Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2021-67-1Actions

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Teaching a Distance Botany Laboratory.....p. 16

When a Titan Arum Blooms

During Quarantine.... p. 29

Botany with Spirit Cornell Rural  

School Leaflets and Gardening....p. 4

Registration Now Open!

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                                                     Spring 2021 Volume 67 Number 1


Editorial Committee  

Volume 67

From the Editor

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


Welcome to 2021!  As I write this in early 

March, my institution has just released 

the first official sign-up for faculty Covid 

vaccinations. It is exactly one week shy of a 

year since campus closed in March 2020. 

Although campus essentially reopened in 

July, doing my job is not the same as it was a 

year ago.   

As I peruse this issue of Plant Science 

Bulletin, it strikes me that the articles share 

a theme. They discuss how botanists of the 

past and present have used the technology 

of the time to share botanical knowledge 

and inspire others. Although botanists have 

been participating in and perfecting online 

teaching and learning for decades, it is fair to 

say that the pandemic has forced many events 

that might have otherwise been in-person to 

virtual platforms. As a community, botanists 

have been able to respond in innovative ways. 

Just as in the past, botanists have been able to 

harness the resources available to reach broad 


I hope you enjoy these articles and find them 

useful. If you have a teaching or outreach 

experience that was modified due to the 

pandemic and you would like to share, please 

reach out to me!


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2020 A Year in Review ..................................................................................................................................................2

Botany 2021 - Virtual! .....................................................................................................................................................3


Botany with Spirit:  Cornell Rural School Leaflets and Gardening ........................................................4

Teaching a Distance Botany Laboratory with Online, Outdoor, and Hands-On  

     Exercises ......................................................................................................................................................................16

When a Titan Arum Blooms During Quarantine (aka, Making a Stink Online) ...........................29


Spring 2021 PlantingScience Session Summary ........................................................................................36


Roundup of Student Opportunities ......................................................................................................................39


American Society for Gravitational & Space Research Names Asteroid  

     after Dr. John Kiss ...................................................................................................................................................54



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Beronda Montgomery

Plenary Address

Anita Sil

MSA Karling Address

Chris Muir

BSA Emerging Leader

Mario Vallejo-Marin

Annals of Botany


Carolyn Ferguson

Incoming ASPT President

David Asai

Belonging in Botany 

Michael Donohue

Incoming BSA President

Marc Cubeta

MSA Presidential  Address

M. Alejandra Gandolfo-Nixon

Kaplan Lecture

Botany 2021 Featured Speakers

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Nature-study is not science.  

It is not knowledge. It is not facts.  

It is spirit. 

It is concerned with the child’s outlook on 

the world. 


-L. H. Bailey, 1903


By Karen Wellner


Community College



n a recent Plant Science Bulletin issue, author 

Karen Penders St. Clair (2019) introduced us 

to several early botany instructors at Cornell 

University. Several of these instructors, 

namely Liberty H. Bailey, Anna B. Comstock, 

Alice G. McCloskey, and John W. Spencer, 

were profoundly important in making 

Cornell University synonymous with that 

of early-1900s nature-study education. One 

of the factors that helped establish Cornell’s 

nature-study program was farm kids and 

Botany with Spirit:  

Cornell Rural School Leaflets  

and Gardening

the trouble that they seemed to be in. The 

economic depression in the early 1880s 

resulted in chronic low produce prices 

and increased costs to farmers. As farming 

communities fought against rising debt, many 

farms were lost and rural migration to cities 

soon followed. In New York, this migration 

proved so worrisome that the state formed a 

Committee for the Promotion of Agriculture. 

Anna Comstock was an early committee 

member who suggested that Cornell’s 

Department of Agriculture develop a nature-

study program for rural schools (Doris, 2002). 

Comstock and others feared that children and 

teenagers moving to urban areas would soon 

lose touch with nature, and along with it, an 

abandonment of their appreciation for the 

green world.

In the United States, the idea of studying 

nature in an outdoor setting did not first 

appear at Cornell, but in Chicago, essentially 

at the same time that the United States was 

struggling with economic depression. Teacher 

educators such as John Dewey made the 

University of Chicago a hub for progressive 

education. One of Dewey’s ideas that quickly 

took hold in the upper Midwest was the idea 

of hands-on study and using the outdoors for 

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play and exploration. A colleague of Dewey’s, 

Wilbur Jackman, became one of the earliest 

recognized proponents of nature-study in the 

early 1890s (Kohlstedt, 2008). Early nature-

study texts by Jackman (1891) and botanist 

John Merle Coulter (1909), also at the 

University of Chicago and later president of 

the Botanical Society of America in 1896 and 

1915, helped establish nature-study education’s 

roots in Chicago. In addition, the 1894 Report 

of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School 

Studies and its subcommittee meeting at 

the University of Chicago dealing with the 

topic of natural history education saw its 

10 members recommend nature-study for 

elementary grade school children. Among 

the subcommittee members were botanist 

Charles E. Bessey, BSA’s second president 

(1895) John M. Coulter, and nature-study 

advocate Charles B. Scott from the St. Paul 

school system in Minnesota. The committee 

members agreed that the primary goal of 

nature-study was to interest young children 

in nature and to gain knowledge by hands-

on exploration in the outdoors environment 

(National Education Association, 1894).

From Chicago, outdoor education spread 

across the Midwest and eastern states, most 

notably embraced by two Cornell University 

faculty members: Bailey, a horticultural 

science professor who served as the president 

of BSA in 1926, and Comstock, who in 

later years was awarded the title of nature 

study professor. Unlike teacher programs at 

Chicago and Columbia University, Bailey and 

Comstock’s nature-study program targeted 

rural, rather than urban, school children. This 

was mainly due to the fact that Cornell was 

surrounded by farmland, woods, and water—

all available resources for the many rural 

school teachers and their students in western 

New York. These two educators, along with 

others at Cornell, were aided in 1894 and 

1903 by the state’s decision to give large grants 

to Cornell to establish an agriculture college, 

along with funds for the hiring of new faculty, 

some of whom advocated for the teaching of 

agriculture and nature-study in rural schools.

Under Bailey’s guidance, the agriculture 

college at Cornell University galvanized 

nature-study education by gathering 

naturalists, agriculturists, and educators 

together to produce a myriad of teacher 

workshops, student leaflets, teacher’s guides, 

courses for farmers, magazines, handbooks, 

and naturalist clubs. It is an understatement 

to say that the nature-study movement at 

Cornell was anything but prolific.

As a technically trained botanist and friend 

of Coulter, Bailey distinguished between 

nature-study and more systematic work in 

natural history and biology. Nature-study, 

Bailey argued, would lead not to new truths 

but, rather, to a sympathetic attitude toward 

nature. At the turn of the century, nature-

study resonated well with the public audience 

and attracted such supporters as Theodore 

Roosevelt, University of Iowa botanist Thomas 

H. McBride, and, later, the nature writer Aldo 

Leopold (Kohlstedt, 2005).



Bailey and Comstock so earnestly believed in 

nature-study that they expended new energy 

to launch a nature publication intended for 

rural school teachers and their students. 

The Cornell Rural School Leaflet (CRSL) was 

published by Cornell’s College of Agriculture 

from 1907 to 1959 (Fig. 1). Financed with a 

New York state grant, one of the conditions 

set by the state was that educational leaflets 

be distributed only to New York state teachers 

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and students, with the hope that children 

who remained on farms and in small towns 

would now study and appreciate nature and 

agriculture in a local setting. Nature-study 

advocates at Cornell also encouraged children 

to take what they were learning home to 

their parents, many of whom had a limited 

educational background, to develop more 

receptiveness to scientific practices and a love 

of the rural environment. Bailey was certain 

that nature-study could help train future 

farmers and future farmer housewives to think 

twice about leaving their idyllic countryside 

for New York City. 

The CRSL publications were of two forms: 

those intended for teachers and shorter leaflets 

for students. Teacher leaflets were mailed at 

the beginning of the school year and provided 

overviews and suggestions of how to use 

nature-study with students. The teacher was 

provided with a form to fill out with students’ 

names, which was sent back to Cornell. The 

student leaflets were mailed, normally three or 

four times a year, to the school teacher who 

then distributed them to his or her students. 

Areas of study proposed by the CRSLs ranged 

from bee-keeping, raising chickens, milk-

testing, and of course, studying plants. In 

examining a number of early leaflets, I found 

that botany content lent itself to one of four 

categories: gardens and their connection 

to county, state, and Cornell agriculture 

fairs; plants in their own habitats and their 

ecological importance; forestry and lumber; 

and problems for plants (fungal diseases and 

weeds). The focus of this article is on CRSL

and school gardens.

While leaflets and pamphlets may have 

made the idea of nature-study inviting, 

most rural teachers taught in a one-room 

schoolhouse with different-age students (Fig. 

2). These same teachers had a limited science 

background and trying out something new 

with such a wide variety of ages outdoors 

probably made class control worrisome to 

many instructors. Even teachers who took a 

basic science course in progressive normal 

schools were not taught the pedagogical skills 

to teach nature-study (Kohlstedt, 2005). To 

allay fears, the editors of CRSL published 

many testimonials from successful nature-

study teachers. Some teachers expressed 

their initial hesitation with nature-study, but 

they provided anecdotal evidence of how 

they themselves, along with their students, 

Figure 1. The April 1908 Cornell Rural School 

Leaflet for teachers with gardening highlighted 

(p. 735).

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benefitted educationally and spiritually from 

nature-study and, in particular, gardening. In 

addition, teachers were encouraged to attend 

Cornell’s summer teacher institutes where 

they would learn how to implement nature-

study in their classrooms.





The term “nature-study” often conjures up 

ideas of walking through the woods, looking 

for birds, insects, trees, leaves, and flowers. 

A large number of the early CRSLs, however, 

were devoted to gardening. In the first 

CRSL issue, sent to rural school teachers in 

September 1907, Bailey exalted that gardens 

were for everyone. Gardens involved students 

of all ages and were used as an incentive to 

reward hard work, establish school spirit, and 

recognize the economic value of plants—so 

that when students had their own farms, they 

would use sound scientific practices to plant 

and harvest their crops.

Bailey identified four types of school 

gardens for teachers’ consideration. First, 

the ornamental garden to make the school 

grounds attractive to the community and to 

develop civic-mindedness in students. Second, 

the plot-garden in which students would 

obtain hands-on experience with edible-

food gardening. Here, the plants chosen to 

grow in the garden bridged the gap between 

wild nature and domesticated learning (Fig. 

3). The third garden identified by Bailey was 

the problem garden, a scaled-down version 

of an experimental field garden, in which 

experiments could take place. The problem 

garden did not have to stand alone, but could 

just be a cordoned-off area in the plot garden 

(Bailey, 1907). Last, there was the wild garden, 

Figure 2. One-room schoolhouse in West Edmeston, Madison County, NY. This is the 

type of school setting that the Cornell Rural School Leaflet targeted (date unknown, 

personal collection).

