Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2020 v66 No 2 SummerActions

background image






An era of virtual seminars: from creating one to a 

list of ones to join.... p. 111

A look back, and forward, at Black Bota-

nists Week with Tanisha Williams.... p. 90

A season of Awards.... p. 76


COVID-19 and 

Its Effect on BSA 


background image

                                                     Summer 2020 Volume 66 Number 2


Editorial Committee  

Volume 66

From the Editor

Shannon Fehlberg 



Research and Conservation 

Desert Botanical Garden 

Phoenix, AZ 85008

David Tank 


Department of Biological 


University of Idaho 

Moscow, ID 83844

James McDaniel 


Botany Department 

University of Wisconsin  


Madison, WI  53706

Seana K. Walsh 


National Tropical Botanical  


Kalāheo, HI 96741


I think it is fair to say that this is a tumultuous year 

and that we are facing challenges on many profession-

al and personal fronts. In this issue of PSB, we begin 

to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 

the botanical community. No doubt we will be seeing 

the effects of the pandemic for years, but here we’ve 

included reflections of members to capture how it has 

felt in the moment. We include two articles that pro-

vide tips for moving to a more virtual world, as well. 

I am also delighted to highlight the Black Botanists 

Week Initiative, which was organized this summer to 

celebrate Black people who love, and work with, plants. 

We also recap the unprecedented, but overwhelmingly 

well-received, Virtual Botany meeting. The feedback 

I have heard underscores the importance of joining 

together and maintaining professional community 

during difficult times. It was a joy to see outstanding 

work and deserving people celebrated, even if we were 

unable to meet in person.

I want to send a very special thank-you to everyone 

who contributed to this issue. Much of it came together 

while universities, labs, and public spaces were closed 

and people were juggling remote work with novel fam-

ily obligations and extreme uncertainty. 


background image




Meet the New BSA Board Members ............................................................................................................... 75

Botanical Society of America’s Award Winners ....................................................................................... 76

Reflections on Botany 2020 - Virtual! ............................................................................................................ 88

A Look Back—and Ahead—at Black Botanists Week .......................................................................... 90

COVID-19 and You Checking in with 12 BSA Members during a Global Pandemic ........... 93


An Era of Virtual Seminars: From Creating One to a List of Ones to Join ............................111


Summary of Spring 2020: How Teachers Managed PlantingScience  

     During a Pandemic ..........................................................................................................................................123  

Resources for Teaching Botany Online ......................................................................................................127


Student Experiences During COVID-19 Lockdown ..............................................................................129

Getting to Know your New Student Representative: Imeña Valdes  ..........................................135

Time Management Tips: Before and During a Pandemic ................................................................136


Thank You, Taran!  ...................................................................................................................................................139

New 3-Year Post-doc Memberships  ............................................................................................................139

Gift Memberships  ...................................................................................................................................................140

Membership Matters eNewsletter ..................................................................................................................140


Machine Learning in Plant Biology: A new special collection in 

APPS .....................................


In Memoriam

W. Arthur (“Art”) Whistler.......................................................................................................143

An extended review of 


 by Peter Coles ...................................................................................145

BOOK REVIEWS ..............................................................................................................................................152

Looking forward to 

meeting with these  

premier scientific societies!

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image



Meet the New  

BSA Board Members!

Michael Donoghue


Melanie Link-Perez

Program Director

Chelsea Specht

Director at Large 

for Diversity, Equity 

and Inclusion

Jennifer Cruse-Sanders

Director at Large for 


Imeñña Valdes



background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



University of Missouri

In her nearly 40-year career, Dr. Candace 

Galen has been a champion for plant science, 

conservation, and education. In particular, 

Dr. Galen’s career has had a major impact 

on the field of plant reproductive ecology 

and evolution. She was an innovator at a 

time when plant population biology was a 

budding field and stands out as a trail blazer 

in many dimensions.  A hallmark of Dr. 

Galen’s research is elegant experiments to 

test fundamental evolutionary principles 

in the wild. Her research is typified by 

a blend of keen observation in the field, 

novel conceptual models, and new tools to 

understand not just pattern, but also process. 

Her work on alpine skypilots, Polemonium 

viscosum, revolutionized our understanding 


Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America 

The Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America is the highest honor our Society bestows. Each year, 

the award committee solicits nominations, evaluates candidates, and selects those to receive an award. Awardees 

are chosen based on their outstanding contributions to the mission of our scientific Society. The committee identi-

fies recipients who have demonstrated excellence in basic research, education, public policy, or who have provided 

exceptional service to the professional botanical community, or who may have made contributions to a combination 

of these categories.

of floral trait evolution by integrating across 

ecological and evolutionary theory. Recent 

work documented evolutionary changes in 

pollinator trait evolution in response to climate 

change and illustrated the use of noninvasive 

monitoring of declining pollinators.

In addition to the numerous graduate students 

and postdocs she trained, nearly half of the 40 

undergraduate students that worked in her 

lab became co-authors on research papers. 

In the broader context, her commitment to 

education is also evident in that she was one 

of the leaders of University of Missouri’s 

GK-12 “Show me Nature from Elements to 

Ecosystems” STEM grant.

Dr. Galen’s passion for public engagement has 

also led to formative change in conservation 

of natural resources. Her dedication to 

plant conservation and ability to convey 

complex and sometimes “hot button” topics 

(e.g., climate change) to the public led to 

partnerships with the Mountain Area Land 

Trust to preserve her long-time research site, 

Pennsylvania Mountain, in Colorado. Her 

ability to form these partnerships, to inspire 

broad groups, will lead to a lasting impact on 

the public and on biodiversity.

Dr. Galen has had a remarkable and impactful 

career as a botanist, educator, and conservation 

advocate, and has served as an important role 

model of strong, independent thought for 

generations of students.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



University of Georgia

James Leebens-Mack has been described 

as a “genuine star in the firmament of plant 

molecular systematics and evolution.” One of 

the more notable aspects of his record is that 

he not only publishes top-notch empirical 

work from his own lab, and on a great diversity 

of topics, but he has a knack for community-

building and forging collaborations. 

Colleagues from around the country seek him 

out to participate in some of the most exciting 

genomic research projects going on in the 

world today. 

Dr. Leebens-Mack has made many significant 

contributions to our understanding of 

plant diversity. In just the last several years, 

he has published papers on the molecular 

underpinnings of various aspects of seed and 

flower biology, sex determination, storage 

roots, CAM photosynthesis, and small RNA 

biology.  And even with these focused studies, 

Dr. Leebens-Mack has been pushing the 

envelope by “going big,” with the publication 

of numerous whole genome sequences, and 

then even grander with the publication last 

year of the 1,124 plant transcriptome project, 

which he led. The landmark accomplishment 

represents the culmination of Dr. Leebens-

Mack having forged collaborations across 

dozens of institutions. This achievement 

provides key genomic resources for the entire 

botanical community, as well as insight into 

the phylogeny of all green plants.

The broader impact of his skills as a mentor 

should not be overlooked. Dr. Leebens-Mack 

is readily available to give his time to help 

other researchers and is particularly good at 

helping students and postdocs. He regularly 

answers questions about techniques or 

troubleshooting from across our community, 

especially assisting early-career researchers 

with practical advice about their unpublished 

data sets. Dr. Leebens-Mack has shown real 

leadership for our community through his 

fearless approach to developing and applying 

new techniques, and new ways of thinking. 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


BSA Emerging Leader 



University of Hawaii

Dr. Christopher Muir serves as an Assistant 

Professor in the Department of Botany 

at the University of Hawaii. Dr. Muir is 

an exceptionally talented quantitative 

evolutionary biologist, a passionate and 

committed botanist, and a true emerging leader 

across the fields of plant trait ecophysiology 

and evolution, including as a developer of 

community resources and organizations to 

support the synthesis of these fields.  Muir’s 

overarching research interests are focused on 

understanding the mechanisms underlying 

physiological trait variation, as well as their 

role in driving the creation, maintenance, and 

distribution of organismal diversity. Although 

Muir’s record clearly shows his ambition 

and talent for research, he also has a highly 

developed sense of mentorship (including 

mentoring undergraduate researchers) and 

a rapidly emerging record as a leader and 

innovator in building community resources 

and networks. Muir has been described as 

creative and deep thinker, and a talented plant 

biologist with a strong computational bent.  


Harvard University

William (Ned) Friedman is the Arnold 

Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary 

Biology at Harvard University and the eighth 

Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. 

Friedman’s studies have fundamentally 

altered century-old views of the earliest 

phases of the evolution of flowering plants, 

Darwin’s so-called “abominable mystery.” 

He is also deeply interested in the history of 

early (pre-Darwinian) evolutionary thought 

and is particularly focused on the largely 

forgotten contributions of horticulturists 

and botanists. As Director of the Arnold 

Arboretum, Friedman has worked to expand 

the Arboretum’s societal impact through 

diverse initiatives in public programming, 

enhanced communication between scientists 

and the public, the embedding of scientific 

scholarship within the living collections, 

and a reinvigoration of the long-standing 

relationship between the Arboretum and the 

biodiversity of Asia.

Donald R. Kaplan  

Memorial Lecture

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        




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

contributed papers sessions of the annual meetings.

Rebecca Povilus, Whitehead Institute, for the Presentation: Single nucleus analysis of Arabidopsis 

endosperm reveals new, transcriptionally distinct cell types. Co-authors: Colette Picard, Ben 

Williams, and Mary Gehring




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

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

patterns of evolution in ferns. 

Amanda Grusz, University of Minnesota-Duluth, for the Presentation: An environmentally-

based model for the origin of obligate apomixis in ferns: insights from the pellaeid clade (Pteridaceae; 

Cheilanthoideae).  Co-authors: Michael D.  Windham, Kathryn Picard, Kathleen  Pryer, 

Eric Schuettpelz, and Christopher Haufler


The Public Policy Award was established in 2012 to support the development of tomorrow's leaders 

and a better understanding of this critical area.

Taylor AuBuchon, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Mary Sagatelova, The Ohio State University


This award organized by the Environmental and Public Policy Committees of BSA and ASPT aims 

to support local efforts that contribute to shaping public policy on issues relevant to plant sciences.

Nina House, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, for the Proposal: Assessing Grazing Impacts on 

Remote Montane Meadows in the Southern Sierra Nevada, Tulare County, California

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        




Donald R. Kaplan was a leading researcher in the area of plant form, where he sought to deduce fundamental 

principles from comparative developmental morphology. Through his own work and the work of the many 

graduate students he mentored, he had a profound effect on the fields of plant development and structure. 

Kaplan always encouraged his students to work independently, often on projects unrelated to his own research. 

He believed that students should publish their work independently, and rarely coauthored his students’ papers. 


To promote research in plant comparative morphology, the Kaplan family has established an endowed fund, 

administered through the Botanical Society of America, to support the Ph.D. research of graduate students 

in this area. The annual award of up to $10,000 may be used to support equipment and supplies, travel for 

research and to attend meetings, and for summer support. This award was created to promote research in 

plant comparative morphology, the Kaplan family has established an endowed fund, administered through 

the Botanical Society of America, to support the Ph.D. research of graduate students in this area.

Annika Smith, University of Florida, for the Proposal: The unique nectar spurs of the nasturtiums 

(Tropaeolum): Vascular architecture, tissue conflict, and synorganization



The BSA Graduate Student Research Awards support graduate student research and are made on the basis 

of research proposals and letters of recommendations. Withing the award group is the Karling Graduate 

Student Research Award. This award was instituted by the Society in 1997 with funds derived through a 

generous gift from the estate of the eminent mycologist, John Sidney Karling (1897-1994), and supports and 

promotes graduate student research in the botanical sciences. 



Veronica Iriart, University of Pittsburgh, for the Proposal: The Fate of Plant Mutualisms Under 

Anthropogenic Stress

Hanna Makowski, University of Virginia, for the Proposal: The role of plant mating systems in 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



Ioana Anghel, University of California, Los Angeles, for the Proposal: Species boundaries and 

mechanisms of divergence in sympatric species of Linanthus

Betsabé Castro Escobar, University of California, Berkeley, for the Proposal: Phylogeography 

and Domestication of calabash trees (Crescentia cujete) in the Caribbean

Nevin Cullen, University of Pittsburgh, for the Proposal:  Can adaptation to toxic elements 

facilitate microbially-mediated speciation in plants?

Victoria DeLeo, Pennsylvania State University, for the Proposal: Testing tradeoffs in different 

components of fitness due to frugivory in the common Caribbean tree Metopium toxiferum

Estefania Pilar Fernandez Barrancos, University of Missouri-St. Louis, for the Proposal: Effects 

of forest restoration on the recovery of coarse woody debris and associated arthropods 


Clarice Guan, Cornell University, for the Proposal: Pieces of the puzzle: Morphological, genetic, 

and histological investigations of spiromonostichy, a unique phyllotactic pattern with associated 

helical growth in spiral gingers (Costus, Costaceae)

Katherine Holmes, Cornell University, for the Proposal:  Plasticity and local adaptation of 

secondary metabolites to herbivory in Eutrochium maculatum

Nina House, Claremont Graduate University (Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden), for the 

Proposal: A Vascular Flora of the Manter and Salmon Creek Watersheds, Tulare County, CA

Yi Huang, University of California, Riverside, for the Proposal:  Species delimitation in 


Amanda Katzer, University of Kansas, for the Proposal:  Modified-Trichome Nectary 

Development in Penstemon

Thomas Lake, University of Minnesota, for the Proposal: Does adaptation facilitate or impede 

future plant invasions?

Bing Li, Northwestern University, for the Proposal:  Genetic and Morphological Changes of 

Oenothera organensis during Ex Situ Conservation

Martin Llano, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia, for the Proposal: Taxonomy, phylogeny 

and biogeography of Anthurium section Dactylophyllium (Araceae)

Elena Loke, Northwestern University, for the Proposal:  Incorporating Phased Alleles to 

Reconstruct a Recent and Rapid Radiation

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Natalie Love, University of California, Santa Barbara, for the Proposal: Using field and herbarium 

collections to detect the ecological and evolutionary causes of geographic variation in pollen size 

and production in the California mountain jewelflower (Streptanthus tortuosus, Brassicaceae)

Victoria Luizzi, University of Arizona, for the Proposal: Investigating the potential microbial 

drivers of interactions between leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) and cottonwoods (Populus 


Valerie Martin, Utah State University, for the Proposal: Microbial Facilitation of Exploitation in 

a Plant-Pollinator Mutualism

Susan McEvoy, University of Connecticut, for the Proposal:  From genome to methylome: 

detection of epigenetic marks for two forest tree species

Bailey McNichol,  University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for the Proposal:  Characterizing plant 

diversity and distribution at an ecological crossroads in an era of global change

Heather Phillips, Cornell University, for the Proposal: Quantifying the Ontogeny of Development 

of Fused Structures in the Zingiberales

Brandie Quarles, Duke University, for the Proposal:  Phenological Tracking via Dormancy: 

Facilitating Survival and Adaptation to Climate Change

Maryam Sedaghatpour,  University of California, Berkeley, for the Proposal:  Silene 

(Caryophyllaceae) of mediterranean Lebanon

Elena Stiles, University of Washington, for the Proposal: Linking cordilleran uplift and landscape 

aridification in the northeastern Andes

Amy Waananen, University of Minnesota, for the Proposal:  Time is the Longest Distance: 

Temporal Outcrossing in a Fragmented Environment


The BSA Undergraduate Student Research Awards support undergraduate student research 

and are made on the basis of research proposals and letters of recommendation.

Michael Daines, Brigham Young University-Idaho, for the Proposal: Distribution of Astragalus 

amnis-amissi, a Plant Endemic to East-Central Idaho

Jonathan Hayes, Bucknell University, for the Proposal:  Genetic diversity & connectivity of 

Chasmanthium latifolium (Poaceae) in Pennsylvania & the effect on conservation status

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Aaliyah Holliday, Cornell University, for the Proposal: Evolution of the Monocot Inflorescence

I. Jason Rose, Cornell University, for the Proposal: Inflorescence Structure And Development In 

Liliales: What Is The Ancestral State Of The Liliales Order?

Diamanda Zizis, Bucknell University, for the Proposal:  Solanum dioicum and Solanum 

ultraspinosum: A morphometric analysis of hybrid offspring from parents with different breeding 



The purpose of these awards is to offer individual recognition to outstanding graduating seniors in 

the plant sciences and to encourage their participation in the Botanical Society of America.

Ava Adler, Oberlin College; Advisor: Dr. Michael J. Moore

Ariel Antoine, Bucknell University; Advisor: Dr. Christopher T. Martine

Sarah Ashlock, University of California, Santa Cruz; Advisor: Dr. Kathleen M. Kay

Jeannine Barr, Indiana University Southeast; Advisor: Dr. David Winship Taylor

Michele Beadle, College of Saint Benedict; Advisor: Dr. Stephen G. Saupe

Grace Brock, Miami University; Advisor: Dr. Robert L. Baker

Jennifer Davis, Bucknell University; Advisor: Dr. Christopher T. Martine

Rosemary Glos, Cornell University; Advisor: Dr. Shayla Salzman

Aaron Lee, The College of New Jersey; Advisor: Dr. Wendy Clement

Luisa McGarvey, Oberlin College; Advisor: Dr. Michael J. Moore

Grace McGee, Connecticut College; Advisor: Dr. Chad Jones

Samantha Mehl, Miami University; Advisor: Richard C. Moore

Elise Miller, College of Saint Benedict; Advisor: Dr. Stephen G. Saupe

Eastyn Newsome, Miami University; Advisor: Dr. Robert L. Baker

Lydia Soifer, Davidson College; Advisor: Dr. Christopher Thawley

Alexis Sullivan, Weber State University; Advisor: Dr. Bridget E. Hilbig

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



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

plant scientists) program recognizes outstanding undergraduates from diverse backgrounds and 

provides travel grant.

Christina Andreski, Plymouth State University; Advisor: Diana Jolles

Juan Angulo, University of Georgia; Advisor: James Leebens-Mack

Sarah Ashlock, University of California; Santa Cruz, Advisor: Kathleen Kay

Trinity Depatie, Florida Atlantic University; Advisor: James K. Wetterer

Kandiss Dowdell, Montana State University Billings; Advisor: Jason Comer

Miyauna Incarnato, The College of Wooster; Advisor: Jennifer Ison

Maia Jones, California Academy of Sciences; Advisor: Nathalie Nagalingum

Sofia Ocampo, Florida International University; Advisor: Suzanne Koptur

Michelle Pham, University of California, Los Angeles; Advisor: James Cohen

I. Jason Rose, Cornell University; Advisor: Chelsea D. Specht

Vida Svahnstrom, University of St. Andrews; Advisor: Susan Healy




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

and service to the furtherance of the botanical sciences. Dr. Moseley, known to his students as “Dr. Mo”, died 

Jan. 16, 2003 in Santa Barbara, CA, where he had been a professor since 1949. He was widely recognized 

for his enthusiasm for and dedication to teaching and his students, as well as for his research using floral 

and wood anatomy to understand the systematics and evolution of angiosperm taxa, especially waterlilies. 

(PSB, Spring, 2003). The award is given to the best student paper, presented in either the Paleobotanical 

or Developmental and Structural sessions, that advances our understanding of plant structure in an 

evolutionary context.

Aleca Borsuk, Yale School of the Environment, for the Presentation: Structural organization 

of the spongy mesophyll in laminar leaves with reticulate venation. Co-authors: Adam Roddy, 

Guillaume Theroux-Rancourt, and Craig Broderson

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        




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

Paleobotanical Section.

Keana Tang, University of Kansas, for the Presentation: Cunonicaceae from the Late Cretaceous 

of North America and its paleobiogeographic implications. Co-authors: Brian Atkinson and 

Selena Smith.



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

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

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

Cecilia Zumajo, New York Botanical Garden and CUNY, for the Presentation: Evolution of the 

seed coat. Co-authors: Dennis Stevenson and Barbara Ambrose


(This year the Physiological Section awarded just one award for the combined Best 


Oral Paper & the Li-COR prize.) 

Anna Jiselle Ongjoco, California State Polytechnic University, Ponoma, for the Presentation: 

Strategies Utilized by Pinus coulteri and Pinus attenuata for Surviving at Low Elevations in the 

San Bernardino Mountains. Co-authors: Edward G. Bobich, Frank E. Ewers, and Erin J. Questad


Simone Lim-Hing, University of Georgia, for the Presentation: Untangling the micronutrient 

status and defense responses in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Co-authors:  Kamal J.K. Gandhi, 

Brittany F. Barnes, Lawrence Morris, Elizabeth McCarty, and Caterina Villari

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        




Veronica Iriart (Graduate), University of Pittsburgh, for the Presentation: Herbicide 

drift reveals species-level variation in stressor resistance and weakens co-flowering 

interactions in 25 wild plant species. Co-authors: Regina Baucom and Tia-Lynn Ashman 


Jenni Velichka (Undergraduate), Queen’s University, for the Presentation: Intraspecific variation 

in seed dispersal strategies between annual and perennial ecotypes of  Mimulus guttatus.  Co-

author: Jannice Friedman


Aleah Querns (Graduate), North Carolina State University, for the Poster: The evolution of 

thermal tolerance and clines in native vs. invasive populations of Mimulus guttatus. Co-authors: 

Rachel Cooliver, Mario Vallejo-Marín, and Seema Sheth



Bryan Piatkowski, Duke University, for the Presentation: Carbon Storage and Niche Preference 

Track Phylogeny in Sphagnum (peat moss). Co-authors: Joseph Yavitt, Merritt Turetsky, and 

Jonathan Shaw.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



As  COVID-19 disrupted the entire world, we were 

also forced to re-imagine the annual conference. 


No travel. No meeting in person. Potentially No Fun!

We worked to create a version that would allow our 

collective members to present their research, network a bit, 

and learn and share with each other.  It was an enormous  

undertaking!   But in your words, it was successful! 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Tanisha Williams

What was/is Black Botanists Week?

Black Botanists Week was first organized 

in 2020 to promote, encourage, create a 

safe space for, and find more Black people 

(and BIPOC) who love plants! The week is a 

celebration of Black people who love plants. 

This plant love manifests in many ways 

ranging from tropical field ecologist to plant 

geneticist, from horticulturalist to botanical 

illustrator. We embrace the multiple ways that 

Black people engage with and appreciate the 

global diversity of plant life.



What motivated you to spearhead this 


During the height of the pandemic and 

the Black Lives Matter Movement, the 

#BlackBirdersWeek was formed in response 

to a White woman falsely calling the cops on 

a Black birder. I participated in this week and 

found such a sense of joy and pride in seeing 

the many beautiful  Black people who were 

excited about science and nature. I wanted to 

create a similar  space for Black people who 

loved plants.

What do you hope people will take away 

from Black Botanists Week and the huge 

response to it?

Our ultimate goal is that people from all 

backgrounds, especially BIPOC backgrounds, 

take away a sense of belonging  within the 

botanical and plant science fields.  We had 

nothing but positive and supportive responses 

from individuals, celebrities, botanical 

societies, and more

What’s your vision for this hashtag and 

event going forward?

This will be an annual celebration and 

recognition of BIPOC who love plants. We also 

want to make sure we are giving back through 

service and outreach. Many of the committee 

members are sharing their research, time, 

skills, and love for plants across a variety of 

In July 2020, BSA member Dr. Tanisha Williams---with a team of 11 like-minded botanists---

coordinated the very first Black Botanists Week. PSB Editor Mackenzie Taylor reached out to Dr. 

Williams following the event to get her thoughts on the impact of the event and what the future 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


platforms. We also are working to start a fund 

to support young and aspiring botanists with 

hand lens and botanical field guides.  Also, 

the committee members are collaborating 

with the Holden Arboretum; each committee 

member will be giving a lecture that highlights 

the contribution of Black botanists during the 

2020-2021 Scientist Lecture Series via Zoom.

Do you have a favorite post or story that 

came out of the event?

Wow, tough question! There were (and are) so 

many great stories.

The first newspaper article on the 







Maya Allen

Jade Bleau

Brandi Cannon

Natasza Fontaine

Morgan Halane

Rupert Koopman

Nokwanda P. Makunga

Beronda L. Montgomery 

Itumeleng Moroenyane 

Georgia Silvera Seamans

Tatyana Soto 

Tanisha M. Williams

Recent  USA Today article:  https://www. y/life/2020/08/04/




My Plant Love Story:  https://www.


We also had a recent AP article that is really 

making an impact around the country:


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        




Black Botanists Week is a celebration of 

Black people who love plants. This plant 

love manifests in many ways ranging from 

tropical field ecologist to plant geneticist, 

from horticulturalist to botanical illustrator. 

We embrace the multiple  ways that Black 

people engage with and appreciate the global 

diversity of plant life.  (Please refer to the 

website:  https://blackbotanistsweek.weebly.


The inaugural week of this social media 

movement was held on July 6 to July 11, and 

the organizers encourage all to participate 

to showcase and amplify the voice of past, 

present and future botanists. 

The organizers define a botanist as anyone that 

has a love for plants and works with plants.

