their fortresses of cholla cacti. I 

didn’t want to be anywhere where the grounding, 

calming aroma creosote wasn’t. In a moment of 

what was either extreme clarity or the beginning 

of a mental break, I realized if I just soaked all my 

clothes in creosote, that aroma could follow me 

throughout the day. From this evolved a practice of 

natural dyeing. Sitting with the plants, simmering, 

soaking, fermenting, experimenting. Mordant? 

No mordant? Less plant material? More time? 

Once an energetic herbalist told me that creosote 

essence shines light into our darkest corners, and 

as I sat over the steaming bath of leaves, I thought 

about the dark corners of myself that could stand 

to be illuminated and sun-baked. 
There is no scientific backing for her statement 

or for my experience, but through this time 

experimenting with the plant in an intuitive 

way, I felt a new boldness and acceptance when 

considering my anxieties and alienation. I suppose 

creosote is colloquially called “The Governess” 

for more than one reason. Wearing the sun-hued 

fabric dyed with the creosote made me feel like I 

was walking with the strength of the high winds of 

the desert and energy of the flash floods. I felt like I 

could walk with the plants that spoke of unbearable 

heat and untempered resilience. This outfit of 

botanical armor I’d created through dyebaths and 

my friend the creosote bush taught me that the 

plants are here for us, they are part of us. They are 

here despite us. The plants disrupt the neat boxes 

society constructs for both them and us. Plants 

are energetic, sensual, magnetic, mysterious. They 

encourage us to explore past what we know to 

be true and don’t always offer us reasons why we 

should. As plant scientists, we define exploration 

as systematic testing, experimentation, and 

observation—but what about the non-quantifiable 

experiences with plants? How can we measure the 

way a vegetal fragrance or certain shade of ochre 

makes us feel? Is our unspoken sense of belonging 

among the plants something to hide from our 

scientific peers? Is a relationship with the plant 

off-limits? Craft and art can bridge the gap. The 

title “scientist” doesn’t mean the paintbrush is a 

forbidden tool or that bending a willow branch 

into a basket is a baseless act. Ultimately, there is no 

singular creative practice that forges a connection 

with the plant world; it’s simply the presence of a 

creative practice that admits us passage between 

worlds. Cultivating these creative practices and 

being open to where these practices lead us is 

critical to understanding the interwovenness of 

being a human on this planet, and illuminating 

this interwovenness is critical in working to 

conserve a biodiverse future.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Plant Motifs Depicted in Kutch Embroideries 

and Its Integration in Sci-Art Collaborative 

Educational Models in the  

Indian Educational System

 

Kruti Dholakia, Ph.D

Associate Professor, Department of Design Space, 

National Institute of Fashion Technology, Gandhinagar, 

Gujarat, India

Email: krutidholakia@yahoo.com

Abstract

India holds evidences of the oldest civilizations; 

the country has an abundance of the traditional 

knowledge and intangible cultural knowledge 

to take account of. In present times of rapid 

technological advancements and urbanization, 

there are chances that if not documented and 

integrated in right directions, we may lose the 

treasure of intangible cultural knowledge and 

traditional knowledge of the country. Thus, in 

the present study the attempt has been made to 

document and conduct visual analysis of plant 

motifs depicted in Kutch embroideries; the out- 

come of the analysis is further used to suggest the 

path to integrate such important knowledge and 

skills into formal education system at all levels 

considering the national education policy.

Keywords 

Craft, intangible cultural heritage, national 

education policy, traditional knowledge

“Knowledge and practices concerning nature 

and the universe include knowledge, know-

how, skills, practices and representations 

developed by communities by interacting with 

the natural environment” (UNESCO, 2023). 

This kind of thought process is expressed through 

various mediums such as language, oral traditions, 

and memories. A community’s relationship with 

nature also influences its values and beliefs, which 

may in turn be the source of its social and cultural 

practices and rituals. Included in this category of 

knowledge and practice is the wider spectrum of 

traditional knowledge, including of local flora and 

fauna (UNESCO, 2023). Since evolution, plants 

and humans have long maintained a symbiotic, yet 

complex, relationship (Pandey, 2020). Not only are 

plants a source of oxygen, sustaining human life, 

but also as a source of food, medicine (Bamin and 

Gajurel, 2015), and other useful resources such 

as a source of dye for cloth and body decorations 

with flowers (Romph, 2023). Humans have 

interwoven plants into their culture and rituals, 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

especially in India, where there is a tradition to 

worship nature and plants (Swaminathan, 2015; 

Nath and Mukherjee, 2015). Many parts of plants, 

whether leaf, stem, roots, fruits, or flowers, are 

an important part of several Indian customs and 

rituals (Bamin and Gajurel, 2015; Kumar and  

Kumar, 2005). Studying the relationship between 

human and plant, as well as humans’ influence on 

and influence by the plant world is an important 

branch of research known as “ethnobotany,” where 

“ethno” refers to the people, culture, a culture’s 

collective body of beliefs, aesthetic, language, 

knowledge, and practice, and “botany” refers to 

the study of plants (Humphrey, 2022). 
Indigenous communities, apart from ritualistic 

inclusion, celebrate and value nature’s treasure, 

such as plants and fauna, by paying respect to 

the natural world in various ways. For instance, 

plants’ forms and shapes are depicted in many 

art and craft forms in stylized renditions by these 

communities. Various plant forms are widely 

seen in forms such as cave paintings, metal and 

stone carvings, and printed textiles (Prajapati 

and Tiwari, 2021). These depictions have been a 

way to pass on knowledge of useful and culturally 

important plants to the next generations. 
With the aim to document the knowledge and 

creative depiction of plant knowledge of artisans 

in these communities, efforts have been made to 

study the various parts of plant-inspired motifs 

depicted in embroidery, as an integral part of the 

cultural and social identity of Kutch communities 

(Sabnani and Frater, 2012). For these communities, 

the embroidery, though simple, can be symbolically 

interpreted as a medium to express emotional 

bonding with children, a welcoming gesture to 

daughter-in-law and son-in-law, or as a token of 

infinite affection for grandchildren. The artists 

creating this embroidery can also be understood 

and appreciated much beyond their fine-motor 

skills—their craft is a demonstration of their 

fabulous representational capabilities, which turn 

botanical forms into a piece of art—which from 

a memory-stored image transforms into stylized 

renditions through these artisans’ imagination 

and creativity. Above all, artists’ work may be 

interpreted as their love toward nature, which is 

translated into embroidery and then transformed 

into, for example, a reflection of a mother’s love 

to her children and family members. Based on 

this visualization, representation, imaginative, 

creative, and reflective peripheries, the second 

part of this article attempts to describe and discuss 

the relationship between art and science, the 

application of such handicraft techniques to teach 

and document practices and species in the areas 

of science and technology, and its implications for 

incorporation into education pedagogies.

ABOUT COMMUNITIES  

OF KUTCH

Kutch is known as a plethora of crafts, including 

embroideries. Table 1 explains the details of the 

communities who practice embroidery. These 

communities migrated from various Middle 

Eastern regions and from other regions of India in 

the distant past to settle in Kutch. They continued 

practicing this beautiful craft even after migration. 

Many communities also exchanged embroidery 

styles and cultures either during migration or 

cohabitation.

 

Methods and Tools

Secondary research was conducted by referring 

to various online and offline sources. Interviews 

coupled with observation and photographic 

documentation were used to collect data regarding 

plant motifs embroidered by various communities 

through purposive sampling technique for 

conducting primary research. Visual analysis 

was conducted following the principles of art and 

design to interpret or correlate with the source 

of inspiration or the plant of resemblance. The 

outcome of the visual analysis has been co-related 

with the particular area of science and technology 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

Sr. 

No.

Community

Region of Migration

Region of Habitats in Kutch

1.

Halayporta

Sindh

Banni

2.

Raysi potra

3.

Pathan

4.

Mutwa

Banni, Nakhatrana

5.

Node

Iran

Banni

6

Darbar

Sindh and Rajasthan

Makhatrana, Abdasa, Lakhapat

7.

Meghwar

Banni, Bhuj

8.

Sindhi memon

Sindh

Bhachau, Rapar

9.

Jat

Baluchistan

Banni, Nakhatrana, Lakhpat

12.

Ahir

Mathura

Bhuj, Anjar

15.

Rabari

Jaisalmer via Baluchistan and 

Afghanistan

Bhuj, Anjar

Table 1. Kutch Communities’ region of migration and current regions of habitats (Pandya and Dholakia, 2013).

for putting forward the ideas of integrating  sci-art 

in teaching learning models. 

Results

The analysis of the data revealed the fact that the 

communities took inspiration from the various 

parts of the plants, which were rendered stylistically 

or metaphorically. Flowers, fruits, vegetables, 

leaves, and stems served as an inspiration. Figure 1 

represents various plant-inspired motifs depicted 

in distinct styles.

Observations and Interpretations

The majority of the floral motifs that were depicted 

with white color may indicate the original color 

of the flower that was a source of inspiration, or 

may indicate that the actual color of the flower was 

forgotten, with white used as a standard filling. 

There is also the chance that, considering the 

scarcity of dyeing material, colored threads were 

avoided because of their high cost. However, it is 

difficult to be convinced that all the communities 

drew inspiration from the same source, or that 

the overlap in imagery was a mere reflection of 

cohabitation and copying the motif and depiction 

from each other. Another prominent fact that 

comes across is many of the floral motifs’ sources of 

inspiration were unknown, which may be another 

reason to depict the flower motifs in white—a 

conscious decision taken by communities to not 

misguide the viewer. The stylization of the motif 

form may have taken place to match with the 

particular embroidery style, overall look, as well 

as the stitches used in the particular embroidery; 

ultimately it would have been resultant of the 

artisan’s creativity and imagination. 
Depiction of floral motifs such as Bhori ful clearly 

shows the imagination capabilities of the artisans, 

where they knew the art of stylizing the motifs 

according to the space available. The motifs also 

serve as a sampler to demonstrate creativity; as 

with the same core form, infinite renditions were 

observed across the communities. 
Visual analysis of all the motifs clearly shows 

that the artisans possessed explicit and implicit 

knowledge of elements and principles of design 

and geometry. Perfect divisions of the available 

space to create motifs and balanced color palettes 

were evidence of the same. Certain motifs such as 

depiction of Farai, Kharek, Jhad, or Aambo were 

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Figure 1A. Visual and textual details of plant-inspired motifs.

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Figure 1B. Visual and textual details of plant-inspired motifs.

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the best example of abstract stylization of the 

motifs, where the inspirational source has been 

depicted metaphorically. 

SCIENCE-ART COLLABORATION 

AND ITS INTEGRATION IN  

EDUCATIONAL MODELS IN  

INDIAN CONTEXT

Emei Ma has defined sci-art as “any creative 

expression where the intent of the artist is to 

convey an observable understanding of the 

physical universe.” Application of art to depict 

scientific forms is as old as the works of Leonardo 

de Vinci, who used techniques from both of 

the fields to develop and understanding of the 

world (Pappas, 2021). Art is thought of as more 

related to the processes of ‘creativity-imagination-

visualization’; similarly, science learners imagine 

abstract forms and formulas while learning 

about scientific concepts. Collaboration between 

the two fields makes the scientific concepts of 

the world understandable (Powers, 2020). Such 

concerted collaborative residency models and 

platforms are already in function across the globe 

(Beeton, no date; Benko, 2020), where scientists 

and artists work together to develop science-

based artistic 2D and 3D models that can help in 

improving the understanding and interpretation 

of both the fields. Taking directions from such 

examples, it is highly important to integrate 

India’s traditional knowledge system and heritage 

into the formal education systems of the country, 

especially now when India is implementing 

the National Education Policy-2020 with focus 

on holistic, integrated, enjoyable and engaging 

learning pedagogies (National Education Policy, 

2020). A pilot project can be conceived, keeping 

in mind these floral embroideries or similar 

motifs and the artisans of such art forms, which 

can be incorporated in educational pedagogies 

at all levels of education starting from early 

education level to adult education. Art forms, 

traditional knowledge, or indigenous practices 

attracting specific age group or demographic 

populations should be selected to make science 

and mathematics concepts and theories-related 

learning more relatable, which will further foster 

encouragement, motivation, and enthusiasm 

to study particular subjects. Additionally, such 

initiatives will encourage the artisans through 

economic empowerment and will motivate their 

next generations to continue crafts. Moreover, 

such models of education will further impact 

classroom absenteeism positively (National 

Education Policy, 2020) with increased interest 

and motivation among learners to attend class 

with more keenness and concentration. 
To quote an example, a color trend workshop 

was organized by National Institute of Fashion 

Technology (NIFT) Gandhinagar in 2014 at a 

national craft fair and summit (Joshi and Chopra, 

2014), in which I (author) was a part of the team. 

The aim of the workshop was to make Indian 

traditional crafts artisans aware of how design 

houses plan and execute new designs based on 

forecasted trends. Tuning with artisans’ mindsets 

and way of thinking, the workshop had put up 

European forecasted stories transformed into an 

Indian context and more specifically made so 

that it would be closely related to the artisans. 