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an area already growing plants where children 

would transplant wild and local plants in it. 

Bailey instructed teachers to start slowly and 

to choose just one garden to work on first. It 

did not matter which type, since any school 

garden was considered a laboratory of living 


Alice McCloskey, editor of the early nature-

study leaflets, also placed special emphasis on 

school gardens in the first CRSL issues. She 

claimed that the garden and garden activities 

formed one of the most important features of 

work in nature-study agriculture. McCloskey 

was adamant that nature-study was not merely 

an opportunity for rural students, but that 

nature-study was an absolute right of every 

rural child to “know the possibilities that lie 

in intelligent work on the farm” (McCloskey, 

1907, p. 5).

Like Bailey, McCloskey urged teachers to 

start small and simple. The benefits would far 

outweigh the initial risks since gardens offered 

“inquiry, accuracy, patience, perseverance, 

and courage in time of adversity” (McCloskey, 

1908, p. 754). While other nature-study ideas 

like dairy cows were also discussed in many 

issues of the CRSLs, the school garden and the 

Corn Day competition at Cornell were heavily 

revisited and placed in every teacher’s edition 

from 1907 through 1910. 

Making a successful garden is not easy. The 

CRSL provided the groundwork for teachers 

with instructions on how to situate and design 

a garden and offered activities that students 

could do in their school gardens (Gowans, 

1908). These activities, some of which 

teachers could modify into experiments, 

included determining the composition of soil, 

investigating the capillarity of soil, growing 

alfalfa under variable conditions, how deep to 

Figure 3. Ithaca school plot garden. Cornell Rural School Leaflet April 1908, p. 736.

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plant beans seeds, treating potato tubers with 

formaldehyde to prevent scab, and placing 

seeds in different experimental conditions 

(Fig. 4).

Gardens also provided an incentive to students 

in the form of awards, by entering the best of 

their crops in local or state fairs. Without fail, 

Corn Days, Aster Days, and Flower Days were 

promoted by the CRSL  editors and students 

were urged to send their best entries to Farm 

Days at Cornell. Many of the agriculture 

competitions required that students grow 

crops or flowers and develop displays outside 

of the classroom. It was felt that such work 

helped students assume responsibility and 

develop a duty to their teachers, peers, and 

parents. Added to this was the experience 

that students gained by following the life 

cycle of a plant and seeing it through to the 

competition. This experience was holistic 

because the plants were grown outside in a 

field or a garden where the environment—the 

impacts of the soil, rainfall, and sunny days—

were directly involved with the life cycle of the 


In 1910, the state education board’s newly 

released nature-study syllabus was published 

in the CRSL. The previous looseness of 

nature-study, with its emphasis on the study 

of all things local and seasonal, now gave way 

to a specified list of special plants for study, 

trees for study, flowers for study, animals to 

study, insects to study, birds to study, and so 

on. Rural teachers soon found that they had 

less control over what was taught and much 

more content to cover. For example, the first 

leaflet for teachers in 1907 was only 12 pages 

long. The September 1911 CRSL for teachers 

was an astounding 172 pages long. And none 

of those pages included much talk about 

school gardens or local learning. There were 

a few short articles about vegetable gardens as 

rumblings of war in Europe emerged, but for 

the most part, it would take the country’s entry 

into World War I to make gardens important 

again with nature-study.





As U.S. involvement in the war in Europe 

intensified, so too did the concern about 

food shortages at home. In 1917, the Bureau 

of Education created the United States 

School Garden Army. Funded by the War 

Department, these gardens became known as 

Figure 4. A germination box comparing dif-

ferent corn seeds in preparation for gardening 

work. From Cornell Rural School Leaflet Feb-

ruary 1909, p. 143.

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victory gardens or war gardens. The School 

Garden Army targeted school children to 

grow food produce. President Woodrow 

Wilson was a strong advocate of school 

gardens, linking children’s garden work to 

military patriotism. Eventually, the National 

War Garden Commission was founded and 

took steps to “militarize” the students. Urged 

to help, students were given an insignia and 

a rank, along with instructions about food 

production. Not everyone, though, agreed 

with the Commission’s approach. Critics 

like former Harvard president Charles 

Eliot believed that hyping children up with 

patriotic duty was wrong. He urged Wilson 

and the Commission to stop referring to 

school children as soldiers—they were simply 

children planting seeds (Kohlstedt, 2008). 

How did the Agriculture College at Cornell 

react to outside agencies now involved with 

student gardens? The CRSL  September 1917 

issue for teachers saw its editor, Edward Tuttle, 

noting that the increase in gardens in the U.S. 

was due to the demand for food production. 

This new garden movement presented, in 

Tuttle’s words, “opportunities and many 

dangers” (Tuttle, 1917, p. 282). Tuttle stressed 

that children’s gardens should serve as an 

educational opportunity with an education 

department oversight, rather than a federal 

commission. To Tuttle, the various agencies 

now involved with gardens was worrisome 

since they could easily manipulate children to 

place more importance on production quotas 

and therefore be viewed as a worker more 

than an inquisitive child. As the government 

became more involved with gardening, the 

pedagogy of nature-study gardens disappeared 

into the background.  

In the same issue, a reprint of a 1908 article 

by Alice McCloskey, founder and late editor 

of the CRSL, was published under the title, 

“Gardening with Children.” Her question of 

what gardens provided students with, whether 

the country was at war or peace, included 

civic pride, landscape design, planting and 

harvesting, and generosity with giving the 

crop to neighbors and friends. 

Gardens were again targeted as a prime way to 

make school grounds attractive with an article 

written by Cornell’s landscape architecture 

professor Ralph W. Curtis (1917). A sketch of 

how to properly place shrubs and a wildflower 

garden for a good school ground appearance 

Figure 5. Landscaping school grounds; another 

use of gardens in Cornell Rural School Leaflet 

November 1917, p. 299

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was provided (Fig. 5). The use of McCloskey 

and Curtis’s articles made the appeal to 

teachers that gardens were multipurpose and 

not solely intended as food munitions for war. 

In the November 1917 issue of CRSL, teachers 

were offered information on something new: 

junior home projects. Although previous 

CRSLs contained information about home 

gardens and raising cattle and poultry on 

farms, the introduction of the junior home 

project reflected on the ongoing war in 

Europe and production of food for home and 

abroad. The CRSL again stressed the need to 

place all student agricultural and domestic 

science activities under the jurisdiction of the 

State Department of Education, lest “selfish 

exploitation of boys and girls” should continue 

(Griffin, 1917, p. 326). 

Students interested in home projects, 

including tending to gardens, were now 

required to fill out paperwork for the school 

superintendent, who would communicate 

with the student and his or her teacher, who 

would communicate with Cornell’s College 

of Agriculture staff, who would then provide 

preliminary instructions to the student and 

teacher. The College also sent record books 

for the student to keep track of costs and 

income in order for academic credit. The flow 

chart shown in Figure 6 illustrates the top-

down approach to gardening during the war. 

All of this regimentation certainly would have 

irritated Bailey. Although Bailey retired as 

Dean of the Agriculture College in 1913, he 

continued to promote the idea that farmers 

and children of farmers needed a nature-study 

outlook, instead of just money to guide them 

(Bailey, 1908). 

The decline of school and home gardening 

after World War I is noted by contemporary 

historians Sally G. Kohlstedt and Kevin C. 

Armitage. In particular, Kohlstedt (2008) 

attributes the decline of gardens to a lack 

of government support and a diminished 

national attention to patriotic school kids. 

This was most likely true for victory gardens, 

but what about nature-study’s attachment 

to school gardens? Did rural school gardens 

also disappear? An examination of CRSL

published before and after World War I does 

show a reduction in the number of garden 

articles, but this decline actually started before 

the war. There are several reasons for this 

decline in gardens with nature-study.  

By the early 1900s, biologists were moving 

from field laboratories to the more-controlled 

science laboratory located inside of a 

building. This move was accompanied by the 

belief that science education should also 

make such a migration and take on a more 

rigorous approach to the teaching of science. 

For example, an article published recently in 

Plant Science Bulletin introduced us to botany 

educator and former BSA president, William 

Ganong (Sundberg, 2020). In Ganong’s book 

The Teaching Botanist (1915), he faulted 

nature-study instruction since it deprived the 

science-minded student the opportunity to 

find his or her chief interests. What Ganong 

may have meant here is that students were not 

exposed thoroughly enough to astronomy, 

chemistry, physics, or other fields of science 

at an early age. Ganong also criticized student 

drawings of plants that he considered too 

impressionistic and not scientifically correct.

The sentimentality that teachers expressed for 

nature was also criticized. Many university 

biologists believed that good science meant 

objectivity, not sympathy toward plants and 

animals or reciting poems about them. As 

the practice of science and science education 

veered toward quantification of results, critics 

posed the question of how you could quantify 

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Figure 6. Planting gardens during WWI becomes driven by patriotism rather than inquiry. 

From Cornell Rural School Leaflet November 1917, pp. 348-349.

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something as vague as appreciation and 

respect. Other scientists were vocal about the 

pedagogical rigor of nature-study and its lack 

of experimental design (Armitage, 2009).

Other biologists and educators did not criticize 

nature-study itself, but faulted the teachers 

involved with it. It should be noted that a 

majority of rural teachers were women while 

their critics were men in higher education or 

science occupations. Teachers were attacked 

for having no understanding of nature or the 

scientific method. Such teacher incompetence, 

scientists and science educators argued, led to 

an unscientific study of one’s surroundings 

and an emotional view of nature. Buoyed 

with poems and sing-songs, nature-study 

seemed to lack the scientific and disciplinary 

character called for by scientists starting in the 

early 1900s (Beal, 1902). 

Around 1914, rural education changed its 

focus as state legislators called for a more 

robust and vocationally focused agriculture 

curriculum in rural schools (Kleibard, 

2004). Nature-study critics argued that these 

problems could be resolved by giving students 

a solid, scientific agriculture education rather 

than a romanticized study of nature that 

included frolicking about in gardens. This 

change in the nature-study curriculum was 

followed by the 1925 Cole-Rice Law, which 

provided building aid for the construction 

of large centralized schools. The one-room 

schoolhouse quickly became a thing of the 

past, along with established connections that 

nature-study advocates at Cornell had fostered 

with rural school teachers. Teachers were no 

longer encouraged to make decisions about 

science study based on the local environment. 

Outdoor field trips, collecting leaves, and 

tilling the school garden were replaced by 

textbooks and classroom demonstrations. 

By the mid-1930s the term “nature-study” was 

replaced the term “elementary school science” 

(Palmer, 1957; Tolley, 1994). In the September 

1932 edition of CRSL for teachers, the editor 

wrote that the State Education Department 

was ready to publish its tentative science 

outline for elementary schools. This was 

accompanied by content objectives for each 

area of study, broken down for grades 1-2, 3-4, 

and 5-6. In education, content objectives often 

pave the way for standardized testing, which 

means that teachers must meet the objectives, 

often at the expense of doing anything else. 