Any study fields or careers or social-cultural 

engagements with the topics listed below fit 

the profile of someone doing botany: 

• Cytology – Cell structure

• Epigenetics – Control of gene expression

• Paleobotany – Study of fossil plants and plant 


• Palynology – Pollen and spores

• Plant biochemistry – Chemical processes of 

primary and secondary metabolism

• Phenology – Timing of germination, flower-

ing and fruiting

• Phytochemistry – Plant secondary chemistry 

and chemical processes

• Phytogeography – Plant Biogeography, the 

study of plant distributions

• Phytosociology – Plant communities and 


• Plant anatomy – Structure of plant cells and 


• Plant ecology – Role and function of plants 

in the environment

• Plant evolutionary developmental biology – 

Plant development from an evolutionary 


• Plant genetics – Genetic inheritance in plants

• Plant morphology – Structure of plants

• Plant physiology – Life functions of plants

• Plant reproduction – Processes of plant 


• Plant systematics – Classification and naming 

of plants

• Plant taxonomy – Classification and naming 

of plants

• Plant interactions – With other life forms or 

the environment 

Applied Botanical Fields

• Agronomy – Application of plant science to 

crop production

• Arboriculture – Culture and propagation of 


• Astrobotany - The study of plants in space

• Biotechnology – Use of plants to synthesize 


• Dendrology – Study of woody plants, shrubs, 

trees and lianas

• Economic botany – Study of plants of 

economic use or value

• Ethnobotany – Plants and people. Use and 

selection of plants by humans

• Forestry – Forest management and related 


• Horticulture – Cultivation of garden plants

• Marine botany – Study of aquatic plants and 

algae that live in seawater

• Micropropagation – Rapid propagation of 

plants using cell and tissue culture

• Pharming (genetics) – Genetic engineering 

of plants to produce pharmaceuticals

• Plant breeding – Breeding of plants with 

desirable genetic characters

• Plant pathology (Phytopathology) – Plant 


• Plant propagation – Propagation of plants 

from seed, bulbs, tubers, cuttings and graft-


• Pomology – Fruit and nuts

background image


COVID-19 and You



The past year has brought unprecedented challenges to those of us working in STEM and higher 

education. In late 2019, a novel coronavirus arose in Wuhan, China and spread throughout 

the globe, prompting wide-scale shutdowns and quarantines across most continents. These 

shutdowns hit the majority of the United States in early to mid-March 2020. Schools and 

universities closed, the majority of classrooms transitioned to remote learning, and research 

labs were shuttered. Many of us have lost friends, family, and/or colleagues to this disease. 

As I write this in August 2020, the death toll in the United States continues to climb, even as 

many universities are reopening for fall classes. Those of us returning to campuses are faced 

with the challenge of implementing new, daunting requirements for enforcing social distancing, 

sanitizing classrooms, and wearing personal protective equipment such as goggles and masks, 

as well as accommodating students who are unable or unwilling to attend in-person classes. 

Others among us are facing another semester of teaching online. 

One of the greatest challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the isolation it has created.  

Many of us transitioned to working remotely where we missed regular, face-to-face interactions 

with students, mentors, and colleagues. In my opinion, it has been easy to feel as though each 

of us is alone in facing the challenges presented by the pandemic. 

We asked people from across the Society to write briefly about their experiences with COVID-19 

in order to document these experiences and to share them with others in the botanical 

community. It is my sincerest hope that the readers of PSB will find reading these reflections to 

be beneficial.   


By Mackenzie Taylor 

Editor-in-Chief, PSB

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


How has the pandemic and its response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
I think many botanical researchers, regardless 

of their affiliations, were affected by the 

pandemic and efforts to control the spread of 

the virus in much the same ways. For myself 

and most of my colleagues at the Desert 

Botanical Garden, we lost several significant 


• Access to our office and laboratory 


• Access to the Garden’s Living Collection 

for scientific purposes (essential staff 

continue their comprehensive care for the 

Living Collection itself).

• Ability to conduct fieldwork.
• Ability to work with volunteers (the 

Garden has more than 700 volunteers 

who not only care for plants but also 

work in our research labs, herbarium, and 

citizen science program).

• Revenue generated by daily visitors 

and special events during the height of 

the Garden’s typical visitorship (spring 


These losses primarily required shifts in the 

focus of our efforts. My new efforts were 

focused on adjusting project expectations, 



Desert Botanical 

Garden, Phoenix, AZ

timelines, and budgets; making alternative 

project plans under multiple, theoretical 

scenarios; transitioning from active data 

collection (in the lab or field) to data analysis 

and proposal and manuscript writing, and 

working with graduate students to finish up 

thesis work and defend virtually.
What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
For me the greatest challenge in adapting 

to these changes is the long work days. To 

accommodate working with my kids on their 

school work (before summer break) and other 

interruptions, I frequently have to work from 

sunup to sundown (on and off). The pressure 

to accomplish my daily work tasks and put in 

my hours, all while taking on additional and 

demanding responsibilities, feels unrelenting 

and exhausting. These changes come with 

other challenges too, like facing uncertainty 

in almost every aspect of life and adapting 

projects that really can’t meet their goals 

without fieldwork, lab work, or volunteers.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?  What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
Some of the most important skills I rely on 

during this time are to be very organized in 

listing and prioritizing my daily and weekly 

goals and using software to track my time 

and efforts (I find this to be an excellent 

tool in helping me to stay focused). One 

important thing I am learning is to accept 

my limitations and other people’s limitations 

(time, physical, mental)—we all are working 

to accomplish what we can in the midst of 

difficult circumstances.
Going into the fall, what challenges and 

opportunities do you see?
In the spring, when our states and institutions 

first began taking measures to limit the spread 

of the virus, we all hoped for a summer and 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


fall season with decreased rates of spread of 

the virus and a phasing-in of some of the 

things we’d lost. But in my part of the country, 

we are not seeing a decreased rate of spread 

but rather an alarming increase in the rate 

of spread, leading to more uncertainty and 

conflict among interests. The pandemic looks 

as though it will continue to delay our projects, 

shift our focus, increase our responsibilities, 

and shrink our budgets. Despite this, I am 

moving forward in a determined way to 

continue to make progress on all fronts and 

take advantage of some of the unexpected 

opportunities we have during these times. 

I am grateful for the additional time I’ve 

been able to spend with my children and the 

dramatic change we’ve seen in the pace of life’s 

activities. I appreciate that virtual meetings, 

workshops, and conferences are providing 

chances for learning and interactions that 

might not have been possible otherwise. I’m 

looking forward to co-teaching a new course 

this fall incorporating a smaller class size 

and virtual components. As have heard said 

among family, friends, and co-workers, this is 

an opportunity to learn a new way of doing 

things, and that new way is not all bad.

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?

My job has not changed at all—I am the 

academic leader of the College of Arts & 

Sciences with about 500 faculty and staff 

members.  All of the end of my academic year 

functions such as writing annual reviews of 

heads/chairs/staff and budget planning are 

the same as always.  What really has changed 

is my daily routine—I work from home!  We 

have been using Zoom to communicate and 

to schedule meetings large and small.  I have 

taken over one room and my wife Helen is 

working remotely in another room.  I have a 

lovely spacious house and live next to a lake 

with nature trails—so I am lucky. 

One additional challenge is that my research 

lab has been closed, so my students have had 

to work remotely, and I have had to meet 

with them via Zoom.  They have done well 

in that they have worked on analyses of the 

large amount of data that they had generated.  

Fortunately, now with some limitations, we 

can open our lab again.

What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?

I feel like we are all working harder than ever 

dealing with the many changes that have 

resulted due to the corona virus situation.  

Thus, in my role as dean, I am “on” all of the 

time—but I am even more “on” now.  Thus, I 

John Z. Kiss

University of 

North Carolina-


Greensboro, NC

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


have to turn off and stop looking at email and 

doing other types of work!  In some ways, I am 

surprised that remote working is working well 

for me.  I consider myself fortunate as I know 

other members of our society cannot adapt so 

easily to working remotely.
How did your interactions with your faculty 

and/or students change with the shift to 

Moving to online meetings with faculty 

and the students in my research lab as well 

as having committee meetings online have 

worked reasonably well.  Seeing and talking 

to them on Zoom is better than a phone call 

or conference call as there are some visual 

cues.  However, there is still an element that 

is missing vs. having face-to-face meetings.  

You can lose more subtle signal and prompts.  

Personal interaction is still better—humans 

are social creatures. At the end of the day, I 

miss seeing my staff, faculty, and students!
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on? What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
I feel like I am working harder and longer than 

ever.  Part of this problem is that we all are 

dealing with massive changes and planning 

for the fall semester: moving things online, 

hybrid classes etc.  Another issue is that with 

online meetings you can have more since there 

is no walking time needed between meetings!  

I seem to have developed skills with all of the 

major online meeting platforms.  I also think 

that online meetings have made me focus 

more and stay on topic.
Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
The University of North Carolina system has 

decided to open all public universities in the 

state. Surveys show that our students want 

to come back to campus, but things will look 

different.  The university leaders and faculty 

have had to institute many changes to make it a 

safe environment, and these measures include 

maintaining social distancing and keeping a 

clean environment.  Some of our courses will 

go online and others will be in a hybrid format.  

I feel positive about seeing students and faculty 

on campus again but do have a degree of 

trepidation. I also feel we are doing everything 

we can to open the university safely but are 

likely to see unforeseen challenges.  I do not 

see the university (and the world) getting back 

to normal until we have an effective vaccine 

with large scale distribution.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

While I am an optimistic person by nature, 

I have concerns about our society at large.  

Notwithstanding challenges, while we in 

higher education have been privileged in 

many ways, I am concerned about the massive 

disruption to our society at large: economic 

turmoil due to layoffs, problems due to a 

limited social safety net, continued health 

risks to vulnerable populations, among others. 

At the end of the day, I feel positive that our 

students, faculty, and staff will emerge from 

these challenges as well as our previous 

generations, who have had deal with tough 

situations in their time. 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020




Central China 

Normal University, 

Wuhan, China

How has the pandemic and its response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
The pandemic and its response have not 

changed my job too much, but did to the form 

of my job as a university professor in Wuhan. 

Students and faculty members were not allowed 

to study at the campus and the laboratory until 

late April. Fortunately, graduate students who 

pass the DNA examination and are without an 

infection of CoVID-19 virus have been able 

to apply to go back to the campus since Mid-


Research: Students and I are interested in 

plant reproductive biology, particularly plant-

pollinator interactions, and ecology and 

evolution of flowers. Our research includes 

work in the field station and in the lab. For 

example, one of the PhD students in my lab 

is interested in the chemical ecology of pollen 

and nectar in spring-flowering plants of 

Rhododendron species. The field study of this 

year was missed and materials are unavailable 

for her further study in the lab. We are looking 

forward to conducting a field study in the 

field station of our university in Shangri-La, 

southwest China in this summer-flowering 

season from July to August. 

During this spring pandemic, I was trying 

to read, write, and revise papers every day. 

Nine graduate students (five for a Master’s 

degree and four for a PhD) graduated this 

June from our research group, the busiest 

season in my scientific career. Face-to-face or 

oral communications were reduced to nearly 

zero, which may allow me to think deeply 

without distraction, but had made me dull in 

mind, because feedbacks cannot be gained as 

rapidly as usual. Generally, I do not like this 

style, because debates or even quarrels would 

ignite great ideas in our brains. In summary, 

the work efficiency of mine during the global 

crisis is quite low.

Teaching:  I believe that online teaching has 

been possible for at least 15 years and the 

efficiency of online study seems quite low. 

One may expect that students can do other 

things during class given that the teacher 

could not directly watch them. During the 

pandemic online teaching, the students 

were actually much more active than usual. 

When they had any question, they simply 

typed out the question to be noted, letting 

me answer the questions immediately. In this 

year, all oral defenses for the graduated theses 

(dissertations) are communicated virtually 

online. This allows colleagues from worldwide 

and anyone who can access online, including 

students’ parents, to join. From this point, I 

really appreciate this interaction mode online.
What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
As the outbreak was first realized in Wuhan, 

the isolation through a lockdown of the city 

had effectively protected people from virus 

infection. Staying isolated for a short time 

seems fine, but feeling lonely 2 to 3 months 

later. In this manner, I really agree the idea that 

humans are social animals; one is somehow 

living in other people’s eyes, it is what you do 

that makes you what you are. Actually, I am 

not good at overcoming this challenge, but I 

see many people be brave, well behaved, and 

friendly. I got emails from western colleagues 

who kindly informed whether I needed help 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


in the early stages of the pandemic. One of 

my collaborators, an American evolutionary 

biologist, has been infected by the CoVID-19 

and isolated in UK in February. I hope he will 

fully recover soon.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring went on?  What skills did you 

pick up along the way?
The biggest surprise is that until the vanish of 

COVID-19 in Wuhan, none of my relatives 

or acquaintances was infected by COVID-19.  

I picked up the skill of cooking and 

housekeeping, as I have to cook lunch for my 

daughter, a high-school student, now staying 

at home and learning from online classes. I 

note young and old generations playing table 

tennis in rooms or outside. The exercise has 

become more popular recently in China, as 

team sports are not recommended. 
Going into the summer/fall, what challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
Challenges and opportunities co-exist in the 

current situation.

Challenges: We are not sure whether students 

can return the university campus and 

laboratory to study. 

Opportunities:  Our university inspires 

teachers to teach online and students to study 

online. However, experimental studies such as 

biology or chemistry are difficult to practice. 

We are trying to develop more practical 

projects under Virtual Reality (VR) technique 

for undergraduate students. 

How are you feeling emotionally at this 


As nearly half a million people passed because 

of deadly virus in the world, I feel that keeping 

healthy is essential to all of us at this point. 

We humans only can survive on the earth 

if we are in harmony with nature, with no 

more damages to wildlife and ecosystems. If 

everyone treats the earth as his/her own eyes 

or as home and own garden, the diverse life 

forms will be symbiotic and sustainable in the 

green planet.

How has the pandemic and its response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
Thankfully, conservation work was deemed 

essential early on in the state of Hawaiʻi 

so I have been able to continue field work. 

There was only a 2- to 3-week pause on field 

work while the state’s, our county’s and our 

organizations’ safety protocols were being 

figured out. Other than that, office-related 

work has changed from my office at our NTBG 

headquarters to my home office, which is just 

a couple miles away. I still go into the office at 

least once a week to process collections. I use 

Google Meet and Zoom on a daily basis now.
What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
I was never very comfortable communicating 

over video conferencing platforms such as 

Google Meet and Zoom before this. I got used 

to it really quick though and now it feels very 

easy and natural.

Seana Walsh

National Tropical 

Botanical Garden

Kalāheo, HI

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?  What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
I was surprised that conferences and meetings 

scheduled for late summer and fall were 

being cancelled left and right. Didn’t initially 

expect that the pandemic would last that long. 

I’ve picked up some skills in pre-recording 

presentations for conferences! For example, 

making sure lighting, sound, and background 

are appropriate, having video at eye level, 

making it a little more engaging, etc.
Going into the fall, what challenges and 

opportunities do you see?
Challenges I see will be as easily maintaining 

and building relationships with colleagues 

and friends. Also, making new connections 

and building new collaborations. Nothing can 

replace the connections you make with people 

in-person, including the ideas that come up 

spontaneously when you’re physically together 

and talking in an informal way. Opportunities 

I see are connecting more frequently with 

colleagues and friends because of this, over 

video conferencing platforms, phone, text, 

etc. I think we’ll need to connect more in 

that way since we won’t be able to see each 

other for a while in-person. There is also an 

obvious opportunity to work on publishing 

those hanging papers with freed-up time due 

to cancelled conferences and cancelled field 

work for some.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

Being out here on Kauaʻi, I feel very safe at 

the moment and am very grateful for that. 

We haven’t had any new or active COVID-19 

cases in over two months. I’m a little nervous 

how things will change once we open up again 

for tourism with the way things are in other 

parts of the country. I am a little disappointed 

that I haven’t been able to, and won’t for the 

foreseeable future, connect with colleagues, 

family, and friends in-person. I agree that 

cancelling travel plans is the safest and 

smartest decision at this point, though.

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
Yes, the pandemic has absolutely changed 

my daily routine, but my job is secure (TT 

Assistant Professor). There may be upcoming 

changes to my job, including a furlough or 

pay cut. Additionally, I have an option to 

delay my tenure review clock slightly. I have 

not yet decided if it is in my benefit to do so.  

My daily work routine is mostly sitting at my 

dining room table with my roommate (and 

occasionally my partner, who is a health care 

worker) trying to be considerate about our 

various meetings. I also stare at my pantry all 

the time and try not to think of all the snacks 

I could be eating!
The shift to online teaching was very 

fast. What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this format?
I was in the middle of teaching a Plant 

Systematics class which has a large component 

of hands-on labs with live plant material and 

11 field trips. Most of this was cancelled when 

we moved in early March to completely remote 

instruction. Converting the class almost 

instantaneously was a struggle particularly as 

Jason T. 


San Francisco 

State University, 

San Francisco, CA

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


much of my teaching material is not digitized 

(ex. herbarium specimens, live plant materials, 

plants/habitats at a field site). I struggled most 

with providing experiences that would stand in 

for the outdoor field experience and exposure 

to different native plants. Technology was 

also an issue, but mostly, I found our video 

meeting platform to be challenging and not 

equitable for my student’s home situation. It 

was difficult to meet synchronously with my 

students. I also believe that many students 

had a rough time and their mental health was 

challenged in being able to finish the semester.
How did your interactions with your 

students change with the shift to online?
In my classes, they became less initially. Our 

video meetings were not terribly engaging 

and I felt as if I was struggling to reach them. 

Eventually, save for a few students, I had found 

a rhythm that seemed to work after a few 

weeks of trial and error. For my grad students, 

I prepped them with as much material as 

possible to go home with and we started 

weekly lab meetings to simply check-in with 

each other. Sometimes interactions with them 

were spotty or challenging as they were losing 

their jobs or housing, or were struggling to 

maintain positive mental health as family 

members, friends, and people around the 

globe became sick.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?  What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
I’m grateful that San Francisco State University 

has several opportunities to prepare for 

Fall semester that will be taught almost 

exclusively remotely. A group of nearly 70 

staff, faculty, lecturers, and graduate teaching 

assistants of our Biology department have 

committed to revamping high impact / high 

enrollment courses to completely reinvent 

our lab activities for these classes so that 

they are 100% capable of online instruction. 

Additionally, we have committed to having a 

new lab manual for all of these classes by the 

end of the summer with a critical eye towards 

student learning outcomes, and diversity, 

equity, and inclusion. Also, SF State has a 

professional development center, called the 

Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching 

and Learning (CEETL), that is running 

summer workshop for literally  hundreds of 

faculty members who will be learning all 

kinds of skills for better online engagement 

for their remotely instructed fall semester. 

These experiences are providing me with a 

large set of skills that I believe will make me 

a better educator, especially as we move to 

remote learning for the fall.
Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
I’m anxious, to be honest. While I feel like I 

will be working hard this summer to be able 

to deliver an engaging course that meets 

remotely, it is still overwhelming. I am trying 

not to worry that this class will be like a 

new course prep during this important time 

point in my path to tenure. I know that the 

time I am spending on course development 

is in direct tradeoff with my research and lab 

productivity. I feel like the Fall will be okay 

given the current state of the world and my 

preparation, but I recognize the extra work 

that I will do to ensure a successful learning 

experience for the students that I engage with 

in class and within my lab.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

At this point, I feel okay. But I would be lying 

if I didn’t say this experience is an emotional 

roller coaster. I’ve been doing weekly 

reflections with my partner, and sometimes 

I’m feeling fine, but other weeks I’m feeling 

quite low. Low moments are strongly felt and 

noticeable because my productivity tanks. 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


I fail to schedule meetings and lose track of 

important emails or deadlines that I need to 

stay on top of. Those weeks are a struggle. 

And if I’m being truly honest, those weeks 

are correlated with the national mood that I 

cannot escape in the middle of San Francisco 

where I live. My partner is an emergency 

medicine doctor and has had (and might 

continue to have) to intubate several SARS-

coV-2 positive patients with rapidly declining 

health. Some of those patients have died, 

some are still on ventilators, others have 

recovered. I worry because he is seeing a lot 

of death and his work environment is full of 

people who are stressed out, overworked, and 

anxious or sick. His direct contact with the 

virus puts our household at an elevated risk 

of contraction. On top of that, just outside my 

apartment windows, I’ve witnessed several 

peaceful civil rights protests with thousands 

of participants chanting for justice sparked 

by the death of Geogre Floyd. Across the 

street, a hotel has been converted by the city 

into temporary living accommodations for 

homeless individuals who need to recover in 

quarantine safely away from others. There are 

often sirens from police and ambulances every 

day. It has not been possible for me to escape 

the duel crises that our nation is now facing. 

As I write this, daily cases are increasing across 

our nation at an alarming rate. California, and 

thankfully to a lesser degree San Francisco, is 

poised to become one of the next hotspots. 

I just hope that we can all stay as healthy as 

possible, mitigate as much death as we can, 

and weather out the pandemic safely.

How has the pandemic and its response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
The inconvenience of work has been an 

adjustment, especially living in a one-bedroom 

apartment. It was easy to be distracted working 

from home at the beginning, but I adjusted 

by turning the dining room space into as 

much of a clutter-free office as possible. My 

spouse had just moved across the country in 

December and we had been apart in the field 

for all of that month and much of January. The 

apartment was filled with our newly reunited 

lives and all of the clutter and boxes that came 

with it, so finding and making space was a 

challenge. We rented a storage unit to move 

overflow. Just before the shutdown and travel 

ban, my spouse also traveled to Germany for a 

workshop and ended up getting trapped for a 

couple extra weeks. That was not ideal, but we 

adapted and made the most of it—in fact, this 

time apart was quite productive for both of us.

Unlike most of my colleagues, I have been 

back at work (in my office) since mid-May. 

Returning to work has been interesting. It feels 

more like a “work environment” again, but 

highly controlled and a little stressful to move 

throughout and use shared facilities. Lunch is 

difficult to coordinate, I need to bring enough 

coffee and water to last throughout the day, and 

I am prioritizing office-work (e.g., analyses/

writing) over herbarium and lab work because 

I want to minimize shared contact.

Morgan Gostel


Research Institute of 

Texas (BRIT),  

Ft. Worth, TX 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


My spouse and I welcome this opportunity to 

be out of our cramped one-bedroom space, 

but we are anxious for and mindful of our 

colleagues and their families at home.
What was your greatest challenge in adapt-

ing to this new format?
The distractions and fluidity of work/life 

balance were a difficult adjustment. I’m not 

sure I ever fully adjusted, but I did eventually 

become quite productive and my writing was 

prolific for a month at home. It took two weeks 

to adjust and then afterward, returning to the 

office again was another adjustment. Lost work 

opportunities include a lot of canceled travel, 

lack of specimen loans to/from herbaria, 

and inability to hire students this summer. 

Fortunately I have a lot of backlog work that 

I can continue with, so I have much to keep 

me busy. I am especially concerned for the 

next generation of botanists who are missing 

important opportunities to learn and develop. 

I miss the more engaging aspects of my work—

including conferences, daily interactions 

(lunch and social gatherings) with co-workers, 

and work with students and volunteers. Our 

offices are part of an open/shared layout and 

because so many of our normal activities have 

shifted to regularly schedule virtual meetings, 

there is often excessive noise throughout this 

shared space that adds an extra distraction for 

work and productivity. Knowing that we are 

back to work, we also try to completely restrict 

any outside exposure, so we have shifted 

all normal activities to delivery and pickup. 

Although we try and have succeeded in so 

many ways, there are many parts of our work 

that cannot be replaced in a virtual format. 
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on? What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
My time management skills definitely 

improved and the ability to create new 

routines. Expectations in March were not 

met for reasons associated with difficulty 

of coordinating with colleagues, closure of 

herbaria (and corresponding lack of shipping 

offices/ability to send or receive loans), 

inability to travel, etc. I am fortunate that my 

place of work is continuing to operate with 

minimal impacts—thanks to hardworking 

and committed staff; I’m not surprised, but I 

continue to be impressed.
Going into the fall, what challenges and op-

portunities do you see?
There will continue to be challenges for time 

management and coordination of activities 

both for myself and with colleagues. Additional 

conferences and field trips will switch to online 

only. Being able to work in the laboratory, 

herbarium, or other traditionally shared spaces 

will require further coordination. I won’t 

be able to sort through a pile of specimens 

to make determinations, with a colleague 

next to me with whom I can bounce ideas 

around. Direct student mentorship will be 

challenging and eventually the “back log” will 

begin to run out. I'm trying to focus on taking 

this time, as before, to focus on work that is 

feasible, including writing and fieldwork. My 

spouse and I took a trip to southwest Texas 

to do fieldwork and are planning another in 

September. The laboratory at BRIT has re-

opened on a limited basis and I have begun 

working with a volunteer to get some DNA 

sequencing completed. We continue to adapt 

and manage in this new normal.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

This is a difficult question. Sometimes I feel a 

little misanthropic due to the disregard by a 

lot of leadership in the United States to this 

pandemic. However, my personal situation is 

quite unique right now for personal reasons, 

so perhaps I’m able to see more of a silver 

lining than others. I’m not sure if I feel okay 

because I’m willing myself to do so, or if it’s 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


because I’m able to accept things are the way 

they are and trying to go with the flow of this 

crazy time. In a way I think I am happy things 

have slowed down and am forced to focus 

on what is important. My spouse and I are 

privileged to have jobs and not have to worry 

about taking care of others or coordinating 

online school during these extremely difficult 

times. I am hyperaware of my friends and 

colleagues, though, and their needs. I’m 

counting my blessings and allowing this time 

to reflect on other parts of my life and focus 

on what is important. This pandemic is a 

global tragedy—it has been heartbreaking to 

watch it unfold—but somehow my eternal 

optimism sees a positive outcome in my life 

and those of my friends and colleagues. We’ll 

get through this with renewed ties, a sharper 

focus on what is important, and I hope we will 

learn something that endures about where 

our values rest. 