The workshop also hoped to show them ways to 

forecast and create their own trend stories. As an 

extension of this outreach, a rural women’s cluster 

to whom SOACH, a nonprofit that works to 

impart skills, was also invited to participate. One 

of the exercises in the workshop was to choose 

one poster (from a series of posters), comprising 

a collage of images that contained farms, natural 

sceneries, local flora/fauna, etc. and pick a palette 

of colors from the images, in the order of their 

color dominance. After returning to the village, 

SOACH asked the women for their learnings and 

observations. One of the women commented 

on how many different whites there are in the 

color white.  This was an especially perceptive 

observation that even most design students miss. 

Following this response, Ms. Jaai Kakani, founder 

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of  SOACH, asked the cluster to identify all the 

things white in their village and integrate them in 

their work, creating a series of hand-embroidered 

pieces of all things white in the village. Ms. Kakani 

during an in-person conversation explained that 

“this had a twofold transformative impact. Firstly 

it encouraged the women to lead their creative 

process by observing and seeking inspiration from 

their environment and experiences rather than 

repeating old traditional craft identities. It also 

inspired them to look at and create a whole new 

vocabulary of design motifs and color palettes. 

The series was a delightful treasure trove of  

hand-embroidered whites—from rice and cotton 

in the fields, to clouds, rain, ducks, garlic, the Jasmin 

flowers, and more! It was also a big departure from 

the normative colorful bright vistas of the artisans. 

Yet, the very urban and contemporary fondness 

for white looked equally at home in this bucolic 

rural landscape because it truly was from that 

environment. Design principles and trends are 

most often difficult to aesthetically grasp and can 

look awkward and borrowed even for veterans; but 

when they emerge from the depth of experience 

and observation, they can be transformative, both 

for the creator and the observer.”
In higher education, a research-based approach 

can be adopted, taking motifs depicted in the 

current study as a reference; a team of embroidery 

enthusiasts and botany researchers can also 

undertake research to identify similarities in 

depicted motifs and the plants grown from the 

regions of these communities’ migration and 

across the route they have followed to reach India. 

CONCLUSION

Stylistically depicted plant-inspired motifs in Kutch 

embroidery serve the purpose of documentation 

of plant species and may also serve as a clue 

to botanical knowledge for future generations, 

although a gap of uncertainty of sources of 

inspiration can be bridged by combined research 

from both fields. For a country like India, which 

on one hand possesses evidence of ancient cultural 

and intangible heritage and on the other hand is 

an emerging technological hub (especially with 

the implementation of its National Educational 

Policy), the boundaries between art and science 

are again merging. Holding multidisciplinary 

expertise is a dire need during this time. There 

is no doubt that sci-art for education and sci-art 

initiatives have a huge scope in the future. It is 

believed that the suggested examples in the present 

paper will surely be helpful in implementing sci-

art–based teaching learning models in India and 

around the world.

References

Bamin, Y., and P. R. Gajurel. 2015. Traditional use and con-

servation of some selected plants used in festivals and rituals 

in Apatani plateau of Arunachal Pradesh, India. International 

Journal of Conservation Science 6: 189-200.
Beeton, B. (n.d.). Sci art; communicating science through art. 

Website: https://sciart.com.au/.
Benko, R. C. 2020. Why science needs arts. Website: https://

www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natu-

ral-history/2020/04/15/why-science-needs-art/.
Humphrey, S. J. 2022. Ethnobotany - A Relationship between 

People and Plants. Website: https://botanicalatelier.co.uk.   
Joshi, R., and N. Chopra. 2014. Report on NIFT Trend fore-

cast pavilion & workshop for crafts. Gandhinagar [unpub-

lished report].
Kumar, N., J. I., H. S., & Kumar, R. N. 2005. Aesthetic val-

ues of selected floral elements of Khatana and Waghai forests 

of Dangs, extreme northern part of Western Ghats, India. In-

dian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 4: 275-286.
Nath, D., and S. K. Mukherjee. 2015. Evaluation of plants in 

Hidnu Mythology, Festivals and Rituals and their conserva-

tional aspect. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Re-

search and Bio-Science 3: 310-326.
National Education Policy. 2020. New Delhi: Ministry of 

Human Resource Development, Government of India.
Pandey, A. 2020. Vegetation in Indian Art. Shabdkosh: Jour-

nal of Visual and Performing Arts 1: 24-30.
Pandya, A., and K. Dholakia. 2013. Historical overview of 

Kutch embroideries. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowl-

edge 12: 524-529.
Pappas, M. 2021. What is Sci art? Website: https://www.

emergingcreativesofscience.com/post/what-is-sciart

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Powers, A. 2020. Why art is vital to study of science? Web-

site:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/annapowers/2020/07/31/

why-art-is-vital-to-the-study-of-science/?sh=6bba52ca42eb.
Prajapati, P., and D. S. Tiwari. 2021. Indian Traditional Mo-

tifs: Symbolism of Indian culture and heritage with reference 

to floura, fauna and ancient architecture. International Jour-

nal of Creative Research Thoughts 9: a29-a33.
Romph, M. D. 2023. Symbolism of Indian Flowers. Website: 

https://thursd.com/posts/symbolism-of-indian-flowers.
Sabnani, N., and J. Frater. 2012. Art as Identity: Social mo-

bility through traditional textiles in Kutch. International 

Conference Northern World Mandate. Helinski: Cumulus.
Swaminathan, L. 2015. Hindu’s respect for Trees and forests

Website from Tamil and Vedas: a blog exploring Tamil and 

vedic literature: https://tamilandvedas.com.
UNESCO. 2023, May 4. Knowledge and practices concern-

ing nature and the universe. Website: https://ich.unesco.org/

en/knowledge-concerning-nature-00056

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Art-Making and Plant Biology as Synergistic 

Learning Tools: Reflections on a  

Sci-Art Undergraduate Course  

About Climate Change

 

Avery Maltz  

Lucy Grant  

Carolyn Sicbaldi  

Marge Poma Alarcon  

Zoe Cloud 

Abigail Dustin 

Virginia Griswold 

MJ Kabongo 

Emma King 

Katie Rahaim 

Chase Ryan-Embry 

Clara Sorensen 

Iz Thompson 

Sam Tower 

Silas Weden 

and 

Jess Gersony 

  Smith College, Northampton, MA

We are a group of 15 undergraduate students 

and one assistant professor at Smith College 

who participated in an experimental, upper-

level course, “Understanding Climate Change 

through Plant Biology and the Arts.” Launched 

in Fall 2022, this botanical sci-art initiative used 

interdisciplinary ways of knowing to deepen our 

understanding of climate change by integrating 

plant biology and art. Students read papers 

about drought-induced tree mortality, arctic 

shrubification, CO

2

 fertilization, and urban plant 

ecophysiology. We then engaged with the content 

by each creating three artistic “processing projects” 

over the semester, writing a corresponding two-

page artist statement related to the scientific 

content for each, and discussing the projects in 

class in a workshop format. These projects unified 

science and artistic expression to create a unique 

learning environment that facilitated community 

building and emotional connection to the subject 

matter.
As we deepened our relationship to plants and 

climate change, students created songs, digital 

art pieces, comics, poems, sculptures, posters, 

chlorophyll prints, and multimedia installations 

that we then presented as an art show open to the 

local community. Figure 1 shows a sample of the 

art pieces made in class, with an accompanying 

description. (Please explore the other art pieces at 

this link: https://tinyurl.com/3pkvx9dm.)
The goal of this class was to redefine the way 

students engage with botanical learning. By 

exploring their own personal connections to 

the natural world, students were able to more 

thoroughly interact with course content and build 

relationships with nearby communities. When 

asked about their experience with the class, Virginia 

Griswold, wrote that “creating art allowed [her] 

to unravel complex physiological and ecological 

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processes and transform them into forms that [she] 

most resonated with.” In addition to integrating 

art, this course also engaged with environmental 

justice issues, as well as centered papers that 

focused on traditional ecological knowledge, 

written by indigenous scholars. Another student 

expressed that “imperialist scientific practices 

attempt to divorce humans from the natural world 

Figure 1. (A) “Portrait of a Dawn Redwood in the Dusk of the Anthropocene” by Avery Maltz AC ‘25 — The Dawn Redwood was 

believed extinct for 150 million years until it was discovered alive in China in the 1940s. Our redwood is shown in a wood photo 

transfer with handmade varnish from the resin of a neighboring Cypress, a testament to hope and community care. (B) “Protector” 

watercolor painting by Marge Poma Alarcon ‘23 — This piece, painted using transpired water, is inspired by the Prunus tree out-

side the artist’s apartment complex in New York City. It evokes incompleteness and discomfort in the absence of trees in residential 

communities, since their cooling effects are crucial to combatting the urban heat island effect. (C) “Circle Back” collage piece by 

Lucy Grant ‘23 — Positive feedback loops driven by overconsumption and capitalism are incredibly harmful to ecosystems, and 

they can completely shift one biome into another. Although these shifts occur slowly, they inflict massive damage to entire popula-

tions of plants and animals. (D) “Hydraulic Failure” sculpture by Virginia Griswold ‘23 — A sculpture and reflection of the stress 

responses of trees, specifically cavitation of vascular tissue and mortality in severe natural droughts. The piece captures the moment 

when the last water molecules (beads) leave the trees and ground in extreme drought. (E) “Spirit Power” by Carolyn Sicbaldi AC 

‘25 — This piece is an exploration of forest fire ecology and traditional ecological knowledge upheld to generate successful regrowth 

of important vegetation. The title is a translation of the Interior Salish word suméŝ, used to describe those who are responsible for 

managing fire treatments.

around us to everyone’s detriment, especially the 

poor, Indigenous peoples, and people of color. This 

work feels like a step towards practicing science 

more ethically and holistically.” Through these 

approaches, the students reflected that they had 

a better understanding of the course content and 

felt a deeper connection to the material presented 

in class.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

The Botanist and the Illustrator:  

A Long-Standing Partnership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas C. Daly

Bobbi Angell

2

 

B.A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany, Center for 

Biodiversity and Evolution, The New York Botanical Garden

2

 Botanical Illustrator, The New York Botanical Garden

Collections, research, descriptions, publications, 

photographs, and ultimately illustrations have 

fueled a synergistic partnership between botanist 

Douglas Daly and botanical artist Bobbi Angell 

for over 35 years at the New York Botanical 

Garden. Daly, as principal author, has described 

ca. 100 new taxa in the Burseraceae family and 

15 new taxa in the Anacardiaceae, the latter co-

authored with John D. Mitchell. Daly has provided 

the raw material—herbarium specimens, field 

photographs, liquid-preserved flowers, rough 

sketches and descriptions—and Angell has 

depicted all but two of the new taxa with detailed, 

accurate, and revealing illustrations in pen and 

ink.
The Burseraceae (Torchwood and Frankincense 

family) and Anacardiaceae (poison ivy and mango 

family) are sister families in the order Sapindales, 

which also includes the citrus (Rutaceae) and 

mahogany (Meliaceae) families.  The pantropical 

Burseraceae comprise around 800 species of trees 

and shrubs, including the biblical myrrh and Balm 

of Gilead.  Anacardiaceae, also with 800 species, 

includes many economic plants including lacquer, 

mango, pistachio, and cashew. Both families are 

important components of many of the world’s 

floras and ecosystems, especially in the tropics. 
Despite the fame and value of these two families, 

significant parts of their diversity had remained 

undescribed or misunderstood until recently. In 

the Anacardiaceae this is true even for genera 

(e.g., Mitchell et al., 2023), whereas in the 

Burseraceae,  Protium and Commiphora contain 

at least 50 undescribed species each (D.C.D., pers. 

obs.; M. Gostel, pers. comm.), and almost half of 

Canarium’s estimated 115 taxa are unnamed Asian 

species (pers. obs.).
Daly has collected ca. 15,000 plants under his 

number series, along with twice that many during 

fieldwork with others. His travels have focused 

on the regions rich in Burseraceae, including 

Amazonian Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, 

Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and 

Vietnam.  
Conditions are ideal when a botanist and 

an illustrator can collaborate long-term on 

a particular group of plants, both gaining 

familiarity with key characters, as with Daly 

and Angell’s collaboration on the Burseraceae 

and Anacardiaceae (e.g., Daly 1992, 2020).  A 

centerpiece has been the Burseraceae genus 

Canarium in Madagascar.  Canarium  has been 

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long known to comprise an important structural 

component of eastern Madagascar’s moist forests, 

but Daly’s recent work revealed that the genus 

comprises significant diversity there as well.  Only 

two species of Canarium had been believed to 

exist there since the 1940s, but after Daly and two 

collaborators (one a Malagasy botanist) studied 

the genus intensively in the field and at several 

herbaria for several years, the taxonomic revision 

of Canarium on that island revealed 33 species, of 

which 27 were illustrated by Angell and published 

as new to science (Daly et al., 2015) (Figure 1).  
With knowledge of the plant group, botanists 

contribute carefully chosen specimens along 

with a thorough description and diagnosis and 

sometimes sketches and field photos. All of this 

input flags key characteristics that the illustrator 

can highlight through composition and dissection.  