The very nature of unit tests was at odds with 

Bailey’s reasons for nature-study. In Bailey’s 

words, state departments wrongly viewed 

examinations to be the only test of student 

learning. Nature-study was intended to be so 

informal that it could not possibly lend itself 

to systematic examinations (Bailey, 1899). 

Nonetheless, the CRSL continued throughout 

the 1930s, although its focus was now on 

conservation education. While forests, 

animals, and soil were still a part of nature-

study, the emphasis was now on the “jobs” 

that those things did for humans rather than 

the development of student sympathy and 

inquiry surrounding the outdoors. Cornell’s 

nature-study program and field botany began 

serious unraveling in the 1940s, as the call 

for  more  efficiency  and  more  content  in 

schools pushed nature-study out the door. 

In the September 1940 CRSL, editor Palmer 

made a plea to teachers to take their students 

outdoors. He stated that science teaching was 

now confined to a classroom and a textbook, 

making teachers hesitant to go outside. He 

offered background materials with teacher 

directions for field trips that could even take 

place during recess time (Palmer et al., 1940). 

Some of Palmer’s suggestions included 

visiting electrical powerlines and junkyards, 

which seemed in sad contrast to forests and 

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gardens. In 1958 the CRSL changed its name 

to the Cornell  Science  Leaflet. It was now 

available to all students, rural or urban, for 

20 cents a copy. The new Cornell publication 

made it only to March, 1959 with a short 

leaflet dedicated to birds. The impact of the 

CRSL, however, did not end in 1959. The 

leaflet  spurred  the  publication  of  other  like-

minded teacher publications by biological 

supply companies and was a model for The 

Kansas School Naturalist (1954-present) (M. 

Sundberg, personal communication, January 

19, 2021).


Nature-study was devised to counter a loss of 

rural life and the connection to the natural 

world. Initially, Cornell’s nature-study 

program was a combination of agriculture 

and less-altered habitats for study. Plants such 

as corn and beans were studied alongside 

wild orchids and skunk cabbage. With such 

a broad program (remember that zoology, 

entomology, meteorology, agriculture, and 

botany were all part of nature-study), the 

Progressive Era naturalists at Cornell sought 

to prepare students (and teachers) to observe, 

think, predict, and plan. As school districts 

became centralized and science in general 

became more experimental, the science 

curriculum underwent a top-down, content-

laden approach that teachers were required to 

closely follow.

While critics lamented about nature-study’s 

lack of inquiry, I found that the early CRSL 

writers  provided many garden and plant 

questions for the teacher to ask of students. 

Some of the questions had the potential to 

lead to what we now call guided inquiry and 

project-based learning. Rather than memorize 

a myriad of plant parts, students were to study 

the plant as a whole. For example, Bailey 

(1903) provided the types of questions that 

teachers could ask in the field when coming 

upon dandelions: where does it grow? Do 

dandelions on the lawn look like dandelions 

along a roadside? As students worked 

more and more with whole plants, Bailey 

suggested looking at plant societies: what 

plants grow together and where? In this way, 

students were involved with categorizing 

on their own, rather than reading about 

plant categories from a text. Students were 

encouraged to keep field notebooks and 

gardening journals while in school and 

during the long summer vacation. Of 

course, songs and poems were always part 

of the CRSLs and this is what naysayers 

focused on. If critics had critically read the 

CRSLs, coupled with the understanding 

that children learn and process information 

differently than adults, they most likely 

would have approved many experiential 

aspects of nature-study, including the spirit 

of outdoor gardening. 


Armitage, K. C. 2009. The Nature Study 

Movement. The Forgotten Popularizer of 

America’s Conservation Ethic. University of 

Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS.
Bailey, L. H. 1899. An Effort to Help the 

Farmer. Cornell University Agricultural Ex-

periment Station Bulletin 159: 1-34.
Bailey, L. H. 1903. The Nature-Study Idea 

Being an Interpretation of the New School De-

velopment to put the Child in Sympathy with 

Nature. Doubleday, Page & Co., New York.
Bailey, L. H. 1907. The Point of View. Cor-

nell Rural School Leaflet for Teachers 1: 1-12.

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Bailey, L. H. 1908. The State and the Farmer. 

MacMillan, New York.
Beal, W. J. 1902. What is Nature Study? Sci-

ence 16: 910-913.
Coulter, J. M., and A. J. Patterson. 1909. Prac-

tical Nature Study and Elementary Agriculture: 

A Manual for the use of Teachers and Normal 

Students. D. Appleton & Co., New York.
Curtis, R. W. 1917. How to Make School 

Ground Attractive. Cornell Rural School Leaf-

let for Teachers 11: 294-300.
Doris, E. E. 2002. The Practice of Nature 

Study: What Reformers Imagined and What 

Teachers Did. PhD Dissertation, Harvard Uni-

versity, Cambridge, MA.
Ganong, W. F. 1915. The Teaching Botanist. 

A Manual of Information upon Botanical In-

struction, 2nd ed. Macmillan, New York.
Gowans, E. 1908. Home Gardens. Cornell Ru-

ral School Leaflet for Teachers 11: 763-767.
Griffin, F. L. 1917. Suggestions for Organiz-

ing and Supervising Junior Home Project 

Work. Cornell Rural School Leaflet for Teach-

ers 11: 325-372.
Jackman, W. S. 1891. Nature Study for the 

Common Schools. Henry Holt, New York.
Kleibard, H. M. 2004. The Struggle for the 

American Curriculum 1893-1958. Routledge 

Falmer, New York.
Kohlstedt, S. G. 2005. Nature, Not Books: 

Scientific  Initiatives  and  the  Origins  of  the 

Nature Study Movement in the 1890s. ISIS 

96: 324-352.

Kohlstedt, S. G. 2008. A Better Crop of Boys 

and Girls: The School Gardening Movement, 

1890-1920.  History of Education Quarterly 

48: 58-93.
McCloskey, A. B. 1907. Nature-Study Agri-

culture. Cornell Rural School Leaflet 1: 1.
McCloskey, A. B. 1908. Gardens. Cornell Ru-

ral School Leaflet 1: 754.
National Education Association. 1894. The 

Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary 

School Studies with the Reports of the Confer-

ences arranged by the Committee. American 

Book Co., New York.

Palmer, E. L. 1957. Fifty Years of Nature-

Study and the American Nature Study Soci-

ety. Nature Magazine 50: 474-480.

Palmer, E. L., E. L. Gordon, V. E. Schmidt, 

and W. Thurber. 1940. Elementary School 

Field Experiences in Natural Science. Cornell 

School Rural Leaflet 34: 5-48.
Penders St. Clair, K. 2019. Inspirational Voic-

es in Early Botanical Education. Plant  Sci-

ence Bulletin 65: 161-171.
Sundberg, M. D. 2020. “he Teaching Bota-

nist: William F. Ganong and the Botanical 

Society of America. Plant  Science  Bulletin 

66: 206-230.
Tolley, K. 1994. Study Nature, Not Books: 

The Nature Study Curriculum 1891-1932. 

Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the 

American Educational Research Association, 

April 5-8, New Orleans.
Tuttle, E. M. 1917. Forward. Cornell  Rural 

School Leaflet 11: 282.


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Teaching a Distance Botany  

Laboratory with Online, Outdoor, 

and Hands-On Exercises


Even before the global pandemic accelerated the trend 

toward online learning, the number of online and remote 

STEM courses, including those with laboratories, had 

been steadily increasing. Including botany courses with 

laboratories as part of these offerings increases student 

exposure to this discipline. However, it is a challenge to 

create engaging remote laboratories that foster interest 

and allow students to interact directly with plants. We 

describe our approach to teaching a non-traditional 

botany laboratory that combines a laboratory kit with 

plants with outdoor and online activities. We describe 

the communication strategies and laboratory exercises, 

with links provided for activities and kit provisions. 

Additionally, we highlight lessons and continuing 

challenges in order to help other instructors create 

related courses.

Key words 

Biology laboratory, distance education,  

laboratory kits, online laboratory,  

remote learning


nline enrollments across disciplines 

have steadily increased (Seamen et al., 2018), 

with more than 30% of college students 

at public and non-profit institutions in 

the United States enrolled in at least some 

distance education courses in 2018 (U.S. 

Department of Education, National Center 

for Education Statistics Fast Facts, 2019). 

The shift to online learning due to the 

pandemic may lead more students and 

instructors to adopt and retain distance 

education approaches.

Online and face-to-face (F2F) courses differ 

in the students they attract. Most notably, 

non-traditional students are more likely 

than traditional students to enroll in online 

courses, especially in STEM courses (Pontes 

et al., 2010; Wladis et al., 2015a,b). Female 

students are generally more likely than male 

students to enroll in online courses (Shea 

and Bidjerano, 2014; Wladis et al., 2015a; 

U.S. Department of Education National 

Center for Education Statistics Table 311.22, 

2018), especially in STEM disciplines 

(Wladis et al., 2015b). In contrast, Black and 

Latino students are less likely to enroll in 

online STEM courses (Shea and Bidjerano, 

2014; Wladis et al., 2015a), particularly 

after accounting for gender and non-

traditional characteristics (Wladis et al., 

2015b). Finally, students are more likely to 

enroll in online courses if they live farther 

from campus (Shea and Bidjerano, 2014) 

or have physical disabilities (Pontes et al., 

University of South Carolina Upstate 

800 University Way, Spartanburg, SC 29303

Katherine P. Farrah

Benjamin R. Montgomery

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PSB 67(1) 2021


2010; Faulconer and Gruss, 2018). These 

demographic differences suggest that a mix of 

online and traditional botany courses would 

reach a broader group of students.

For STEM courses, including botany, it is 

challenging to deliver laboratory content 

that meets learning objectives without F2F 

instruction. Laboratory learning objectives 

may go beyond reinforcing content knowledge 

from lecture and include (1) the ability to 

engage in aspects of the scientific method 

and communicating scientific results; (2) 

developing career-readiness competencies, 

including problem-solving, teamwork, 

communication skills, and proficiency 

with digital technology; and (3) practical 

discipline-specific skills (Faulconer and Gruss, 

2018). While it has been suggested that F2F 

labs are central to scientific education, reviews 

of studies have found that students achieve 

learning objectives similarly in both F2F 

and non-traditional laboratories for STEM 

courses generally (Brinson, 2015) and biology 

courses more specifically (Biel and Brame, 

2015). It has also been suggested that online 

labs are effective lower-cost alternatives to F2F 

laboratories (Chirikov et al., 2020), although 

a mix of both approaches can be even more 

effective (Sypsas and Kalles, 2018). 