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
The pandemic landed me, my husband, and 

our two kids (ages 11 and 8) working and 

doing school at home for ~3 months. We 

converted part of our house to an office and 

set up a divided schedule where one parent 

was working and one parent was the teacher, 

and we would switch half way through the 

day. Many days, the parent serving as the 

elementary school teacher was also doing 

Zoom calls, or even teaching his/her university 

class, at the same time.
What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
The pandemic has been challenging to so 

many people for so many different reasons. 

My husband and I are grateful that our jobs 

were intact and that we have been able to 

remain healthy (so far). Having said that, the 

greatest challenge for me was trying to do my 

job—the expectations of which didn’t change 

much with the pandemic—in roughly half as 

much time. The struggle is real: it is extremely 

difficult, if not impossible, to work a full-time 

job and serve as the teacher/parent of two kids. 

Further, the accumulating backlog of stuff—

both at work and at home—that I couldn’t get 

to was (and continues to be) overwhelming. 

The pace of work hasn’t slowed, but my 

capacity to do it has been severely impacted.
How did your interactions with your 

colleagues and/or students change with the 

shift to online communication?
My lab group started a morning coffee from 

8:30 to 9:00 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 

and then we held our regular lab meeting on 

Friday. This has been a joy, to touch base with 

people each day, talk about what is going on, 

and think about what we were trying to do 

that day. My Economic Botany class moved 

to Zoom—and my attendance improved!! It 

was fun to teach people from home; I really 

enjoyed the interaction with students.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on? What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
One of the greatest joys of the pandemic has 

Allison Miller


Danforth Plant 

Science Center,  

St. Louis, MO

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


been rediscovering nature and gardening with 

our kids. We live within walking distance of 

a major park in St. Louis where we have been 

recording bird sightings and plants in bloom 

since March. The kids are turning into great 

naturalists! Also, our garden has never looked 

better—although our dog Cookie is currently 

decimating the squashes....
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

Exhausted, but grateful for our health, the extra 

time with family, and the joy of consciously 

taking in the biodiversity that surrounds us 

every day.

How has the pandemic and its response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
In some major ways, my daily routine and 

that of my lab’s has been significantly altered. 

I have ongoing experiments plus imbibed 

seeds in my lab and was and so was deemed 

essential by my organization. However, 

restrictions were in place so that I could only 

access the lab two to three days per week. This 

was enough to assay and water the imbibed 

seeds and monitor the physical facilities of the 

ex situ conservation seed collection. I rely on 

a half-time staff person, and full-time intern, 

plus a small group of dedicated volunteers to 

Dustin Wolkis


National Tropical 

Botanical Garden, 

Kalāheo, HI

help carry out the daily operations in the lab. 

The staff person went on leave (unrelated to 

COVID-19) just as the world was melting 

down, and all volunteer activities were 

suspended. I was able to advocate for my 

intern to be physically present, so it was just 

the two of us trying to do more work in less 

time. This has led to reduced operations 

overall including less-frequent germination 

assays, and halting initiating new experiments 

What was your greatest challenge in adapt-

ing to this new format?
The greatest challenge by far was figuring out 

how to work from home two to three days 

per week, while my partner also worked from 

home while attempting to provide distance-

learning to our kindergarten-aged son, 

Canyon. We worked out a schedule where 

she would wear the Kindergarten teacher hat 

Monday through Thursday, with me playing 

that role on Fridays. Now that that school is 

out it is less challenging, but one of us is still 

working every day of the week.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?
I expected that with limited access to my lab, I 

could focus on projects with existing data and 

hanging papers. I thought I was going to be 

super productive, submitting papers and grant 

proposals left and right, leaving me feeling 

accomplished and proud. The reality has been 

just the opposite. Working from home has 

its perks (e.g., eating lunch with family every 

day; attending Zoom meetings with your 

child), but it just was not nearly as productive 

as I had hoped. Since the safe-at-home order 

was enacted, I’ve yet to submit one project in 

which I am leading.

What skills did you pick up along the way?

Well I’m still trying to figure out a Zoom 

background, LOL. My organization is 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


focusing on communication to the general 

public, so I have been trying to sharpen my 

public outreach writing skills.
Going into the fall, what challenges and 

opportunities do you see?
We are planning for volunteers to return to 

the lab in early July, including rearranging the 

lab space to accommodate social-distancing 

practices. The return of volunteers is huge for 

my program since I rely so heavily upon them. 

New germination experiments will restart, 

assays will be conducted more frequently, and 

I will be freed up to get back to those papers I 

never finished.

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
As an educator, the pandemic has impacted 

my daily routine tremendously. I teach a 

mixture of virtual and in person science 

courses during the academic year. My virtual 

courses were not altered by the pandemic, 

but my in-person courses were drastically 

changed. Transitioning to remote delivery for 

the remainder of the spring 2020 semester 

impacted the way in which lectures and labs 

were conducted. Students expressed the 

disappointment in not being able to interact 

with each other as well as myself. However, 

I believe my students understood the need 

to change our daily routines to help our 

community reduce disease transmission.

During the summers, I instruct elementary 

science camps at our local museum. We 

transitioned our camps to a 100% virtual 

platform, which has had many positive 

results. Many campers that otherwise would 

not be able to attend our science camps 

due to distance (i.e., living in another state) 

or a physical handicap (e.g., having an 

autoimmune disorder) are now able to have 

a camp experience through a virtual setting. 

I do miss the in-person interactions with 

campers, but I have been excited to share 

science with elementary aged students across 

the United States. Without the transition to 

virtual science camps, I would not have had 

the opportunity to teach such a diverse group 

of young scientists.

What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
Being an educator, the greatest challenge has 

been finding new ways to teach science outside 

of a classroom setting. However, I feel that 

challenges help us grow as individuals. This 

is especially relevant in education. Sometimes 

during challenging times, educators find 

themselves redesigning their curricula that 

may need a refresher. This benefits us as 

educators as well as our students. Therefore, I 

have enjoyed this challenge. I am also thankful 

my career places me in a position to spread 

scientific knowledge while also ensuring 

disease transmission in my community is 

How did your interactions with your 

colleagues and/or students change with the 

shift to online communication?
Many of my colleagues have come together to 

Keri Maricle


North Central 

Kansas Technical 


Hays, KS

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


share new ideas and methods for educating 

students during a pandemic. Students have 

become more communicative with me as 

many of them feel more comfortable asking 

questions in a virtual setting. This situation 

does not apply to all colleagues and students I 

interact with, but I have noticed a shift toward 

strengthening of relationships as we feel we 

are all in the “same boat” when it comes to 

these major changes.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on? What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
I would say the biggest surprise came in 

March 2020 when our campus decided to 

transition to remote delivery of courses. All 

decisions that have come following this one 

major decision have not really been surprises 

as many of us have accepted that our way of 

living and working has and will continue to 

change each day. Many of my students and 

advisees are taking my courses to enter a 

nursing program. Therefore, many of my 

students are CNAs working at organizations 

and institutions that are at the forefront of 

COVID-19. I have gained an entirely new 

appreciation for nurses as I have seen what 

my students have encountered during this 

pandemic as they continue their work.
Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
Living in western Kansas, you come to 

understand that science is not always going to 

be accepted in your community. I have noticed 

just how true this is when interacting friends, 

family, co-workers, and students. Many of 

the individuals around me have different 

interpretations of the current issues, which 

have shocked and disgusted me. That being 

said, I feel that this new academic year is an 

opportunity to not only share the importance 

of science (specifically, basic concepts of 

epidemiology and immunology), but also a 

time to take a stand toward the racial injustice 

that is happening in our country. The changes 

to my daily life have shown me the importance 

of acting and speaking up in the moment 

rather than waiting for something to happen. 

The pandemic has encouraged me to redefine 

my approach toward current scientific and 

political issues as I know now how quickly a 

lifestyle can change.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

I am greatly concerned about our country’s 

decisions, but empowered to know that, as an 

educator, I can educate those around me with 

the facts. We all have decisions to make in life. 

Political leaders may choose to reject science 

and visions of equality, but I choose to use my 

knowledge to support my students to be better 

human beings through education.

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
Well, I’ve been working at home since mid-

March, making liberal use of Zoom. I see 

much less of my colleagues and students, but 

much more of my family (which is a silver 



Michael J. 



Oberlin College, 

Oberlin, OH

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
Not being able to interact with students on 

campus has been difficult. I can’t read the 

classroom nearly as easily, and I worry about 

the welfare of some students more than I ever 

What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?  What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
I think the shift to online-only learning in 

the spring has had me thinking about ways 

to incorporate elements of online learning 

to supplement my classroom teaching when, 

one day, the world returns to a more normal 

routine. In particular, how can I make more 

efficient and more impactful use of lecture 

time? I have been thinking a lot about how to 

lecture less and have more in-class discussions.

I’ve also been very pleasantly surprised at how 

effective shifting my Plant Systematics lab 

to remote learning was. I was really worried 

about the loss of field trips in April and May. 

To try to minimize the loss of field work, I had 

my students go on individualized, short field 

trips at home and post the plants they found 

to iNaturalist. They adapted to this extremely 

well and learned a tremendous amount on 

their own. We still met on Zoom during lab 

time, and I still taught plant families and a 

few key species, but I was very pleased with 

the individual learning at home. Several of 

my students from this past spring are still 

actively using iNaturalist over the summer, 

and collectively they have posted over 500 

new plant observations from various parts of 

the country.

Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
To be honest, I feel a bit uneasy about the 

plans to reopen so many universities to in-

person classes this  fall. For several reasons, 

I have decided to teach my courses remotely 

this fall, and so I will have all the challenges 

that come with online learning. I am most 

worried about my introductory biology 

section, which is composed almost entirely of 

first- and second-year students. I have been 

brainstorming ways to effectively introduce a 

lot of students to biology in an online format.

However, I think my first-year seminar course 

should work fairly well in an online-only 

format, and I think there might be some cool 

ways to incorporate online resources into 

the course. Plus, the breakout rooms feature 

on Zoom should work well for small-group 

discussions, which I like to emphasize.
How are you feeling emotionally at this 

Overall, I feel OK. I think the state of the 

world right now is taking a bit of a toll, and 

the uncertainty of the coming months is not 

easy. But we’re all in this together, and I’m 

very happy to belong to welcoming and open 

professional societies!

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
It was certainly an adjustment, at first, to work 

almost entirely from home, but I had to visit 

the office briefly each week to take care of a few 

tasks. However, I became quite comfortable 

with the change and had a routine in place, 

but I have recently returned to the office full-


The shift to online teaching was very 

fast. What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this format?

My greatest challenge was that I had not 

participated in any remote work or meetings, 

but I was fortunate to have excellent assistance 

from CITR staff on campus.   They offered 

webinars multiple times each week to help 

faculty and staff learn how to use Zoom, 

Google Meets, and our Western On-line 

platform, and they were readily available to 

answer questions and assist with trouble-

How did your interactions with your faculty 

and/or students change with the shift to 

We held our department meetings using 

Google Meets.   Most of my meetings were 

held in this way too, with the exceptions of 

large-attendance meetings where Zoom was 

employed.   My Tropical Ecology class was 

able to travel to and from the Galapagos 

safely before the shutdown.  Prior to the study 

abroad experience, we met weekly for lectures 

and class discussions, and we resumed this 

using Google Meets once classes were back in 

What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on?  What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
With eight students, Google Meets worked 

well each week, and I lectured with my 

PowerPoint slides with this format too.   I 

learned how to give exams online with our 

Western On-line platform, and we quickly 

developed a weekly routine of lecture, followed 

by class discussion.  Students even gave their 

individual presentations using Google Meets, 

while discussion essays and group reports 

were submitted electronically to me via e-mail.  

I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed the 

on-line exam preparation and administration, 

especially when the program can grade a 

number of questions automatically.  I learned 

how to implement Respondus Lockdown 

Browser and Respondus Monitor for use by 

students during the scheduled exam times.
Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?  
As a Department Chair, working through 

modifications of the fall schedule to be able to 

offer face-to-face classes and laboratories with 

limited room capacities and social distancing 

has been challenging.  I want everyone in my 

department and on campus to feel safe and be 

safe, but many of us know that our plans can 

change on a moment’s notice with COVID-19 

surging in many parts of the country again.

Ranessa L. 



Western Illinois 


Macomb, IL

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


How are you feeling emotionally at this 

I am still mentally tired from such a taxing 

spring semester, along with educators and 

parents, as we all had an abrupt shift in our 

daily and weekly routines.   I recall seeing a 

phrase about us “all being in the same storm 

but a different boat,” and this still resonates 

with me.  Fall will look different to all of us 

in academia, and we will have to hope for the 

best yet be prepared for a switch to online and 

alternative deliveries.

How has the pandemic and the response 

changed your job and/or daily routine?
On the whole I’ve been incredibly lucky and 

benefit from amazing privilege. I’m lucky 

to still have my job at all! I’m lucky to have 

a family situation that is relatively conducive 

to working from home. I and my family have 

remained relatively healthy. So has everyone 

in my lab, thank goodness—I hope that 

doesn’t change!  

In addition to moving my teaching and 

research to 100% online, I had to cancel 

a field season, had a pilot study cancelled 

halfway through, and today I should be 

visiting a colleague to help collect data but 

am not allowed to travel. My institution has 

responded to the financial pressures by, in 

part, not renewing contracts for many non-

tenure track teaching faculty. Consequently, 

my teaching load will more than double next 

semester. We also have an altered Fall 2020 

academic calendar that is not compatible with 

the growing season for my plants. I expect 

my research productivity and grant proposal 

submissions will be substantially decreased. 

Thankfully, my institution offers the option to 

delay the tenure clock as well as an extension 

on the time to spend startup funds.

If these teaching changes are permanent, a 

tenure clock extension may not be enough. 

For instance, if we keep the new academic 

calendar, I will need to re-envision my research 

program. I think my tenure and promotion 

committee understands this, but I am not so 

sure about the upper administrators. I hope 

they will recognize that if my job description 

permanently changes, then the expectations 

for tenure and promotion should also change. 

Amid all this uncertainty, I did my best not 

to change my daily routine: I still held class 

at the same time (with asynchronous options 

available). I make sure to meet with my entire 

lab group during our usual timeslot and 

scheduled additional individual meetings 

with my grad students. We moved all of our 

work online to data entry and analysis, or 

alternatively collecting data from previously 

recorded digital images. My students were able 

to (virtually) present their posters and all of 

the undergrads graduating from my lab either 

have well deserved jobs or graduate positions 

in the fall. And, I am able to take short breaks, 

contribute more to childcare, and do fun 

things like eat lunch with my family instead 

of at my desk. 

Robert Baker


Miami University, 

Oxford, OH

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


What was your greatest challenge in 

adapting to this new format?
The biggest challenge was and continues to be 

uncertainty. Our institutions are not used to 

dealing with the rapid pace of the changes we’ve 

seen over the past 3 to 4 months. There was 

(and still is) a lot of conflicting information. 

This past spring, there was no forewarning or 

time to plan, and our budgets were frozen so 

we were unable to do things like construct and 

mail kits to students so they could do labs at 

home. While I did (and continue) to do my 

best to pivot towards on-line interactions, it’s 

hard to do something as simple as design a 

course syllabus without knowing whether it 

will be in person, online, or hybrid. Designing 

research projects involving living organisms 

that are robust to these unknowns is even 

more challenging. 
How did your interactions with your col-

leagues and/or students change with the 

shift to online communication?
They decreased both in quantity and quality. 

It’s really pushed us to adopt a number of 

online collaboration tools that we probably 

should have been using all along. Within 

my research group there are a few things 

I’ve done: first, I’ve made it a point to have 

regularly scheduled meetings individually and 

in groups with all my lab members. Second, 

we tested project management software 

(turns out we don’t like to be managed 

and I prefer mentoring to managing) and 

communication software (turns out we do like 

to communicate!). Third, I’m taking a page out 

of the Bioinformatics culture of open-source 

sharing and extensive documentation and 

applying it to our wet lab, growth chamber, 

greenhouse, and field studies. Faculty in my 

department have an informal virtual lunch 

hour, which has been great. And finally, even 

as a sometimes-introvert, I’ve increased the 

amount of time I spend on Twitter (mostly 

lurking) so that I can feel more connected to 

my scientific friends and colleagues.
What were some surprises you experienced 

as the spring/summer went on? What skills 

did you pick up along the way?
One of the best, most exciting things about 

being a scientist is solving problems—

improvising, making do, and overcoming 

unique obstacles that no other person has 

ever encountered before. As a profession, I 

think we are uniquely suited to dealing with 

new challenges. Tapping in to that problem-

solving reserve has been critical. 
Going into the fall, how are you feeling 

about starting a new year?  What challenges 

and opportunities do you see?
Apprehensive. What if my partner and I get 

sick at the same time? Who takes care of 

the kids? What if we get shut down again, 

mid-experiment? What if there are further 

visa restrictions and my grad students can’t 

leave to visit family or return afterwards? 

How can I serve students in countries that 

block our online tools while maintaining 

FERPA compliance? What if students refuse 

to (correctly) wear masks? How can I teach 

a 32-student lab in a room that has a new 

maximum occupancy of 5? Is it possible to 

socially distance as over a thousand people 

move through narrow corridors and tight 

stairwells within our building? Can I be 

productive enough to pass tenure review? One 

potential opportunity is that if we restructure 

our courses to be deliverable in an online (or 

even hybrid) format, that could really increase 

the size and diversity of the audience we can 

How are you feeling emotionally at this 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Online seminars provide opportunities to 

share research, meet people, and learn. In 

this era of digital media, the use of video 

meetings has increased communication 

and collaboration. There are many benefits 

of hosting digital seminars (even when 

COVID-19 will no longer be a threat). One 

major benefit is no one has to travel! This is 

not only environmentally friendly, but also 

means it is possible to hear about research and 

collaborate with international researchers, 

without spending large amounts of money. 

Virtual seminars are a great way of sharing 

ideas across fields with researchers that may 

not attend the same conferences. Not to 

mention, these seminars develop a community 

that is welcoming and encouraging for new 


Ana Rita Simões and Lauren Eserman have 

developed the Convolvulaceae Network 

Seminar Series during the past year, which 

currently gathers over 100 participants from 

nearly 20 countries, from Asia to Brazil. Rocío 

Deanna and Chelsea Pretz saw this as a model 

An Era of Virtual Seminars:  

From Creating One  

to a List of Ones to Join

and started a similar seminar series focusing 

on research on physaloids (Solanaceae) that, 

even being a more specialized and restricted 

group, currently included the participation 

of almost 50 researchers from America and 

Europe. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 

many other researchers are exploring the idea 

of starting virtual seminar series, or joining 

existing ones, to stay active. Here, we describe 

our story as just one of many ways to continue 

to engage in the research community despite 

geographical and financial barriers, with 

the goal of encouraging other researchers to 

pursue these collaborative events. 



When starting a new seminar, there are many 

things to consider. What is the central topic? 

How often do you meet? What platform 

to use? What’s the best time for everyone? 

Should we record? How do we promote our 

seminars? With the collective experience 


By Chelsea Pretz


, Rocío Deanna


, Lauren Eserman


, and Ana Rita Simões



Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado-Boulder, USA 


 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado-Boulder, USA; Instituto 

Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal, IMBIV (CONICET-UNC). Córdoba, Argentina; Departamen-

to de Ciencias Farmacéuticas, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas (FCQ, UNC) Córdoba, Argentina 

Department of Conservation & Research, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, GA 30309 

Department of Identification & Naming (Africa & Madagascar), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 

(United Kingdom) 

Corresponding author email:

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


from the Convolvulaceae Network and 

Physaloid Seminars (now Solanaceae Seminar 

Online), we hope to help other groups who 

are transitioning to virtual seminars. 



In early 2018, Ana was living in Brazil and 

noticed a growing community of young 

Convolvulaceae taxonomists in the country, 

although with limited contact with each other 

because of the large distance between them. 

To help them engage more in discussions, 

and help each other with references or 

scientific queries, a Whatsapp group was 

created with about 15 participants. It was 

called Convolvulaceae Network. In May 

2019, they gathered for a Workshop of 

Young Convolvulaceae Researchers—online, 

through Skype—which lasted for an entire 

day, with a 15-minute presentation from each 

of the Brazilian participants. It was a success 

and left everyone craving more. It was also 

attended by early career Convolvulaceae 

researchers from other countries (Thailand 

and DR Congo), who expressed the desire to 

participate as well. In 2019, Lauren and Ana 

both attended the Botany 2019 conference in 

Tucson, Arizona, where they met in person 

for the first time, along with Joanna Rifkin 

and Irene Liao, and shared their enthusiasm 

for Morning Glories (Figure 1). Many ideas 

were brainstormed during that week, one of 

which was to find a way to bring together 

all these researchers working in the family, 

especially linking the younger students and 

early career researchers who needed more 

support, and who were more open to the use 

of new technologies. One of these ideas was 

to set up a workshop or small conference 

where everyone could present their work to 

each other. This would have the advantage 

of giving students an opportunity to practice 

their communication skills, especially in 

English, and offer them a platform to promote 

their work, which is especially important 

for those working on research fields that are 

usually published in low-impact journals and 

do not always get adequate visibility, such as 

taxonomy. It would also be a good chance 

to engage in discussions about overlapping 

topics (e.g., researchers working on the same 

taxa, but on different research questions), and 

about competing ideas. The original plan of a 

small in-person conference was abandoned 

because of lack of funding, a large number of 

participants, and difficulties accommodating 

everyone’s availability. The best option was to 

make the conference online and spread it out 

over a few weeks or months, with each week 

featuring a different speaker. So what would 

be a worldwide Convolvulaceae conference of 

one or a few days actually became a seminar 


Figure 1. Ana Rita Simões (left) and Lauren 

Eserman (right) at Botany Conference 2019 in 

Tucson, AZ.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


The increasing rate of research for the 

Solanaceae family has led to the development 

of global networks of collaboration. To pursue 

this, multiple meetings were organized along 

the last 50 years, from the International 

Solanaceae Conferences starting back in 

1976 (Birmingham, UK) to the more recent 

SOLgenomics meetings and Latin-American 

Symposium of Solanaceae. Even with all the 

efforts to integrate different research topics 

during these meetings, there are still gaps in 

the communication between biodiversity, 

genomics, and plant breeder communities. 

Chelsea and Rocío noticed an increased 

interest in Physalis  back in 2017. Several 

different research groups started working with 

the genus but would not continue to conduct 

research, despite the economical potential and 

questions that could be answered within the 

group. Chelsea and Rocío believed this was 

caused by absence of communication among 

researchers and confusing taxonomy. This led 

them to their taxonomy and nomenclature 

work, as well as to thinking about ways in 

which to improve communication across 

different research communities on the 

physaloids. In 2019, Rick Miller invited 

Rocío to the Convolvulaceae Network, and 

she was impressed about the outstanding 

organization of these seminars. This opened 

the idea of a similar seminar series for 

physaloids, considering that the increase of 

goldenberries and groundcherries market 

raised the necessity of working across different 

questions and communities that needed to be 

promoted and interconnected. The onset of 

the Physaloid Seminar Series began by polling 

other researchers of the Solanaceae family, to 

gauge if there was interest in this type of online 

seminar. Once Chelsea and Rocío knew there 

was more than enough interest, they started 

with the organization of these seminars, from 

finding a time that worked for most people to 

inviting speakers and preparing a schedule. 



In September 2019, Lauren would inaugurate 

the Convolvulaceae seminar series with a talk 

on her work on evolution of storage roots, and 

10 months later (about 40 weeks), still not all 

researchers in the group have presented their 

work. The time selected to host the seminars 

was 2 p.m. London time, because it was the 

only time that allowed all the participants to 

be “awake”—very early morning in North and 

Central America (6 a.m.), and late evening in 

Asia (9 p.m.). This solution was found for the 

very first seminar and has not changed since, 

because it works perfectly for everyone. The 

issue with the wide range of time zones is also 

one of the reasons why it would be difficult 

to organize a one-week conference or full-

day conference; certainly, some people would 

have to participate at inconvenient times (e.g., 

present their work at 2 a.m.).

The timetable, including different time zones 

with the correct time for a list of several cities, 

was one of the great ideas that Chelsea and 

Rocío followed from the Convolvulaceae 

Network and applied to the Physaloid 

seminars. This table is very important to keep 

everyone on board and avoid confusion, and 

it is constantly updated as the group grows; 

attention is also given to time changes (e.g., 

daylight saving time). The Physaloid seminars 

were inaugurated by Rocío in February 2020 

with a talk about her work on Physalideae 

phylogenetics and evolution. After almost 

10 seminars on a biweekly basis, there is an 

upcoming expansion to Solanaceae works 

that requires more frequent seminars, starting 

in July 2020 on a weekly regularity. The 

time selected for these seminars was 4 p.m. 