Angell need not be a specialist in the taxonomic 

groups she illustrates, because she has a strong 

background in morphology (Pell and Angell, 

2016) and she understands what structures are to 

be depicted and how they vary. Pen and ink have 

been the standard type of illustration for some 

time because they have the great advantage that 

they can reveal features that are hidden or simply 

Figure 1. (Left) Canarium scholasticum. (Right) Canarium scholasticum holotype specimen.

too small to be conveyed by scans or photographs, 

although photomicrography has improved in 

recent years.
Something both the illustrator and botanist need 

to possess and cultivate is the ability to work in 

different dimensions.  The botanist may have seen 

the species in the herbarium (2D) and must visually 

“flesh out” a search image to recognize it in the 

field (3D). At least as remarkably, the illustrator is 

obliged to concatenate a 2D specimen, 2D images, 

and (if lucky) 3D plant parts rehydrated from 2D 

plant parts, and portray a 3D plant in 2D with 

correct disposition of the parts (e.g., orientation 

of an inflorescence).
An illustration is begun by roughing out a basic 

‘habit’ from a representative herbarium specimen, 

showing as much as possible of the entire plant, 

often a leafy branchlet. Elements including upper 

and lower leaf surfaces and unobscured leaf 

nodes are arranged to display as many features as 

possible. Details of foliage, flower, fruit, and seed 

are drawn based on discussions with the author. 

Angell works with a dissecting microscope to view 

details on herbarium specimens (Figure 2). A 

micrometer in the lens is essential, as are accurate 

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Figure 2. Microscope setup for illustrations.

rulers and dividers. Details are drawn at a scale 

appropriate to their complexity and importance, 

which might be a fruit enlarged to 2×, anthers 

at 10×, and multicellular hairs at 40×. If liquid-

preserved material is not available, flowers can 

often be re-hydrated by gentle boiling in water with 

a drop of glycerin and then dissected, although 

only with sufficient material and permission. 

With the sketch reviewed by the botanist and then 

altered as needed, the plate is inked in. Angell uses 

a crowquill nib and Pelikan Tusch black drawing 

ink on Strathmore Bristol Board, with paper size 

equal to herbarium specimens and proportional 

for reduction to the format of journals.
The value of an illustration increases when it is 

multi-purposed: reproduced in floras and other 

publications and increasingly linked to herbarium 

specimen records along with field photographs, 

maps, phylogenies, molecular sequences, 

and other digital information as components 

of “virtual herbaria.” Millions of images of 

herbarium specimens and many thousands of 

field photographs are available online in virtual 

herbaria or image banks, but these are of variable 

quality. Reputable botanical journals require 

that new taxa be portrayed; some permit high-

resolution photographs or scans of herbarium 

specimens, and it is often possible to obtain very 

good results from photomicrographs of flowers. 

Illustrations continue to be optimal, however. 
Studying the systematics of a group of plants 

is not a rapid-fire enterprise, but the synergy 

between the two present authors plus John 

Mitchell over 35 years is a highly satisfying and 

productive effort that has yielded 115 taxa new to 

science—and counting—with Angell continuing 

to lovingly illustrate new species of the two sisters, 

Burseraceae and Anacardiaceae.

References

Daly, D. C.  1992.  New taxa and combinations in Protium 

Burm.f.  Studies in neotropical Burseraceae VI.  Brittonia 

44: 280-299.
Daly, D. C. 2020. New species of Protium sect. Tetragastris 

from the Andes, the Brazilian Cerrado, and Amazonia. Stud-

ies in Neotropical Burseraceae XXVIII.  Brittonia.  https://

doi.org/10.1007/s12228-020-09616-x
Daly, D. C., J. Raharimampionona, and S. Federman. 2015. A 

revision of Canarium (Burseraceae) in Madagascar.  Adanso-
nia (sér. 3) 37: 277-345.
Mitchell, J. D., D. C. Daly, L. Calvillo-Canadell, and R. O. 

Perdiz. 2023.  Two new genera and a new species of Anacar-

diaceae from northern South America.  Brittonia 75: 1–18.

Pell, S. K., and B. Angell. 2016. A Botanist’s Vocabulary

Timber Press, Portland.

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From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

 

 

 

 

Arthur Domingos-Melo

 

Laboratory of Floral Biology and Pollination Ecology, De-

partment of Biosciences, Federal University of Sergipe - Prof. 

Alberto Carvalho Campus, Itabaiana – SE, 49506-036, Brazil   
E-mail: arthur.dom@academico.ufs.br

Floral Acoustic Signaling in Bat Pollination 

Demonstrated by Percussive Folk Music 

from the Northeast of Brazil

Samba de Coco is a folk music from the Northeast 

of Brazil that has a significant presence in the 

Caatinga region, a dry forest known for its high 

proportion of bat-pollinated species — a unique 

pollination system where sound serves as a form 

of floral signaling. This essay explores how the 

unlikely combination of Samba de Coco and 

bat pollination led to a successful science-art 

connection that used music as an analogy to 

demonstrate the role of sound in plants.

FLORAL ACOUSTIC SIGNALING 

IN BAT POLLINATION AS A  

REMARKABLE EXAMPLE OF THE 

ROLE OF SOUND IN PLANTS

Plants can produce many different sounds, from 

the generic rustle of thousands of leaves swaying 

in the wind in a forest to the unique snap of a 

calyptra exploding from sphagnum moss, but their 

sound characteristics are rarely discussed. This 

scarcity is largely due to the inherent challenge of 

comprehending the biological functions of plant 

sounds without specialized theoretical knowledge 

and a creative approach to disseminating this 

information to a broader audience. Despite this 

challenge, some studies have shown that sound 

is a crucial factor in many biological processes 

in plants (Demey et al., 2023). Science-art 

approaches are an effective way to make botanical 

content more accessible and interesting to society 

(as demonstrated throughout this Plant Science 

Bulletin sci-art compendium), and music is a 

particularly successful artistic expression for 

explaining the sounds produced by nature (Shirley 

et al., 2020; Andima et al., 2021; Nguy, 2022).
The role of sound in plant-animal interactions 

is exemplified by the acoustic signaling in bat-

pollinated flowers. These flowers take advantage 

of bats’ echolocation sense to attract them. When 

using echolocation, bats emit high-frequency 

sounds and interpret the reflected echoes to detect 

objects and navigate through the environment. 

Chiropterophilous flowers (i.e., pollinated by 

bats) have specialized echoic concave parts that 

make them acoustically conspicuous. When bats 

emit sounds that reach these floral parts, a strong 

and multidirectional echo with a recognizable 

invariant signature is produced (Simon et al., 2011, 

2021). This unique characteristic is combined with 

other peculiarities present in chiropterophilous 

flowers, such as large flowers, emission of sulphur 

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volatile compounds (unpleasant garlic or cabbage 

smells), and copious nectar production, making 

bat pollination an astonishing and unique process 

(Domingos-Melo et al., 2023).
Although bat pollination plays a crucial ecological 

role, it remains relatively unknown to society 

(Boero et al., 2022). This lack of awareness is 

exemplified in the Caatinga, the largest seasonally 

dry tropical forest in South America, where the 

significance of bat pollination as a global hotspot 

is unrecognized by the citizens (Domingos-

Melo et al., 2023). This is not surprising given 

the region’s lack of biodiversity awareness and 

educational neglect (Vieira et al., 2022). However, 

the Caatinga boasts a rich and unique artistic 

tradition, including various types of folk music 

such as Forró, Baião, and Xaxado, as well as Samba 

de Coco, which was created by Afro-descendants 

and native indigenous people.
Paulo Freire, widely regarded as one of Brazil’s 

most influential pedagogues, emphasized the 

role of ethics and aesthetics in education through 

his concept of Boniteza (which translates to 

beauty in English) and stressed the importance 

of incorporating local artistic elements into the 

teaching and learning process (Freire, 2021). In this 

regard, incorporating cultural movements unique 

to the Caatinga into the study of its ecological 

processes represents an important exercise in the 

science-art interface. Upon contemplation of this 

matter, I was invited to give a lecture on Science 

Dissemination at the 4th Brazilian Pollination 

Symposium in Garanhuns, PE on October 18, 

2022. As a researcher in bat pollination and an 

amateur Brazilian folk music player, I took this 

opportunity to organize a workshop where we 

used Samba de Coco to explain the functioning of 

acoustic signaling in chiropterophilous flowers. By 

combining science and art in this way, we hope to 

promote greater appreciation and understanding 

of our study systems in pollination biology.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS: THE 

UNUSUAL MIX BETWEEN BAT 

POLLINATION AND FOLK MUSIC

The Samba de Coco originated in several localities 

throughout northeastern Brazil, and its name 

varies depending on its place of origin. Some 

examples include Coco de Beira de Praia, de 

Roda, de Ciranda, de Umbigada, and de Raiz, 

which reflect the unique dance style, instruments 

used, and meter of the verses. Mestre Lula Calixto 

(1942–1999), a musician and cultural promoter 

from Arcoverde-PE in northeastern Brazil, created 

the Coco Trupé style, which is characterized by the 

percussion created by tapping wooden rustic clogs 

against a platform (Figure 1A). Other instruments 

used in the style include the triângulo, pandeiro, 

surdo, and ganzá. A significant portion of my 

research on bat pollination has been conducted in 

the Catimbau National Park, Northeast Brazil (e.g., 

Domingos-Melo et al., 2020, 2022; Domingos-

Melo, 2021), which is located a few kilometers 

from Arcoverde. During 2021 and 2022, I had the 

opportunity to reside in Arcoverde and immerse 

myself in the rich cultural profusion that the 

‘Samba de Coco’ represents in this city (Coco 

Raízes de Arcoverde, 2018; Coco Trupé, 2020). 

Given my background as an amateur Maracatu 

player (another folk music genre from Northeast 

Brazil), this experience particularly enchanted and 

inspired me to embark on an experiment merging 

art and science.
In preparation for the presentation, I collaborated 

with one of the local groups from Arcoverde called 

Samba de Coco Eremin (Figure 1F). During our 

meetings, we exchanged ideas and knowledge: I 

taught them about bat pollination in the Caatinga, 

while they taught me about Samba de Coco. They 

also took me to visit the Culture Center of Samba 

de Coco Raízes de Arcoverde and the Atelier of 

Mestre Assis Calixto (brother of Lula Calixto), 

who was honored by the State Government with 

the title of Living Cultural Heritage of Pernambuco 

in 2019 (Franco, 2019). Additionally, the clogs 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

used in the presentation were purchased from his 

studio and handcrafted by himself.
During our collaborative sessions, we drew an 

analogy between the percussive sound of clogs 

and the pulses emitted by bats that are reflected 

by flowers. Gonzalez-Terrazas et al. (2016) 

demonstrated that bats use echolocation to 

locate flowers, emitting a series of calls during 

their approach (Figure 1B). Once the flowers are 

identified and the bats are in close proximity, 

they emit a long terminal call group before 

visiting a flower (Figure 1C). Similarly, in Trupé 

performances, the clogs can be played in various 

ways (Coco Raízes de Arcoverde, 2019), including 

(1) Parcela rhythm, characterized by slower 

and more cadenced tapping (Figure 1D), and 

(2) Trupé rhythm, in which the tapping speed 

Figure 1. Utilization of the Northeast Brazilian folk music "Samba de Coco" as an analogy for acoustic signalling 

in bat-pollinated flowers. (A) Traditional wooden clogs used as percussion instruments. (B) Echolocation is used by 

bats during their search for flowers. (C) This process is here symbolized by the "parcela rhythm," which exhibits slower 

and more rhythmical tapping (visual representation of sound waves in green). (D) During the floral visitation, a long 

terminal call group is produced just before the bat approaches the flower and is represented by the "trupé rhythm." 

(E) This rhythm is characterized by tapping that gradually accelerates until it reaches the fastest tempo achievable by 

the performer. (F) Meeting with the Samba de Coco Eremin group to develop the idea, and (G–H) presentation and 

workshop held at the 4th Brazilian Pollination Symposium in Garanhuns, PE on October 18, 2022.

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

progressively increases until it reaches the fastest 

tempo possible for the performer (Figure 1E). We 

used the Parcela rhythm to represent echolocation 

during the search for flowers, whereas the Trupé 

rhythm represents the long terminal call group 

that occurs just before visiting the flower.

THE PRESENTATION:  

RESEARCHERS  

CHALLENGED TO ROLEPLAY  

BAT-POLLINATED FLOWERS

During the Science Dissemination lecture, the 

Coco-Eremin group performed various songs 

featuring the Parcela and Trupé rhythms as 

examples of how bats echolocate when searching 

for and visiting flowers (Figure 1G). This was 

followed by a workshop in which a group 

of volunteer researchers from the audience 

participated. Coco-Eremin members taught 

them how to play the rhythms with their feet, 

and then an impromptu roleplay was performed, 

with a Coco-Eremin player simulating a “bat 

echolocating during foraging” while the volunteers 

acted as “flowers” and replicated the percussion 

to simulate the echoes (Figure 1H). The group 

followed the Parcela rhythm at first, and in some 

moments increased the speed to the Trupé rhythm 

(simulating a floral visit), with the researcher 

volunteers following suit. It was humorous to 

watch the researchers on stage attempting to 

match the speed of the skilled Coco player. After 

a couple of rounds, the “flower that best reflected 

the sound of the bat” was declared the champion. 