Asynchronous formats better accommodate 

students with scheduling conflicts due to 

work, family, or limited computer access 

(Harris et al., 2020), although Brinson (2015) 

recommends using a mix of synchronous and 

asynchronous approaches for laboratories. 

Non-traditional laboratories may be taught 

exclusively online or involve hands-on 

activities. For labs delivered electronically, 

Faulconer and Gruss (2018) distinguish 

between “online labs,” which typically rely 

on simulations or archived materials and 

“remote laboratories,” in which students 

manipulate instrumentation via computer. 

These researchers suggest that hands-on 

labs in which students physically interact 

with supplies that students gather, retrieve 

from campus, or receive through a shipment 

be termed “distance laboratories,” with the 

category “non-traditional laboratories” 

comprising remote and distance formats. 

Non-traditional laboratories can help 

to achieve the discipline’s long-standing 

goal of strengthening education and 

communication about plants and the 

economic and environmental services they 

provide (Botanical Society of America, 1995) 

by reaching more students and a different 

subset of students. Botanical education 

must overcome “plant awareness disparity” 

(Parsely, 2020), a non-ableist term that 

describes the condition wherein people lack 

awareness, recognition, and appreciation 

of plants and their roles in ecosystems and 

societies (Wandersee and Schussler, 1999). 

We think that letting students interact with 

living plants is the best way to foster an 

interest in plants, so we prefer a distance-

laboratory format when feasible. Moreover, 

an advantage of distance laboratories 

generally is that students are able to directly 

interact with materials to have opportunities 

for tangible results and sensory feedback 

(Faulconer and Gruss, 2018). However, the 

ability of students to acquire and maintain 

plants away from campus is limited by their 

disparate geographic locations, climate, and 

living arrangements. Additionally, acquiring 

supplies has costs, whether to the student or 

the institution. Outdoor exercises are also 

limited by geographic, logistic, and safety 

considerations. Online laboratories based 

on freely available datasets and activities 

create  flexibility without adding expense. 

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To address tradeoffs between distance and 

online laboratories, we have adopted a hybrid 

approach that mixes online and distance 

laboratory approaches.



We describe here the required laboratory 

for a course titled “Botany & Society,” an 

asynchronous, 4-credit, general-education 

course for non-science majors taught at 

a southeastern regional comprehensive 

university. The lecture portion of the course 

follows a typical asynchronous online format, 

with narrated lectures available on YouTube, 

associated readings, quizzes associated with 

each lecture, supplemental learning activities, 

and multiple exams. Laboratory exercises, 

which support the learning objectives listed 

in Box 1, reinforce lecture content while 

emphasizing botanical skills, critical thinking, 

hypothesis testing, the scientific method, and 

digital communication skills. 

The laboratory, taught over either a 14-week 

semester or 8-week summer semester, includes 

16 exercises with a mix of online, outdoor, 

indoor plant, and lab-kit based activities. Most 

exercises are completed in a single assignment, 

while others extend across multiple weeks. 

Exercises are described below with additional 

details and instructions for students provided 

at Assessment 

is based on completion of assignments and 

comprehension questions instead of lab 



Box 1 

Learning objectives for Botany 

& Society, a general-education, 

asynchronous botany labora-

tory for non-science majors.

•  Gain experience growing and ma-

nipulating plants 

•  Recognize features that distinguish 

different plant groups 

•  Understand role of observations 

and the scientific method to learn 

about natural world

•  Be able to use databases and online 

tools to investigate the natural 


•  Increase proficiency in commu-

nicating science in writing and 

using technology

Many exercises require live plants, safety 

equipment, and other supplies, which are 

provided in a laboratory kit assembled by 

the instructors and either picked up by 

students or shipped to them (Figure 1). The 

only supplies students procure themselves 

are isopropyl alcohol, a flower for dissection, 

and produce for a macromolecules exercise. 

Each kit contains a unique set of stickers, 

which students affix to items they photograph 

to ensure that the photographs they submit 

are of their own work. An $80 laboratory fee 

covers the cost of supplies and shipping. 

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Table 1. Laboratory exercises divided into activity type (outdoor, online, growing plants, 

etc.), as well as the associated assessment method(s).  Most assignments, except those sub-

mitted to Padlet, are completed using tools on Blackboard, the course learning management 

system or are submitted there.










Growing and manipulating plants:

Primarily outdoor activities: 

Terrariums with 

Spore-bearing Plants  Padlet 

Leaf Morphology  Quiz, Word-doc

Fern Development 

Journal entries, Padlet  Tree ID using Key 

and iNaturalist 

Pre-lab quiz, Word-doc

Coleus Cuttings & 


Pre-lab quiz, Padlet 

Community Plant/
Citizen Science 

Activity (also 


Video post to Padlet, 

Journal entry 

Floral Parts




Primarily online activities:

Lab kit exercises:

Tree Rings/  



Twig ID 


Gymnosperm ID  

Quiz, Journal entry 

Starch Test 

Quizzes, Padlet 

Nutrition Sources 

Journal entry 

DNA Extraction 

Pre-lab quiz, assign-

ment, Padlet 


Pre-lab quiz, Padlet, 


Radish Genetics 

Pre-lab quiz, Padlet, 

Online spreadsheet 

entries, Quiz 

Cooling Power of 




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Students perform better in non-traditional 

courses when they are deeply engaged and 

experience frequent high-quality interactions 

with peers and instructors (Jaggers et al., 2013; 

Biel and Brame, 2016; Jaggers and Xu, 2016). In 

asynchronous laboratories, prompt feedback 

helps students to successfully complete 

exercises when they encounter obstacles 

(Faulconer and Gruss, 2018). We use a variety 

of tools to facilitate students’ submission of 

assignments and their interactions with peers 

and instructors (Table 2). 

To give students flexibility in communication 

options, we provide three contact methods: 

email as well as phone, and text through 

Google Voice, thus increasing overall rates 

of communication. Courses, including 

laboratories, may be enriched by using a broad 

array of information and communication 

technologies (Dede and Grimson, 2013; Sit 

and Brudzinski, 2017). While this approach 

requires spending more time teaching and 

Figure 1. Photograph of contents of labora-

tory kits distributed to all students at start of 


troubleshooting technology, it has two 

advantages: (1) it allows flexibility to find and 

adapt teaching resources appropriate to the 

course learning outcomes, and (2) it allows 

development of technological skills, a career-

readiness competency. Assignments and links 

to other programs are organized through the 

Blackboard learning management system 


We think that students benefit from seeing 

one another’s work, as they would in a F2F 

laboratory. This approach has two benefits: (1) 

students can self-assess and make corrections 

if their results deviate from classmates’ 

results, and (2) viewing other’s work helps 

to create community among students, which 

increases student success (Harris et al., 2020). 

Submissions for most assignments include 

photographs or screenshots documenting 

the students’ work. Padlet is our preferred 

program for allowing students to share their 

results, including text images and videos, with 

instructors and classmates; each student’s 

work is in a separate column (Figure 2). To 

provide guidance, the instructor models a 

successful submission in the first column. 

Because students can see classmates’ work, 

Padlet is only appropriate when the goal is for 

students to document completion of a process 

(e.g., dissection of a flower; Figure 3), or when 

students have unique results from analyzing 

different data sets (e.g., phenology curves, 

each for a different species).

When students need to respond to questions 

without the benefit of reading classmates’ 

responses, we require submissions directly 

through the LMS.

 We use tests when automated 

grading for adaptive release is needed, such 

as for pre-lab questions whose completion 

triggers release of subsequent instructions. 

We use journals for submission of text-heavy 

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Figure 2. Example of Padlet online bulletin board tool used for student submissions of text, 

images, and videos that are shared with classmates.


Table 2. Communication technologies employed and their primary use. 

Technologies Employed

Primary Use

Blackboard (Bb) Learning 

Management System 

Deliver course content including announcements; admin-

ister assessments, including quizzes, journals, and assign-

ments for students to upload documents


Students post photos, videos

, and text to share with class. 

$8-per-month plan provides sufficient functionality (lim-

ited free version also available).


Students post videos to share with class, thus building 

community. Free plan.

Excel Online

Students share and analyze data

Email; Text and Phone 

(Google Voice)

Individual communications

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PSB 67(1) 2021


updates on multiweek exercises. In other cases, 

we have asked students to embed images into 

word-processing documents for submission, 

but recent LMS updates that have simplified 

uploading images make submissions into 

journals more practical. We use other 

technology less frequently, including FlipGrid 

for ice-breaker video introductions to help 

create a sense of class community and Excel 

online for students to share data.


Assignments may be divided into those that 

involve growing plants, interacting with 

plants outdoors, lab-kit-based activities, and 

online activities (Table 1). We include three 

activities where students cultivate plants 

over an extended period: (1) bryophyte and 

lycophyte terraria, (2) fern spores for lifecycle 

observations, and (3) Coleus plants used to 

make cuttings and a graft. For the Coleus 

exercises, students are given two plants with 

different leaf colors. They are responsible for 

watering and providing adequate sunlight 

or artificial light to maintain the plants. For 

the grafting exercise, adapted from Readel 

(2000), students graft a scion from one plant 

onto the other, creating a multi-colored 

Coleus (Figure 4). For the cutting exercise, 

students place the leftover stem from the 

grafting exercise in a cup of water to observe 

adventitious root growth. In the fern lifecycle 

activity, students are provided a Petri dish 

pre-inoculated with spores, and they observe 

growth of gametophytes and sporophytes, 

with supplemental images and videos also 

provided. Students ultimately transplant ferns 

into soil. For the terrarium project, students 

assemble replicate terrariums in disposable 

plastic bowls with inverted-bowl lids. 

Students transplant a moss, liverwort, and 

spikemoss  into each and put them into two 

light environments. The paired terraria allow 

comparison of how light levels affect growth 

and provide redundancy (Figure 5).

Figure 3. Example of flower dissection performed by student.

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Figure 4. Example of Coleus grafting.

Figure 5. Photographs of terrariums grown 

by  students  at  start  of  semester  (top)  and 

end of semester (bottom).

Outdoor exercises emphasize identification or 

keying skills. The Leaf Morphology Laboratory 

gives students hands-on experience with 

botanical terminology necessary for 

subsequent laboratories. Students find and 

photograph a specified number of examples of 

leaf complexities, basic leaf shapes, margins, 

tips, and bases from outdoor plants they select. 

Students add their photos to an LMS journal 

and specify the relevant trait. Teaching use 

of dichotomous keys is a challenge without 

immediate feedback to keep students on 

track. We avoid this problem by embedding 

couplets into the test feature of the LMS, each 

specimen with its own test and questions 

introduced sequentially. Each question starts 

with the correct answer to the previous 

couplet and then asks students to choose 

between the next two couplet choices. This 

way, students always proceed to the correct 

couplet. We introduce dichotomous keys 

with a simple gymnosperm key and images of 

several easily keyed specimen. We also require 

students to find one gymnosperm, preferably 

a pine, in a natural area to photograph and 

identify. Students submit photographs, their 

list couplet choices, and their identification.