London time, in order to not overlap with 

the Convolvulaceae seminars, as well as to 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


make it possible for the researchers in the U.S. 

West Coast (e.g., 8 a.m. in Seattle) to join. Up 

to now, this has worked for almost everyone 

and, when someone cannot attend, they can 

still watch the talks, because they are recorded 

and made available on the Physaloid Seminar 

YouTube channel. 






Initially, the presentations of both seminars 

(Convolvulaceae and Physaloids) were 

delivered on Skype, and participants could 

use the chat function to communicate 

in between talks and during the week, 

exchanging ideas and references. Particularly 

for Convolvulaceae, an email address was 

arranged to send out the program and manage 

participant communications. To avoid an 

excess of emails, the monthly program is 

sent out to a mailing list at the beginning of 

the month and shared on a dedicated Twitter 

account (@convolv_network), also created 

for this purpose. An existing Convolvulaceae 

Facebook group (created by Ana in 2011) is 

also used to communicate the program of 

the seminar series, as well as the Whatsapp 

group that gathers the Brazilian community. 

The program includes a list of the talks with 

additional information about the speakers, as 

well as a table with the correct seminar time, 

for each time zone. A website has also been set 

up, and participants can now join by signing 

up directly via a Google Form Sign-up sheet.

The Physaloid seminars were similarly 

developed to Convolvulaceae, but using 

Google-Groups, Twitter, and a website, 

although there are many other ways to 

promote and inform participants (Figure 2). A 

Google-Group was set up for communication 

to the participants, but instead of sending a 

program, an email reminder of every talk is 

sent a few days before the seminar. On the 

website, presenters were asked to write up a 

small abstract that could be reviewed before 

the seminar and highlighted during the email. 

While these abstracts remain on the website 

in the “past seminar” tab, it is also posted on 

YouTube with their talk. The researcher can 

not only add this seminar as an “invited talk” 

to their CV, but also use the link for presenting 

their talk to a wider audience. Our hope is 

that promotion of researchers’ work will help 

strengthen their career along with extending 

collaborations beyond country borders and 


Recording the seminars provides more 

flexibility, allowing more people to watch 

and be connected with the community. You 

can record the talks easily in both Skype and 

Zoom. However, there are several different 

aspects of each tool to be considered. Skype 

is free, but there is a limit of 50 people 

during the call, though no time limit; Zoom, 

however, can freely accommodate up to 

100 participants, but there is a time limit of 

40 minutes per call (Figure 3; refer to Table 

1 for a comparison of online platforms). 

When starting the Physaloid seminar, there 

were roughly 35 people with around 15 to 20 

attending every week, so Chelsea and Rocío 

decided to use Skype. Now that the Physaloid 

seminar is expanding to include the whole 

Solanaceae family, they have transitioned to 

Zoom. Many U.S.-based universities have 

contracts with Zoom, which removes the time 

limit on the Zoom calls and which could be 

useful to know before setting up a platform 

for these meetings. 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Figure 2. Pictures promoting an upcoming seminar and later the YouTube link to the channel.




The Convolvulaceae group grew, and a new 

organization system was put into place, 

which would not have been possible without 

close communication between Lauren and 

Ana, as well as effective task division. At the 

beginning, Ana would organize the email 

correspondence, the program preparation, 

and hosting of the seminars, while Lauren 

would help promote the events on social 

media and contact potential speakers. They 

have discussed together, from the outset, all 

the decisions and new ideas, and especially 

the technological constraints and how to 

overcome them. Currently, Lauren and Ana 

alternate in hosting the seminars, and Lauren 

has set up a new way of participants signing 

up, through a Google form, which collates 

new participant information onto a Google 

Sheet (currently over 100 participants from 

22 countries). Ana is still more focused on 

the program preparation and contacting 

speakers. Both manage the email account, 

and, depending on the availability, one or the 

other responds to emails and sends out the 


In the meantime, since it was not possible to 

reconcile everyone’s availability and have a 

speaker for every week of the month, some 

gaps in the program have urged our creativity, 

and the program started to be enriched with 

other types of talks: journal club, fun quizzes, 

and participation of external speakers. These 

have been equally successful and ended up 

being a new element of the program and not 

incidental. Journal clubs are sporadic and not 

regularly organized. Every now and then, if 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


a recent interesting paper is brought to the 

attention of the group through the chat, usually 

the person who mentions the publication is 

asked to prepare a short discussion about it, 

and we set up a date for this in the following 

month. The quizzes are a more informal 

platform, which have been very effective in 

socialization between the participants—in 

other words, they are a lot of fun. Kahoot is a 

user-friendly platform through which you can 

create questions with four optional answers. 

You can create different sets of questions on 

different topics. The quiz is then run on the 

host’s screen, through Kahoot’s website (no 

installation of programs is required), with 

all the participants joining in through their 

mobile phones or computers. The Kahoot 

platform allows you to choose a chronometer 

with how long is allowed to answer each 

question, and it manages all the participants’ 

scores and ranking, updating it in between 

the questions. The participants look at the 

computer screen for the questions, and they will 

have four symbols showing on their phones, 

corresponding to the answers, on which they 

can easily click throughout the game. At the 

end of the questions, Kahoot announces the 

winner. So far, Ana has organized two quizzes, 

one on general Convolvulaceae knowledge 

(from classification to palynology), and 

another querying about the speakers and the 

presentations themselves. Several participants 

sent Ana emails with ideas for questions, and 

possible answers, which were incorporated 

into the quiz. Lauren also prepared one on 

species identification of Ipomoea, and it is 

possible that new ideas will come up in the 

future; for example, other participants offering 

identification quizzes about the species or 

genera, or geographical region, that they work 


Invited speakers, working on cutting-edge 

research fields or closely related taxa as 

our dear colleagues from the sister family 

Solanaceae, have also become part of the 

matrix of the Convolvulaceae seminar series 

and helped the group grow and expand on 

the scientific range of the discussions. This 

also inspires Convolvulaceae researchers to 

look at aspects of their work from different 

perspectives and try new methodologies.

Figure 3. The Convolvulaceae Network meeting on Zoom.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        





Time (Space) 


Some pros

Some cons



 50 people

4 hours per 


video call

Easy to join 

once the group 

is set up; stable; 

able to record



whole screen



100 people 


can host up 

to 10,000) 

40 minutes 

per individual 

video call; 

unlimited with 

paid account



from only one 

tab/position of 

screen; can set 

up a waiting 

room and 

break rooms; 


video and 

audio; able to 



bombing more 



requires link 

for meeting but 

can be set up 

as recurrent






It can have a 

wider audience

Discussion can 

only be done 

through chat




>2000 direct 

add members




Emails are 

more formal 

and might 


chatting; no 

video calls




250 members None  

(1Tb + 0.5Gb 

per E-licensed 


Better for 


chat; Microsoft 



works with 

Skype too; data 


more secure

Only allows 

4 people with 

video in the 

same screen








Google Meet 100 people


Light, fast 

interface; only 

need to share 

a link to start a 

meeting; able 

to record

Not so easy to 

share screen


Table 1. Examples of the popular free platforms that seminar series use (upgraded versions 

could change the limits in people and time). This is not an extensive list, but rather a starting point.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        







Maintaining a diversity of speakers is a major 

aspect to keep in mind. With researchers 

working on systematics, biochemistry, ecology, 

evolution, and breeding, it is important to 

recognize and highlight the importance of 

these diverse fields of research—not only to 

include diversity in research topics, but to 

make sure there is an inclusion of people. 

This includes inviting researchers in different 

career stages, from different institutions, and 

from different corners of the world, while 

always considering gender equality. To foster 

an inclusive community of international 

researchers, the Convolvulaceae Network 

Seminar Series occasionally have speakers 

present in their native language with slides 

in English. This allows researchers whose 

proficiency in English is improving but 

would be more comfortable speaking in 

their native language to present their work 

to an international audience. Two talks have 

been presented in Portuguese so far, and Ana 

has assisted the speaker with translation. 

The Physaloid seminar is very fortunate to 

have strong female leaders in the family for 

early career researchers to aspire to, such as 

Sandra Knapp, Stacey Smith, Tiina Sarkinen, 

Mahinda Martinez, Gloria Barboza, and Lynn 

Bohs, just to name a few. With the expansion 

to include the whole family, Andres Orejuela, 

a researcher from Colombia (and PhD student 

at Edinburgh), will increase the participation 

of Latin American researchers to the seminars, 

since there is a large diversity of research done 

in Solanaceae in South America due to it being 

the center of diversity of the family.  

Both the Convolvulaceae seminar and the 

Physaloid seminar include time for discussion 

after the presentation. While this is a time 

for questions about the presentation, it also 

allows time to discuss concepts and broader 

questions about the field the researchers are 

studying. Allowing this time for questions 

and discussion makes the community learn 

and grow together, along with providing the 

presenter feedback to improve their research. 

It also provides a place for researchers to learn 

how to talk to other researchers from other 

fields that will later strengthen collaboration 

and give a sense to young researchers about 

the community dynamics. 





After using a platform for a while, you might 

realize due to the size, security issues, or for 

other reasons that you would like to transition 

to other services. For instance, Skype has 

recently posed a significant constraint, 

which is the limitation of 50 participants 

in a call. Although it is rarely the case that 

more than 50 participants participate in 

the actual call, the fact that there are more 

than 50 participants in the chat group itself 

excludes the possibility of making the call. 

This meant excluding participants at the start 

of every weekly meeting, and then re-adding 

them after the call, which was a clumsy and 

exhausting process for the Convolvulaceae 

Network. Lauren and Ana started exploring 

new possibilities, and, having benefited from 

exchanging ideas with Rocío and Chelsea, 

decided to move toward solutions to the 

technological problems to these seminar 

series. Currently, the Convolvulaceae seminar 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


series are based on a Microsoft (MS) Teams 

chat, where the actual talks take place and are 

recorded in Zoom, with the discussions taking 

place afterward in MS Teams video calls.

MS Teams comes with its own headaches. 

Many people receive the invite and cannot 

login. It keeps giving them an error message 

(“Link is no longer valid”) or it simply freezes 

their computer every time they try to log in. It 

is very random, because most people seem to 

join without problems, and others consistently 

run into the same message; this suggests there 

is some technical issue that is not obvious, 

and it has generated a lot of frustration. This 

experience of trying to join a group without 

success can lead to giving up joining.

Security can be a problem with some platforms. 

Zoom has what is called “zoombombing”—

when a person not a part of the group will 

enter the chat just to be disruptive. There 

are a few things you can do to ensure this 

doesn’t happen: (1) do not post the link on the 

internet, (2) require a password for login, and 

(3) have a waiting room and only let people 

with their full name since bombers usually 

use single names. 


Once everything is put into place and 

presenters have been invited, it’s time for your 

seminar! While starting a seminar is hard 

work, it does not stop once things are going. 

There will be weekly tasks such as uploading 

videos, promotion, and website changes. As 

with everything, you have to find a balance 

with helpfulness and time management. This 

will look different for each group. While 

putting together a successful seminar is hard 

work, it is ultimately rewarding to work and 

hear about research within a group of plants 

you love to think about! 

If you are looking to attend virtual seminars, 

be sure to check out Table 2 on the following 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        










Ana Rita 


& Lauren 




7 a.m.  


Zoom, Microsoft 






Pretz, Andres 

Orejuela, & 

Rocio Deanna



9 a.m.  


Zoom, Google-

Groups, YouTube 








Sutter et al.


9 a.m.  


YouTube channel



Gabriela Auge 

et al.


2 p.m.  


Zoom, Google-

Groups, YouTube 





Webinar Mike Barker


11 a.m. 








YouTube channel






Periodically Zoom



Table 2. A list of Digital Seminars. (This is a dynamic table. To see the most up-to-date list of on-

line seminars, go to:


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        









Bi-monthly tchat (twitter)







Lam alam@</p>




11 a.m.  

-12:30 p.m. 



YouTube channel + 

Google Hangout











Periodically YouTube




Once  a 




Table 2 (continued)

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image




By Dr. Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

During March of the Spring 2020 

PlantingScience Session, as a global pandemic 

led to the shutdown of schools across the 

United States and around the world, teachers 

who had started or had planned to start their 

lessons with PlantingScience quickly had to 

decide how to navigate remote schooling for 

an indeterminate amount of time. Teachers 

emailed us asking what they should do 

and how to continue, whether they should 

continue, or whether they should scrap their 

plans for open-inquiry plant projects in the 

classroom. In the confusion of the first couple 

of weeks of March, it was unclear whether any 

of the schools across the U.S. would open again 

in the spring, leading to teachers requesting 

that we temporarily close their online groups 

with the hope that they would be back in a few 


Summary of Spring 2020: How 

Teachers Managed PlantingScience 

During a Pandemic

We sent the following options to teachers as 

they considered their remote learning lesson 


• Keep projects going as usual. If schools 

are open, your students can keep plugging 

away at projects in the classroom and com-

municating with their mentors as usual.   

• Keep projects going from home.  De-

pending on the module, where you are in 

your projects, and internet accessibility for 

students, your students could potentially 

take home the projects, or at least commu-

nicate questions and ideas to mentors dur-

ing the time they are home from school. If 

you choose to have students communicat-

ing from home, please keep an eye on the 

communications to make sure they stay 

appropriate. Please remind your students 

that they should not contact mentors 

outside of the PlantingScience platform. 

• “Pause” the group and come back later 

this Spring.  We can archive your group 

until you are ready to come back to the 

platform. Archiving the group will stop 

those automatic «At-Risk» emails that 

come when projects have a lack of activ-

ity, plus no one (not students or men-

tors) would be able to log into proj-

ects to make any changes or new posts.   

Dr. Jodi Creasap Gee, 

Education Technology  


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


• End the projects and say good-

bye. Depending on where the class is with 

the projects, it might make the most sense 

from your perspective to finish up and 

post thank you’s and goodbyes. Students 

could potentially post conclusions before 

the end of the session, when we archive all 


It seemed that some teachers were grateful to 

be able to focus on other lessons and come 

back to PlantingScience another time, while 

others embraced the opportunity for students 

to engage in deeper conversations with their 

scientist mentors about interruptions to their 

research and how to navigate such disruptions. 

Many scientists were able to work on data 

analysis, and many were forced to modify 

their plans—either by reducing collection 

numbers or by reducing the number of people 

in the collection team. The key to many of 

these conversations, we noticed, was that 

students learned that scientists have to be 

adaptable—global pandemic or not—in order 

to get their work done. They also learned that 

science is a process and that it is not always 

a simple cookie-cutter formula to answer the 

important questions. 

Sarah Tabor (teacher, in a forum post to her 


I have asked all students to continue 

to communicate with mentors until 

the termination of this project. At this 

point, I think the value in this project is 

the opportunity for students to discuss 

this unprecedented situation with their 

mentors. Any science that isn’t directly 

related to SARS-CoV-2 seems to have 

come to a halt. Mentors, I thank you for 

your time and efforts in communicating 

with my students. I hope you are all 

healthy and sheltering in a safe place.

Kate Sidlar (scientist mentor, in a post to her 

student team members):

Well, this is certainly unexpected. 

But the unexpected is just something 

you have to learn to expect in science. 

Learning to adapt is a very important 

skill! I remember having a grade 6 

science project on plants all go moldy, so 

I changed my project to be about mold 

When I was working on my Master’s 

project, I spent 6 months in the lab 

preparing specimens for a specific type 

of testing. Then when I was ready to 

submit the samples to be tested, the 

company didn’t offer the test anymore. 

So I had to come up with other ways to 

analyze my data.
We can never really know what’s going 

to happen, but we can try to adapt to 

what’s happened.
With that said, I’m going to keep 

checking in until the end of the project. 

You are welcome to ask me any questions 

you want about studying science, 

researching, what kind of school it takes 

to be a scientist, or anything else you can 

think of. You can also ask me anything 

you want about any kind of science, 

and I’ll try to find some answers for you 

or point you in the right direction to 

find some yourself! Although I studied 

biology (fungi specifically) for my 

Master’s degree, my job now involves 

a lot of chemistry and physics as well, 

so get creative with your questions! 

Even random little things you’ve always 

wondered about could have some really 

interesting science behind it, so let the 

questions fly!

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020


Kelly Kerr (scientist mentor, in a post to her 

student team members):

How is everyone holding up with the 

Covid-19 disruptions? I thought I’d share 

some of the impacts it’s been having on 

my life and research to commiserate.
Since my research involves a lot of field 

work (e.g. camping, hiking, living in the 

woods for weeks at a time collecting 

samples) in the spring and summer, I’m 

very worried that I won’t be able to get 

a lot of the work done I had planned. 

While a lot of public land (i.e. forests) 

in Utah and Colorado are still open, my 

University also shut down and no one 

is allowed to work in the labs. So even 

if I go to the forest, I may not be able 

to measure my samples in the lab once I 

collect them.
I also had 2 conferences planned this 

summer to talk about my research. One 

has been cancelled—the other one is in 

August but the organizers are already 

talking about it being in an online 

Working from home is a real challenge 

for me—I don’t have the best discipline 

to stay focused and on task. But it has 

led to a lot of fun hobby exploration. I’ve 

been playing the banjo a lot, baking lots 

of bread (working on some sourdough 

now), painting, and reading a lot of 

books. Oh, and of course catching up 

on some Netflix. I have a weekly zoom 

hangout with some good friends, and 

we’ve started a movie club while under 

“quarantine” too.
Anyway, while this pandemic is 

unprecedented, disruptions to science 

are unfortunately common—especially 

when you work with live specimens like 

plants. Two summers ago, the forest in 

CO I work in was largely on fire and I 

could not access many of the sites. So 

there are big gaps in that dataset too! I 

think we do our best to learn from the 

mistakes, and try to gather what data 

we can.
Hope you all are well! Feel free to share/

discuss your thoughts if you’d like. 

Happy to chat about anything.

Many students whose teachers decided to 

continue with PlantingScience also posted 

about their experiences during the COVID19 

pandemic. While a few expressed joy at being 

away from school, most shared their thoughts 

about how much they missed school (gasp!) 

and their friends. As anyone who has or 

works with children know, the disruptions 

throughout their lives are creating no small 

amount of consternation, confusion, and 

disorientation, regardless of age. These 

feelings were expressed and explored to some 

extent on the PlantingScience platform during 

the last 6 weeks of the session.

7Dani (student, posting to their team’s page):

Since our last check-in, I haven’t seen 

my plants or even my classmates for 

that matter. We are on our second week 

of online schooling and needless to say, 

I very much wish to go back (Never 

thought I would say that). We have left 

our plants to die and it seems like there 

is nothing we can do about it at the time 

being. Has this happened to you with any 

of your research? What have you been 

doing with your time off? Are you able 

to do research remotely? Has the corona 

affected you in any way differently like 

has a friend or family member got it? 

Hope you are safe and well.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


4Emma (student, posting to their team’s page):

Hi! As  few  people  have  already  said 

our school was closed during our 

spring break until the 10


 of April but 

it will most likely be for the rest of the 

year. I wish we would have had the 

chance to finish the experiment and I 

want to thank you for all of the help 

that you gave us. Are you still able to 

do your labs and experiments? How is 

your quarantine going? I am starting 

to get bored of doing the same things 

over and over again  Luckily our 

school and teachers have the ability 

to teach us over technology so we are 

still able to get some sort of education. 

My brother keeps asking me to play 

baseball all the time and I’ve read a 

lot of books. Anyway I hope that you 

are finding a way to stay sane during 

this time! Again, thank you for being 

willing to help us with this project.

Maahir (student, posting to their team’s page):

I can’t believe everything that has 

happened because of the pandemic. That 

made it really hard to communicate 

and spun my world around and I am 

sure it has happened to others too. My 

conclusions on my seed work are that 

leaving the second and third batches of 

seeds stay in the sun helped jumpstart 

their growth. Not one seed molded 

and everyone single hypocotyl formed 

in at most five days. I used to think 

that sunlight was just a small factor of 

germination but now I realize that it 

made a bigger difference than I thought 

it would. I still wonder about so many 

things and will continue to learn more 

about plants. I would like to wrap this 

by thanking you Emily for helping me 

through and sparking my plant interests. 

It was fun to talk about other topics too! 

You seem like an amazing person and 

I hope that you have a happy life and 

wish for all of us to keep on trucking 

through this tough time.
This was so fun!

A worldwide pandemic has disrupted every 

aspect of our lives, including schooling, 

which has been challenging for children who 

are used to those social interactions, meal 

plans, and structure, among other benefits. 

Pediatricians initially recommend that K-12 

students go back to school this fall, as the 

benefits outweigh the detriments (pending 

students’ underlying personal and family 

health concerns. However, they later added 

the caveat that in-person school should 

happen only if it can be done in a way to 

keep everyone – students, teachers, staff, 

administrators, etc. – safe and healthy. 

Knowing that this fall will likely look nothing 

like last fall, PlantingScience staff continue to 

prepare for a fall session to support teachers 

in their efforts to teach their middle and high 

school students the process of science through 

hands-on plant science research projects. 

We are currently reassessing our modules 

to determine how—if at all—we can enable 

teachers to run them through remote learning 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Resources for Teaching Botany 


When the COVID-19 global pandemic forced universities to shift very quickly to online 

teaching, many were left seeking help and needing resources. The BSA was quick to create 

and provide online resources that are continually being updated. Go to

home/resources/online_resources.html to explore these resources!

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image



Student Experiences During  

COVID-19 Lockdown

In early May 2020, we put out a call for the BSA student members to share their experiences 

during the COVID-19 lockdown. So many of you have responded to our call, and we want 

to give a big “Thank You” to all of you. When we put all the responses into a word cloud (see 

next page), a few words stood out among all the responses, and they are the words that are so 

tightly connected to all of our lives right now: COVID-19, research, lab, work, home, online. 

We appreciate the honesty in all the responses about their struggles and coping mechanisms, 

and we hope you will find them helpful for you to get through this chaotic time as well, because 

we are truly all in this together. 

By Min Ya, Shelly Gaynor, and Imeña Valdes, BSA Student Representatives 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Allison DeHaas 



Widener University

As a 


 in undergrad, I was


finishing up 

writing my thesis 

when all of the chaos that 

is COVID-19 ensued. I had done most of the 

work, but the few things I had left to do required 

my Research Advisor and I had to share her 

computer because she had access to the data 

analysis program I needed to use, and I did 

not. Due to social distancing, we were unable 

to do this. I was able to make do with what we 

had—using previous figures from posters, but 

it definitely interrupted the process and plan 

we had outlined. On top of that, the flowers 

that we study were in full bloom and I was 

unable to visit them because the arboretum 

was closed! Once I finally finished my senior 

thesis, I had the unique opportunity to do 


thesis defense via Zoom. In all of this, 

I’ve found the best way to cope is to just be 

honest with those around you about how you 

are doing. It isn’t always easy to be vulnerable 

and share, but I’ve found that everyone t


to relate. Right now, we are all doing the best 

we can with what we have! 

Chelsea Pretz 

Graduate Student  

University of Colorado, Boulder  


Staying inside so much has probably given me 

vitamin D-deficiency, but I learned to be cat-

like and sit by windows. I have also learned 

what bias-tape is and how to make it, so I 

could make a homemade cloth mask.

Kate Volk

Graduate Student

I’ve found that, more than ever, my motivation 

is all over the place. Some days I’m a go-getter; 

some days I need a lot of breaks; some days I 

can’t focus at all. Some tricks I’ve developed 

for those un-focused days are making daily 

to-do lists and checking things off as I go. 

Even if the list doesn’t consist of classwork 

and research, but rather “take 10 min break.” 

I’ve found that checking the box off gives me 

a little push to do the next thing on the list. 

Also, when taking breaks, heading outside 

really refreshes me.

Tracey Simmons


Post-Doc Student  


With the campus closed due to COVID-19, I 

can no longer access our lab. Some things can 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


be done remotely, but there is no substitute 

for the energy that comes from working in 

the same room. The loss of that safe and 

supportive space is difficult. My advice is to 

treat yourself with kindness during this time. 

Take the gentle care you would give a growing 

plant and turn that care back onto yourself. 

Drink water, soak in the sunlight, and take 

some deep breaths. Your work will be there 

when we return, so put your mental health 

first now. We will get through this together.

Nannie L. Persson

Graduate Student, 

University Museum of Bergen

The decision to close our university due to 

COVID-19 came very fast and I didn’t even 

have time to get my laptop or the literature I 

needed. I live alone, abroad, and suddenly felt 

completely shut out from the world. I was able 

to get my things the next day, though, and it 

turns out I made the right decision to bring 

home my big screen, since we’ve now had a 

home office for two months and will probably 

have over the summer. My workplace is very 

important to me, and if I don’t like it, my 

concentration is bad. I was granted access to 

the molecular lab after 1.5 months and had 

long conversations with three colleagues that 

day. When I got back home, I was exhausted, 

and it was the same exhaustion I had felt 

every day after work prior to the shutdown. 

Thus, during these two months, I’ve gone 

from thinking I was an introvert, to longing 

for people more than I’ve ever done before, 

to realize that I am indeed an introvert and 

I appreciate my home office. Especially since 

my deadline to deliver my thesis is in less than 

six months and I need not to be disturbed.