The audience found this playful exercise amusing 

and exciting.

PERSPECTIVES: USE OF MUSIC 

TO BUILD ANALOGIES  

ABOUT THE ROLE OF  

SOUND IN PLANTS

Expanding on our successful endeavor, there’s 

compelling potential to explore further aspects 

of ecoacoustic signaling in chiropterophilous 

plants. The rich complexity of this process offers 

numerous avenues for science-art experiences, 

complemented by the creative potential of 

Samba de Coco. Extending this interdisciplinary 

approach to educational settings such as schools 

and non-formal learning environments could 

broaden its impact and foster curiosity among 

diverse audiences.
The recent shift in the terminology from “plant 

blindness” to “plant awareness disparity,” while 

addressing the ableism inherent in the former, 

also emphasizes the extensive consequences of 

neglecting plants on our attitudes, knowledge, 

and interest in them (Parsley, 2020). As we 

move away from a metaphor that exclusively 

centers on visual processes, it is appropriate to 

acknowledge the importance of other sensory 

modalities in educating about plants. In this 

context, we demonstrate that music can be a 

compelling alternative for creating intricate 

analogies that highlight the role of sound in 

plants. Such analogies not only serve to illustrate 

the importance of sound in the life of plants, but 

also stimulate an emotional connection with 

nature that can motivate people to study them. 

In our case, with a touch of poetic imagination, 

one might envision the Caatinga as a nocturnal 

dance floor, where thousands of chiropterophilous 

flowers sway to the beat of a joyous Samba de 

Coco, in a mesmerizing performance rhythmed 

by the bats’ echolocation.

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks to Valderlan A. F. Baltazar, 

coordinator of the Raizes do Sertão and Coco 

Eremin Cultural Group, as well as its members, 

for their collaboration on this project. To Master 

Assis Calixto for crafting the clogs used in the 

presentation. To Dr. Natan Messias Almeida and 

Dr. Cibele Cardoso de Castro for their invitation 

and support of the presentation at the 4th 

Brazilian Pollination Symposium in Garanhuns, 

PE, on October 18, 2022. To Dr. Antônio Felix for 

the logistic support. This research was funded by 

FACEPE (Foundation for the Support of Science 

and Technology of Pernambuco) through research 

grants (DCR-0031-2.03/21; APQ-0226-2.03/21).

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73

From the PSB Special Issue on Art in the Botanical Sciences

Cross-Pollination: Building a Co-Taught 

Course to Examine Art and Sex Through  

the Lens of Botany

 

Christopher T. Martine

1

Anna Kell

2,

and

 

Diamanda A. Zizis

1

 

1

Department of Biology, Bucknell University, Lewis-

burg, PA 17837

2

Department of Art and Art History, Bucknell Univer-

sity, Lewisburg, PA 17837

Nearly a decade ago, Bucknell University—a 

small, private, liberal arts institution in central 

Pennsylvania—instituted a new sophomore-

level requirement titled Integrated Perspectives 

(IP). Taught by instructors from two different 

disciplines, courses under the IP umbrella are 

meant to introduce students to an area of study 

through the combined efforts of professors whose 

disparate academic backgrounds meet in a sort of 

pedagogical “sweet spot.” When successful, this 

approach challenges both the students and the 

professors in often unexpected ways, with varying 

degrees of both discomfort and engagement that 

can engender impactful learning outcomes. 
Driven by overlapping interests in plants, art, 

and diversity in sex expression, Anna Kell 

(Department of Art and Art History) and Chris 

Martine (Department of Biology) developed a 

course that integrates the perspectives of a visual 

artist and a botanist. Art & Sex Through the Lens 

of Botany seeks to impart the importance of 

making connections across disciplines  and  the 

value of visual literacy across academic lines. The 

course introduces foundational concepts in each 

field  and  encourages students to integrate and 

explore these different systems of knowledge and 

their intersections.
In addition to developing fluencies related to 

both general botany and studio art, the goal of 

the course is that students demonstrate a variety 

of new strengths including (1) the ability to 

recognize, construct, and evaluate connections 

among different intellectual methods, ways of 

learning, and bodies of knowledge; (2) the ability 

to identify the various parts of a flower and discuss 

their significance and role in sexual reproduction 

in plants; (3) increased awareness of visual forms 

of communication, including artistic expression, 

data visualization, and observation; and (4) a 

broader understanding of the role of sexuality 

in the science of biology and in the formation 

of cultural beliefs and biases. Through these 

approaches, students engage in cultural dialogue 

regarding our perceptions of normativity in sexual 

expression—often using the flower (including 

its depiction in art) and the wide variation in 

angiosperm sex expression as a starting point. 

By examining the impressive diversity of sexual 

systems and forms present in flowering plants 

(through dissections, microscopy, comparative 

approaches, and artistic representation), students 

are consistently challenged to question what is 

“normative” when considering the myriad means 

by which organisms (including our own species) 

“do” sexuality. 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

As they build their botanical acumen, students 

are then challenged to create artworks applying 

their evolving knowledge and understanding to 

their own perceptions and experiences related 

to sexuality, gender expression, and other 

sociocultural issues or cultural phenomena they 

identify as important to them. The hope is that 

this interdisciplinary approach to botany  and 

art not only gives students a new (or initial) 

appreciation and understanding for each academic 

discipline, but also gives an awareness of the ways 

these students might contribute meaningfully 

to cultural dialogue (including on topics related 

to human sexuality) through the integration 

of science and art.
The pedagogical mission of the course is largely 

achieved through hands-on lab experiences 

and creative projects, each requiring extended 

course periods and ample teaching/work space 

for the typical enrollment of 24–30 students. The 

current iteration of the class meets twice a week 

for 80 minutes and occupies two adjacent lab 

classrooms with large open bench spaces; there 

is also dedicated space in our nearby collections 

spaces for storage of in-process and completed 

assignments. Students in the course complete 

a number of “sci-art” projects, including the 

following examples: 

1.  Wearable plant-pollinator interaction 

art pieces in which the pollination pro-

cess is performed and recorded in short 

video clips. Done in groups, this activity 

promotes an understanding of coevolu-

tion, coadaptation, and biological inter-

actions. For example, a group of students 

majoring in Math, Neuroscience, Studio 

Art, and Management constructed cos-

tume pieces that were worn as part of a 

greenhouse-based “ballet” performance 

in which the Math student (also minor-

ing in Dance) played a Trochetia black-

burniana flower visited by the Neurosci-

ence student acting as a day gecko. 

2.  Repeated pattern wallpaper designs 

inspired by plant reproductive strategies 

including, in one case, a treatment reflect-

ing on the deception associated with bee 

orchid (Ophrys) pollination and, in an-

other, the sex-changing and thermogenic 

habits of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus 

foetidus)

3.  Projects using herbarium paper as a 

canvas, including: 

 Ǎ Artistic documentation of floral 

dissections using various species 

and reproductive morphologies, 

with attention to representations 

of “maleness,” “femaleness,” and 

cosexuality. 

 Ǎ “Cultural specimen” sets express-

ing a 

particular feeling, place, 

personal experience, or wider 

cultural phenomenon. As an ex-

ample, one Biology student cut a 

Pride flag into scraps and then re-

assembled them into specimens 

of national flowers for countries 

in which being gay is considered 

a crime. These were then mount-

ed as herbarium specimens with 

labels identifying the countries 

and the sentencing associated 

with the “crime” of homosexual-

ity. 

 Ǎ Bio-cultural commentaries built 

around scraps of textiles featur-

ing floral motifs. For example, 

student Sophie McQuade (Figure 

1) chose a swatch of fabric featur-

ing a bleeding heart (Dicentra) in 

flower as an inspiration for a re-

flection on queer identitie

s. 

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

At the conclusion of each semester of the course, 

Bucknell’s Rooke Science Center becomes a gallery 

space where students in Art & Sex Through the 

Lens of Botany display their work as part of a 

short-term exhibition—with the entire campus 

community invited to the opening. Some of 

Figure 1. “Bleeding Hearts” by Sophie McQuade, 2021, gouache on herbarium paper. A bio-cultural commentary 

created around a single round piece of cloth (upper right) with a floral motif representing a bleeding heart (Dicentra). 

Artwork completed as part of the Art & Sex Through the Lens of Botany course at Bucknell University (Lewisburg, 

PA, USA) and included with permission from the artist (Instagram @sophiemcquaideart). 

the pieces have now hung in hallways, labs, and 

classrooms for years, alongside research posters 

and bulletin boards displaying journal articles and 

campus flyers—a daily reminder that creativity 

and art have a place in the teaching of science. 

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Botany 2024!

Featured Speakers

Colin Khoury 

Plenary 

Address

Kaya DeerInWater 

Regional Botanist

Jenny Xiang 

Incoming 

BSA President

Mark Merlin 

Distinguished 

Ethnobotanist

Cynthia Jones 

Kaplan Lecture

Joyce Gloria Onyenedum 

BSA Emerging Leader

David Tank 

Incoming ASPT 

President

Kathleen Kay 

Annals of 

Botany

Morgan Ruelle 

SEB Mid-Career 

Award

Belong in Botany Panel Discussion 

Perspectives on Success in the Biological Sciences 

Moderated by Karolina Heyduk

Josh Felton

Katherine 

Toll

Charles 

Bush

Joyce 

Navarro

Ana Flores

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

77

Botany 2024!

Workshops and Field Trips

Have Some Fun and Learn Something new!

West Michigan’s Natural Communities Sampler 

    Sphagnum Bog, Oak Barren and more

Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve

Kellogg Biological Station

Ferns and Lycopods of Yankee Springs

Nature Journaling Science and Art

Hudsonville Nature Center

Frederick Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park

White Water Rafting

Introduction to Phylogenetic Comparative Methods in R

Data Analysis and Visualization In R

SNPs, genes, genomes: using assembled genomes for answering 

evolutionary questions

Biodiversity data wrangling: Linking large phylogenies with species 

traits and ecologies

Common methods in leaf gas-exchange research: an introduction 

to measurements, theory, and data analysis

How to Tackle Teaching Plant Life Cycles

Winter twig and fruit identification

Conservation through Ethnobotanical Relationships 

SISRIS: Supporting Inclusive and Sustainable (collections-based) 

Research Infrastructure for Systematics

Genome Skimming: A Bioinformatics Approach to Assembly-Free 

Analysis of Genomic Information

Traditional Cyanotype Printing with Jessie Swimeley

Ethnobotany, natural products, and microbiomes through a One 

Health collaboration

3D Printing for Science: From Design to Optimize

Seeing Seeds: An Artistic Investigation

Planting Inquiry in Biology Classrooms

A Full Slate of Workshops

Full Day  

Half Day or Two Hour!

Sign up on the 

Conference Website

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

78

78

SOCIETY  NEWS 

SEARCH FOR NEW  

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF FOR 

AJB AND PSB 

The BSA has been very fortunate to have Dr. 

Pamela Diggle as the Editor-in-Chief of the 

American Journal of Botany (AJB)  and Dr. 

Mackenzie Taylor as the Editor-in-Chief for 

the Plant Science Bulletin (PSB) for almost 10 

years! Both Pam and Mackenzie will complete 

their second 5-year terms in December 2024. 

A search committee to recruit new Editors for 

these important BSA publications was formed 

in February 2024 and includes Emily Sessa 

(Chair), Eugenio Larios, Nora Mitchell, Andy 

Schnabel, Mackenzie Taylor, Amy McPherson, 

and Richard Hund. 

The committee launched the search process 

during the week of February 26, with 

an application deadline of April 5, 2024. 

BSA Publications Updates

Interviews will take place in late April into 

May, and a recommendation to the Board will 

be made by early June. Ideally, offers will be 

extended to candidates for both publications 

before the Botany meeting in mid-June, but 

otherwise by the end of July. The terms for the 

new EiCs will begin in January 2025.

AJB AND APPS OPEN 

CALL FOR ASSOCIATE  

EDITORS

In late August 2023, the BSA publications team 

launched an open call for Associate Editors for 

AJB and Applications in Plant Sciences (APPS), 

with the goals of adding depth of expertise 

and improving diversity on our editorial 

boards. We strongly encouraged applicants 

from underrepresented groups and regions to 

apply; by the end of September, we received 

83 applications from over 20 countries. AJB 

invited 13 and APPS invited 9 applicants 

to join our editorial boards as Associate 

Editors; other applicants were encouraged to 

become or remain engaged with the journals 

as authors and reviewers (and Early Career 

Advisory Board or Publications Committee 

members). Most terms began in November 

2023, and the new AEs will be assessed after 1 

year to determine whether the arrangement is 

working well for both parties.