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In a subsequent exercise, students use a 

dichotomous key to identify native trees. 

They also learn how to use the iNaturalist 

app for tree identification and compare the 

accuracy of these two methods. Students 

choose a natural area in which to photograph 

and key out dicot trees using a dichotomous 

key provided. Submissions include photos of 

each tree identified and all choices they made 

from the dichotomous key to arrive at their 

identification. Students also upload photos 

of the trees they have identified to iNaturalist 

for identification. Finally, they check their 

identifications against images on a flora 

website. During the spring semester, when it 

is impractical to use leaves to key deciduous 

trees, we substitute a keying exercise using 

winter twigs, with twigs from several species 

included in the supply kit and keying based on 

Stucky (2003).

Students investigate Mendelian genetics 

by studying inheritance of hypocotyl 

anthocyanin production in radish using kits 

acquired from Carolina Biological Supply 

Company. Each student is allotted four half 

seed discs, each of which contains seeds from 

one parental variety, or the F1 or F2 generations. 

Over consecutive weeks, students germinate 

each generation, photograph seedlings, score 

phenotypes, and record results on a shared 

Excel spreadsheet. Students make Punnett 

squares to analyze patterns of inheritance.

Students practice hypothesis testing and 

reinforce knowledge of macromolecules in 

two exercises. First, they make a hypothesis 

related to the amount of DNA in diploid rice 

germ and hexaploid wheat germ, and they 

test their hypothesis by extracting DNA from 

both and qualitatively comparing outcomes. 

Second, students make hypotheses and 

predictions about the amount of starch in 

onions versus potatoes and underripe versus 

ripe bananas. They test these hypotheses 

qualitatively by performing the iodine test for 


Three online activities investigate relationships 

between climate and plants. The Tree Rings/

Dendrochronology Laboratory reinforces 

knowledge about how climate affects the 

thickness of tree rings.  Additionally, a pine tree 

slice (cross section) is provided for students 

to determine its age at harvest. Students also 

visit the UCAR Center for Science Education 

website ( to read about 

dendrochronology and play interactive games 

that demonstrate how moisture, temperature, 

and the interaction of these factors affect the 

size of tree rings.  

Another activity uses the Data Visualization 

Tool provided by the USA National 

Phenology Network (

national-phenology-network) for students to 

create phenology curves, with each student 

investigating a different species. Students then 

test hypotheses about the relationship between 

leaf emergence and two variables: temperature 

and latitude. Finally, students predict how 

climate change will affect the timing of spring 

phenological events. In a third exercise, the 

Cooling Benefits of Trees, students investigate 

effects of trees on their home environment, 

carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem 

services. Students identify trees around their 

residence, measure their girth, and estimate 

the trees’ environmental and financial benefits 

using i-Tree Design (https://design.itreetools.

org/) by using a map they construct on the 

program’s interface. Also, they consider how 

adding another tree could increase energy 


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Finally, students also assess the role of plants 

in their diet by keeping a food journal for 

one day and using the USDA website (www.  to calculate how much fruit, 

vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy they 

consumed. The website also generates a 

personalized dietary plan (MyPlate Plan) 

for their daily requirements for each food 

category. Students then compare their actual 

diet to the recommendations and typically 

find they are not eating enough plant foods.  

A Community Plant Activity was recently 

designed for students to volunteer at a 

local garden, park, or nature center on a 

plant-based project and to reflect about the 

experience in a journal. An alternative online 

citizen-science option was to contribute to 

one of the plant biology projects at Zooinverse 

( by digitizing hand-

written botanical specimens. Considering 

the pandemic, this became the only option. 

Students reflected on this experience 

afterwards in a video journal. Students 

reported that they found the experience of 

contributing to the scientific knowledge base 

especially rewarding while self-quarantining.



Lessons we have learned while teaching this 

course include the following:

1.  It is important to explicitly teach stu-

dents technological skills and provide an 

orientation at the outset (Biel and Brame, 

2016; Garman, 2012).  Most Week 1 ac-

tivities are practice exercises taking pho-

tographs of plants and uploading them 

to Padlet and journals in the LMS.

2.  Lab kits should not be distributed 

until after add–drop to avoid loss.

3.  Shipping kits with live plants adds 

expense and logistical challenges, so 

requiring students near campus to pick 

up supplies saves effort. Additionally, 

instructors should have a plan for how 

to accommodate students from foreign 

countries or regions where live plants 

cannot be shipped due to phytosani-

tary restrictions—or if accommoda-

tions cannot be made, how to prevent 

students from these locations from en-


4.  Our lab activities are low risk, but 

safety training should be included in 

the first week and subsequent exercises 

when relevant. Successful completion 

of a poison-ivy–identification quiz is 

required to adaptively release instruc-

tions for the first outdoor exercise. 

5.  Some outdoor exercises call for 

students to visit natural areas. This re-

quirement could feel more challeng-

ing and pose greater risks for some 

students. In practice we do not penal-

ize students who select planted speci-

men, and students have not yet raised 

this issue with instructors or on course 


6.  To keep students on track with the 

asynchronous modality, it is important 

during complex exercises that instruc-

tors create opportunities for students 

to assess their understanding (Biel and 

Brame, 2016) and self-correct. Strat-

egies can include computer-graded 

quizzes; adaptive release of parts of 

assignments with each part beginning 

with a summary of the previous part; 

or multiweek assignments, with the 

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PSB 67(1) 2021


instructor providing feedback in the 


7.  It is important to create a welcom-

ing atmosphere and include synchro-

nous and asynchronous communica-

tion options with fast response times. 

Proactive communication to non-par-

ticipatory students is beneficial.

8.  Instructors should create an inclu-

sive learning environment by accom-

modating disabilities, the schedules of 

non-traditional students, and dispari-

ties in access to technology, techno-

logical proficiency, and internet access 

(Harris et al., 2020).

There are geographic and class-size 

limitations to the course structure described 

here. Geographic limitations arise in part 

from shipping challenges and because 

identification keys are geographically limited. 

Consequently, it is helpful if most students 

enrolled live within the region. The class-size 

limitation arises because the asynchronous 

structure leads to more time devoted to 

one-on-one communication with students 

than in a face-to-face laboratory. This time 

commitment may be reduced by providing 

clear instructions, thereby reducing need 

to answer questions, with use of teaching 

assistants, or by developing peer-guidance 


Although this online botany lab was developed 

for non-majors with student success in mind, 

the course is rigorous. Students get a variety 

of hands-on plant experiences designed 

to introduce them to botany, the scientific 

method, and the beneficial roles of plants 

in our lives and on Earth. By providing the 

lab kit, good communication practices, and 

interesting, well-planned activities, students 

are primed for engagement and success.


Biel, R., and C. Brame. 2016. Traditional 

versus online biology courses: Connecting 

course design and student learning in an on-

line setting. Journal of Microbiology and Bi-

ology Education 17: 417-422. 
Botanical Society of America. 1995. Botany 

for the next millennium: a report from the Bo-

tanical Society of America. Columbus, OH, USA. 
Brinson, J. 2015. Learning outcome achieve-

ment in non-traditional (virtual and remote) 

versus traditional (hands-on) laboratories: A 

review of the empirical research. Computers 

& Education 87: 218-237. 
Chirikov, I., T. Semenova, N. Maloshonok, 

E. Bettinger, and R. F. Kizilcec. 2020. Online 

education platforms scale college STEM in-

struction with equivalent learning outcomes 

at lower cost. Science Advances 6: eaay5324.
Dede, C., and E. Grimson. 2013. New Tech-

nology-Based  Models  for  Postsecondary 

Learning:  Conceptual  Frameworks  and  Re-

search Agendas. Report of a National Science 

Foundation-Sponsored Computing Research 

Association Workshop held at MIT on Janu-

ary 9-11, 2013. Website: http://archive2.cra.


Faulconer, E. K., and A. B. Gruss. 2018. A 

review to weigh the pros and cons of online, 

remote, and distance science laboratory expe-

riences. International Review of Research in 

Open and Distributed Learning 19(2): 155–



We thank the University of South Carolina Upstate 

Office of Distance Education for providing a stipend 

for course development, students and Botany 

conference workshop participants for suggestions for 

course improvement, and reviewers for constructive 


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Garman, D. E. 2012. Student success in face-

to-face and online sections of biology courses at 

a community college in east Tennessee (Doctor-

al dissertation). Website:

Harris, B. N., P. C. McCarthy, A. M. Wright, 

H. Schutz, K. S. Boersma, S. L. Shepherd, L. 

A. Manning, et al. 2020. From panic to peda-

gogy: Using online active learning to promote 

inclusive instruction in ecology and evolu-

tionary biology courses and beyond. Ecology 

and Evolution 10: 12581–12612.
Jaggars, S. S., N. Edgecombe, and G. W. Sta-

cey. 2013. Creating an effective online instruc-

tor presence. Columbia University: Community 

College Research Center. Website: https://files.
Jaggers, S. S., and D. Xu. 2016. How do on-

line course design features influence student 

performance?  Computers  &  Education 95: 

Parsely, K. M. 2020. Plant awareness dis-

parity: A case for renaming plant blindness. 

Plants, People, Planet 2: 598–601.
Pontes, M., C. Hasit, N. Pontes, P. Lewis, and 

K. Siefring. 2010. Variables related to un-

dergraduate students preference for distance 

education classes. Online Journal of Distance 

Learning Administration 13(2): 8.
Readel, K. 2000. Grafting Coleus plants. In: 

S. J. Karcher (Editor): Tested studies for labo-

ratory teaching, Volume 21, pp. 474-477. Pro-

ceedings of the 21st, Workshop/Conference 

of the Association for Biology Laboratory 

Education (ABLE), 509 pp.
Seamen, J. E., I. E. Allen, and J. Seaman. 

2018.  Grade increase: Tracking distance edu-

cation in the United States. Report by Babson 

Survey Research Group. Website: http://www.

Shea, P., and T. Bidjerano. 2014. Does online 

learning impede degree completion? A na-

tional study of community college students. 

Computers & Education 75: 103e111.
Sit, S. M., and M. R. Brudzinski. 2017. Cre-

ation and assessment of an active e-Learning 

introductory geology course. Journal of Sci-

ence Education and Technology 26: 629–645.
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mon, native, fully deciduous trees and pha-

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Sypsas, A., and D. Kalles. 2018. Virtual Labo-

ratories in Biology, Biotechnology and Chem-

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22nd Pan-Hellenic Conference on Informat-

ics, Athens, Greece.
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Center for Education Statistics. 2018.  Table 

311.22: Number and percentage of under-

graduate students enrolled in distance educa-

tion or online classes and degree programs, by 

selected characteristics: Selected years, 2003-

04 through 2015-16. In U.S. Department of 

Education, National Center for Education 

Statistics (Ed.), Digest of Education Statistics

(2018 ed.). Website:

U.S. Department of Education, National Cen-

ter for Education Statistics. 2019. Fast Facts 

– Distance Learning. Website: https://nces.
Wandersee, J. H., and E. E. Schussler. 1999. 