Graduate Student  


I was a teaching fellow for a class (Biology 

of Plants) this semester and transitioning to 

online teaching had been the most challenging 

thing. This class has a weekly 3-hour lab 

component and it’s always students’ favorite 

part because that’s where they get to look at and 

dissect all sorts of plants. Changing in-person 

labs into online labs has not been satisfying 

no matter how many online materials we 

prepare or what methods we try. However, the 

most difficult part was not adjusting course 

materials but adjusting myself. I knew my 

students understood things and were enjoying 

the lab when I taught the lab in person, but 

I felt insecure when speaking through the 

camera because I don’t have the connection 

to the students anymore. The semester has 

ended and I appreciate all my students being 

so great, but I wish I could figure out a way to 

make the situation better both for them and 

for myself.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Justin Williams

Graduate Student

Lots of writing! Thank god for the online her-

baria consortia and databases! Currently TA-

ing an online field course...hmmm.



Bashir Bolaji TIAMIYU

Graduate Student,  

Wuhan Botanical Garden  

Chinese Academy of Science  


Getting to Wuhan Botanical Garden as a 

new graduate student (Ph.D.) in January 

and there was lockdown a few days later, it 

was an awful experience that brought some 

inconvenience, in the beginning, however, 

with the help of the management team, and 

my supervisor, I was able to adapt to the 

new surrounding and the reality on-ground. 

I decided to channel my energy towards 

reviewing relevant literature for my proposed 

research. As a resident in Wuhan, initially it 

was a traumatic experience, but as time passed 

by, the psychological pressure eased. I tried to 

stay healthy through regular exercises, watch 

movies and communicate with loved ones 

back in Nigeria.

Sukuan Liu

Graduate Student

Yes. I was possibly exposed and became in-

fected back in China in mid


Deva Raj Khanal

Graduate Student  


From the beginning of spring semester 


I had just started my research project: Genus 

Salsola’s complexity for my MS studies at 

South Dakota State University. However, 

with the effect of COVID-19, I had stopped 

my lab work. But, in this pandemic situation, 

I am learning computational things from 

home, which will be very useful for my 

research project soon. For this, I am also 

taking an online course. I hope to return to 

my normal lab work and play with DNA data 

very soon.

Jacob Ewald

Graduate Student  

California State  

University, Chico

I am a first-year graduate student at Chico 

State University in Chico, California. I have 

been quite fortunate in being able to adapt 

to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a commuter 

living about 75 miles away from campus, I 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


already had to be flexible to pursue my edu-

cation. When the statewide orders shut down 

the campus, I was still collecting seeds from 

ripening fruits from 40 greenhouse-grown 

monkeyflower specimens. Realizing I would 

quickly lose access to these specimens, I 

transported them from Chico State to my 

home in Redding, CA, where I continued to 

collect their seeds. If the shutdown order had 

come earlier (say, when I still needed to col-

lect seeds from my original 270 plants), my 

research would have been greatly impacted, 

as I would not have been able to transport 

them all. Fieldwork, too, has been able to 

continue in a properly regulated fashion. I ac-

quired university permission to collect mon-

keyflower  DNA  samples  from  the  field,  but 

once the proper safety precautions had been 

discussed, I was able to conduct my fieldwork 

with only a short delay. Overall, it has taken 

some flexibility and unorthodox methods, but 

my research is forging ahead. 

Simone Lim-Hing

Graduate Student  

University of Georgia  


I think the biggest impact the pandemic has 

had on me is the psychological one. While I 

have the privilege to work safely from home 

and maintain my stipend, many of my friends 

and family are not. I am constantly worried 

about the safety of others, like my mother, for 

example, who is an essential worker at a de-

tention center that has a COVID-19 outbreak. 

On the other hand, this lockdown has taught 

me to appreciate the things around me more, 

like my partner, pets, and books!


Kathryn Mercier

Graduate Student  

City College of New York 

 and the New York Botanical Garden  


I’ve been relatively lucky in regard to CO-

VID-19. My family and I are all still working 

and healthy. I have been able to shelter-in-

place with my parents, surrounded by Flori-

da biodiversity and empty hiking trails. Yet, 

this coronavirus has taken many firsts of my 

dissertation career. It took my first season of 

fieldwork. It took my first Botany meeting. In 

the fall, it will likely take my first in-person 

teaching  experience.  It  can  be  difficult  not 

to  feel  dejected.  But  I  try  to  remember  that 

I  have  also  gained  some  firsts.  I  have  seen 

friends from across the country defend their 

dissertation through virtual meetings. I have 

taken up the guitar. I will be teaching online 

and attending a virtual Botany meeting. De-

spite the feeling of missing out, I will still be 

able to have these firsts, virtually or eventu-


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



oanna Lumbsden-Pinto

Graduate Student

Bringing so much uncertainty in my last field-

work season in the summer so I needed to 

come up with contingency plans.

Grace Brock

Recent graduate of a BA

I’ve  just  graduated  in  mid-May  with  a  BA 

in  Botany  and  Creative Writing. The  transi-

tion to online coursework during my last few 

months as an undergrad was quite unexpect-

ed. I’ve stayed in close contact with all of my 

friends through texting and video conferenc-

ing, but checking in on the plants that I’ve 

helped research for the past 3 years has prov-

en more difficult once non-essential workers 

were asked to stay at home. One thing that has 

made the transition easier is the weekly Snap-

chat video updates that my labmate sends to 

me from inside the greenhouse! As for coping 

with missing out on in-person lectures, noth-

ing can really perfectly substitute for it. In-

stead, I’ve been delving through all of my old 

botany notebooks to pull out the topics that 

interest  me  most.  Rather  than  spending  this 

last semester physically attending lectures, 

I’ve been creating my own mini-lectures at 

home. I hope to someday work in the field of 

science communication and if nothing else, 

this extended time at my house has given 

me the chance to work on potential topics to 

someday write about. Lastly, I have found it 

valuable to take advantage of all of my free 

time by reading. It’s a wonderful de-stressor 

to put yourself into another world for a while. 

Right  now,  I’m  reading  Jurassic Park, and 

then I’m moving onto the Lord of the Rings 


Bethany Nichols

Graduate Student 


Being isolated at home means I don’t get to 

interact with other students and talking to oth-

ers is often what inspires my work. One of 

my PhD chapters now has to be a literature 

review because I can’t get into the lab. How-

ever, my garden and house plants have never 

looked better and I’m connecting more with 

the  wildflowers  growing  around  my  house. 

I’ve even started a plant blog to help me keep 

learning and writing.

Shelly Gaynor

Graduate Student 


University of Florida  

;@Shelly Gaynor

COVID-19 has really impacted my research 

progress. My fieldwork was delayed. Though 

my university may allow fieldwork in a few 

weeks, I worry that it wouldn’t be safe to go. I 

am slowly finding my footing and figuring out 

how to move forward despite these delays.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        






When did you join BSA and what motivated 

you to do so? 

While at Florida International University, 

my undergrad advisor, Dr. Suzanne Koptur, 

encouraged me to apply for the PLANTS 

program in 2015. I had such a great experience 

at the Botany meeting, especially as a PLANTS 

student. Since then I have promoted BSA 

and the PLANTS program to many friends 

so they could have similar experiences while 

networking for their future.

What motivated you to run for the position 

of Student Representative to the Board of 

Directors, and what do you plan to do as the 

student representative of BSA?

Because of the consistently great experiences 

I have had while attending Botany meetings, 

I wanted to do my part and contribute to 

the Society. I want other underrepresented 

students to have access to the tools I was 

provided and a chance to meet incredible 

scientists that can serve as mentors as they 

navigate through STEM. The current Black 

Lives Matter movement makes it abundantly 

clear that we need to make science more 

inclusive and safer for Black, Brown, and 

Indigenous students. I envision using my 

position as a sort of liaison between students, 

particularly those who are underrepresented, 

and the rest of the board. 

What’s your research about and how did you 

discover your research interest?

My research focuses on understanding 

and evaluating pollinator preferences and 

support in order to provide information on 

best practices in landscaping and restoration 

regarding the development of nativars. 

I discovered my love for plant–animal 

interactions in undergrad while talking to a 

friend about narrowing down my interests 

so I could be placed in a lab for a semester to 

complete a USDA scholarship requirement. At 

first it was a casual interest but soon enough I 

was hooked, and I continued in Dr. Koptur’s 

lab until I graduated in 2018. 

What sorts of hobbies do you have? 

I enjoy baking; taking care of my growing 

houseplant collection; traveling; chiseling 

away the imperialist, capitalist, white 

supremacist patriarchy; and petting other 

people’s dogs. 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown in the United 

States, we collected perspectives via Twitter for 

our planned workshop on time management. 

Since the shutdown, time management has 

been a struggle 

and we aren’t ready to teach it! 

Instead, here we share some tips we gathered 

on managing time. Particularly, we called for 

answers to three main questions:

1.  How do you keep track of everything 

you have to do?

2.  What do you do when you can’t com-

plete your to-do list? 

3.  How do you manage procrastination?

We also posted the links to the original 

tweets below so that you can see the original 

responses. Please feel free to contact us if 

you want to share your time management 


Time Management Tips:  

Before and During a Pandemic

1. How do you keep track of everything you 

have to do? (

To-Do List

• Pen/Paper or Notebooks

• Sticky Notes (e.g., Kanban boards)

• Whiteboard

• Planners

 º Normal Planner

 º Passion Planners


¤ Erasable pen *


¤ Post-Its in a Planner

• Bullet Journals

Personal Task Manager

• AmazinMarivin ($6 per month)

• ToDoist (Free or $3 per month)

 º Can set reminders at times, link 

to phone too.

• Omnifocus ($9.99 per month)

 º Mac or iOS only

• GoodNotes ($7.99 for app)

Summary of responses:

Digital To-Do

• Google Keep

• OneNote

• Trello 

• WorkFlowy ($4.99 per month)

• GoodNotes ($7.99 for app)


• GoogleCalendar 

 º Todolist Pro doesn’t integrate well!

 º Google task 

• Outlook Calendar

• Synced Calendars between devices

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


During the pandemic, did your strategy 


During the pandemic, did your strategy 


2. What do you do when you can’t complete 

your to-do list?  


The responses had three main themes:

• Break your to-do list into manageable 

items (rank and organize this list).

• Identify feasible goals.

• It is okay if you do not get everything done.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


3. How do you manage procrastination?


Response summary: Procrastination is part 

of life. 

• Schedule chunks of time for long tasks.

• Remember to schedule breaks!

During the pandemic, did your strategy change?

background image



A big THANK YOU to Taran Lichtenberger, 

one of two BSA Student Social Media Liaisons 

hired last year to promote BSA’s mission, via a 

student voice, on our social media platforms. 

Taran’s focus was on Facebook and Instagram, 

where she grew our audiences over 7% on 

Facebook and an amazing 82% on Instagram. 

Taran has been instrumental in helping to 

shape the BSA Liaison position for future 

students, including co-creating a detailed 



Amelia Neely

BSA Membership 

& Communications 



E-mail: ANeely@</i>

liaison handbook. We wish Taran well as she 

starts her next chapter as the Community 

Engagement Manager for Budburst, a 

community science program of the Chicago 

Botanical Garden. 

The BSA Student Social Media Liaison 

positions, which were originally developed 

as two, one-year positions, are now two, two-

year staggered positions in order to maintain 

continuity in tone and purpose. We are 

thankful to Jared Meek for agreeing to stay 

in this position for a second year. We are in 

the process of hiring the second liaison at this 


If you have anything you would like to see 

promoted on the BSA social media channels, 






The BSA renewal season is just around the 

corner starting in October (BSA memberships 

run on an annual cycle, Jan-Dec). New this 

year, post-doc members will have the option 

of a 3-year post-doc membership! For a 

discounted rate of $105 (a savings of $15), 

post-docs can keep this membership level 

for the full three years even if their post-doc 

status changes. 

Three-year Student and 3-year Professional 

membership levels are available now, so don’t 

miss out on the opportunity to pay once and 

stay connected for three years when you renew 

your membership this fall!

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



For only $10, gift memberships are an 

affordable way to share the benefits of being 

part of the BSA community with students 

or developing nations colleagues. Visit www., click Membership on the top 

menu, and then click Gift Memberships to get 




As a member benefit, BSA members receive 

the monthly eNewsletter, Membership 

Matters. The newsletter includes society news 

and awards you do not want to miss. If you 

do not currently receive a copy of Membership 

Matters, and wish to start receiving them, 

please contact Amelia Neely at aneely@</p>



Plants That Cure

Plants as a Source for  

Medicines, from Pharmaceuticals 

to Herbal Remedies

Elizabeth A. Dauncey  

& Melanie-Jayne R. Howes

Cloth $29.95


Receive 30% off plus free shipping sitewide 

through 9/30/20 with coupon code BOT20


The Enduring Relationship  

between Plant and Pollinator

Timothy Walker

Cloth $29.95

Summer Wildflowers 

of the Northeast

A Natural History

Carol Gracie

Cloth $29.95

The Gardener’s  


An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant 

Names - with More than  

5,000 Entries


Ross Bayton

Cloth $29.95

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        





60 years ago 


William Campbell Steere gave the Address of the retiring President of the Botanical Society of America at 

the meeting held in Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. His remarks are included in Plant Science Bul-

letin and discuss the unique conditions for plants in arctic regions. He provides an important perspective 

as we consider the rapidly changing conditions in the arctic today. He introduces the talk:

“I selected the topic, ‘Botanical Problems in Arctic America,’ as being timely because of the recent admis-

sion of Alaska to the Union as the 49th State, because of the large amount of publicity given to the activi-

ties of the International Geophysical Year in arctic and antarctic regions, and because of the increasing 

importance of our northern outposts in the military defense of this continent. Moreover, after eight field 

seasons in arctic and subarctic Canada, Alaska and Lappland, I have developed some ideas and some 

questions that may well be of interest to a group of my botanical colleagues.

--Steere, William Campbell. “Botanical Problems in Arctic America” PSB 6(4): 1-5.

50 years ago  

“A freak hurricane on January 4, 1970 resulted in extensive damage to one of the worlds’ leading botanical 

establishments. The loss to botany of such a famous and important collection transcends national bound-

aries and it is felt that many of the institutions and individuals who have benefited from the Gardens 

and its associated facilities such as the Treub Laboratory and the Herbarium Bogoriense may wish to do 

something tangible to help.

 --“Botanic Gardens at Bogor Damaged by a Hurricane” PSB 16(3): 8-9.

40 years ago

Joe E. Winstead discusses some situations that can negatively affect the experience of presenters, mod-

erators, and the audience at scientific conferences. This demonstrates the fact, that while technology has 

changed, giving a quality presentation is a perpetual struggle.  

“It never ceases to amaze me that individuals with scientific training can hand a set of slides to the pro-

jectionist (usually an undergraduate) expecting that person to know immediately how the slides are to 

be placed in the projector to appear on the screen. What happened to rehearsal time and the courtesy of 

marking slides by number and with indications of which corner is to face the projectionist? One or more 

slides often appear upside down or backwards and the speaker implies or states that the projectionist was 

at fault.

. . . 

Finally, it seems to be rare to find a moderator who will take 30 seconds to commend the academic hos-

tage who operated the projector by at least introducing them by name and, if a student, mentioning the 

major area of study. Having been a faceless non-identity in the old days, I feel a special kinship to those 

that have to hear every paper along with the moderator.”


Winstead, Joe E. “Disconsolate Observations at Paper Sessions or The Unselling of Information.” 

PSB 26(3): 17-18

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


The BSA is pleased to announce the publication 

of an exciting special collection of articles in 

our Open Access journal, Applications in Plant 

Sciences, that highlights machine learning in 

plant sciences. 

Machine learning—the science of enabling 

computers to learn without being explicitly 

programmed—is becoming so prevalent that 

we often use it without even knowing it. The 

autocorrect on your cell phone, the ads you see 

as you browse online, and self-driving cars are 

all common examples of machine learning, 

as are personalized medicine and precision 


The field of machine learning is advancing 

rapidly as computer scientists develop more 

efficient algorithms and more powerful 

computing platforms. Plant scientists 

are now increasingly applying machine 

learning to biological problems including 

species identification, plant phenology, and 

comparative genomics.

The special collection in APPS, organized by 

editors Pam Soltis, Gil Nelson, Emily Meineke, 

and Alina Zare, was published across the 

June and July 2020 issues. The papers fall 

into two broad categories: the first focusing 

on applications to images of herbarium 

specimens, on topics from phenology to 

herbivory; and the second including papers 

that address a broader range of topics, data, 

and biological scale. 

All articles are freely available at https://


learning-in-plant-biology. We especially 

encourage you to check out the issue 

introduction (https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary., 

which provides a thoughtful overview of the 

16 featured articles, as well as a snapshot of 

the current promise and challenges of this 

emerging field. 

New approaches involving machine learning 

have the potential to change how we study 

plants and even the questions we can ask. 

We hope that the papers presented in this 

collection encourage further progress on the 

emerging applications of machine learning to 

plant biology.




background image



In Memoriam 



W. Arthur (“Art”) Whistler, an eminent 

botanical expert of the South Pacific islands, 

died on April 2, 2020 due to COVID-19. His 

death was the third in Hawaii from the disease. 

Art was originally from Trona, California, 

a small desert town near Death Valley with 

vegetation that stands in stark contrast to 

the tropical flora that he studied for four 

decades. Although Art had visited Samoa 

in the late 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer, 

his botanical story begins with him earning 

a PhD from the University of Hawaii in 

1979, supervised in part by the legendary 

vegetation ecologist Dieter Mueller-Dombois. 

Art’s major publication from his dissertation 

titled “The vegetation of Eastern Samoa” was 

published in 1980 and continues to influence 

all vegetation work in the American Samoa 

portion of the archipelago. Subsequent to 

his PhD, Art established and maintained 

affiliations with the University of Hawaii 

Botany Department, the Bishop Museum, and 

the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Instead of pursuing an academic career, Art 

established a consulting firm, Isle Botanica.  

He leveraged the private sector to pursue his 

botanical interests, not only as a consultant, 

but also by publishing his botanical accounts 

in guide books, which were sold across 

the Pacific. These books have been widely 

disseminated and include titles such as 

Polynesian Herbal MedicineWayside Plants of 

the IslandsRainforest Trees of SamoaPlants 

of the Canoe PeopleSamoan Herbal Medicine

Flowers of the Pacific Island Seashore, and The 

Samoan Rainforest among others. 

Despite his focus on consulting and writing 

botanical guidebooks, Art authored a 


number of peer-reviewed journal 

articles, including accounts of vegetation of 

Pacific islands, ethnobotanical treatments, 

and taxonomic revisions such as for the 

Art Whistler (right) with Siaifoi Fa’aumu (seat-

ed) and Edward Webb (left) in a small patch 

of montane forest at the top of Olosega island, 

Manu’a, American Samoa. Circa 1997.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


genera  Psychotria  and  Syzygium  in Samoa. 

He also made numerous commissioned 


, perhaps most importantly the 

botanical inventory of forests that were 

proposed—and later became—the National 


of American Samoa. Art’s long-term 

professional goal, and which he was in the 

process of finalizing upon his death, was 

to publish the Flora of Samoa. This flora, 

which is being published by the National 

Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, will be 

the crowning achievement of his more than 

40 years of experience and collection in the 

Samoan archipelago. 

I met Art in 1996 when I was en route to 

American Samoa to serve as a botanist for 

the Government of American Samoa. I still 

recall that first meeting and the advice he 

gave me, which was that although American 

Samoa was changing rapidly on the surface, 

the culture remained deep and should be 

unfailingly respected. This was sage advice 

and it reflected Art’s acknowledgment that 

foreign botanists—palagis  in the Samoan 

language—are guests in the island nations and 

we should never forget that. Indeed this was 

one of the reasons Art was so highly regarded 

in Samoa. He treated people with respect 

and enthusiastically mentored and trained 

Samoan colleagues who he hoped would take 

the mantle of Samoan botanical explorations 

forward. His books, arguably his products that 

have gained the most traction, were written 

with the average person in mind, and designed 

to entice the readers to engage with plants. 

They were, moreover written to chronicle the 

local knowledge of plants, their names and 

uses, across the Pacific as lifestyles change and 

that information becomes threatened with 

extinction. Thus, Art committed his life’s work 

to improved taxonomy of Pacific island plants 

but with a parallel and equally important goal 

of making that information available to all 

people, not just the academic world, so that 

people may be inspired to maintain or rekindle 

their cultural connections to the remarkable 

plants of the Pacific islands.

Over the course of our 20+ year friendship, I 

would occasionally send Art photos of Samoan 

plant specimens, almost always sterile and 

sometimes of seedlings, to ask his help with 

identification. Without exception, Art gladly 

gave his opinion along with his reasoning 

and any caveats. Not only did he enjoy the 

puzzles that plants offered every day, but as 

I describe above he supported anyone who 

had an interest in Pacific island plants. He 

was generous with his time and expertise. The 

last time I spoke with Art was in December 

2019, when I called him from a small remnant 

patch of Tava (Pometia pinnata) lowland 

forest on the island of Tutuila, American 

Samoa. We discussed field identification of 

two Dysoxylum tree species (Meliaceae) and 

the characteristics of the stinging hairs on the 

rare tree Dendrocnide harveyi (Urticaceae). As 

always, Art was happy to chat about Samoan 

plants and I remember wishing he could 

have been in the forest as we inventoried the 

trees in that small but important forest patch. 

Indeed, he will be sorely missed, but his legacy 

guarantees him a prominent place in the 

annals of Pacific island botany. 

Edward L. Webb, PhD 

Department of Biological Sciences 

National University of Singapore

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        



2019. ISBN 


Hardcover, £16.00; 

$27.00. 264 pp.  

Reaktion Books, 

Ltd., London, 

UK, distributed 

by University of 

Chicago Press, 

Chicago, IL. 

{Ed. Note: Dorothea Bedigian, who has contributed 

book reviews to Plant Science Bulletin for years, 

recently provided a review of the 2019 book 

“Mulberry” by Peter Coles that surpassed the typical 

review in terms of depth and research. Because of 

this unique take, we’ve chosen to publish this as a 

full article. Thanks to Dorothea for her work.}

The material culture of mulberry, including 

its service to sericulture, paper making, 

for its wood, fruit, healing properties, 

and its inspiration to artists and writers is 

documented in Mulberry (see the Book 

Review section for full info). Author Peter 

Coles describes the trees botanically and 

societally, with 100 effective illustrations (95 

in color) that are, in my view, among its most 

valuable features. There are reference notes to 

each chapter, a select bibliography, and 6-page 

Index. Coles is a freelance science writer, 

fine art photographer and translator, and a 

Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban and 

Community Research, Goldsmiths, University 

of London. 

It was startling to encounter the full-page 

illustration (p. 192) with the caption, ‘Mulberry 

pattern textile by Moda Fabric,’ because the 

stems have thorns, the berries have sepals, and 

the leaves with serrate margins are uniformly 

tripartite, opposing Coles’ photograph of 

a mulberry and leaf on p. 196! Instead, the 

striking textile depicted is Rubus L., with 

sepals at the base of the aggregate drupe(lets), 

i.e., many carpels from one flower. Rather, 

Morus L. has many separate flowers/fruits 

fused together (a syncarp, compound), and 

the perianth is part of the fleshiness, so there 

are no distinct/recognizable sepals. While 

some Morus leaves are lobed, they are not 


I looked forward eagerly to reading Mulberry 

because mulberries were an essential part 

of my childhood. On summer Sundays we 

would travel to a nearby wooded area to 

harvest a week’s supply of fresh black and 

white mulberries; in winter, dried mulberries 

would substitute.  Mulberries relate to my 

Armenian heritage; I recall grandparents’ 

childhood memories of treasured traditions 

in Western Armenia, harvesting the fruit by 

stretching a large sheet held by four corners, 

while someone climbed the tree to shake its 

limbs, releasing the ripe fruit.

It is unfortunate that despite Coles’ 

international focus, this detailed work 

neglects substantial geographical aspects 

and omits considerable regional expertise 

An extended review of  


 by Peter Coles

By Dorothea Bedigian

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


about mulberry. My disappointment is Coles’ 

shocking omission of Armenian culture that 

venerates, and is identified so completely 

with, mulberry, involving food, drink, and 

silk manufacture. Coles identifies mulberry 

pekmez  (


) the concentrated fruit 

must, widely used as syrup by Armenians 

(often mixed with tahini), as a Turkish item. 

However, long before the Mongol invasions of 

Anatolia, the Armenian Highlands were a site 

of major agricultural innovations (Bedigian, 

2011). Coles credits mulberry foodstuffs to 

the colonial conquerors, a case of cultural 

appropriation, thereby erasing history, 

ignoring contributions of Armenians, among 

the original peoples of the region after the fall 

of the Kingdom of Urartu, near the end of the 



 century BCE, many centuries before the 

Ottoman conquest. This report seeks to rectify 

the disservice done with these significant gaps.