By 

Amy McPherson 

BSA Director of  

Publications

E-mail: 

amcpherson@

botany.org

 

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New AJB Associate Editors, as a result of the 

Open Call: Liming Cai (University of Texas-

Austin), Myong Gi Chung  (Gyeongsang 

National University, South Korea), Andrés 

J. Cortés (Colombian Agricultural Research 

Corporation, Colombia), Lucía DeSoto 

(Complutense University of Madrid, Spain), 

Carole Gee (University of Bonn, Germany), 

Brenda Grewell (

USDA ARS and University 

of California Davis), Eugenio Larios 

(Universidad Estatal de Sonora, Mexico), 

Elena Lopez Peredo  (Rochester Institute of 

Technology), Giacomo Puglielli (University of 

Seville, Spain), Susan Rutherford (Wenzhou-

Kean University, China), Yuval Sapir (Tel Aviv 

University, Israel), Elizabeth Stacy (University 

of Nevada Las Vegas), and Juan Carlos 

Villarreal A. (Université Laval, Québec, 

Canada). For a list of the entire editorial 

board, see https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary.

wiley.com/hub/journal/15372197/homepage/

editorialboard.

New  APPS Associate Editors, as a result of 

the Open Call: Rob Baker (National Park 

Service), Mario Blanco-Sánchez (Netherlands 

Institute of Ecology, The Netherlands), 

Gordon Burleigh (University of Florida), 

Vadivelmurugan Irulappan (University of 

Missouri, Columbia), Gianalberto Losapio 

(University of Lausanne, Switzerland), 

Giuseppe Diego Puglia (National Research 

Council of Italy), Dustin Ray (University of 

Minnesota-Duluth), Aarón I. Vélez-Ramírez 

(Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), 

and Yunjian Xu (Yunnan University, China). 

For a list of the entire editorial board, see 

https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/hub/

journal/21680450/homepage/editorialboard.

APPS RECRUITING  

EDITOR

Applications in Plant Sciences held an open 

call for a new Recruiting Editor in October-

November 2023 and received 11 applications 

from a geographically diverse pool (4 

applicants from Europe, 2 from the US, 2 

from Pakistan, 1 from India, 1 from Malaysia, 

and 1 from Mexico). After interviews and 

careful consideration, Tilottama (Tilo) Roy, 

of Missouri Western State University, was 

offered the position and began working with 

the journal in early February 2024. 

ARTIFICIAL  

INTELLIGENCE AND  

PUBLICATIONS:  

GUIDELINES

At the Botany meeting in Boise, the editors of 

AJBAPPS, and PSB, along with the Director-

at-Large for Publications, met and discussed 

the challenges and opportunities that artificial 

intelligence (AI) will potentially offer to 

science. An ad hoc committee, chaired by 

Theresa Culley (University of Cincinnati), 

was formed in September 2023 to discuss how 

generative AI is changing publishing and what 

guidelines we should be providing for authors, 

reviewers, and editors. The committee is 

meant to have a one-year lifespan, roughly 

September 2023 to June 2024. In addition 

to drafting guidelines, the committee will 

produce an article for the  Plant Science 

Bulletin  that relates their findings about the 

AI landscape and what it means for BSA 

publications. Stay tuned!

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In February 2024, Duke University announced 

the closure of its 100-year-old herbarium, 

the second-largest private herbarium in the 

United States. The decision led to protests 

from university scientists and researchers 

from around the globe. Home to 825,000 

specimens, including vascular plants such as 

flowers and trees, to a large collection of algae, 

lichens, fungi, and mosses, the herbarium 

was deemed too expensive to maintain. 

 

BSA President Brenda Molano-Flores, on 

behalf of the Society, joined other scientific 

leaders by contacting the leadership at Duke to 

express the following thoughts, and to prompt 

reconsideration of their decision.  

I am writing on behalf of the Botanical 

Society of America, a professional scientific 

society representing 3,000 botanical scientists 

worldwide, to emphasize our deep concern 

regarding the planned closure of the Duke 

University Herbarium and relocation of its 

collection. We urge you to reconsider this 

decision which will have dire consequences 

for the second largest private herbarium in 

the United States, its invaluable collections 

of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, fungi 

and algae, and for current and future scientific 

researchers. 

The Duke University Herbarium serves as 

a crucial repository of botanical diversity, 

providing researchers with essential resources 

BSA Leadership  

Responds to News of  

Duke University’s Herbarium Closure

for studying plant taxonomy, distribution, 

ecology, and evolution. These collections 

represent a tangible record of our planet’s 

botanical heritage and are indispensable for 

advancing our understanding of the natural 

world. The closure of the Duke University 

Herbarium and relocation of its specimens 

would not only represent a loss of scientific 

resources but also hinder efforts to address 

the most pressing scientific issues of our 

time: climate change and global biodiversity 

loss. Without access to these invaluable 

collections, especially for plant scientists 

in the Southeastern United States which is 

the most biodiverse region of the country, 

researchers would be deprived of essential 

tools for understanding and combating the 

environmental challenges we face. 

With this divestment and dispersal of a 

world-renowned scientific collection, Duke 

is ceding its position as a top research center 

and strongly indicating it no longer values the 

support and training of the next generation of 

scientists. Generations of outstanding plant 

biologists have been trained through the 

Duke Herbarium. Duke undergraduate and 

graduate students in Agriculture, Biology, 

Environmental Science and Policy, and Earth 

and Climate Science will lose access to a world-

class archive of plant biodiversity that has 

supported student research and training for 

over a century. We encourage you to continue 

the Duke legacy in biodiversity science by 

supporting this critical resource. 

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We understand the financial constraints 

that institutions often face. The long-term 

funding of a Herbarium and its curators is 

not insignificant. However, we believe that 

the long-term benefits of maintaining the 

Duke University Herbarium far outweigh 

the cost. We urge you to explore alternative 

solutions and potentially a combination of 

solutions, such as increased funding (Duke’s 

endowment consistently ranks as one of the 

largest at US universities), partnerships, or 

community and crowd-funded support, 

to ensure the continued operation of this 

important herbarium. Rather than scattering 

these collections, we must invest in them and 

maximize access to the wealth of knowledge 

they hold about the past, present and future 

of our planet. 

Demonstrate that you value biodiversity, 

research and the training of our next 

generation of top-notch plant scientists and 

preserve the world-class scientific collections 

you have while keeping them in their home at 

Duke. The Botanical Society of America stands 

ready to support your efforts to maintain the 

collection at Duke and looks forward to a 

positive resolution to this matter. Thank you 

for your attention to this urgent issue. 

Sincerely, 

Brenda Molano-Flores 

President on behalf of the BSA Board of 

Directors Botanical Society of America

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82

By 

Amelia Neely

BSA Membership & 

Communications  

Manager

 

E-mail: ANeely@

botany.org

 MEMBERSHIP NEWS

Brenda Molano-Flores, the  current BSA 

President, would like to invite you to share 

your 

#PlantJoy

 to help create a community-

wide celebration of how plants and botany 

bring us joy. As you may remember, 

Finding the joy—tall tales of a plant 

lover” was her Incoming Presidential 

lecture at last year’s Botany conference 

(a recording is available at https://www.

youtube.com/watch?v=sBt3Xn7AevM!).  

 

#PlantJoy Campaign

How can you share the ways plants bring 

you joy?

• Share stories and videos on social me-

dia with the hashtag: 

#PlantJoy

• Email PlantJoy@botany.org with items 

you would like to share on the #Plant-

Joy landing page:  https://botany.org/

plantjoy.html

• You can also add to the word cloud on 

the #PlantJoy landing page at https://

www.menti.com/alkfotz2c5gk!

To get started, take a look at Brenda’s #PlantJoy 

introduction video (https://youtu.be/S3

H5dH0fKlA?si=2a9YaGHneuQBRRDG)

and hopefully you will be inspired to share 

how you find joy in your botanical research, 

interaction with plants, nature, and more!

Thank you, in advance, for sharing how you 

find joy in your relationship with plants. If 

you have any questions, email  plantjoy@

botany.org.

BOTANY360 UPDATES

Botany360 (home/

resources/botany360.html) is a series of 

programming that connects our botanical 

community during the 360 days outside of 

Botany conferences. The Botany360 event 

calendar is a tool to highlight those events. 

The goal of this program is to connect the 

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plant science community throughout the year 

with professional development, discussion 

sessions, and networking and social 

opportunities. To see the calendar, visit www.

botany.org/calendar. If you want to coordinate 

a Botany360 event, email aneely@botany.org.  

 

Upcoming Botany360 Virtual Events

 Fulbright US Scholar Program: In-

sights from an Alumni Ambassador  

https://botany.org/calendar/display/

date/20240429/viewtype/event/eid/44 

April 29, 2024, 2–3 pm EST

 Longwood Gardens   Fellows Program    

Informational Webinar [sponsored 

event]https://botany.org/calendar/

display/date/20240508/viewtype/

event/eid/45 May 8, 2024, 1–2 pm EST

Recent Botany360 Event Recordings

 Applying to Graduate School Q&A 

Panel (September 26, 2023) 

https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=ETdaLo7Hwd8

 Reviewing Papers for Scientific Jour-

nals (December 13, 2023) 

https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=8mwBWvY0gR8

 Getting Involved in Service 

to BSA and Beyond (January 

8, 2024) https://youtu.be/kh-

btx0L9c4?si=dSARRUiG2Jj8S01l

Other Recordings of Interest Related to the 

Upcoming Botany Conference 

 Ace It! - Write a Better Title (March 

2, 2022)  https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=e2_CkFtBcI4

 Ace It! - Write a Better Abstract  

(March 23, 2022) 

https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=dbPGAr9_GyE

 Making the most out of Botany 

2023 - A Student Conference 

Guide (May 26, 2023) 

https://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=1CiRBSs45kw

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BSA SPOTLIGHT SERIES

The BSA Spotlight Series highlights  early-

career and professional 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.

The latest member spotlights:

Find the following profiles at https://botany.org/home/careers-jobs/careers-in-botany/bsa-

spotlight-series.html.

• Shweta Basnett, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Maryland, College Park
• Blaire M. Kleiman, Graduate Student, Florida International University
• Francis J. Nge, Systematic Botanist, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney, 

Australia

• Trinity Tobin, Undergraduate Student, SUNY Cortland
• Jaqueline Alves Vieira, Graduate Student, São Paulo State University  

(IBILCE/Unesp - Brazil) 

 

Would you like to nominate yourself or another BSA member to be in the Spotlight 

Series? Fill out this form: 

https://forms.gle/vivajCaCaqQrDL648

.

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BSA PROFESSIONAL 

HIGHLIGHT SERIES

In 2023, we included a BSA Professional 

Member Highlights section each month in 

the Membership Matters newsletter. Starting in 

2024, both Professional and Early-Career BSA 

members will be highlighted in the Spotlight 

Series. If you want to be part of this year’s 

spotlight series, emai

aneely@botany.org

Dr. Jennifer Ackerfield  

Head Curator of 

Natural History 

Collections and 

Associate Director of 

Biodiversity Research 

Website: https://

jenniferackerfield.

weebly.com/

Jennifer coordinates the growth and 

improvement of the natural history collections, 

supports biodiversity research efforts, and 

manages herbarium staff and volunteers 

working with the collections. Throughout 

her career, Jennifer has traveled extensively 

throughout Colorado documenting its rich 

floristic diversity. This extensive knowledge 

led her to write the Flora of Colorado, with 

the goal of helping anyone identify the plants 

of Colorado with ease. Jennifer also leads a 

research program focused on documentation 

of biodiversity through targeted floristic 

inventories, systematics and taxonomy of 

western North American groups such as 

native thistles (Cirsium), and unraveling the 

origins of plant diversity in the Southern 

Rocky Mountains through biogeographic 

studies. Jennifer regularly collaborates with 

organizations and agencies across the state, 

leads field trips and workshops, and initiates 

community participatory science campaigns. 

She also loves teaching and sharing her 

passion for botany to students of all ages. 

Dr. Hong Ma 

Professor of Biology 

at the  

Pennsylvania State 

University

Dr. Hong Ma is a 

professor of biology 

and   holder of the 

Huck Chair for Plant   

Reproductive Development and Evolution, 

at the Pennsylvania State University. He has 

worked with students, post-doctoral scientists, 

and collaborators to understand the molecular 

mechanisms regulating plant reproduction 

and to reconstruct angiosperm phylogenies 

using nuclear genes, with an aim to learn 

about factors that shape plant evolution and 

diversity. Among the angiosperm groups 

he and his colleagues have studied are large 

families, including Asteraceae, Orchidaceae, 

Fabaceae, Poaceae, Brassicaceae, Rosaceae, 

Solanaceae, and Cucurbitaceae. He is actively 

involved in the education and training of 

students at different levels, particularly 

undergraduate and graduate students, to help 

them prepare for their careers in a variety of 

fields. He is especially happy to meet with 

young conference attendees and share some 

thoughts and experiences related to career 

development.