Preventing plant blindness. American Biology 

Teacher 61: 84-86.
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2015a. The representation of minority, fe-

male, and non-traditional STEM majors in the 

online environment at community colleges: A 

nationally representative study. Community 

College Review 43(1): 89e114.

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Wladis, C., A. C. Hachey, K. Conway. 2015b. Which STEM majors enroll in online courses, 

and why should we care? The impact of ethnicity, gender, and non-traditional student charac-

teristics. Computers & Education 87: 285–308. 




60 years ago


Ralph E. Cleland discusses how to encourage graduate work in Botany: 

“Second, I would advise them that the best way to prepare at the undergraduate level for graduate work 

in science is to obtain as broad an education as possible. I would urge them to gain a rich background 

in the humanities and social sciences, to emphasize especially the arts of writing and speaking, and to 

acquire a good grounding in foreign language (preferably in two languages). Overemphasis on science 

at the undergraduate level leads to the development of high grade mechanics. We need scholars, not 

mere technicians, in the field of science. Given comparable abilities, the graduate student in botany 

who has a broad education is much to be preferred to the person who has overspecialized in his chosen 

field as an undergraduate at the expense of a liberal education.”

Cleland, Ralph E. 1961. “Supply and Demand in Relation to the Ph.D.” PSB 7(1): 1-2


50 years ago

William L. Stern further discusses graduate training, citing the Cleland 1961 paper. 

“In reviewing some of the recent literature resulting from attempts to improve the training of botany 

graduate students to teach, and while examining early issues of 

Plant Science Bulletin

 (e.g., Miller, 

1955; Cleland, 1961), on the one hand I was struck by the inventiveness and imagination of college 

teachers in devising complicated methods to train graduate students to teach, and on the other hand 

by the absence, or near absence, of suggestions about who, specifically, will carry out these various 

training methods. 

. . . 

However meritorious the several plans for teaching teaching assistants to teach, none will work well unless 

the teacher-trainer is recognized and rewarded for his efforts, rather than penalized for them, as seems to 

be the case in so many institutions of higher learning. This fact must be brought forcefully to the attention 

of university administrators. Acceptance of this reality must progress hand-in-hand, or even better, it 

must precede efforts to improve the training of graduate teaching assistants in the pedagogical process.” 

Stern, William L. 1971. ”Responsibilities of Universities to Provide Trained Botanists for Undergradu-

ate Education” PSB 17(1): 2-3.

40 years ago

Shoals Marine Laboratory; Appledore Island, Isles of Shoals, Maine is offering two courses that might 

be of interest to readers: Adaptation in Marine Organisms and Field Phycology. Shoals Marine Lab-

oratory is a cooperative filed station of Cornell University and The University of New Hampshire.”  

--Summer Courses PSB 27(2): 16.  

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his past May and June, 2020, during the 

early COVID-19 quarantines, at the height 

of the virus outbreak in New York City, our 

collection’s  Amorphophallus titanum (aka, 

Titan Arum, Corpse Plant) decided it was 

going to send up its first bloom (Figures 

1–4). The following is a brief recounting of 

that event, along with a few observations and 

lessons learned along the way. 


In 2006, The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 

(BBG’s) A. titanum specimen “Baby” sent up 

the first recorded bloom in NYC in nearly 70 

years. It was an event met with great public 

celebration and media coverage throughout 

the city, and it brought widespread fascination 

Sited on the roof of one of the original academic 

halls at Barnard College, The Arthur Ross Green-

house is a plant conservatory of 2,000 ft² under 

glass, with dedicated space for faculty research 

and student projects.

When a Titan Arum Blooms  

During Quarantine  

(aka, Making a Stink Online)

with the plant into public consciousness. A 

number of years after the event, the garden 

decided to develop a new crop of titanums

Ours came from that crop, as an inter-

conservatory gift of goodwill. Upon arrival 

at our greenhouse, it was a humble, young, 

3-inch corm weighing about a pound. For 

the last eight years we’ve been cultivating it, 

with great affection, patience, and aspirations. 

Only a lucky few ever get to see these plants 

bloom in the native wilds of central Sumatra; 

the rest of us botanists and plant lovers must 

bring about a bloom ex situ if we’re ever to 

bear witness to its singular presence. For an 

institutional greenhouse, blooming events 

such as these are prime opportunities to 

engage a wide public audience and bring 

attention to a host of relevant issues. We 

hoped that we could hold our own festive on-

site event to inspire others, as the BBG event 

had inspired us. We were looking forward to 

the opportunity to enthrall both our campus 

and the local community in the wonder of the 

Titan’s bloom.

As most readers here likely already know, the 

blooming of A. titanum in a conservatory 

setting is no longer the uncommon event it 

once was. Today, it is not as momentous an 

occasion as when Kew Gardens bloomed the 

first in cultivation in 1889, or when The New 

York Botanical Garden bloomed their first in 

1937. As seed availability and horticultural 

knowledge have proliferated, mature 

specimens and their inflorescences have 

By Nick Gershberg 

Greenhouse Manager 

The Arthur Ross  

Greenhouse at  

Barnard College,  

New York, NY

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PSB 67(1) 2021


Figure 1. ‘Berani’ (Indonesian for “Bold”), ap-

proximately 10 to 12 years old, blooming for 

the first time, May/June 2020.

Figure 2. Detail within the spathe.

Figure 3. From the ground up.

Figure 4. Overhead view.

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PSB 67(1) 2021


become staples in conservatory. Nonetheless, 

it is still a superlative event in the botanical 

world, and the blooming at Barnard is still an 

important and long-anticipated event for our 


Any team that has successfully brought an A. 

titanum to bloom, or achieved a similarly rare 

botanical event, understands this sentiment. 

Beyond the sheer excitement of the occasion, 

a corpse plant blooming is evidence that a 

greenhouse is doing a solid job of providing 

care 365 days of the year. Beyond being a 

point of pride (clearly), it also comes with a 

certain sense of relief, which may feel familiar 

to growers reading along. On the long road to 

a bloom, any number of things can happen 

(e.g., one cold night, a few days of too much or 

too little moisture, a random hapless accident) 

and years of cultivation can be voided before 

one has even realized it has happened. So for 

many of us, being able to enjoy the tangible 

product of a capable team of horticulturists is 

a welcome occasion. 

Each time one of these plants blooms, it’s an 

opportunity for a greenhouse to put its best 

foot forward and make the most of the outreach 

potential of these “megaflora” events. At the 

very center of any conservatory’s mission lies 

the message of stewardship. While the plant 

effortlessly does the work of drawing public 

interest (among the beetles and flies), the story 

of its lengthy cultivation inherently reinforces 

the notion that stewardship takes more 

than just good intentions and wholesome 

aspirations. It demands hard work, dedication, 

knowledge, and patience. 

But nature is on its own timeline. Despite 

our best intended interventions as growers, it 

more often than not shows little concern for 

our ends. And, famously, these titans tend to 

keep a particularly unpredictable schedule. It 

was only on the final day of our quarantine 

preparation, just before the “stay at home” 

orders were issued in New York State, that our 

plant began to emerge from a long dormancy 

period. As much as we’d hoped for a bloom 

for so many years, we would have been 

content with just another majestic leaf this 

time around. So, weeks later, when there was 

no doubt that our plant had begun to bloom 

in the midst of the nationwide quarantine, it 

was frustrating and a bit of a disappointment. 

There was no way we could safely receive 

visitors at our facility. Not even our student 

worker staff, who had been instrumental in 

plant’s the daily cultivation, was allowed on 

campus at that stage. 

As it happens, all was not lost. It turns out folks 

are quite fond of the internet. And despite 

the setback, we were intent on sharing the 

bloom with as much of our community and 

beyond as we possibly could. First, in a matter 

of a few days, we prepared a livestream of the 

plant, which was posted on YouTube (Figure 

5). Often just a supplement to the in-person 

experience, a live stream feed for this bloom 

would be our community’s primary window 

into the greenhouse. Initially, I was surprised 

at how much technical knowhow was 

involved in setting up the various elements 

of the stream. But, largely thanks to the help 

of an impromptu, remote collaboration of 

our college’s IT and digital media staff, we 

were soon able to broadcast 24/7. In addition, 

using the greenhouse’s existing Instagram 

account (@barnardgreenhouse), we staged 

a public naming contest (as is the custom), 

updated and informed our audience with 

regular posts, and used “Instagram Live” 

as an impromptu platform for interacting 

directly with the public. Finally, a few days 

after the inflorescence waned, we created 

a beautiful time-lapse of the 48 hours of 

opening and closing, which has proven a 

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PSB 67(1) 2021


cherished memento. In retrospect, thanks to 

the staggering connectivity of the internet, it’s 

possible that we reached a much larger, more 

diverse audience than if we only had an on-site 

event. Without a doubt, it was an object lesson 

in the potential that digital and social media 

offer for science and education outreach. 



As a conservatory, fostering science literacy 

and educational outreach is a large part of 

our mission. When visitors come to the 

greenhouse, it is our job to elicit the “spark” 

of interest in the plants we house and to create 

the momentum that will generate further 

interest and desire for more knowledge. We 

try our best to provide our guests with clear, 

factual, thoughtfully contextualized, and 

relevant information. Greenhouse curators 

routinely rely on an array of charismatic plants 

to facilitate conversations with visitors. It’s 

important to remember that we’re speaking 

to audiences with a diversity of interest. 

Some of our guests are of course already very 

interested in plants and are connoisseurs in 

their own right. Others are less so, and some 

are not initially interested at all. When young 

children come to the greenhouse, after an 

initial introduction, we usually begin by asking 

whether they like ice cream. Even if they’re not 

particularly interested in the plants, they are 

definitely interested in chocolate and vanilla! 

So we show them our vanilla orchid vine, and 

our cacao trees. When burgeoning scientists 

come, we point out the fascinating potential 

for biotechnology that plants such as cacao 

possess, and discuss how our particular plants 

were grown from tissue culture for potential 

commercial use. And if it eats insects, moves 

rapidly—or both—it is sure to engage a crowd.

Figure 5. Screenshot from YouTube.

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PSB 67(1) 2021


It’s long been known that the use of charismatic 

flora and fauna is a highly effective tool 

in science outreach, and it provides great 

opportunities to cleverly introduce more 

sophistication into the scientific vernacular. 