Although Coles does not delve into these 

details, black mulberry (Morus nigra L.) 

appears to have originated in the mountainous 

areas of Mesopotamia and Persia, coinciding 

with the center of its diversity: the south 

Caucasus countries, Armenia, and northern 

Persia (Grieve, 1931; Yaltirik, 1982; Jansen 

et al., 1991; Westwood, 1995; Tutin, 1996; 

Browicz, 2000). Iran is viewed as its center 

of origin (Koyuncu, 2004; Koyuncu et al., 

2004, p. 125). According to Markarian (1978), 

mulberry (evidently M. alba L., because the 

preceding sentence was about its Chinese 

origin) was introduced to Armenia in the 16th 

century, in 1710. Safar Vaselian transplanted 

the first mulberry from Russia (Tereki vicinity, 

Terek Soviet Republic).

The root of the Armenian term tut 



originates from the Aramaic tūtā (Chicago 

Assyrian Dictionary, 2006), a loanword also 

used in present-day Arabic, Azerbaijani, 

Croatian, Hindi, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, 

Pashto, Persian, Romanian, Tajik, Turkish, 

and Uzbek, reflecting its transfer along the 

Silk Road. 

There is a long textual tradition of mulberries 

in Armenia. Mkhitʻar Gōsh, an Armenian 

scholar, writer, public figure, and priest, was 

among the stars of the Armenian Renaissance 

prior to the  Turco-Mongol Invasions of the 

late 12th to early 13th centuries. His Fables 

(Bayizian, 1987), include a metaphorical 

rivalry between mulberry and olive: each 

boasted of its strength(s), the olive of its 

evergreen condition, and plentitude of fruit—

especially since its fruit is made of oil, oil is 

made of light, and light dispels darkness. The 

mulberry boasted of the sweetness of its fruit 

and the fact that its leaves make silk. Worms are 

born and cloth comes from it—cloth enjoyed 

by kings and princes. The olive challenged 

the mulberry, arguing that its fruit passed too 

quickly, became diseased, was discretionary 

versus necessary, and that [people] removed 

[silk clothing] at night, but still left their lamp 


An Armenian creation myth describes the 

origin of mulberry, its place in the natural 

and social world. It illustrates the importance 

of mulberry in Armenian culture, offering a 

fantastical tale of how it came to be (Najarian, 


Once upon a time, a silkworm wove a special 

dress for a girl. It was incredibly thin, light, 

with stunning lace. It was no ordinary dress. 

It possessed some magic powers: the woman 

who wore it became even more attractive. 

Additionally, any woman who wore the 

dress could go without food for days. After a 

woman wore it, she lent it to her friend. Her 

friend used it, then shared it with another 

friend. They all rejoiced, seeing their beauty 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


One day, the king chose one of these women 

to become his wife. She then stipulated 

that henceforth she alone would wear the 

beautiful dress; she would never share it. 

Her friends were taken aback, saddened by 

her selfishness. Some grew angry, so they 

went to the palace, began to shout, threw 

stones at the windows, and eventually 

stormed the palace; finding the new queen 

cowering in a corner, they ripped the dress 

from her hands and tore it to shreds.
Suddenly, before the enraged women’s eyes, 

the hem of the dress turned into a tree trunk 

with many branches. The shreds of the torn 

dress flew up to the branches of the tree and 

turned into swollen buds, that expanded 

broad leaves, forming a dense canopy. That 

was how the mulberry tree was born. 

Mulberry was ubiquitous throughout historical 

Armenia, in cuisine and lifestyle. Armenians 

consumed mulberry fruits fresh and made 

jams and syrup or molasses, prepared by 

straining mulberry juice, then boiling and 

thickening it. Traditionally that was used in 

place of sugar, an uncommon commodity, 

found only among the wealthy. Mulberry 

seasons yogurt and flavors wine. Mulberries 

are distilled for a coveted commercial product: 

the powerful (57–65%) alcoholic beverage tti 

oghi that was widely produced as moonshine 

at home, across Armenia. Mulberry’s sweet 

aromatic juice doshab is believed to possess 

healing powers against pneumonia, angina, 

and the common cold. When dried, doshab 

forms the fruit leather pekmez.  Mulberries 

are famously esteemed by residents of Goris, 

Syunik Province, who mount a National 

Mulberry Festival annually, in July. 

Early travelers’ accounts are an invaluable 

resource to reconstruct Armenian cultural life 

before the massacres (1894–1915). Ainsworth 

(1842) includes 10 entries about mulberry 

plantations and groves amidst vineyards, 

gardens of mulberry, fig, and pomegranate 

trees: “Someone climbed the mulberry tree 

and shook the branches, letting down enough 

fruit to feed 20 persons” (p. 190). Taylor (1868, 

p. 330) observed “fine gardens of mulberry, 

apricot and walnut.”

Writing about Arabgir, Knight (1854, p. 

408) noted: “built amidst a forest of fruit-

trees, among which the White Mulberry is 

most common. The fruit of the mulberry is 

eaten fresh, or used for making brandy, or 

it is made into a sweetmeat called pekmez, 

which is common all through Armenia”; 

about Anatolia (Knight, 1854, p. 335): “Olive 

and mulberry trees are extensively cultivated 

for the production of oil and silk”; about 

Amasia (Knight 1854, p. 271): “there are 

numerous mulberry plantations, as silk forms 

an important article of export”; about Hazero 

in the Tigris plain near Bitlis (Knight, 1854, 

p. 515): “mulberry and Lombardy poplar 

flourish in the district.” At the valley of Eghin, 

mountains rise rapidly to around 400 ft, the 

lower slopes rising in terraces above the 

narrow valley laid out in gardens and planted 

with trees (Knight, 1854, p. 512): “the trees are 

mostly white mulberry, the fruit of which is 

eaten fresh, or dried and distilled for brandy, 

or else boiled into a conserve”; mountains 

surrounding the basin of Lake Van on the 

south (Knight, 1854, p. 517) are “clothed with 

woods of oak, and along the rivers are walnut 

trees, raspberries, mulberries, and vines.”

The city of Van was widely admired as a 

“garden city,” owing to its impressive 80-km 

long stone-lined irrigation canal constructed 

during King Menua’s reign, around 810-786 

BCE (Bedigian, 2011), that ferried freshwater 

from the Artos Mountains to water the 

vineyards and orchards tucked behind mud 

walls. American missionary and physician 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Moses Parmalee reported (1888): “As we 

approached Van, at the western extremity of 

the lake, the villages of the Armenians became 

more numerous... the dwelling-houses in 

the gardens are embowered in most charming 

orchards of mulberry and other fruit trees.
Protestant missionary Susan Wheeler (1877, 

pp. 39-40) provides extensive firsthand culi-

nary detail: 

“White mulberry is very abundant there 

and is much used. It is the first fruit that 

ripens, and the people relish the sweet fruit 

after the long fast in the spring, when they 

have little variety in their food. When they 

are ripe the women bring out large sheets 

and spread them under the trees, which 

are then shaken, and the ripe fruit is easily 

gathered. The berries are put into a large 

copper boiler, a fire is kindled near the 

place, and the boiler is supported by large 

stones on each side of the fire. The fruit 

is cooked for several hours, and strained 

through a cotton bag, till all the juice is 

pressed out. This is put into shallow copper 

vessels, whitened with tin, and placed on 

the flat roofs of the houses, where it remains 

for days to evaporate in the sun. Then it is 

put into a narrow-necked earthen vessel, 

the mouth of which is covered with wet 

leather, and the molasses is ready. Bread 

and molasses is the morning meal of many 

a poor Armenian family. They also prepare 

a sort of sweet meat of this molasses. 

They stir starch or fine flour into the fresh 

syrup, boil it till it becomes a paste, and 

then spread it on their cloth, and dry it 

for winter. Sometimes they put nuts upon 

it while it is fresh, or when it is partly dry, 

rolling up the nuts, strung on strings, in 

these thin layers. Its appearance, very much 

like a sausage when rolled so, gives its name 

“sweet sausage” (

Անուշ  սուջուխ

). Rojig 

(sharots) [‘strung in a row,’ as in beads] is 

prepared by stringing walnuts, then dipping 

the string into a preparation of molasses 

and flour paste, and then allowed to dry 

[forming fruit leather around the walnuts]. 

This kind of sweet paste is often brought 

in with the sherbet and offered to guests. I 

often brought home my pockets full of this 


Taylor (1868, p. 311) stated: “[Kharpert] 

gardens abound in fine fruit trees; the 

mulberry, however, is the most profitable, its 

fruit being made into a kind of thick paste, 

called ‘Pesteek,’ largely exported, and into raki, 

a villainous spirit, largely consumed in the 

town and villages. A little silk is also raised; but 

this branch of industry is as yet in its infancy.” 

Lynch (1901, p. 391) also wrote admiringly 

about Kharpert where “the mulberry grows 

in such profusion that the silk crop is often of 

considerable value.”

We must also consider the weavers craft, using 

the silk produced by silkworms bred with 

mulberry leaves. Hadjian (2018) uncovered 

historical evidence showing that Bitlis 

Armenians (ancestral home of my paternal 

grandparents) always had several mulberry 

trees in the garden, a remainder of the fact 

that Bitlis was on the Silk Route. Beyond silk 

production, Bitlis exported silk carpets and 

fabrics to France and Italy. 

Years later, an editorial in The New Armenia 

(1920) testifies: “Speaking of the decrease in 

the production of silk…this industry is in 

full decline. The principal producing factors 

have been wrecked, the population which 

specialized in the rearing of silkworms 

displaced, and the mulberry plantations 

uprooted wholesale. Everything has been 

done to deal a death-blow to a once flourishing 

industry. [...] There is a slight inaccuracy in 

the above statement. To say that all this has 

been ‘destroyed by the war’ is not strictly 

accurate… neither of the above-mentioned 

silk producing regions was anywhere near the 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


fighting area. The real truth is that the Turkish 

Government availed itself of the state of war to 

carry out its favorite policy of exterminating 

the Greek and Armenian population, in 

whose hands the silk industry chiefly is.”

Shirinian (1997) apprises David Kherdian’s 

celebration of being alive, as in The Fast (an 

amusing introduction to the person’s regard 

for the delicacy of rojik) and ‘Mulberry Trees’ 

(finding one’s roots while staining one’s fingers 

with ripe mulberries):


as a small boy 

I saw them ripen against 

the early summer sun 

I stopped alone for an hour and ate until 

my fingers 

took an ancient purple stain 

until something remembered 

a small, knotty tree 

in a barren, rocky landscape 

before an older, quieter sun
and I went home a little 

sadder, a little gladdened 

and standing on the porch 

my mother and father 

saw their Armenian son.

Thus, Kherdian connects with his heritage, 

and from the Diaspora in America, he is 

suddenly transformed through tapping into 

the larger collective memory of the Armenian 

people. The mulberry tree in America 

reminds him of one in the old country he 

could never have known except discursively, 

perhaps through his parents’ stories. As a 

result, he is both saddened because of its loss, 

and he is happy because of the experience that 

seems to have confirmed his identity. At the 

end of the poem, through a transposition, he 

places himself in his parents’ point of view 

and calls himself “their Armenian son.” This 

third-person transposition is the result of 

Kherdian’s reinterpreting his past, trying to 

make it complete and meaningful. Kherdian, 

at this point, has arrived at a crucial moment 

in his life, when he is able to look back and see 

himself clearly in relation to his parents and 

their Armenian heritage.

Atom Yarjanian, pen name Siamanto (1875-

1915), among the most influential Armenian 

writers, poets, and national heroes of the 20th 

century, was one of the intellectuals arrested 

by Ottoman Turkish authorities on April 24, 

1915 and subsequently slain. Excerpted here 

is a portion of his lament, ‘The Mulberry Tree,’ 

which depicts the atrocities committed by the 

Ottoman Turkish government, characterizing 

the momentous political and cultural upheaval 

in the history of the Armenian people. ‘The 

Mulberry Tree’ gives voice to a woman who 

has gone mad, upon seeing her grandson 


They’ve even cut down my mulberry tree. 

Give me death. They’ve cut my mulberry 


I planted it the day my grandson was born. 

They’ve cut my mulberry tree. 

Woe to his memory. It grew tall before my 

eyes just like him – 

It was seven years old, and I was sitting in 

its shade with my grandson in my arms 


They’ve even cut my mulberry tree. 

Look, they sawed it at the roots. 

Where is the cart with the corpses? I still 

hear it squeak. 

I want to be thrown into it next to my 


There’s still a place on the cart.


Ainsworth, W. F. 1842. Travels and Researches in Asia 

Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea and Armenia, Vol. 2: 25, 

45, 53, 148, 190, 219, 316. John W. Parker: London. 
Bayizian,  E.  A.  (Ed.)  1987.  The  Fables  of  Mkhitar 

Ghosh. Bedrosian R, transl. Ashod Press, NY.

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Bedigian, D. 2011. Sesame cultivation and irrigation in 

the Kingdom of Urartu (Ararat), Armenian Highlands, 

and its aftermath: major agricultural innovation. In: 

Bedigian D. (Ed.): Sesame: the genus Sesamum, pp. 

367–388. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca 

Raton, FL. 
Browicz,  M.  2000.  Where is the place of origin o

Morus nigra (Moraceae)? Fragm Flor Geobot 45(1-2): 

Chicago Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute 

of the University of Chicago. 2006. “T”. 18: 498.
Grieve, M. 1931. A Modern Herbal. Website: https://
Hadjian, A.  2018.  Secret  Nation: The  Hidden Arme-

nians of Turkey. Bloomsbury Publishing, UK.
Jansen, P. C. M., J. Jukema, L. P. A. Oyen, and T. G. 

van Lingen. 1991. Morus nigra L. In: Verheij E. W. M., 

and R. E. Coronel RE (Eds): Plant Resources of South-

East Asia No 2: Edible fruits and nuts. PROSEA Foun-

dation, Bogor, Indonesia.
Knight, C. 1854. The English Cyclopedia: Geography. 

A New Dictionary of Universal Knowledge. Bradbury 

and Evans, London.
Koyuncu, F. 2004. Morphological and agronomical 

characterization of native black mulberry (Morus nigra 

L.) in Sütçüler, Turkey. PGR Newsletter, FAO Biover-

sity No. 138: 32–35.
Koyuncu, F., M. A. Koyuncu, F. Yıldırım, and E. Vural. 

2004. Evaluation of black mulberry (Morus nigra L.) 

genotypes from Lakes Region, Turkey. Europ J Hort 

Sci 69: 125–131.
Lynch, H. F. B. 1901. Armenia, Travels and Studies. 

The Turkish Provinces. Longmans, Green, and Com-

pany, NY and Bombay. Vol. 2: 52, 285, 327, 391.

Markarian, A. 1978. Tuteni (Morus). Armenian Soviet 

Encyclopedia. Vol. 4: 183. Erevan. [in Armenian].
Najarian,  T.  2013.  Legend  of  the  mulberry  tree. Ar-

menian Legends and Tales. Website: https://tamarna-

The New Armenia. 1920. 12: 79–80.
Parmalee, M. P. 1888. Home and Work by the Rivers of 

Eden. American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia.
Shirinian, L. 1997. David Kherdian and the ethno-au-

tobiographical  impulse:  Rediscovering  the  past.  ME-

LUS 22: 77–89.
Siamanto.  1996.  Bloody  News  from  My  Friend:  Po-

ems by Siamanto. Balakian P, Yaghlian N, transl., pp 

67–69. Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI. 
Taylor, J. G. 1868. Journal of a tour in Armenia, Kurd-

istan, and Upper Mesopotamia, with notes of research-

es in the Deyrsim Dagh, in 1866. Journal of the Royal 

Geographic Society of London 38: 280–361.
Tutin, G. T. 1996. Morus L. In: Tutin, G. T., N. A. Burg-

es, A. O. Chater, J. R. Edmondson, V. H. Heywood, D. 

M. Moore, D. H. Valentine, et al. (Eds). Flora Europa, 

Vol 1. Psilotaceae to Platanaceae, 2


 ed. Cambridge 

University Press.
Westwood,  M.  N.  1995.  Temperate-Zone  Pomology 

Physiology and Culture, pp. 86-87. Timber Press, Port-

land, OR.
Wheeler, S. A. 1877. Daughters of Armenia.  American 

Tract Society, New York, NY.
Yaltirik, F. 1982. Morus. In: Davis, P. H. et al. (Eds). 

Flora  of Turkey.  Edinburgh  University  Press. Vol.  7: 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


background image



Bark Anatomy of Trees and Shrubs in the Temperate Northern Hemisphere .....................152

Chasing Centuries ...................................................................................................................................................154

Food Production in Native North America An Archaeological Perspective 



       Feeding Cahokia Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland ............................156

Guide to the Vascular Flora of Picture Creek Diabase Barrens ..................................................157

The History of Lancetilla Botanical Garden.  ..........................................................................................158

John Gill Lemmon - Andersonville Survivor and California Botanist .........................................160

Lichen Study Guide for Oklahoma and Surrounding States ...........................................................162

Making Eden How Plants Transformed a Barren Planet ..................................................................163

Mulberry .........................................................................................................................................................................164

The Natural History of The Bahamas: A Field Guide ..........................................................................165 

The Nature of Plant Communities   ..............................................................................................................165

The Tree Story ..........................................................................................................................................................167

Wild Yet Tasty: A Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern Kentucky ......................................................169

Wildflowers and Ferns of Red River Gorge and the Greater Red River Basin ....................170 

Bark Anatomy of Trees 

and Shrubs in the  

Temperate Northern 


Fritz H. Schweingruber, 

Peter Steiger, and Annett 



 ISBN 978-3-030-14055-7

Hardcover €145,59; eBook, 

€117,69; 394 pp. + vi

Springer International 


The first anatomical image of a plant structure 

ever published represents the porous bark of 

oak (Hooke, 1665). Since then, our anatomical 

understanding of bark—and in particular 

phloem—was enriched in structural details 

and vital plant processes undergoing in the 

bark were unraveled. The important book 

from Esau (1969) summarizes phloem-related 

knowledge of the mid-20th century. More 

recently, an illustrated and annotated glossary 

of terms enriched our capability to describe 

barks (Angyalossy et al., 2016). The bases are 

now set for more systematic bark anatomical 

descriptions of trees, shrubs, and herbs.
The authors of this book are well qualified to 

undertake this effort. Fritz H. Schweingruber 

contributed with his deep understanding on 

plant anatomical variability. Peter Steiger is 

a landscape architect with a strong interest 

in plant ecology and photography. Annett 

Börner has been working in the field of 

scientific publishing and book design for 

more than 15 years.
They compiled a well-produced atlas. 

Underlining the importance of bark in plant 

life, the introduction supports the need for 

the book. Two following chapters describe 

general bark macroscopic and microscopic 

appearance introducing specific terminology. 

Then, every two-page spread describes bark 

macroscopic and microscopic variability 

within each species. The trees and shrubs 

species included in the book, most from 

the deciduous temperate forest in Europe, 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


encompasses species from the Mediterranean 

region, Eastern Asia, and Northern America. 

With more than 180 species described in 

the book, the reader is transported from the 

Mediterranean lowlands to boreal forests, and 

up to the subalpine and subarctic regions of 

the Northern Hemisphere.
Each species description includes scientific 

name and common names in English, 

German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Plant 

habitat, life-form, as well as leaves, flowers, 

and fruits appearance are described. The bark 

anatomical descriptions report details on the 

phloem cells occurrence and distribution. 

The anatomical description of rhytidome 

and cortex is also detailed. While the text is 

simple and short but still very informative, 

the colorful pictures are impressive. A general 

species description includes a picture to show 

the plant in its ecological context, and its 

flower and leaves details. Two macroscopic 

bark pictures represent young (twig/

branches) and old (stem) bark appearance. 

Two to four low- and high-magnification 

anatomical pictures provide an anatomical 

overview of the phloem. Microscopic view in 

polarized light underlines crystals occurrence 

and distribution. All anatomical images are 

double-stained with a blend of safranin and 

astrablue. In doing so, lignified (red) and less-

lignified (blue) cell walls can be easily spotted. 

All anatomical thin sections were prepared 

using a sliding microtome, as described in a 

dedicated chapter.
The intended audience includes a very wide 

range of readers. Scientists and professionals 

of various disciplines from archaeology to 

ecophysiology, soils science to plant ecology 

will benefit from the book. Aiming to 

demonstrate the macroscopic and anatomical 

variability of bark, the authors also suggest it 

can be used in helping to identify prehistorical 

and historical plant remains. However, there 

is no identification aid in the book, and 

the bark identification process is left to the 

reader’s ability to identify key anatomical 

features while flipping through the book. The 

layout consistently repeated in each species 

description helps the process. The reference 

and recommended reading lists are valuable 

examples of ‘must-have’ books for the bark 

anatomist—including the book by Crivellaro 

and Schweingruber (2015) that is cited in the 

text, but not included in the reference.
A unique point of the book is the ability 

to link ecosystems to the within plant bark 

variability. The variability of external bark 

appearance along the plant stem is informative 

about the aging process occurring in barks. 

As the anatomical structure of the bark highly 

contributes to its outer aspect, the approach 

to microscopic bark variability is rich in 

high-quality images, which is a rare feature 

in bark anatomy books. Having both the 

macro- and micro-appearance of bark within 

the same page allows the reader to assess the 

association between the internal and external 

bark structure. Thus, the book provides a 

unique bark macroscopic and microscopic 

viewpoint to the field of plant anatomy. In 

integrating bark macroscopical aspect with 

bark anatomy, the huge variability of bark 

structure can here be seen as the result of 

an anatomical driving process of new cells 

formation by the cambium, cells enlargement, 

development of subsequent phellogens, and 

the origin of patterned cracks or abscission 

layers as beautifully illustrated on p. 6.
Even if I would find it difficult to use the 

book to orient myself in the identification 

of an unknown bark, the images of  bark 

demonstrate the multiple ways it is constructed 

in plant stems. In this respect the book is a 

huge step forward, setting the base for future 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


similar works. The reader will appreciate the 

plant descriptions and photographs, which 

help to link the microscopic views to the scale 

at which we may have known the plants in our 

hikes and, in some cases, in our gardens.


Angyalossy, V., M. R. Pace, R. F. Evert, C. R. Mar-

cati, A. A. Oskolski, T. Terrazas, E. Kotina, et al. 2016. 

IAWA list of microscopic bark features. IAWA Journal 

37: 517–615.
Crivellaro, A., and F. Schweingruber. 2015. Stem ana-

tomical features of Dicotyledons. Xylem, Phloem, 

Cortex  and  Periderm  Characteristics  for  Ecological 

and Taxonomical Analyses. Kessel Publishing House.
Esau,  K.  1969.  The  Phloem:  Encyclopedia  of  Plant 

Anatomy. Springer.
Hooke, R. 1665. Micrographia, or, Some physiologi-

cal descriptions of minute bodies made by magnify-

ing glasses: with observations and inquiries thereupon. 

London, Printed by J. Martyn and J. Allestry.

-Alan Crivellaro, University of Cambridge, 

Cambridge, UK. E-mail: alan.crivellaro@geog. 

Chasing Centuries: 

The Search for 

Ancient Agave 

Cultivars Across the 

Desert Southwest

Ron Parker


ISBN: 978-1941384480

Paperback US$19.99;  

176 pp.
Sunbelt Publications

It may be safe to say that this reviewer has had 

her horticultural horizons broadened by Ron 

Parker’s engaging work with agave in Chasing 

Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave 

Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest. Parker’s 

book is so concentrated with information 

and photography that a reader might believe 

an agave would spring forth from its pages if 

water, inadvertently, spilled onto the binding. 

Chasing Centuries’ ten chapters are nestled 

under three sections: The Historical Perspective 

(Chapters 1-3), Agaves of the Region (Chapters 

4-6), and Notes from the Field (Chapters 7-10).
In Part I: The Historical Perspective, Parker’s 

writing is akin to the story weavers of old. 

Parker verbally transports us on a historical 

tour of early American Paleo-Indian 

cultures inclusive of their dwellings, farming 

techniques, and agave cultivation. One may 

hearken to hear Parker crumble the stone 

underfoot as he walks the reader through 

the ancient villages, irrigation networks, and 

traditional agave uses of the pre-Columbian 

Native American Hohokam, Sinagua, and 

Salado cultures. The lush photography, 

featured in more than half of the book, 

enhances this reading experience.  As a nature 

study historian, this section of historical 

perspective is particularly interesting to 

my contextual side of researching the past, 

applying this knowledge to the present, and 

educating toward the future. 
Agaves of the Region, Part II is the largest 

and most comprehensive of the three 

sections with its decidedly more scientific 

bend toward taxonomy, hybridization, and 

vegetative characteristics of agave in Arizona. 