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Dr. Ingrid Jordon-

Thaden 

Director of Botany 

Garden & Greenhouses 

in the Department 

of Botany at the 

University of Wisconsin 

Madison

(formally Twitter): 

@IThaden

  

Websites: 

https://jordonthadenbotany.weebly.

com/

 and 

https://jordonthaden.botany.wisc.edu/

Ingrid is directing a team that cares for a 

living collection of plants for teaching in 

the Department of Botany at the University 

of Wisconsin Madison. As Director of the 

Botany Garden and Greenhouse she helps 

provide the live plants for many courses, 

gives tours, and ensures it continues to be a 

prominent botanical education facility on 

campus and in southern Wisconsin. She is 

currently teaching botany for non-majors at 

the University of Wisconsin Madison and is 

a Research Associate of the Florida Museum 

of Natural History. Her research aims to 

explore questions regarding speciation 

processes and adaptations in plant species at 

the nexus between population genomics and 

phylogenetics. In particular, she is fascinated 

with the myriad of modifications during 

gametophytogenesis in plants and how 

that affects the survival and adaptation of a 

species. Ingrid is also currently serving as the 

Secretary of ASPT.

BSA LEGACY SOCIETY

Thank you to all of our Legacy Society 

members for supporting BSA by including 

the Society in your planned giving. We 

look forward to hosting you at this year’s 

Legacy Society Reception at Botany 2024 

in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you are 

interested in joining the Legacy Society, you 

are welcome to come to the event and sign 

up in person or by filling out this form at 

any time: 

https://crm.botany.org/civicrm/profile/

create?gid=46&reset=1

.

We would like to welcome the following new 

2023-24 Legacy Society members:

Erika Jeannine Edwards

Steven and Joan Handel

Lena Struwe

Qiuyun (Jenny) Xiang

1 Anonymous Member

The intent of the  Botanical Society of 

America’s Legacy Society  is to ensure a 

vibrant society for tomorrow's botanists, 

and to assist all members in providing wisely 

planned giving options. All that is asked is 

that you remember the BSA as a component 

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87

in your legacy gifts. It’s that simple—no 

minimum amount, just a simple promise to 

remember the Society. We hope this allows all 

BSA members to play a meaningful part in the 

Society's future. To learn more about the BSA 

Legacy Society, and how to join, please visit: 

https://botany.org/home/membership/the-bsa-

legacy-society.html

2023 GIFT MEMBERSHIP 

DRIVE DRAWING WINNER

Thank you to everyone who purchased 

gift memberships during the 2023 Gift 

Membership Drive (October through 

December 2023), and congratulations to the 

Botany 2024 registration drawing winner,  

Stephen Mills, a student at Purdue University.!

You can purchase one- or three-year gift 

memberships at any time for both students 

and developing nations’ colleagues. Want 

to donate a gift membership to students or 

developing nations’ colleagues instead? Simply 

put an X in the name and email recipient 

fields. Visit 

crm.botany.org

 to get started. 

NEW BSA SPONSORSHIP 

OPPORTUNITIES

Do you know a business or organization that 

would benefit from being in front of over 3000 

botanical scientists from over 70 countries, 

and over 60,000 followers on social media? The 

BSA Business Office has many opportunities 

for sponsorship, including:

• Sponsored Membership Matters news-

letter articles and footer ads

• BSA website banner ads
• Hosting Botany360 events
• Botany360 event logo advertisement 

during event, a slide before/after 

event, or time to discuss product at 

beginning or end of event

• Sponsored social media ads
• Advertisement space in the Plant   

Science Bulletin

Because we value our community, the above 

opportunities are limited with the hope of 

being informative without being intrusive. 

Sponsorships will allow BSA to fulfill our 

strategic plan goal of being financially 

responsible during this time of economic 

shifts.

To find out more about sponsorship 

opportunities, email 

bsa-manager@botany.org

.

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FROM THE 

PSB

 ARCHIVES

60 years ago

The Plant Science Bulletin was nearly shelved 10 years after its first issue. This note from the 

editor goes on to explain the results of the study to reevaluate the economics of PSB. There is 

only one issue of PSB from 1964 in the BSA archives, possibly due to this ongoing study. 

“Sometime last year, while I was 9,000 miles away from home in the Philippines, I received 

a most unnerving bit of communication from a colleague back home: Plant Science Bulletin 

was on the verge of being scotched, or at best it would be emasculated. Pressure was being 

put on the powers that be in the Society to introduce drastic economies which might 

decrease its stature, reduce it to the category of a hand-out, or even eliminate it entirely!

[. . . ] your editor saw bloody red and immediately dashed off a scathing letter saying in 

effect: Don’t touch P. S. B.; I knew it when it was a fledgling; it should not be cheaply printed; 

its founders were friends and mentors of mine; I knew why it was begun; it has served a 

great and noble purpose; it is not a chit-chat sheet; etc. Letters came back saying cool off 

old boy; the situation is in hand; we will wait until you return; no one is going to junk 

P. S. B. summarily and without a chance for a hearing. In short, President Alexopoulous 

wisely appointed a committee to examine P. S. B. and “to study the whole matter . . . and to 

make ... recommendations . . . to the Council at its Boulder meeting in 1964,” and to give 

special attention to how “the cost of production ... [might] be reduced” and to “a general 

re-evaluation of the Bulletin.”

-

Stern, William L. 1964. A note from the EditorPSB 10(1): 4-5

50 years ago

“The first biographical sketch that appeared [in PSB] was the one of Charles Edwin Bessey 

published in volume four, issue five, which was also the first issue edited by Harriet B. 

Creighton who succeeded Professor Fuller. The first obituaries, those of Harley Harris 

Bartlett and Ezra Jacob Kraus, were published in volume six. Since then biographical 

notes have appeared in every volume, except volumes ten and fifteen. The peak volume 

was number seven, with eleven biographical notes. In order that information in these 

biographical notes may be more readily accessible to the Botanical Society of America 
members, scholars, and historians, the accompanying index has been prepared.”

-Stuckey, Ronald L., and W. Louis Phillips. 1974. Biographical Sketches and Obituaries in 

Publications of the Botanical Society of America — An IndexPSB 20(1): 5-6

40 years ago

“The 2nd International Wetlands Conference will be held in Trebon, Czechoslovakia June 

13-23, 1984. The meeting is sponsored by the INTECO Wetlands Working Group, SCOPE, 

UNESCO/MAB, and the Institute of Botany, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences

-Meetings and Courses 1984. PSB 30(1): 5

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89

  SCIENCE EDUCATION

 

By Dr. Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

Jennifer Hartley, 

Education Programs 

Supervisor

The BSA Education Committee is seeking 

to update the state-by-state resource lists 

available on the botany.org website. 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?),  organizations, and 

quality, durable web resources focused on 

the botany of the state or region. To start, we 

are focusing on U.S. states 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.

The Committee’s starting goal is to have 

the most comprehensive undergraduate 

student-appropriate state flora/field guides 

listed for each state. This resource will be 

Seeking Flora/Field Guide  

Recommendations to Update 

BSA’s State-by-State  

Botanical Resource Pages

useful for faculty who want to refer students 

to their local flora, or for botanists moving 

from one region to another. We appreciate any 

help you can provide in creating this useful 

resource that doesn’t appear to be easily found 

elsewhere.

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 

botany.org website. To submit a resource, 

please use this link: https://forms.gle/

VjpHPYM9pVKJ4dmh9.

“USA-based BSA members: 

Which  flora  or  field  guide 

would you recommend un-

dergraduates  use  to  iden-

tify plants in your state or 

region?”

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ROOT & SHOOT RCN  

DEVELOPING A NEW  

CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE  

MENTORING  

CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 

TO PILOT IN FALL 2024

A new working group has been established by 

the ROOT & SHOOT RCN to create a culturally 

responsive mentor certification program for 

plant scientists. The working group holds a 

large group meeting once a month, and weekly 

smaller meetings with various subgroups. All 

working group members receive stipends. 

The plan is to create/compile a pilot cohort-

based mentor certification program to be 

ready to be evaluated in Fall 2024. There 

will likely be opportunities to participate in 

piloting the new program announced in late 

summer on the ROOT & SHOOT website 

(https://rootandshoot.org) and advertised 

in future BSA newsletters and via social 

media. More information on the charge and 

structure of this working group is available 

on the ROOT&SHOOT website:  https://

rootandshoot.org/working-group-on-

culturally-responsive-mentoring/

The working group includes a diverse group 

of 23 members in total with a wide range of 

experiences related to culturally responsive 

mentoring. The working group members were 

recruited from the seven ROOT & SHOOT 

participating societies. Thanks to the 13 BSA-

affiliated members representing our society in 

the working group!

Jordan Argrett

Summer Blanco

Cael Dant

Caitlyn Elliot

Amy Faivre

Ian Gilman

Laura Gough

Juliana Harden

Janet Mansaray

Renee Petipas

Cierra Sullivan

Jess Szetela

Mariana Vazquez 

ROOT & SHOOT RCN  

SPONSORED BYSTANDER  

INTERVENTION  

WORKSHOPS OFFERED IN 

MAY FOR BOTANY 2024  

ATTENDEES

Many BSA members took advantage of free 

Bystander Intervention Training workshops 

last spring in advance of the Botany 2023 

conference in Boise. The ROOT & SHOOT 

RCN is offering these workshops again 

in 2024 for members of the RCN who are 

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planning to attend Botany 2024 in Grand 

Rapids, MI. The workshops are again provided 

by the ADVANCEGeo partnership (https://

serc.carleton.edu/advancegeo/workshops/

topics.html). This year’s spring workshop is 

scheduled for May 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

EDT.

The RCN is also offering an “advanced” 1-hour 

practice-heavy “refresher” version of the 

training for those who attended the workshop 

last year, or who are looking for more practice.  

This refresher workshop will be held on May 

28 from 3 to 4 p.m. EDT.

Learn more about these workshops and sign 

up to participate at:  https://rootandshoot.

org/2024-bystander-intervention-workshops/

PLANTINGSCIENCE 

SPRING 2024  

SESSION UPDATE

The Spring 2024 session of PlantingScience is 

in full swing right now. We were so pleased 

with the enrollment this session—we had 

20 teachers apply to participate!  This was 

especially positive because about half of 

these teachers were past participants and 

the other half were new to us. In total, the 

session has engaged 540 students across 

147 inquiry projects, comprising a nice mix 

of middle- and high-school students, and 

even one undergraduate class in India!  The 

topics studied in this session include seed 

germination, tissue structure and behavior, 

photosynthesis, C-fern development, and 

genetics. Many thanks to our wonderful 

cohort of liaisons this session, and the 102 

mentors who have stepped up to work with 

our student teams!

PlantingScience also received a pleasant 

surprise when we learned we had been 

featured in an article with our service provider 

and website host, HubZero. Leading up to the 

Digging Deeper F2 research initiative during 

our Fall 2023 session, the PlantingScience 

team and HubZero worked together to update 

and improve our platform. Read more about 

these updates at http://bit.ly/pshzfeature. 

We are now looking ahead to the continuation 

of the Digging Deeper F2 research with the 

Fall 2024 cohort. Applications for the Fellows 

opportunity for early career scientists have 

closed and we are making selections, which 

will be announced soon!  We’re pleased to 

report that our mentor pool has increased by 

over 100 mentors since August of 2023, but 

we anticipate another big session this coming 

fall.  If you or anyone you know is interested, 

please join us! Visit https://plantingscience.

org/getinvolved/mentor to learn more.

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Curious about the Conference Logo?

A lot of thought goes into the Botany Conference logo each year. The logo for Botany 2024 – Resil-

ience in a Changing World was informed by our desire to select plants that are native to Michigan and 

exemplify resilience in various ways.

Arnica cordifolia Hook. -  Heartleaf Arnica:

The showcased plant is Arnica cordifolia Hook., the heartleaf arnica. A member of the Asteraceae, this 

perennial species is endangered in Michigan but thrives across western and northern North America. 

Known for its adaptability to both shade and sun, moderate fire resistance, and a potential need for 

disturbance in order to be successful, the heartleaf arnica has a long history of medicinal use. 

Zizia aptera (A.Gray) Fernald - Prairie Golden Alexanders:

The plant with yellow-flowers in flat-topped umbels is Zizia aptera (A.Gray) Fernald, also known as 

Prairie golden alexanders, Heartleaf golden alexanders, or Meadow zizia. While this species in the 

Apiaceae is threatened at the state level, it maintains globally security as a short-lived perennial, rely-

ing on re-seeding for its persistence.  

Cypripedium parviflorum Salisb. - Yellow Lady’s Slipper:

The yellow lady’s slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum Salisb., is a familiar orchid that is widespread 

across North America with several varieties commonly recognized. The yellow lady’s slipper is glob-

ally secure with a conservation status of least-concern. 

Woodwardia areolata (L.) T. Moore - Netted Chain Fern:

In the background of the logo is the beautiful Woodwardia areolata (L.) T. Moore (= Lorinseria areo-

lata (L.) C.Presl), the netted chain fern. Native to the southeastern United States, this globally secure 

member of the Blechnaceae ranges northward along the eastern coast and has a historical presence 

in Michigan, last seen in Van Buren county (southwest of Grand Rapids) in 1880. Although it hasn’t 

been seen in Michigan for over a century, it is presumed to be present, so keep a keen eye while enjoy-

ing any conference field trips—and document any sightings with photos—as the rediscovery of this 

species during our conference botanizing would be a remarkable event.  