For example, a key point we emphasized 

from the start of our coverage is that what 

people were witnessing was not the world’s 

largest flower, but instead the world’s largest 

unbranched inflorescence, or single structure 

containing many dozens or hundreds of 

individual flowers. Throughout the two to 

three weeks of the ongoing event, we were 

able to introduce many more concepts, of 

greater nuance and sophistication, from topics 

including tropical biogeography, systematics 

and taxonomy, ethnobotany, morphology, 

pollination and reproductive ecology, and 

conservation biology. We were also able 

to bring attention to the history of often 

exploitive colonialist aspects of “discovering” 

any tropical plant taxa, and to affirm the 

importance of local guides and indigenous 

knowledge, both historical and current. 


Over the years, we’ve come to appreciate that 

there are myriad cultural connections with 

almost all of our taxa, making them interesting 

subjects for classes in sociology, history, 

literature, etc. In that sense, we’ve promoted 

the greenhouse collection as a resource for 

most, if not all of the other departments at 

the college, on some level.  Figure 6 shows 

an example of one of the interdisciplinary 

connections we made during the corpse plant 




In this digital age online media is now the 

mainstream, and certainly the norm among 

our student body. The Titan Arum blooming 

event affirmed that as educators, we need to 

embrace this online trend. Moreover, that 

means not just using the preferred platforms 

of our student audience, but also adapting 

to the pace they set. That’s not necessarily an 

easy proposition, as education and advocacy 

have to keep up and maintain relevancy in 

the midst of nearly constant stimulation. 

We must continually strive to provide high-

quality content, in an eloquent manner, 

often in a way that is interdisciplinary and 

cross cultural. Given the urgency to start an 

engaged awareness of the natural world early, 

it is our goal to reach as wide an audience as 

possible. By establishing these connections 

using modern platforms, we can fulfill this job 

of raising awareness, encouraging scholarship, 

fostering a committed sense of stewardship, 

and promoting informed action. Hopefully, 

if we can connect on common ground with 

broad appeal, we will help create a truly open 

and robust entry point for the STEM pipeline, 

available to the widest possible range of 


There were some hurdles to clear in creating 

our online event. The main lesson we learned 

is that it’s of vital importance to have a 

working familiarity with the setup and gear 

involved, and to practice to gain proficiency. 

To my surprise, no one person or department 

on our campus was familiar with the soup-

to-nuts process of setting up a live stream 

for public viewing. I had to enlist the help 

of about a dozen individuals, across several 

departments, to make it work—and under 

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PSB 67(1) 2021


quite unusual circumstances since almost 

nobody was actually on campus. It may have 

seemed like a fairly basic operation, given the 

ubiquity of live streaming lately, but in actual 

fact, it was seldom needed, so the process 

took some effort to bring to bear. It’s advisable 

to build these skills and interdepartmental 

relationships early, so that all of the 

components are effectively ready to go. 

Fortunately, the fact that we had already 

cultivated a social media follower base meant 

that, when we had exciting, ephemeral 

content, there was someone to share it with. 

While we did of course use the college’s 

existing traditional media outlets, they were 

somewhat static by comparison and lacked the 

innately interactive quality of social media. 

Just as with the live stream hardware setup, 

though, online platforms take time to develop 

well. As a relative social media novice myself, 

learning to craft content that’s at the standard 

of our in-person visitor experience, and that 

has a comparable “voice,” has taken time. A 

big thanks goes to a number of our greenhouse 

student worker staff, who put time in over the 

course of the last few years to help cultivate an 

engaging and worthwhile platform. Creating 

more immersive informational hubs like 

websites can be extremely time-consuming 

as well and are subject to a host of technical 

issues. Our own site has been a long work 

in progress and is a high priority as the 

management and purposeful utilization of 

data continues to pave new paths in science. 

So it makes sense to view not only developing 

content, but also the means to disseminate it, 

as an ongoing process. 

In the last year, this concept of a hybrid model 

for outreach and institutional engagement 

has, by sheer necessity, taken a huge leap 

forward. If anything, though, the process has 

just been accelerated by circumstance, as there 

has long been a need to close the gap between 

“real world” and online scholarly resources. 

Figure 6. Interdisciplinary connections: “Who wore it best?”

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PSB 67(1) 2021


In cultivating on-site and online content 

synergistically, ideally, each one serves as a 

follow-up resource for the other. Whether 

you’re a small institutional greenhouse with 

a modest collection like ours at Barnard 

College, or a large, world-class institution, 

there exists great potential to enhance the user 

experienceand provide access to more diverse 

audiences, with nearly instant pathways for 

cultivating meaningful content. 


I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge 

that, in addition to happening during the 

quarantine lockdowns, this bloom event 

converged with a time of unprecedented social 

upheaval. The nation, and the entire Barnard 

community, were outraged and heartbroken 

over the murder of George Floyd, Jr. and 

were activated in the ubiquitous decrying of 

systemic violence against Black Americans. As 

the protests and national dialogue emerged as 

the events of true importance at that moment, 

how we proceeded was intently focused on not 

overshadowing them. Furthermore, our own 

community was already in a state of coping 

with the recent devastating death of a student. 

So we must remember that whenever these 

celebrated events occur, they occur necessarily 

in the human context of everything else going 

on at the time. We hope, at the very least, that 

our event was uplifting in some small way, in 

the face of these truly serious, important, and 

deeply personal matters.

Now that our plant has returned to dormancy, 

we hope that the traditionally mounted 

pressing of the full inflorescence we have 

successfully made will be a tangible memento 

that students can marvel at in person upon 

their return. But we look forward to pursuing 

our outreach role online as well, as best we can, 

with all the latest tools at our disposal. Looking 

back at 2020, a year of highs and lows, I’m 

ever more grateful our plant provided us an 

opportunity to focus on something positive, 

that brought our community together for a 

short while in mutual admiration. If the study 

of plants teaches us anything, it is that nature 

persists and finds ways to adapt even in the 

most unlikely of environments. Hopefully we 

can continue to reflect this lesson, into 2021 

and beyond. 

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By Dr. Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

Dr. Jodi Creasap Gee, 

Education Technology  


With the addition of a new, pandemic-

friendly module—the Tree-Mendous 

Benefits of Trees (https://plantingscience.

org/benefitsoftrees)—and the continued 

popularity of the Wonder of Seeds module, we 

have a large spring session with 28 groups! The 

participating schools range from in-person to 

hybrid to remote learning schedules, and we 

are thrilled and grateful to these teachers for 

bringing their students to the platform. We 

are also seeing new mentors signing up and 

quickly being assigned to teams. Students and 

mentors were busy introducing themselves 

and coming up with research projects. 

Spring 2021 PlantingScience  

Session Summary





Seven of the 28 PlantingScience groups are 

using the new module, thus creating an urgent 

rush in demand for mentors who are willing 

to mentor for this module. The 32 mentors 

who have updated their profiles are swamped! 

If you or someone you know might like to 

mentor middle- and high-school students as 

they work through this fun module, please 

update your profile at https://plantingscience.

org/login or register to be a mentor on 

PlantingScience at https://plantingscience.

org/register now!



Between the fall and spring sessions, we 

surveyed PlantingScience teachers and 

developed a new resource: Remote Learning 

Tips (

remotelearningtips). This resource can help 

teachers determine which module might 

work best and how to make it work in their 

classes, be they remote, hybrid, or in-person. 

We hope it provides useful guidance for all of 

our teachers.

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The 7th Life Discovery: Doing 

Science Conference will be held 

next October in Estes Park, CO, 

from Sept 30-Oct 2, 2021 (public 

health conditions permitting). The 

theme is “Pushing Past Barriers: 

Ecological Science for All.” We are 

still seeking education share fair 

proposals if you are interested in 

presenting ideas in development. 

We would love to have a larger 

BSA presence at the conference. 

This small (approximately 150 

attendees) conference includes 

many opportunities to discuss 

important topics in biology 

education and network with others 

passionate about teaching. Check 

out the conference website for more 


Student team names have been especially creative for the PlantingScience Spring 2021 Session. 

Can you pick a favorite? 

Please join us at the 7


 Life Discovery: Doing Science 

Biology Education Conference

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Check out the latest episode of Plants are Cool, Too!, and please help amplify the reach of this 

botany outreach resource by sharing with your colleagues and students:


“Highlighting one of the coolest and most ambitious projects in the history of rare species 

conservation, this episode (“Team Schiedea”) takes us to Kaua’i, Hawai’i, where a group of 

passionate plant people are working to save some of the rarest plants on the archipelago—and 

tell us why we need a new generation of biodiversity lovers to help battle the extinction crisis.”

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By Shelly Gaynor and Imeña Valdes 

BSA Student Representatives

Roundup of Student Opportunities

It’s that time of the semester where you start to compile every opportunity you want to apply 

to into one list. To make this easier for you, we have compiled a list of all the opportunities we 

know about. Even if the deadline of this application cycle has passed for this academic year, 

make sure to check by the end of this year for the next application cycle.


Below, we have 


these into 

categories for easy browsing that include the following: BSA Grants and Awards, 


ip, Research Awards, 

Broader Impacts, Short Courses and Workshops, Job Hunting

and ways that may help you to travel to Botany 2021. At the end of the student section, we 

included recommended reading for future leaders. 

Of course, all the grants and awards information will also be announced and reminded via 

the BSA social media, so make sure to follow us on Facebook (Botanical Society of America), 

Twitter (


), and Instagram (


) and stay updated! Also 

feel free to reach out to your BSA student representatives, Shelly ( 

and Imeña (, if you have questions about the listed 

opportunities, or any questions or comments about BSA.

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Here we list a number of grants and awards offered by BSA this year, and make sure to pay 

attention to the deadlines. All the BSA awards are open to its members, and students of any 

career stage and any nationality are encouraged to apply.

Donald R. Kaplan Award in Comparative Morphology

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: March 15th

Purpose: Research Funds

More info:

BSA Graduate Student Research Awards & the J. S. Karling Award

Amount: $1,500

Deadline: March 15th 

Purpose: Research Funds

More info: 

BSA Graduate Student Research Awards Given by Sections

Amount: $500

Deadline: Mid.-March

Purpose: Research Funds

More info:    

BSA Undergraduate Student Research Awards

Amount: $200

Deadline: Mid.-March

Purpose: Research Funds

More info: 

BSA Young Botanist Award

Amount: NA

Deadline: Mid-March

Purpose: Recognition 

More info:

American Association of University Women (AAUW) Dissertation Fellowship

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: Nov. 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a female U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident
Purpose: Dissertation Fellowships offset a scholar’s living expenses while she completes her dissertation. 

The fellowship must be used for the final year of writing the dissertation. Applicants must have completed all 

course work, passed all preliminary examinations, and received approval for their research proposals or plans 

by the preceding November.
More info: 


Fellowships fund you during your graduate or postdoctoral work. Here we summarize some of 

the available fellowships that could be applicable to your graduate or postdoctoral work. 