Parker offers his keen insight into pollinator 

dilemmas, plant blooming strategies in 

subversive conditions, and plant adaptations 

of the 12 naturally occurring agave species of 

the state. The agave plants are simultaneously 

beautiful and beastly in appearance. Parker’s 

attention to detail with each of the 12 

cultivar emphasizes his expertise while his 

conversational writing style engages, rather 

than intimidates, the reader. This section 

of Chasing Centuries is more akin to a field 

identification manual with field notes, specie 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


descriptors, and clear photographs of each 

of the 12 cultivars. It would not be remiss for 

any agave adventurer to squeeze this book 

into their backpack to aid their search in the 

Arizona backcountry. When reflecting back 

on the first section of Parker’s book, after 

completing the second section, one cannot 

but marvel at the ingenuity of the Native 

American ancestors who learned to grow and 

glean from this plant.
The remaining four chapters of Parker’s book 

are in Section III: Notes from the Field. This 

section is a reflective discourse of Parker’s 

pursuit of the ancient cultigens singular in 

their characteristics.  In deciphering the 

complicated agave biological history, and 

ancient cultural history associated with the 

botanical work, our author is fully aware that 

time, which has passed for the agave ancestors 

growing near remnants of ancient dwellings, 

continues to march forward.  One gets from 

Parker the sense of a hope in continued 

engagement with his work; however, he is not 

unrealistic to suggest a finite end to the most 

vulnerable cultigens.  This reviewer hopes that 

interest piqued about agave from this book will 

continue to lend Parker, and others, to search 

for another connection to the antediluvian 

cultures that met the challenges to provide 

for their communities living in such austere 

Parker ends his book on a cautionary note 

for the reader. High extinction risks for agave 

groves in the mountainous desert environs of 

Arizona continuously challenge the remaining 

cultigens. Climate changes, insect infestation, 

and precarious governmental policies are also 

added to the stew in this pot of trouble. Parker 

examples his own explorations and research 

as testament to the decline.  That said, Parker 

emphasizes the wonderful work by colleagues 

at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to 

continue interest, education, and propagation 

strategies. Rounding off the book is a table of 

the Arizona agaves with the subgenus, status, 

size, elevation, and more, listed for researcher 

and explorer alike. Parker provides a clear 

reference trail with additional resources 

for the curious researcher in the glossary, 

endnotes, and bibliography.  
As one who lived a short time in Sierra 

Vista, Arizona, almost three decades ago, 

Chasing Centuries brought back wonderful 

memories of the Huachuca Mountains and 

dry desert stretches between towns. It was 

with the pummeling of torrential rain, with 

the coming of the July monsoon season, 

that quenched the land and satiated life. 

I remember the yucca and agave, almost 

bursting forth, in the change of season. It was 

so beautiful, and so foreign, to an easterner’s 

eyes. Parker completely engages the reader 

in his adventures and thereby connects the 

reader to their own senses and memories. Be 

it horticultural students, scientific researchers, 

or plant enthusiasts, Chasing Centuries would 

be at home, equally, on one’s coffee table or in 

one’s academic office library. 
- Karen Penders St. Clair, PhD

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Food Production in 

Native North America 

An Archaeological 


Kristen J. Gremillion


ISBN: 978-0-9328-3957-2




pp. + x

Society for American 

Archaeology Current Per-

spectives. The Society for 

American Archaeology Press. Washington, DC


Feeding Cahokia 

Early Agriculture in the 

North American  


Gayle J. Fritz


ISBN: 978-0-8173-2005-8

Cloth US$59.95; 232 pp. + 


The University of Alabama 

Press. Tuscaloosa, Alabama

These two books are authored by recognized 

authorities in archeology and anthropology. 

Both treatments deal with forgotten crops. For 

the ethnobotanist this is especially interesting 

because indigenous plants known as the 

Eastern Agricultural Complex (EAC) were 

selected by Native Americans as crops. This is a 

rare example of autochthonous crop evolution 

in North America. Gremillion and Fritz’s work 

is a major contribution to documenting the 

process of artificial selection, transforming 

native flora into agronomic value.  
The image of Native Americans as strictly 

hunter-gathers is modulated by extensive 

research documenting the role of agriculture 

in Central and Eastern North America 

in roughly corresponding to the eastern 

deciduous forest. Just as they describe the 

history of the EAC, they document the decline 

and demise of the crops and, for some, the 

extinction of cultivars. By 1000 AD maize had 

spread to much of Eastern North America. 

Both authors discuss the spread of maize and 

its role in supplanting cultivation of other, 

native species.  
Species comprising the EAC are from 

diverse plant families and weedy in their 

behavior yielding seeds/fruits with high oil or 

carbohydrate content. Most of them thrive in 

the rich disturbed soil of river bottomlands.
The importance of adequate technology in 

the study of archeological sites is described in 

both books. This includes flotation methods 

for material obtained from food caches, 

paleofaeces, carbonized plant remains, and 

stable isotope analysis of bones. 
My review centers on botanical aspects, but 

there is a wealth of information on Native 

American agriculture and culture during 

different historical periods, epochs, and 

Both volumes are valuable resources for 

the ethnobotanist. Gremillion emphasizes 

anthropology while carefully documenting 

crop details.  For example, she discusses 

foraging for wild plants in the chapter titled 

“Food Production Without Farming,” using 

examples from the Pacific Northwest. In the 

chapter on food production after European 

contact, appropriately titled “A World of 

Difference,” Gremillion discusses the role of 

missions and plantations in the introduction 

of crops new to the hemisphere and the impact 

of this irruption on indigenous agriculture. 
This is an authoritative yet accessible book 

reflecting the distinguished career of the 

author. It is well indexed with extensive 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


“Feeding Cahokia” could be considered a 

detailed regional study of many of the topics 

included in Food Production in Native North 

America. Cahokia was a Native American 

megapolis near the Mississippi River east of 

Saint Louis with a well-established agricultural 

system and concomitant social structure. 
I found the discussions of species used as 

crops interesting because of my studies 

of edible native plants. These include 

Chenopodium berlandieri, Iva annua, and 

Hordeum pusillum and other species of the 

EAC.  Artificial selection for I. annua resulted 

in larger achenes. Unfortunately, these large-

fruited varieties have been lost and are now 

appropriately called a forgotten crop. Even 

the weedy expression of I. annua is difficult to 

locate, as I learned after looking for it in two 

After reading about C. berlandieri I located 

a sizeable population and collected the 

abundant seeds. Though nutritious, they are 

tedious to clean and had an unremarkable 

taste. My culinary experience with I. annua 

was similar. 
There are numerous images in “Feeding 

Cahokia” of varying quality.  As a microscopist 

I always chaff at SEM images of a single seed 

like those in this work. A cluster of a few 

seeds, especially small seeds. gives the viewer 

a better impression of the variability in size, 

shape, and ornamentation than a SEM picture 

of one seed.
These two volumes are valuable contributions 

to an often-overlooked aspect of crop 

development and will be of value to 

ethnobotanists as well as the target audience 

of anthropologists and archeologists.
On a broader scale, understanding the 

Eastern Agricultural Complex may, in the 

words of Gremillion, “...bring diversity and 

sustainability back to modern agriculture, 

and perhaps will lead to a greater appreciation 

of ancient agricultural traditions like those of 

Native America.”
I highly recommend both books.
-Lytton John Musselman, Old Dominion Uni-

versity, Norfolk, VA 


Guide to the Vascular 

Flora of Picture Creek 

Diabase Barrens 

By Jennifer S. Stanley, Alex-

ander Krings, Jon M. Stucky, 

and Richard R. Braham


ISBN: 978-1889878522

Soft cover US$45; 367 pp.

Botanical Research Institute 

of Texas Press, Fort Worth, 


The  Guide to the Vascular Flora of Picture 

Creek Diabase Barrens arose as an outgrowth 

of the authors’ efforts to voucher the floristic 

diversity of Picture Creek Diabase Barrens, 

an area known to be rich in rare species 

but not comprehensively surveyed or well-

collected. It opens with an extensive overview 

of the site; its geology, soils, history, etc.; and 

a classification of the plant communities 

found there. The relationships between soils, 

vegetative communities, and terrain are made 

clear through well-chosen illustrations, and 

the accompanying maps of communities and 

soils make it easy to understand the layout of 

the barrens.
This section is followed by color photographs 

illustrating the taxa described in the book, 

emphasizing diagnostic features (e.g., most 

Carex spp. are illustrated with a photograph 

of a perigynium against a millimeter scale). 

The plates are followed by dichotomous keys 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


to the flora of the barrens; while adapted 

from published from more comprehensive 

published floras, the authors have taken 

advantage of the limited scope of this work, 

and even the higher levels of the key mostly 

make use of easily observed morphological 

characters. The illustrations accompanying 

the key are the only discordant note; the use 

of public domain art to illustrate overall plant 

features and habit, rather than commissioning 

drawings de novo, is understandable, but the 

relative simplicity of the drawings (largely 

taken from Britton & Brown, 1913) contrasts 

somewhat jarringly with the detail in the 

photographic plates. The frequency and typical 

habitat on-site is given for each taxon, as well 

as bloom time, supporting vouchers when 

available, conservation status, and a slightly 

cryptic symbolic reference to previously 

published plant lists for the site.
The authors aver that the guide is designed for 

both specialists and a more general audience. I 

feel they have succeeded in doing so: the lucid 

keys and well-chosen photographs make this 

about as easy to navigate for a non-specialist 

as can reasonably be expected. However, the 

casual reader might be forgiven for asking 

whether a single, albeit interesting, floristic 

community warrants so detailed a book, 

at a density of about 0.9 pages per acre—

surely a case of gross overspecialization? As 

an admitted devotee of edaphic grassland 

ecosystems, I would disagree! While the 

vouchering of the site flora and compilation of 

a checklist for Picture Creek is a worthy project 

of itself, the leading sections of the book make 

it a valuable tool for site management and 

We now recognize that protecting fragments 

of biodiversity like Picture Creek is a duty that 

cannot be supported solely by government 

agencies or expert naturalists. Broad 

coalitions of volunteers are necessary to 

protect, maintain, and restore these habitats. 

In my own experience of helping to maintain 

serpentine barrens, assessing habitat and 

identifying taxa of conservation concern is 

one of the most formidable tasks for non-

specialist volunteers. A focused guide, like 

the present work, is much less intimidating 

to the lay volunteer than a regional flora, 

and the mapping and detailed description of 

communities makes it possible for a visitor 

to assess and interpret the landscape. The 

authors are to be commended for their efforts 

to render this unique landscape legible and 

approachable to both novice and expert.
-Christopher Hoess, Chair, Friends of the State 

Line Serpentine Barrens

Historia del Jardñn 

Botñnico de Lancetilla, 

Honduras (The History 

of Lancetilla Botanical 

Garden, Honduras)

Donald L. Hazlett

2017. ISBN-10: 1889878537

Softcover $24.00; 140 pp.

Botanical Research Institute 

of Texas Press, Fort Worth, 


While reading The History of Lancetilla 

Botanical Garden, Honduras, I received the 

Sonoran Quarterly, a mailed publication 

sent by the Desert Botanical Garden to its 

members. In the mailing I learned that the 

Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona 

now has a new scientific facility to protect 

plants of the Sonoran Desert and is funded 

largely with philanthropic donations. I then 

returned to the Lancetilla Botanical Garden 

(LBG), where the story contrasts sharply 

with that of the Desert Botanical Garden and 

other established botanical centers. Lancetilla 

Botanical Garden is not well-known, nor is it 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


well-funded, but it is interesting, important, 

and deserving of our attention.
The History of Lancetilla Botanical Garden is 

a sturdy little book written by ethnobotanist 

Donald L. Hazlett and published by the 

Botanical Research Institute of Texas. The 

text is printed in Spanish and English and is 

interspersed with drawings and color photos. 

Due to its brevity and slight choppiness, it is 

difficult to establish a rhythm while reading 

the history of the LBG. Hazlett’s book doesn’t 

quite know what it wants to be. It isn’t a 

guide book and it is not a thorough history 

book; rather it is a little bit of everything, 

including folk legends, descriptions of plants, 

recollections of work by the author, and 

tributes to important local guides. For the 

most part, Hazlett recounts visits to Lancetilla 

in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer and later as 

the director of Lancetilla from 1978 through 

1980. Although he continued to be associated 

with Lancetilla after 1980, it is unclear why 

Hazlett’s tenure was so short and what his 

connection to the LBG was after he returned 

to the United States. 
If you search the internet for Lancetilla 

Botanical Garden, there really is not too 

much to find. The Garden does have a website 


htm), but the information about its history is 

limited to four paragraphs. The website does 

have, however, a detailed map of the protected 

area—something that the book lacks. Because 

of its sparse website presence, The History of 

Lancetilla Botanical Garden is  the definitive 

source for the garden at the present time. 

Unfortunately, with the death of Hazlett on 

January 5, 2019, it is unlikely that there will be 

a revised edition anytime soon. 
Lancetilla is not a town or city, but the 

name for a valley found along the north 

coast of Honduras. The Lancetilla Plant 

Experimentation Station, slightly more 

than 4100 acres in size, was established here 

by the United Fruit Company (UFC) in 

1926. Overall, the station served as testing 

grounds for plantation crops, namely disease-

resistant strains of bananas. The first director 

hired by UFC was William Popenoe who is 

known for his work with avocados and later 

for his directorship of the Pan-American 

Agricultural School in Zamorano, Honduras 

in 1941. Hazlett situates Popenoe and the early 

history of the LBG in a timeline at the end of 

the book. Here, there are short descriptions 

of places and people, but this is not a go-to 

source for the history of banana research in 

Central America. 
Hazlett does mention how the UFC exploited 

workers and bribed government officials, but 

he does not dwell on the dark side of the banana 

business in the Honduras. Unlike authors 

who have critically examined multinational 

fruit companies for their labor practices and 

land exploitation, Hazlett writes from the 

perspective of a botanist who has worked and 

lived at the plantation site and has benefitted 

from the early actions of the UFC. It is safe 

to say that the economic muscle of the UFC 

helped protect the valley, its forests, and its 

watershed from human encroachment. This is 

noteworthy today since the Lancetilla Valley 

is situated close to the coastal city of Tela, a 

tourist destination complete with golf courses, 

resorts, and real estate agents. 
In 1974, the UFC relinquished its 

experimental field station and turned over 

the land and buildings to the Honduran 

Forestry School. During this time Hazlett 

helped shift the focus of the LBG from large-

scale plantation research to that of growing 

tropical fruits for Honduran orchards and 

home gardens. The bulk of the book reflects 

upon this time and is a bit scattered in terms 

of notes and recollections. Hazlett’s writing 

focuses on tributes and stories—from local 

guides who have helped him complete an 

accurate inventory of plant life, to toucans and 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


John Gill Lemmon: 


Survivor and California 


Brad Agnew and Kelly 



ISBN 9781695040212

Paperback US$24.95;  

573 pp.

Independently Published

Brad Agnew and Kelly Agnew’s John Gill 

Lemmon: Andersonville Survivor and 

California Botanist is an interesting book about 

the botanical pursuits of Californians John Gill 

Lemmon (1832-1908) and his wife Sara Allen 

Plummer Lemmon (1836-1923) in the mid- 

to late 19th century. The title of this book does 

not represent the scope of John Lemmon’s 

capture in two American Civil War (1861-

1865) Confederate prisoner of war camps; 

nor that Lemmon studied, and obtained, 

botanica in several other western states (New 

Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Oregon) other 

than California. The Agnew and Agnew book 

is thorough, and chronological, in the detail 

of Lemmon’s extraordinary life, and it will 

appeal to American Civil War history buffs, 

botanical historians, and archival researchers 

John Gill Lemmon possessed an innate detail 

to attention in his military career, botanical 

pursuits, and entomological study. Lemmon 

lived his life balancing both his remarkably 

good- and sobering bad luck as he struggled 

for gainful employment for the generous 

portion of his adult life. His botanical quests 

gave him a sense of purpose and drive after 

his debilitating war experiences left him 

physically and emotionally depleted. As his 

life story unfolds, Lemmon vacillates between 

self-pity and self-righteousness to earn a 

living, live a meaningful life, and create a 

strychnine poisoning. Interspersed with this 

are descriptions of local plants, with common, 

family, genus, and species names given.
For botany historians, the book provides 

information on noted botanists who worked 

at Lancetilla or were associated with the 

LBG in some way. These include New York 

Botanical Garden collectors Percy Wilson 

and Elizabeth Mitchell in the early 1900s and 

Paul C. Standley, who published The Flora of 

the Lancetilla Valley, Honduras in 1931, and at 

the same time expressed his concerns about 

the increasing loss of biological diversity at 

the experimental station. Also working in 

Lancetilla were noted tropical plant disease 

experts Otto Reinking and Paul House. 

Reinking introduced a number of Southeast 

Asian plants into the Lancetilla Valley, 

including the African oil palm from Malaysia. 
Botanist Paul H. Allen served as the third 

director of the experimental field station 

(1960-1963) and is remembered for his work 

with new banana breeds in Southeast Asia 

and orchid systematics in Central America. 

Bamboo researchers J. H. Perman and Floyd 

A. McClure helped introduce several species 

of bamboo plants to Lancetilla, and more 

recently, Honduran botanists Cirilo Nelson 

and Antonio Molina are recognized for their 

plant taxonomy work in Central America.
Like many small botanical gardens, the LBG 

has seen its share of struggles. Fortunately 

for us, Hazlett was able to document some 

of these struggles before his untimely death. 

Reading the book reminds us of how dogged 

an approach it is for those involved with 

the protection of land, plants, and animals 

in botanical gardens that are severely 

underfunded, understaffed, and faced with a 

tenuous future. 
-Karen L. Wellner, Biology Department, Chan-

dler-Gilbert Community College, Chandler, 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


appreciated moreso when one realizes that 

the Lemmons risked life and limb through 

aggressive environmental assaults to attain 

any, and all, of their specimens. They carried 

their equipment and specimens on their backs, 

suffered through their individual medical 

conditions, and slept on pine boughs for 

months at a time to acquire their quarry. So 

intertwined were each with the other that, in 

the years immediately following John’s death, 

Sara’s mental health unraveled to startling 

degrees and her last years were a heartache to 

The first portion of this biographical book 

is about John Lemmon’s early life, and more 

poignantly, about his POW experiences in 

the Andersonville and Florence Confederate 

prisoner of war camps during the American 

Civil War.  This section is an exciting 

read, and yet, very sobering. The authors’ 

structured chronological order in their 

research have these military anecdotes roll 

into the second portion of the book with 

Lemmon’s contributions to botany including 

his fanatical quest for accolades with the 

botanical academics of his time. Equally as 

detailed as his Civil War years, Lemmon’s 

botanical life story might be further divided 

into his botanical pursuits as a bachelor, and 

of those years he and Sara Plummer worked in 

harmony. The Epilogue of the Agnews’ book is 

a necessary completion to the Lemmons’ story 

after John Lemmon’s demise on November 

24, 1908.  Here the authors complete the 

circle of life for the couple with the telling of 

Sara Lemmon’s complete mental breakdown 

and last sorrowful years. The comprehensive 

Endnotes, Bibliography, and Index are sound 

and thorough, and will more than adequately 

aid any researcher for further study.
The repeated comparison of the Lemmons as 

a married couple dedicated to their science 

reminds this reviewer of the detailed research 

lasting legacy. Often these three objectives 

are at odds with each other, with Lemmon, or 

with those who knew him socially, familially, 

or professionally. 
Lemmon’s professional connections in the 

botanical world of the late 19


 century are 

impressive. Foremost is Asa Gray (1810–1888), 

botanist and Harvard professor, who figured 

prominently in Lemmon’s career from the first 

letter of admiration Lemmon exchanged with 

Gray in 1873 until the latter’s death in 1888. 

Professor Gray served as mentor to Lemmon 

by trying to carefully instruct Lemmon in the 

growth of his western botanical collections. 

Gray provided sources of remuneration for 

Lemmon’s work, and professional contacts 

to Lemmon for increased opportunities to 

provide botanical specimens at cost. Through 

Gray’s correspondence with Lemmon we feel 

the exasperation and frustration of Lemmon’s 

difficult personality, yet also recognize the 

herculean efforts Lemmon made in traveling, 

identifying, and cataloguing his herbarium.
 Lemmon’s marriage to Sara Allen Plummer 

in 1880 was a definite joy in an otherwise 

challenging life.  Sara Allen Plummer Lemmon 

was a true beacon of solace in her husband’s 

life. She was inquisitive, daring, a Women’s 

Rights advocate, and successful in her efforts 

advocating for the Golden Poppy to become the 

State flower of California (on March 2, 1903). 

Throughout their marriage the Lemmons 

lived in an emotional, physical, and academic 

symbiosis with each other. The botanical 

accomplishments of John and Sara Lemmon 

are almost one in the same because they 

worked so closely with each other. Together 

their accomplishments are staggering. For 

example, they labored for months to label and 

present 900 species of plants procured from 

California for their state’s participation in the 

New Orleans Exposition of 1884. This feat is 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


I did on contemporaries of the Lemmons. I 

conducted extensive research on the archival 

papers and original autobiographical 

manuscript of entomologist Professor John 

H. and Anna Botsford Comstock, nature 

educator, both of Cornell University. The 

Comstocks may be considered part of the 

East Coast faction of agrarian scholars with 

whom Asa Gray harbored.  That such a 

biography of the Lemmons, and the turn-of-

the-century West Coast faction of botanists 

now exists in one tome, is beneficial to 

researchers and historians alike. This 

reviewer would also like to acknowledge the 

industrious efforts Sue Agnew contributed to 

the Agnew familial effort with the research, 

compilation, and writing of this book. The 

undertaking of this project was no small task. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Agnew and Agnew’s 

book, and respect their research efforts to 

bring the accomplishments of the Lemmons 

back to us.

--Karen Penders St. Clair, Ph.D.

Lichen Study Guide for Oklahoma and 

Surrounding States 

Sheila A. Strawn


ISBN: 978-1-889878-55-3. 

Flexibound US$25; 80 pp. 

Botanical Research Institute of Texas Press, Fort 

Worth, TX

Lichens are a microscopic universe of 

complex species interactions between fungi 

and algae. Their inherent beauty, diversity, 

and abundance have firmly established 

lichens in the hearts of mycologists around the 

world. Lichens also open new era of research 

with a special focus on their metabolites. 
“Lichen Study Guide for Oklahoma and 

Surrounding States”


offers readers a 

comprehensive field guide consisting of 68 


and is easily

 pocketable. The book 

abounds with


beautiful photographs and keys 

for identification of lichens. The purpose of 

this guide is to encourage large-scale studies 

of lichens in this region and in surrounding 

states with similar habitat by explaining the 

basic characteristics needed to understand 

lichen biology and identification. 

This guide


is comprehensive and helpful for study of 

lichens all over 



globe. The introduction 

is well written and up-to-date. It also focuses 




importance of lichens, especially their 

role in solving immunological problems, land 

management, climatic change, 



It guides finding and collecting lichens and 

the tools required for it 

with comprehensive 

knowledge of


observing and documenting 

lichens, followed by their identification. It also 

explains how to preserve and store lichens in 

herbaria. The most fascinating part is chemical 

and UV tests for identification supplemented 

with bright color contrast slides. It also 

includes detailed information about lichen 

morphology and anatomy. Common features 

such as thallus types, color, reproductive 

structures, substrates for growth, and stepwise 

procedures are 

thoroughly illustrated.



are well explained by colorful photographs 

of lichen from Oklahoma and surrounding 

The book is well written and up-to-date. I 

am particularly fond of the “Practice keys 

for the lichen identification,” which is a 

concise explanation for an amateur 





about how to identify lichens from 

all over the world based on thallus characters 

and chemical tests. Shelia A. Strawn has done 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


a tremendous job of capturing the beauty 

and diversity of the lichen of Oklahoma 

and surrounding states with a wide array of 

high-quality pictures that typically show each 

character from several angles. The book ends 

with a quick identification guide for common 

lichen genera of the region. It is also decorated 

with an appendix containing websites with 

sources for lichen study.
The target audience for this impressive work 

is clearly



one focusing on identification 

of lichens and appreciation of their diversity. 

Those with such interests will not wish to 

do without this guide. The book is highly 

recommended for undergraduate students, 

field explorers, and libraries of all mycology 

fans. The book’s combination of aesthetically 

appealing and scientifically accurate color 

photographs and extensive descriptions 

makes it a standard reference work for lichen 

identification in not only in Oklahoma, but 

also around the globe.
-Dr. Arooj Naseer, Assistant Professor in Bota-

ny, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan

Making Eden: How 

Plants Transformed a 

Barren Planet 

David Beerling 


ISBN-10: 019879830X; ISBN-

13: 978-0198798309

Hardcover US$27.95;  

272 pp.

Oxford University Press

The evolution of plants has transformed the 

Earth. Once photosynthetic organisms came 

onto the evolutionary scene, the atmosphere 

changed due to the presence of oxygen.  The 

life of humans and all animals still is intimately 

tied to the success of plants.  Yet, most of our 

society suffers from a lack of knowledge from 

plants or a so-called “plant blindness.”  This 

book attempts to remedy the problem and to 

introduce plant biology to a broader audience.
After a brief introductory chapter, the second 

chapter focuses on the evolution of land 

plants.  The theory of endosymbiosis has 

enhanced our understanding of the evolution 

of plants.  The controversies around the 

acceptance of this theory are considered. The 

major groups of plants, life histories, and their 

evolutionary relationships are also discussed. 

While I found this early chapter interesting, I 

am a botanist, but I started to ask if this book 

would truly appeal to a general audience as it 

is touted to be.
The author goes on to discuss the genomics 

revolution of the past decade and the insights 

it brought us regarding plant evolution. 

The genome of a plant can be viewed as a 

molecular “living fossil.”  While this chapter 

starts broadly and in an interesting manner, 

it gets too technical with a good dose of 

name dropping of plant molecular geneticists 

throughout recent history.
The next discussion is on the rise of and the 

importance of the “evo-devo” branch of plant 

biology. This  field compares the developmental 

processes of different organisms in order to 

infer the ancestral relationships among them 

and how developmental processes evolved.  