Conference logo designed by Melanie Link-Perez and Johanne Stogran

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93

STUDENT SECTION

By Eli Hartung and Josh Felton

BSA Student Representatives 

We were excited to lead a Botany360 webinar 

earlier this year on “How to be a Successful 

BSA Student Representative.” If you missed it 

and would like to access the slides from the 

presentation, go to https://bit.ly/40IrhdB, 

and be sure to email us at feltonjosh@icloud.

com anelishartung@gmail.com if you have 

any questions. (For more information on the 

Botany360 series, see the Membership article 

in this issue.)

Botany360 Webinar:  

How to Be a Successful BSA  

Student Representative

ROUNDUP OF STUDENT 

OPPORTUNITIES

It’s that time of the semester where you start to 

compile every opportunity you want to apply 

to into one list. To make this easier for you, 

we have compiled a list of all the opportunities 

we know about. Even if the deadline of 

this application cycle is passed for this 

academic year, make sure to check by the 

end of this year for the next application 

cycle and expect that the deadline for the 

next year will be around that date. We 

have divided these into categories for easy 

browsing that include the following: BSA 

Grants and Awards, Fellowship, Research 

Awards, Broader Impacts, Short Courses and 

Workshops, Job Hunting, and ways that may 

help you to travel to Botany 2024. The list is 

long! So we’ve provided a link that you can 

use to access funding opportunities: http://

tinyurl.com/2024bsaopportunities.

Of  course, all the grants and awards 

information will also be announced and 

reminded via the BSA social media, so make 

sure to follow us on Facebook (Botanical 

Society of America), X (@Botanical_), 

BlueSky (@botsocamerica.bsky.social) and 

Instagram (@botanicalsocietyofamerica) and 

stay updated! Also feel free to reach out to your 

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BSA student representatives Josh (feltonjosh@

icloud.com) and Eli (elishartung@gmail.

com) if you have questions about the listed 

opportunities, or any questions or comments 

about BSA.

PAPERS TO READ FOR 

FUTURE LEADERS

As we continue in our careers, we hope to 

see the academic culture shift to be healthier 

and more inclusive. Below are a few papers 

we think you should read if you hope to lead. 

We hope to continue to recommend “Papers 

to Read for Future Leaders” to BSA student 

members, so if you have papers you would like 

us to include, please share it with us via this 

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

Previously shared papers include:

• Allen, K., J. Reardon, Y. Lu, et al. 

2022. Towards improving peer review: 

Crowd-sourced insights from Twit-

ter.  Journal of University Teaching & 

Learning Practice 19.

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

al. 2020. Academic ecosystems must 

evolve to support a sustainable post-

doc workforce. Nature Ecology & Evo-

lution 13: 1-5.

• Asai, D. 2020. Race Matters. Cell 181: 

754-757. 

• Baker, K., M. P. Eichhorn, and M. Grif-

fiths. 2019. Decolonizing field ecology. 

Biotropica 51: 288–292.

• Brown, N., and J. Leigh. 2020. Able-

ism in Academia: Theorising expe-

riences of disabilities and chronic 

illnesses in higher education. Lon-

don: UCL Press. DOI: https://doi.

org/10.14324/111.9781787354975.

• Caviglia-Harris, J., K. E. Hodges, B. 

Helmuth, et al. 2021. The six dimen-

sions of collective leadership that ad-

vance sustainability objectives: rethin-

king what it means to be an academic 

leader. Ecology and Society 26: 9.

• Chaudhury, A., and S. Colla. 2021. 

Next steps on dismantling discrimina-

tion: Lessons from ecology and con-

servation science. Conservation Let-

ters 14: e12774.

• Chaudhary, V. B., and A. A. Berhe. 

2020. Ten simple rules for building 

an antiracist lab. PLoS Computational 

Biology 16: e1008210. 

• Claire Demery, A. J., and M. A. Pip-

kin. 2021. Safe fieldwork strategies for 

at-risk individuals, their supervisors 

and institutions. Nature Ecology & 

Evolution 5: 5-9.

• Cooper, K. M., A. J. J. Auerbach, J. D. 

Bader, et al. 2020. Fourteen recom-

mendations to create a more inclusive 

environment for LGBTQ+ individuals 

in academic biology. CBE - Life Sci-

ence Education 19:es6: 1-18. 

• Cronin, M. R., S. H. Alonzo, S. K. 

Adamczak, et al. 2021. Anti-racist 

interventions to transform ecology, 

evolution and conservation biology 

departments. Nature Ecology & Evolu-

tion 5: 1213–1223.

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

Holmes‐Sullivan, et al. 2020. Introduc-

ing plant biology graduate students to 

a culture of mental well‐being. Plant 

Direct 4: e00211.

• Ellis, E. C., N. Gauthier, K. K. Gol-

dewijk, et al. 2021. People have shaped 

most of terrestrial nature for at least 

12,000 years. PNAS 118: e2023483118.

• Emery, N. C., E. K. Bledsoe, A. O. Hal-

sey, et al. 2020. Cultivating inclusive 

instructional and research environ-

ments in ecology and evolutionary 

science.  Ecology and Evolution 11: 

1480-1491.

• Gewin, V. 2021. How to include Indi-

genous researchers and their know-

ledge. Nature 589: 315-317. 

• Gin, L. E., N. J. Wiesenthal, I. Ferreira, 

and K. M. Cooper. 2021. PhDepressi-

on: Examining how graduate research 

and teaching affect depression in life 

sciences PhD students. CBE—Life 

Sciences Education 20.

• Hamilton, P. R., J. A. Hulme, and E. D. 

Harrison. 2020. Experiences of higher 

education for students with chronic il-

lnesses. Disability & Society 38: 21-46.

• Herz, N., O. Dan, N. Censor, et al. 

2020. Opinion: Authors overestimate 

their contribution to scientific work, 

demonstrating a strong bias. PNAS 

USA 117: 6282–6285.

• Huyck, J. J., K. L. Anbuhl, B. N. Bu-

ran, et al. 2021. Supporting Equity 

and Inclusion of Deaf and Hard-of-

Hearing Individuals in Professional 

Organizations.  Frontiers in Educati-

on  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fe-

duc.2021.755457.

• MacKenzie, C. M., S. Kuebbing, R. 

S. Barak, et al. 2019. We do not want 

to “cure plant blindness” we want to 

grow plant love. Plants, People, Planet 

1: 139-141.

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

towards healthier research labs. PLoS 

Computational Biology 15: e1006914.

• McDaniel, S. F. 2021. Bryophytes are 

not early diverging land plants. New 

Phytologist 230: 1300-1304. 

• McGill, B. M., M. J. Foster, A. N. Pru-

itt, et al. 2021. You are welcome here: 

A practical guide to diversity, equi-

ty, and inclusion for undergraduates 

embarking on an ecological research 

experience. Ecology and Evolution 11: 

3636-3645.

• Nocco, M. A., B. M. McGill, C. M. 

MacKenzie, et al. 2021. Mentorship, 

equity, and research productivity: les-

sons from a pandemic. Biological Con-

servation 255: 108966.

• Parsley, K. M. 2020. Plant awareness 

disparity: A case for renaming plant 

blindness.  Plants, People, Planet 2: 

598-601.

• Poodry, C. A., and D. Asai. 2018. 

Questioning Assumptions. CBE - Life 

Sciences Education 17: es7, 1-4. 

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• Ramírez-Castañeda, V., E. P. Westeen, 

J. Frederick, et al. 2022. A set of prin-

ciples and practical suggestions for 

equitable fieldwork in biology. Pro-

ceedings of the National Academy of 

Sciences 119: e2122667119.

• Schell, C. J., C. Guy, D. S. Shelton, et al. 

2020. Recreating Wakanda by promo-

ting Black excellence in ecology and 

evolution. Nature Ecology & Evolution 

4: 1285-1287.

• Simoneschi, D. 2021. We need to im-

prove the welfare of life science traine-

es. PNAS 118: e2024143118.

• Tilghman, S., B. Alberts, D. Colón-

Ramos et al. 2021. Concrete steps 

to diversify the scientific workforce. 

Science 372: 133–135.

• Tseng, M., R. W. El-Sabaawi, M. B. 

Kantar, et al. Strategies and support 

for Black, Indigenous, and people of 

colour in ecology and evolutionary 

biology. Nature Ecology & Evolution 4: 

1288–1290.

• Woolston, C. 2022. PhD students face 

cash crisis with wages that don’t cover 

living costs. Nature 605: 775-777.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

IN MEMORIAM

NELS RONALD LERSTEN 

(1932–2023)

To lose a friend and colleague like Nels is never 

easy. However, good memories have a way of 

lessening the loss. That is how I remember 

Nels. He joined the Iowa State University 

Botany & Plant Pathology Department as an 

assistant professor in the early 1960s after 

obtaining his PhD at UC-Berkeley under the 

mentorship of Professor Adriance S. Foster, a 

renowned, published plant anatomist, and a 

past president (1954) of BSA. Nels was hired 

to eventually replace Professor John E. Sass, 

famed author of Botanical Microtechnique

I met Nels when I joined the Department 

as a two-year postdoctoral fellow, and then 

became a faculty member in 1966.  We 

quickly became friends and launched into 

joint research projects related to sporogenesis, 

bacterial leaf nodules, crystals, and other 

topics as well. We jointly published our first of 

17 papers (1966–2011) together on Riccardia 

pinguis in AJB in 1966. 

Nels was a fountain of information, exacting 

in his research work and teaching, and an 

excellent writer that made him a perfect fit to 

be Editor-in-Chief of AJB (1990–1994). Our 

offices and labs were next to each other, and 

our graduate students took our classes and 

socialized together. He and I went camping 

and on field trips, and we played many games 

of hand- and racquet-ball. He was usually the 

better player! We and our graduate students 

attended many BSA meetings, and we even 

roomed together at a few of them. Above all, 

Nels was a kind, compassionate, supportive, 

and a “forever” friend. In retirement we had 

lunch together periodically, reminiscing about 

our earlier lives, joking about funny instances 

we shared, and yes, talking about our past 

research endeavors. Now he is at peace with 

his wife, and he will stay in my thoughts (and 

those of many others) until I see him again. 

A friend and colleague, Harry T. (Jack) Horner, 

University Professor Emeritus

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Below is an excerpt from Dr. Lersten’s official 

obituary: 

Dr. Nels Ronald Lersten passed away on 

Thursday, December 28, 2023, at the age of 

91. He took his last breath at MorningStar 

Assisted Living and Memory Care in West 

Des Moines, IA. He had family bedside upon 

his death.

Nels was born in the southside of Chicago, Ill 

on August 6, 1932. He was the first born of 

Swedish immigrants Anders Einar and Elvira 

Maria (Bloom) Lersten. He grew up in and 

around the Swedish community of Chicago. 

He graduated from Harper High School in 

Chicago in 1949 at the age of 16. Nels attended 

the local “trolley-car” junior college until he 

turned 18 years old and joined the United 

States Coast Guard. He spent 3 years on active 

duty, first being stationed in Japan patrolling 

United States interests in the Pacific Ocean. He 

was then selected to become a sonar specialist 

and receive additional training in San Diego, 

CA. After this training he was transferred to 

the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, where he was 

involved in chasing down Russian submarines. 

Upon fulfilling his Coast Guard commitment, 

he returned to Chicago and enrolled at the 

University of Chicago where he earned his 

undergraduate degree (BS) in Biology and his 

master’s degree in Botany. Nels continued his 

education by earning his PhD in Botany at the 

University of California – Berkeley in 1963.

His first job offer was at Iowa State University, 

Ames, Iowa, where he accepted an assistant 

teaching position in the Botany Department. 

Nels told everyone he was only staying for a 

couple of years, but as it turned out, he became 

a full professor at ISU and taught for 35 years 

until retiring in 1998.

Nels met Patricia Brady in 1955 while out 

dancing in Chicago and they married on June 

14, 1958. They were married for 61 years until 

Pat’s death in 2019. The couple was blessed 

with 3 children (Sam, Andrew and Julie) 

during the marriage. Pat was a devoted spouse 

and supported Nels throughout his career and 

they made a strong and loving team together.

Nels enjoyed a wonderful education career, 

which included becoming one of the first users 

of the electron microscope for research at ISU, 

taking the family to London, England for his 

one- year sabbatical at the Royal Kew Gardens 

and speaking at many Botany Conferences 

around North America and Europe. He 

became the editor of the Proceedings of the 

Iowa Academy of Science and was the editor-in-

chief of the American Journal of Botany (1983-

87) [Ed note: 1990–1994]. He also held various 

leadership roles within the Botanical Society 

of America and earned their prestigious Merit 

Award. Nels published over 120 articles and 

authored several books. In 2008, he published 

“Flowering Plant Embryology,” which was his 

most read book and continues to be used today 

by Colleges and Universities for their Botany 

curriculum around the country. His children 

were always more impressed that he also wrote 

the section entitled “LEAF” in the World Book 

Encyclopedia. Upon his retirement in 1998, 

Nels earned the title of Professor Emeritus 

from Iowa State University. He was considered 

one of the world’s pre-eminent plant anatomy 

experts at the time.