The example used is the KNOX–ARP 

relationships across land plants. The KNOX 

and ARP genes are reported to be involved in 

the evolution of leaf form in different species.  

Again, I found this part of the book interesting 

but question its broad appeal to non-botanists.
Stomatal pores, referred to as “gas valves,” are 

also considered in detail.  These structures 

are especially important for the successful 

transition to land plants as they control water 

balance and the avoidance of desiccation.  

When considering the height of redwood 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


trees, the author notes that this “humble” 

small structure is important for allowing 

these amazing trees to survive and thrive.  

The function and the genetic basis of stomatal 

function is discussed in detail.
In the chapter “Ancestral Alliances,” 

the co-evolution of plants and fungi is 

considered.  The history of the discovery of 

these symbiotic relationships in the fossil 

record is reviewed as well as the excitement 

generated by the scientists at the time of 

its introduction. However, there also was a 

great deal of skepticism as occurred when 

the endosymbiotic theory was first proposed.  

The historical parts of the book do make for 

interesting reading and may be appealing for 

a more general group.
I found the last chapter on ecological 

devastation and climate change to be the 

most compelling and suspect it also will have 

the broadest appeal.  Because humans are 

very successful animals, we are devastating 

the resources of the Earth, which is resulting 

in species decline and significant loss of 

biodiversity.  The end of the book considers 

our future and how we can survive as a 

species in harmony with plants if we act on 

conservation imperatives.
Particularly at this moment, we do need non-

scientists to understand important concepts 

in science, especially in relation to climate 

change. We also want non-botanists to better 

understand and appreciate the role of plants in 

our history and civilization.  Thus, the author 

has the noble goal of making these topics 

accessible to the general public.  I enjoyed 

reading this book and found some gems of 

insights.  While I see a lot of interesting ideas, 

the book may have too much terminology and 

jargon to make it live up to its aspiration of 

appealing to a more general audience.  
-John Z. Kiss, Department of Biology, UNC-

Greensboro, Greensboro NC 


Peter Coles

2019. ISBN 


Hardcover, £16.00; $27.00. 

264 pp. 

Reaktion Books, Ltd., 

London, UK, distributed 

by University of Chicago 

Press, Chicago, IL.

{For this review by Dorothea Bedigian, see p. 145.}

The Natural History of 

The Bahamas: A Field 


Dave Currie, Joseph M. Wun-

derle Jr., Ethan Freid, David 

N. Ewert, and D. Jean Lodge


ISBN-13: 978-1501713675  

Paperback US$34.99; 464 pp.  

Cornell University Press, 

Ithaca, NY

Natural history field guides are the literary 

equivalent of a Swiss army knife. These tomes 

do not set out to treat one element of the natural 

history extensively, but instead, provide broad 

treatments of the fauna, flora, and habitats 

affiliated with a region. The Natural History of 

The Bahamas: A Field Guide provides a sorely 

needed resource covering the terrestrial and 

coastal flora and fauna of the Bahamas.  The 

intent of such guides is to provide an entrance 

into the world of birding, herpetology, etc. 

Guidebooks permit one to enjoy everyday 

encounters with the most common organisms 

in your backyard or ones protected in one 

of the national parks in the Bahamas. In all 

honesty, if it were not for guidebooks, many 

of us would not have the careers in botany. If 

Correll and Correll’s (1981) 1692-page flora 

was your starting point for exploring the 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


flora of the Bahamas as a high-school student 

in a Bahamian National Trust (BNT) Young 

Navigator Program, you probably would 

bypass that interest.  Give a student a guide, 

provide them with a chance to learn a bit 

about plant morphology and taxonomy, and 

send them out to explore. That is how you 

start to grow a botanist.
The guide begins with a nicely presented 

coverage of the habitats, climates, and 

ecological communities and transitions into 

treatments of fungi, plants, invertebrates, fish, 

amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. 

Each section begins with an overview of the 

natural history and figures elucidating the key 

characteristics needed to identify taxa. Species 

descriptions consist of common and Latin 

names, ranges, and descriptions. All species 

are illustrated in color. The invertebrates 

are lavishly photographed, and this guide 

provides a nice coverage useful to identify 

some of the more common pollinators. The 

treatment of fungi is honest in informing the 

reader of the need of mycological studies of 

Bahamian fungi. This illustrates yet one more 

valuable attribute of natural history field 

guides, uncovering the groups of organisms 

that are in dire need of investigation.
The plants are treated by Ethan Freid, resident 

Botanist at the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, 

Eleuthra, and long-time affiliate with the 

BNT. Ethan knows the Bahamian flora from 

Bimini to Inagua and has contributed greatly 

to building the next generation of Bahamian 

botanists. The coverage he has provided for 

the guide includes the most common species 

from throughout the archipelago. I teach an 

economic botany and ecology courses on San 

Salvador Island. I would not hesitate to use this 

guide as an entry point for students learning 

the more common elements of the Bahamian 

flora. Along with the web resources presented, 

and prepared by Ethan and the Leon Levy staff 

(, you can offer 

a solid botanical field course in the Bahamas. 
The Natural History of The Bahamas: A 

Field Guide should be in every classroom 

in the Bahamas, and it supports a number 

of important standards of the Bahamian 

curricula. Most importantly, it is a tool needed 

by all Bahamians affiliated with conservation 

initiatives in the Bahamas. This is particularly 

true for the BNT and its management of 

more than 32 national parks protecting over 

2 million acres of marine and terrestrial 

environments. Likewise, the tourist who 

wants to skip the cruise and explore the real 

Bahamas can toss a copy of this guide in their 

backpack and venture out into the natural 

beauty of these extraordinary islands.


Correll, D. S, and H. B. Correll. 1982. Flora of the Ba-

hama Archipelago. 

Lubrecht & Cramer Ltd.

-Melanie L DeVore, Professor of Biology, 

Department of Biological and Environmental 

Sciences, Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA

The Nature of Plant 


J. Bastow Wilson, Andrew 

D.Q. Agnew, and Stephen H. 





Hardcover US$64.99;  

370 pp.

Cambridge University Press

The aim of this book is to go beyond the 

simple characterization of plant communities 

to the forces that structure plant communities. 

The authors sought to offer a new viewpoint 

to challenge others to think differently about 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


temporal and spatial, in plants (as many see 

plants as less lively than animals!). This is a 

new way, for me, of considering long-lasting 

(perhaps “climax”) communities.   
Disturbance, succession, resistance, resilience, 

and stability are all considered in the next 

section on community-level processes.  Many 

examples of communities with which I was 

previously unfamiliar* are discussed, as well as 

some ideas: cyclic succession (though maybe 

this is just like a dynamic equilibrium?), 

switches (that lead to alternative stable states), 

and retrogressive succession. This section 

includes a discussion of stability, and whether 

or not it occurs in the real world. 
In the discussion of niches, the authors 

discuss the alpha and beta niches of plant 

species – alpha being the traits of the plant 

species itself, beta being the environmental 

features/habitat. After considering these for 

individual species, the authors consider how 

the coincidence of plants in communities is 

affected by the filtering of the species and their 

subsequent competition and coexistence.  The 

organization of the book in this way is logical 

and plausible. 
I always thought ‘guild’ was defined first by 

Root (1967) as ‘a group of species using similar 

resources in a similar way’, but since most 

plants use the same resources, that was not the 

original intent. I learned that Drude (1885) 

coined the term for a group of species moving 

from one region to another. Schimper (1903) 

used the term to mean a synusia (such as a 

stratum within a community in a forest. And 

one of the first experimental plant ecologists, 

Tansley, used it to describe ‘guilds of the same 

dependent life form, such…as lianes”. Much 

more like a group of species working toward 

the same end, as a group of human workers in 

the same trade. 

plant community ecology. I find they were 

successful! This book is coauthored by two 

prominent, retired professors of Botany 

(one who worked in New Zealand, the other 

in northern Europe and the Middle East) 

and the PhD protégé of one, whose is now 

an ecologist at CSIRO in Australia. It is of 

decided interest to those of us who have 

become plant ecologists with primarily New 

World influences.
As with many classic works, this one begins 

with autecology, considering the physiological 

adaptations and movements of plants, 

and the challenging question with these 

modular organisms: what is an individual? 

Modular growth, plasticity in response to 

the environment, selecting for changes in the 

genotype that manifest in altered phenotype.
They go on to consider interactions between 

species important in plant communities: 

facilitation, interference, but no mention 

of tolerance (that in most textbooks on the 

subject say is necessary for coexistence in 

communities). They spend some time on 

the importance of litter, a product of plants 

that is useful to many as well. There is a very 

interesting table of possible mechanisms of 

herbivore- and pathogen-mediated plant–

plant interactions, with discussion elaborating 

the mechanisms with many examples. 
But the apparent omission of ‘tolerance’ is 

addressed by the chapter titled “Mechanisms 

of Coexistence,” with the first discussion of 

alpha niches and their differentiations to 

permit coexistence. This section also covers 

fires and other disturbances, pest pressure, 

and circular interference networks. It is in this 

section that I learn what Spatial Mass Effect 

is: the constant immigration of a species into 

a patch where its population is maintained 

(i.e., the ‘sink effect’).  Zoologists will not be 

surprised by the inclusion of ‘inertia’, both 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


How species interact in communities and 

the effects on genotypes of the species feeling 

various influences from others and their 

environment brings us back to character 

displacement.  Some attention is even paid 

to other trophic levels at the end of the 

book, although early on the authors provide 

the disclaimer that although animals are 

important, this is a book about plants!
One interesting section of the book considers 

exotic species as community structure probes. 

In studying how and why exotic species 

outcompete natives in certain situations, the 

strengths and weaknesses of native species in 

their natural interactions with other species 

may be revealed. Why and why not introduced 

species become invasive or merely naturalized 

can be due to plant–plant interactions but also 

plants’ interactions with other biota, from 

fungi to various animals.  
The volume builds to review the theories of 

community composition (Clements, Gleason, 

Whittaker, Hubbell, Grime, Tilman), 

comparing and contrasting them in their 

validity and applicability in different situations. 

In the final section, Synthesis, the authors 

review Heterogeneity, Community Structure, 

and Assembly Rules, and the Processes that 

govern plant community structure.   
The book begins with a glossary that nearly 

put me off reading the entire work, since some 

of the definitions were not very useful. Maybe 

this section would have been better located at 

the end of the book. The one that particularly 

annoyed me was the definition of a leaf, which 

was just a quote from F.G. Gregory cited by 

L. Croizat in his Principia Botanica: “Although 

no satisfactory definition of a leaf is possible, 

I shall assume that we all know what we 

are talking about.” However, included were 

abbreviations and acronyms that some use 

constantly without adequate definition—

quite useful, I think. And some other other 

definitions brought up phrases with which I 

was unfamiliar*, such as “altruistic facilitation,” 

“cyclic succession,” “ombrotrophic,” “spatial 

mass effect,” and “subvention.” If these are 

unfamiliar to you also, you might want to 

check out this volume! For anyone working in 

the large field of plant ecology, and teaching 

courses in ecology and other topics, this book 

may provide some new food for thought.  It 

might be used in a graduate seminar course 

or as background reading for students new to 

the field as they are developing their career 

foundations and graduate research plans.

* Maybe some of my unfamiliarity is due to my area 

of expertise in plant ecology (evolutionary and 

population ecology, plant/animal interactions), 

but I have lectured Plant Ecology at the undergrad 

and grad level since 1982. 

-Suzanne Koptur, PhD, Florida International 

University, Miami, FL

Tree Story: The History 

of the World Written in 


Valerie Trouet

2020. ISBN: 9781421437774

Hardbound US$27.00; 

246+iii pp.

Johns Hopkins University 


What do Genghis Khan, sunspots, Belgian 

beer, a Stradivari violin, plagues, Frankenstein, 

shipwrecks, and fall of the Roman Empire 

have in common?  Tree rings. Tree rings are 

scribes of history.
This book explains how tree rings can 

document weather, sunspots, volcanos, human 

events, and many more phenomena both past 

and present. Well written with clarity and 

humor, it draws on the extensive research of 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


the author and her tree ring research around 

the world, providing information both 

authoritative and accessible.
Valerie Trouet is on the faculty of the 

Laboratory for Tree Ring Research at the 

University of Arizona. She deftly takes the 

reader to this most unlikely place for tree ring 

research—a desert—explaining why the lab 

was located there and then from the Sonoran 

Desert to expeditions around the world. Her 

descriptions of the sites and field experiences 

are a worthy natural history journal on their 

Trouet describes the global search for 

interpretable rings from trees as well as old 

buildings, logs, stumps, and charcoal that can 

provide a timeline year by year—even season 

by season—reaching back thousands of years. 

In fact, she makes the case that tree rings are 

the most accurate record of climate. These 

data are corroborated with ice cores, coral 

dating, and several other measures of yearly 

There are 17 chapters, and the final chapter 

addresses global climate change. This is a 

relevant aspect of tree ring research because 

it sets present conditions in the context of 

thousands of years of data showing cycles of 

drought or varying temperatures and how 

that affects humans.
The other chapters each address an 

archeological, weather, or historical question 

for which dendrochronology can provide 

insight. For example, the chapter “After the 

Gold Rush” treats the role of regular small-

scale fires in California. The frequency of these 

was changed from regularly burned patches 

by indigenous peoples, whose populations 

were decimated by European diseases. The 

result was few fires, then fuel built up, stoking 

hotter and more devasting fires. To determine 

the natural frequency of fires, a tree ring 

history from fire scars was assembled for the 

past 3000 years. These scars are best studied 

in the stump of trees recognized by fire scars 

or “cat faces.” (Cat faces in the South mean the 

scars on old turpentine trees that do look like 

cat faces, unlike the scars in the western trees 

using—inexplicably to the author—the same 

term). Of more recent interest is the history 

of fires in California since the establishment 

of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and the 

resultant development of the “Smoky Bear 

Effect,” which caused what the author calls a 

“fire deficit” that also led to the build-up of 

fuel. In other words, the lack of frequent low-

intensity fires increases fire extent and heat 

leading to the disastrous California wildfires 

of recent years. In addition, Trouet analyzed 

the effects of El Niño and El Niña as reflected 

in tree rings. I was disappointed that research 

in the longleaf ecosystem of the Southeastern 

United States, a fire-dependent system, was 

not included.  
One of the features of the book is the 

author’s description of the development of 

her academic career—post-doc, publication 

rejection, sometimes the only woman 

working on a project, the powerful gain of 

collaborative work, and especially the way she 

models how a scientist asks questions based 

on hypotheses developed from published data 

and field observations, collects and analyzes 

data, publishes, and deals with the public.
For this reason, Tree Story is a great read for 

young scientists as well as providing a most 

readable and enjoyable presentation of tree 

ring research for a wide audience. The book 

is a must-read for dendrology, ethnobotany, 

and climate change students as well as anyone 

interested in the relationship of history with 

weather. If tree rings are the scribes of history, 

Valerie Trouet is their chief scrivener. Highly 

-Lytton John Musselman, Blackwater Ecolog-

ic Preserve, Old Dominion University, Nor-

folk, VA 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Wild Yet Tasty: A 

Guide to Edible Plants 

of Eastern Kentucky 

Dan Dourson and Judy 
2019. ISBN: 978-1-94-
Paperback US$14.95; 44 
Kentucky Press

This slim volume discusses 21 edible plants 

plus the common morel (Morchella, a genus 

of sac fungi), with one page devoted to each 

species. The common and scientific name 

(usually) is provided along with a paragraph 

on identification and habitat and another 

paragraph about the edible parts. The best 

time to harvest is indicated, and each species 

is illustrated with one or more drawings. Two 

pages in the front of the book offer a pictorial 

description of terms related to flower structure 

or leaf arrangement as used in the text. 
I have mixed opinions about the book. 

On the positive side, the writing follows a 

conversational style that is often engaging 

and entertaining. For example, many hikers 

will be familiar with the experience of being 

snagged by the prickly vines of greenbriers 

(Smilax); the authors urge, “So next time 

you’re backpacking in Eastern Kentucky and 

a Greenbrier snags your leg, just reach over 

and take a bite out of it!!” [Note: the two 

exclamation points are, in fact, as written in 

the book.] I may heed this suggestion next 

time I find myself tangled up trailside. 
On the negative side, I was disappointed 

in this book as a guide to edible plants. A 

“Note of caution” regarding the consumption 

of wild edible plants on the copyright page 

admonishes readers to “be more familiar with 

the species than you are with your own name!” 

Certainly, this is excellent advice. However, 

I think the information and illustrations 

for much of the book are insufficient for 

confident identification of the species without 

prior knowledge of them. Typographical 

errors throughout are distracting, as are a few 

more “technical” errors. (An illustration of 

“basic root types” would more accurately be 

called “underground storage organs,” and the 

scientific name for sumacs is incorrectly listed 

as  Asimina  species—which are pawpaws—

instead of the correct genus, which is Rhus.)
Every species included is widespread and 

common throughout eastern North America. 

I’m not sure why the book is billed as a guide 

specifically for Eastern Kentucky, except that 

the authors have many years of experience in 

the Red River Gorge watershed of east-central 

Kentucky. Perhaps the suggestion that the 

contents are specific to the region makes the 

book more attractive to visitors who come 

to eastern Kentucky for various outdoor 

recreational pursuits. Non-native and invasive 

edible species like garlic mustard (Alliaria 

petiolata) are notably absent.   
All complaints aside, the book does support 

the authors’ goal of “rekindling…that sense of 

wonder we all had as kids” and, although it is a 

bit pricey for the limited content, people may 

be interested in adding it to their personal 

botanical libraries as a source of some folksy 

commentary about a few well-known edible 


-Melanie Link-Pérez, Eastern Kentucky Uni-


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


Wildflowers and Ferns 

of Red River Gorge 

and the Greater Red 

River Basin 

Dan Dourson and Judy 
ISBN: 978-1-9496-6900-8
Paperback US$39.95;  
488 pp. 
Kentucky Press

The Red River Gorge (RRG) and its watershed 

are a botanical hotspot and a popular tourist 

destination, drawing more than half a million 

visitors to east-central Kentucky annually. 

Since I was planning to take my Plant 

Systematics class to the RRG during a spring 

semester fieldtrip, I was eager to review this 

book by Dourson and Dourson focusing 

on the ferns and wildflowers of the area. 

Although the shift to remote instruction due 

to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented me 

from visiting RRG with my class this spring, 

I’ve enjoyed studying its flora by perusing this 

When the package containing the review 

copy arrived, I was immediately enamored 

by the physical attributes of the book inside. 

Although a paperback, the rugged cover 

mimics those of many vintage hardbound 

botanical texts, with the appearance of a green 

cloth cover worn around the edges from 

frequent use—the hallmarks of a favorite 

book that has accompanied its owner on 

many a happy exploration of its subject. The 

book is the perfect size to slip into a field 

bag and to thumb through while on the trail; 

conveniently, the book lays open flat when on 

a table.
Several dozen pages at the beginning of the 

book provide interesting context in which to 

consider the vegetation of the region. A chapter 

on the prehistoric history (written by Johnny 

Faulkner) details the early human habitation 

of the sandstone cliffs and rock shelters of 

the RRG and discusses artifacts, petroglyphs, 

and other evidence that documents human 

presence from nearly 13,000 years ago. A 

chapter on cultural history (written by Alan 

Cornette) describes resource extraction and 

its impact on the vegetation—for example, the 

burning of pitch pine and short-leaf pine to 

produce tar (pitch) in tar kilns, extraction of 

saltpeter, and timber harvesting all influenced 

forest composition. A chapter written by 

Halard Lescinsky provides an overview of the 

400-million-year geological history of the Red 

River Watershed and helps readers interpret 

the limestone and sandstone features that 

characterize the region. All these background 

chapters are generously illustrated with full-

color photographs and figures.
The bulk of the book is devoted to 

presentation of the ferns and lycophytes (56 

pages) and the herbaceous wildflowers (263 

pages) of the Red River Basin. These species 

accounts are preceded by a short section that 

describes the basic habitats present along with 

a diagram of the habitat profile of RRG (for 

example, riparian, lower slope, limestone cliff, 

sandstone ridgetop). Abbreviations for the 

habitat designations are included in the species 

accounts. Each species is accompanied by at 

least one full-color photograph, and both the 

common and scientific names are provided. 

Along with habitat and morphological 

descriptions, species accounts often include 

information about frequency, usefulness to 

humans or wildlife, or how to distinguish 

from similar species.
All 51 species of ferns in Red River Basin 

are beautifully illustrated by Elijah Hicks; 

these illustrations are often annotated and 

complement the color photographs. The ferns 

are grouped according to their relative size 

and typical habitat, such as “Large Wetland 

Ferns” or “Medium Woodland Ferns.” The 

“Rock Loving Ferns” are further parsed 

background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


according to limestone and/or sandstone, 

ultimately bringing the number of headings 

to more than 20, which seems unwieldy but 

possibly facilitates comparison between 

species that may share a habitat. I admit I 

found some headings to be quite charming: 

“Exceedingly Tiny Rock Loving Gametophyte 

Ferns (sandstone)” for the Appalachian 

gametophyte or Shoestring fern (Vittaria 

appalachiana), and “Peculiar-Looking 

Woodland Ferns” for Climbing fern (Lygodium 

palmatum) and Southern adder’s tongue fern 

(Ophioglossum pyncostichum). There are also 

a couple pages of wonderful illustrations 

comparing spleenworts (Asplenium) with 

proportionate scaling, including a full 

page illustrating the relationships among 

Appalachian spleenworts of RRG. Overall, 

the photographs, illustrations, and text do a 

great job of emphasizing important characters 

for identification for the ferns, horsetails, and 

Coverage of the wildflowers is organized 

alphabetically by family with no separation 

between monocots and eudicots. Within 

a family, I could discern no particular 

arrangement of species. There is a “Color 

Key” where users can first choose the flower 

color of an unknown plant and then choose 

the appropriate season to find a list of page 

numbers with potential matches. Provided 

the unknown specimen is covered in the 

book, this possibly works well for many plants 

but not for those with 16+ pages to consider 

(for a spring-blooming white flower, a user 

may need to consult 71 pages!). The stunning 

full-color photographs (mostly by Dan 

Dourson) are outstanding in their usefulness 

for identification via image comparison. The 

writing in the species accounts is lively and 

engaging—for example, Virginia bluebells 

(Mertensia virginica) are described as “eye-

catching gems” with “flamboyant bell-shaped 


There is scant representation of grasses, 

sedges, and rushes with only six pages 

devoted to them. Woody vines, shrubs, and 

trees receive slightly more coverage than the 

graminoids, and the photos emphasize the 

flower or inflorescence and often don’t include 

many vegetative features. These are not really 

criticisms, since these plants are beyond the 

primary scope of the book. It concludes with 

a species list (compiled by Julian Campbell) 

for 1573 vascular plants known from the Red 

River Basin along with indications of their 

native ranges, indices of common names and 

scientific names, and safety tips that include 

photos of venomous snakes and arthropods to 

watch for in the RRG.    
Overall, I think this field guide will be useful 

for anyone botanizing in the region; for those 

like myself who use technical dichotomous 

keys, the images in this book will be a helpful 

supplement. Importantly, the Red River 

Basin contains five ecoregions and more 

than half of Kentucky’s native or naturally 

occurring vascular plants; thus, many of the 

species covered in its pages are found beyond 

the limits of the watershed. This book is an 

excellent addition to any collection of books 

on the flora of Kentucky or eastern North 

America. Anyone who loves photographs 

of wildflowers or ferns will enjoy looking 

through these pages.  
-Melanie Link-Pérez, Eastern Kentucky 


background image

PSB 66 (2) 2020        


do MORE of what YOU want







Introducing Conviron Genesis™ -  
a versatile and advanced line of plant 
growth chambers that enables you 
to extend your research possibilities.

Learn more at

background image

Plant Science Bulletin

The Botanical Society of 

America is a membership soci-

ety whose mission  is to: pro-

mote botany, the field of basic 

science dealing with the study 

& inquiry into the form, func-

tion, development, diversity, 

reproduction, evolution, & uses 

of plants & their interactions 

within the biosphere.

ISSN 0032-0919  

Published 3 times a year by  

Botanical Society of America, Inc.  

4475 Castleman Avenue 

St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 


Periodicals postage is paid at  

St. Louis, MO & additional  

mailing offices.  


Send address changes to: 

Botanical Society of America 

Business Office 

P.O. Box 299 

St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 


The yearly subscription rate  

of $15 is included  

in the membership  

Address Editorial Matters (only) to: 

Mackenzie Taylor, Editor 

Department of Biology  

Creighton University 

2500 California Plaza 

Omaha, NE 68178 

Phone 402-280-2157

Plant Science Bulletin

                                                                             Summer 2020 Volume 66 Number 2

Thank you to Dr. Emily Rollinson for creating this 

word cloud representing conference attendees' Twitter 

comments during the week of Botany 2020 - Virtual! 


If you were a registered attendee to the conference, 

remember you have access to the recorded talks for 

the next year!  You can go back in using your unique 

link* and view and review all the talks and posters! 




*the link you used during the conference.  

If you need it, email

background image

Back to overview