Nels loved the outdoors. He was always at 

his happiest when exploring nature. Travel 

was important to Nels as he would take the 

family on camping trips in their VW Camper 

Van for the last 6 weeks of every summer as 

the kids were growing up. He would always 

plan the trips around one of his speaking 

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engagements, alternating throughout the 

Western and Eastern USA and Canada. Many 

great memories were created from these trips. 

Nels was known to stop in remote areas, grab 

his collection bag and trek into the forest for 

hours at a time. He would eventually return 

and emerge with a big smile, sharing tales of 

his new plant findings with the family, who 

were still either reading or sleeping by the side 

of the road in their VW camper van.

He was a kind and gentle soul who 

volunteered for many years at Beloit of Ames. 

He helped support multiple programs there 

that impacted troubled youth. Iowa Governor 

Terry Branstad honored him for his extensive 

volunteering efforts. Nels was a passionate 

game player and loved to play card games, 

poker, Scrabble and Cribbage. He once won 

the title of best Cribbage player in Iowa at the 

Iowa State Fair. He also loved to play pool and 

won the Windsor Oaks championship several 

times. Nels loved to use big words in his 

conversations or unique words that his family 

didn’t know the meaning of—he would say 

to look it up, and of course, it was the perfect 

word to use. Nels loved to spend time walking 

in nature, he would walk twice a day at local 

parks in Ames even when he was in his 90s.

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BOOK REVIEWS

Botany of the Kitchen Garden: The Science and Horticulture of Our Favourite Crops

Chinese Cymbidium Orchid, A Gentleman of Noble Virtue

Flora of Oregon Vol 2

The Ghost Forest

House Plants

Hydrogen Sulfide in Plant Biology

In the Herbarium

The Man Who Organized Nature

Parasitic Weeds of Jordan

Solomon Described Plants

Botany of the Kitchen 

Garden: The Science and 

Horticulture of Our Favou-

rite Crops

Hélèna Dove

2023. ISBN: 978-1-84246-783-1

US$30 (Hardcover); 160 pp.

Kew Publishing Royal Botanical 

Gardens, Kew, Richmond, UK

Hélèna Dove’s Botany of the Kitchen: The 

Science and Horticulture of Our Favourite 

Crops  will delight readers with its botanical 

and horticultural descriptions of some of our 

most commonly grown and consumed fruits 

and vegetables. For those who are not in the 

know, she reminds us that the plants we eat 

and grow in our gardens “have wild ancestors, 

some of which can still be found today and 

some, sadly, which can’t” (p. 10). Through 

cultivation and breeding, many of these wild 

plants have developed into the cultivars we 

now know so well, bred for traits such as 

sweetness or seedlessness. In many cases, 

Dove notes, some plants’ natural defenses 

have been bred out of them. Dove hopes it 

might be possible to breed this lost resilience 

back into the plants we grow if we learn about 

how their wild relatives thrive in their natural 

environments. This knowledge can lend itself 

to establishing healthier ecosystems with 

growers depending less on chemicals to grow 

hardy and healthy crops (p. 10). 
There are 52 plant entries in Botany, each 

offering a brief summary of the plants’ 

botanical and cultivation history, physiology, 

growing habits, and their varieties. In each 

entry, Dove drives home the importance 

of learning the horticulture and science of 

the vegetables and fruits we love to grow 

and consume. She encourages readers to 

understand how a plant’s botanical history 

bears on its botanical present, and how this 

knowledge can be used to ensure its future. 

Knowing the science behind why plants 

behave and adapt as they do can encourage the 

use of horticultural techniques that will grow 

the sweetest fruit, graft the best tomatoes, or 

produce the richest compost.

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Botany encourages gardeners to use botanical 

and horticultural language to talk about 

the crops we grow: “In most vegetable and 

gardening texts, vegetables are referred to by 

their common names—carrots, apples and 

tomatoes, for example” (p. 16). Scientific 

names can often paint a fuller picture of the 

vegetables we grow. The carrot, for instance, 

is also called an “umbellifer,” denoting that it 

belongs to the Umbelliferae family. The flowers 

of the plants in this family (parsley, parsnips, 

and carrots) share the same umbrella shape—

an umbel. It is a biennial tap root with origins 

in Central Asia and the Middle East, and it 

was not always orange. This eastern carrot 

was once white, and “a sudden mutation in 

Afghanistan,” it was thought, “led to purple 

carrots, starting with a white inner core and 

purple skin,” which was “then bred into a fully 

purple carrot” (p. 82). The orange carrot we 

know now, the western carrot, results from 

breeding the wild white carrot into a carrot 

with yellow flesh. Over time, breeding created 

the sweet orange carrot, now an important 

economic crop. 
Each entry also comes replete with distinct 

illustrations that aid the reader in identifying 

various plant parts. The tiny white lines we see 

on carrots, for instance, are their lateral root 

scars. The husk that protects the tomatillo is 

its dried calyx. We eat the petioles of the celery 

and the hypocotyl of the radish. We scoop out 

the mesocarp of the squash to puree it for soup. 

The tiny hair-like strands sometimes spied on 

the raspberry are the remains of the pistil, the 

female organs of its flower. The drawings show 

how a plant’s flower becomes its fruit and how 

to recognize what remains of a plant’s stalk, 

stem, and flower. Botany also includes some 

color photographs, which add color to the 

green and black ink that dons the pages of the 

book. Together, both are tools that encourage 

gardeners, from novice to expert, to become 

more comfortable with using the language of 

botany to describe the plants they grow and 

the environs they inhabit.
Interspersed throughout Botany are ten short, 

two-page primers on various horticultural 

techniques. Each title begins with “The 

botany of…” and focuses on how, for example, 

to sow and save seeds, how to propagate and 

graft plants, or how to force crops or thin 

fruit trees. In “The botany of composting,” for 

example, gardeners learn the science behind 

how their compost piles work. As saprophytic 

consumers, woodlice and brandling worms 

are the first to show up in the heap. They feed 

solely on dead plant material, decomposing 

leaves and branches to make food for the 

secondary consumers. These smaller micro-

organisms (bacteria, fungi and the nonmotile 

actinomycetes) make a meal from the waste of 

the woodlice and worms, breaking this down 

into even smaller bits in a process that releases 

inorganic salts, such as potassium sulphate 

and ammonium nitrate, to name a few.  
Botany  reminds of us of the importance of 

knowing intimately the origins, physiology, 

structure, genetics, and ecology of the 

vegetables and fruits we grow in our gardens. 

For those of you who have a strong natural 

sense of the science of plants, Dove’s Botany 

will not only shore up your intuitive sense 

of botany and horticulture but also teach 

you how to grow vigorous crops, prune and 

train your plants, and produce cultivars that 

are resilient enough to stave off pests. At 6.5 

by 8.75 inches, Botany will fit snugly among 

the gardener’s cookbooks and is a welcome 

addition to the kitchen.

--Rachel Burgess, Independent Scholar, Roch-

ester, NY 14606; rachel.burgess.ph.d@gmail.

com

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PSB 70 (1) 2024

102

Chinese Cymbidium 

Orchid, A Gentleman of 

Noble Virtue

Hew Choy Sin and Wong Yik 

Suan. 

2024; ISBN 979811263378 

(ebook), 979811263385 (ebook 

other), 979811263361 (hard-

cover) $78; 159 pp. 

World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte., Singapore

Over the years, I saw Chinese cymbidiums, 

including an award-winning plant at a show 

in Chongqing, China that was so valuable that 

it was under 24-hour armed guard. I also saw 

their paintings (both recent and old, original 

and copies) in the United States, Singapore, 

Taiwan, and China. I always wanted to learn 

more about them. Now I can do that by 

reading this book.
Lan (Chinese cymbidiums) had an appeal 

and meaning symbolizing integrity, modesty, 

elegance, purity, and nobility in ancient China. 

Confucius referred to lan as “Gentleman of 

Noble Virtue.” An early description of Chinese 

orchids or cymbidiums was in 900 AD in Yong 

Lan (p. 8). Another mention of lan in China 

was as early as the spring of 770-476 BC (p. 3). 

Two other Chinese classic texts that mention 

lan are:

• Shi-Jing (The Classics of Poetry or The 

Book of Songs), the earliest collection 

of Chinese poetry, which dates to 11

th-

7th century BC.

• Li-Ji (The book of Rites), which was 

published in 206 BC–25 AD. It refers 

to ni, which is actually Spiranthes si-

nensis, as well as chien and lan, both 

of which were loose references to fra-

grant plants.

The use of ni, chien, and lan in Li-Ji created 

confusion regarding the dates in which 

Cymbidiums cultivation started in China. 

This book refers to the confusion and explains 

the reasons for it. There is much more to 

learn about the history of lan and Cymbidium 

orchids in China from the well-written and 

extensively referenced first chapter (also see 

Chen and Tang, 1982). 

Appreciation and 

cultivation of orchids in China (Hew, 2001) 

have a long history. Their appreciation was 

influenced  by  Confucianism,  Buddhism  and 

Taoism. They became part of the culture 

and subjects for writers, poets, painters, 

and calligraphers as far back as 1200–1700.  

Interesting details and information about 

the cultural history of Cymbidium in China 

open the second chapter, which includes 

translations of ancient poems.

A good part of the second chapter is devoted 

to details about ancient Chinese paintings of 

cymbidiums, some of which date to about 

1100 AD. A number of reproductions are 

included in the book. Most are printed 

well, but two to three are a bit dark. Lists of 

painters, biographies, and even photographs 

of sculptures that depict artists are included. 

Reading this part of the book is both enjoyable 

and instructive, but somewhat slow due to the 

inclusion of dates (which is both desirable 

and necessary), Chinese characters (which I 

skipped), and names (which are unfamiliar).
Calligraphy is often included in Chinese 

Cymbidium paintings. Messages conveyed by 

the calligraphy are intended to complement 

the painting. They can be poems, excerpts 

from literature, words of praise, or even 

political statements. Paintings of lan on 

fans, bottles, embroidery, and even doors 

contain calligraphy. Postage stamps issued 

in 1988 depict four cymbidiums and include 

calligraphy. Examples of paintings that contain 

calligraphy are presented and discussed 

on pages 44-49 of the second chapter. The 

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103

chapter concludes with examples of lan in 

Chinese culture, symbolism, and the naming 

of girls (mei lan, beautiful lan, is an example). 

Altogether, the second chapter provides an 

excellent discussion of lan in Chinese culture, 

mostly ancient, but also current.
Cymbidium goeringi, C. sinense, C. ensifolium, 

C. faberi, and C. kanran are described in the 

context of modern taxonomy in the third 

chapter. Four of these species were described 

and named in accordance with current 

taxonomic rules by western taxonomists who 

did not assign to three them specific epithets 

that celebrate or even bear any relationship 

to their ancient Chinese heritage. Only one 

name of the four refers to China. Because of 

the insensitive naming of these species by 

Western taxonomists, the combination in this 

book of their Chinese history with modern 

taxonomy is good to have.   
The type specimen of C. goeringii, the noble 

orchid and one of the earliest known Chinese 

cymbidiums, was collected in Japan. It is 

named for the German-Dutch botanist, 

chemist, and plant collector, Phillip Friedrich 

Wilhelm Goering (1809–1876) because it was 

described by Gustav Reichenbach filius (1823–

1889) in 1852 in Germany. Robert Allen Rolfe 

(1885–1921), founder of the Orchid Review in 

the UK, the oldest existing orchid magazine, 

named C. faberi for the German plant collector 

Ernst Faber (1839–1899). This species was 

documented as far back as 1796. It bears nine 

flowers per inflorescence. Therefore, its old 

Chinese name is Nine Children LANS. 
Cymbidium sinense (G. Jackson ex H. C. 

Andrews) Wildenow and C. ensifolium (L) 

Swartz, two species that were popular in 

ancient China, are more aptly named despite 

being described in the West. The Cold Lan 

(because it flowers in a cold season), C. 

kanran was named by the “Linnaeus of Japan,” 

Tomitaro Makino (1862–1957), in 1902. He 

combined  kan (cold in Japanese) and ran 

(orchid in Japanese) in its specific epithet. 

Another Japanese name of C. kanran is Syun 

ran because it also flowers when it is warm 

in the spring. It was brought into cultivation 

2500 years ago. 
Each of these species has several forms and 

varieties. Descriptions and illustrations 

of these Chinese cymbidiums (pp. 53–86) 

complete this chapter and make it a well-

rounded and informative modern taxonomic 

and historical treatment. 
Chapter 4 deals with the biology of Chinese 

cymbidiums and opens by stating that 

“...appreciation of Chinese cymbidiums 

can be summarized in four words ‘Scent, 

Colour, Form, and Charm’” because Chinese 

cymbidiums excel in leaf and flower structure, 

color, form, beauty, and scent. These 

characteristics distinguish them from other 

plants, as poetically noted by Wang Gui Xue 

in his book, Wang Shi Lan Pu published in