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American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship

Amount: $18,000 - $30,000

Deadline:  Nov. 15th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Have citizenship in a country other than the U.S. or possession of a 

nonimmigrant visa if residing in the U.S.
Purpose: International Fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research in the United States to women 

who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Both graduate and postgraduate studies at accredited U.S. 

institutions are supported.
More info:

Research Fellowships/Awards from the Arnold Arboretum

Amount: Up to $10,000

Deadline: Feb. 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Fellowships differ in requirements.
Purpose: Multiple awards and/or fellowships are offered for undergraduate and graduate students with topics 

that focus on Asian tropical forest biology and comparative biology of woody plants.
More info: 

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

Amount: $70,000 per year

Deadline:  Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Open to Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada.
Purpose: To promote research in Canada and Canadian scholars abroad.
More info:

Burroughs Wellcome Fund: Career Awards at the Scientific Interface

Amount: $500,000 over five years

Deadline: Jan. 8th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Open to U.S. and Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and tempo-

rary residents.
Purpose: To bridge advanced postdoctoral training and the first three years of faculty service. Research bridg-

ing computational and biological approaches; PhD typically in chem, physics, math, etc.
More info:

CIC Smithsonian Institution Fellowship

Amount:  $40,000 for one year

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Only students currently enrolled in one of the Big Ten Academic Alli-

ance member universities are eligible.
Purpose: To support research in residence at Smithsonian Institution facilities. All fields of study that are 

actively pursued by the museums and research organizations of the Smithsonian Institution are eligible.
More info: 

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Ford Foundation Fellowship Programs

Amount: $27,000 - $50,000 for 1-3 years

Deadline: Dec. 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: All U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and U.S. permanent residents (holders of 

a Permanent Resident Card), as well as individuals granted deferred action status under the DACA Program.
Purpose: Three fellowship types are offered: Predoctoral, Dissertation, and Postdoctoral. The Ford Founda-

tion seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties.
More info: 

Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Amount: Variable

Deadline: Spring 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be citizens or nationals of the U.S. at the time of application; 

permanent residents are not eligible.
Purpose: Covers transportation and living expenses in the host country. Tuition and school-related fees cov-

ered in some countries.
More info:  

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP)

Amount: $34,000 per year + tuition aid

Deadline: October.

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident.
Purpose: Support outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported disciplines who are pursuing research-

based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.
More info:

National Science Foundation: Earth Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowships

Amount: Varies

Deadline: September 8th.

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident.
Purpose:  Earth science research including geobiology and paleobiology; current theme: “issues relating to 

More info:

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB)

Amount: Varies 

Deadline: Varies 

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: All U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and U.S. permanent residents.
Purpose:  The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) awards Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology 

(PRFB) to recent recipients of the doctoral degree for research and training in selected areas supported by BIO 

and with special goals for human resource development in biology. The fellowships encourage independence 

at an early stage of the research career to permit Fellows to pursue their research and training goals in the 

most appropriate research locations regardless of the availability of funding for the Fellows at that site.
More info:

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Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship

Amount: Up to $50,000 per year

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Applicant has to be a woman from developing/emerging economies.
Purpose:  The program’s long-term goal is to generate conditions that result in more women pursuing scien-

tific careers by lowering the barriers women face when entering STEM disciplines, thus reducing the gender 

gap. Faculty for the Future Fellows are expected to return to their home countries after completion of their 

studies to contribute to economic, social, and technological advancement by strengthening the STEM teaching 

and research faculties of their home institutions.
More info:

American Society of Plant Taxonomists Graduate Student Grants

Amount: Up to $1,500

Deadline: March 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement:  Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: To fund Masters and doctoral students to conduct fieldwork, herbarium studies, and/or laboratory 

research in any area of plant systematics.
More info:

Awards from New England Botanical Club

Amount: Up to $3,000

Deadline: February 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: None.
Purpose: To encourage botanical research in the New England region.
More info:

Company of Biologists: Travelling Fellowships

Amount: Up to £2,500

Deadline: March, May, Aug., Oct., of each year

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Award cannot be paid to those in areas that have sanctions, embargoes, 

or other political trade restrictions put in place by the United Nations, the EU, or the UK.
Purpose: Lab visits to work with collaborators; research theme must be covered by Company of Biologists 

More info:


In addition to those we list here, check out local societies (e.g., Florida Native Plant Society, 

Southern Appalachian Plant Society, Washington Native Plant Society Grant, Montana Native 

Plant Society Grant, Nevada Native Plant Society Margaret Williams Research Grant, Colorado 

Native Plant Society John W. Marr Research Grant, Arctic Institute of NA Grants-in-Aid 

Program, etc.).

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Evolutionary, Ecological, or Conservation Genomics (EECG) Research Award

Amount: Up to $6,000

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: Priority for funding will be given to proposals that address genome-scale questions, or ecologi-

cal, evolutionary, and conservation genetics questions that are best addressed using genomic approaches in a 

hypothesis-testing framework. 
More info:

Garden Club of America Scholarship

Amount: $1,000 - $8,000

Deadline: Dec. 1st, 31st; Jan. 15th, 31st; Feb. 1st, 

2nd, 5th; Jul. 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are enrolled in a U.S.-based 

Purpose: To encourage research focused on systematics; projects of a more general or educational nature will 

also be considered, provided that they include a strong systematics component. Offers a total of 28 merit-

based scholarships and fellowships in 12 areas related to conservation, ecology, horticulture, and pollinator 

More info: 

Grants from the Wetland Foundation

Amount: Up to $1,600

Deadline: Dec. 18th 

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Any student currently enrolled full-time at an academic institution in the U.S.
Purpose: To support wetland education and research.
More info:

Herb Society of America Research Grant

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: Mar. 31st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Only U.S. residents may apply.
Purpose: This grant is for the research of the horticultural, scientific, and/or social use of herbs throughout 

More info:

International Association for Plant Taxonomy Research Grant

Amount: Up to $2,000

Deadline: Feb. 28th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: None.
Purpose: To fund students and young investigators preferably for travel to institutions, laboratory investiga-

tions, or fieldwork.
More info:

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Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration

Amount: Up to $5,000

Deadline: Nov.

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: U.S. citizens and residents wishing to carry out research anywhere in 

the world. Foreign applicants must either be based at a U.S. institution or plan to carry out their work in the U.S.
Purpose: To fund field exploration in various fields.
More info:

National Geographic Young Explorers Grants

Amount: Up to $5,000

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: None.
Purpose: Support research, conservation, and exploration-related projects consistent with National Geo-

graphic’s existing grant programs. In addition, this program provides increased funding opportunities for 

fieldwork in 18 Northeast and Southeast Asian countries.
More info: 

P.E.O. Scholar Award

Amount: $20,000

Deadline: Between Aug. 20 and Nov. 20

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the U.S. or Canada.
Purpose: To encourage research focused on systematics, also projects of a more general or educational nature 

will also be considered, provided that they include a strong systematics component.
More info: 

Richard Evans Schultes Research Award

Amount: Up to $2,500

Deadline: Mar. 30th 

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: To help defray the costs of fieldwork on a topic related to economic botany for students who are 

members of the Society for Economic Botany.
More info: 

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research

Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: Mar. 15th; Oct. 1st 

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Preference will be given to members of the society.
Purpose: To encourage close working relationships between students and mentors, this program promotes 

scientific excellence and achievement through hands-on learning.
More info: 

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Society for Herbarium Curators Student Research Awards

Amount: $500 or $250

Deadline: Feb. 1st

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: To provide funds for graduate or undergraduate students conducting research related to herbarium 

More info:

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Grant-in-Aid of Research (GAIR)

Amount: Up to $1,000

Deadline: Fall 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: For graduate students in support of their research in the fields of integrative and comparative biology.
More info:

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology  

Fellowship of Graduate Student Travel (FGST)

Amount: Up to $2,000

Deadline: Fall 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: For graduate students for travel and other expenses at distant research laboratories, museums, or 

field sites.
More info:

Society for the Study of Evolution Grants 

Amount: $2,500 - $3,500 

Deadline: Varies

Nationality/Affiliation requirement:  Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: This society has a range of grants that service students pursuing evolutionary research.  
More info:


Society of Systematic Biologist Graduate Student Research Award

Amount: $1,000 - $3,000

Deadline: Fall 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: To assist graduate students conducting research in systematics.
More info:

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The Councils of the Linnaean Society and the Systematics Association:  

Systematics Research Fund

Amount: £500 - £1,500

Deadline: Feb. 15th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: None.
Purpose: To encourage research focused on systematics; projects of a more general or educational nature will 

also be considered, provided that they include a strong systematics component.
More info: 

The Exploration Fund Grant

Amount: $500 - $5,000

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Grant does not support proposals for work being conducted in China 

or by Chinese citizens
Purpose: To encourage research focused on systematics; projects of a more general or educational nature will 

also be considered, provided that they include a strong systematics component.
More info:

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

Amount: Up to $25,000

Deadline: Oct. 31st and Feb. 28th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Temporary shift due to COVID-19 to not include applications from 

international NGOs, government-related entities, universities, and other academic institutions. 
Purpose: To support conservationists based in all parts of the world dealing with plant and animal species.

More info: 

Torrey Botanical Society Student Fellowship Award

Amount: $2,500

Deadline: Jan. 15th

Nationality/Affiliation requirement: Must be a member of the society.
Purpose: The Torrey Botanical Society supports student research in botanical research.
More info:


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What is it: A learning community where scientists provide online mentorship to student teams 

as they design and think through their own inquiry projects.

What you can do: A learning community where scientists provide online mentorship to student teams 

as they design and think through their own inquiry projects.

More info: 

Science Olympiad

What is it: Competitions are like academic track meets, consisting of a series of 23 team events 

in each division (middle school or high school). Each year, a portion of the events 

are rotated to reflect the ever-changing nature of genetics, earth science, chemistry, 

anatomy, physics, geology, mechanical engineering, and technology.

What you can do: Mentor local students in person on a variety of science and engineering-oriented 

topics and skills;help organize and run competitions

More info: 

Local Arboretums, Parks, Museums, and Herbaria

What is it: These institutions often depend on volunteers to donate their time and expertise to 

help people of all ages enjoy their collections and grounds. They may already have 

programs in place that allow you to lead tours or interact with visitors at special 

events, so that you can share your interests and passion.

What you can do: Lead tours; help organize and run events.

More info: Look up local parks/arboretums/museums/herbaria online, or inquire at visitors’ 



Sharing your passion for plants and science with a wide range of audiences will help develop 

speaking skills as well as help you reconnect with why you decided to go to grad school after all, 

and they can add weight to your CV and resume as well. This is only a short list, but there are 

many more opportunities you can look into (e.g., Girls Who Code, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, 


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These are a great way to learn new research skills, which can also be added to your CV or 

resume. Due to COVID-19, many have been cancelled. We provide the names and website links 

for a few short courses and workshops that have received very good feedback from their past 



Summer Short Course at the Arnold Arboretum (

short-course/ )


Tropical Plant Systematics (


Frontiers and Techniques in Plant Science (



Annual Workshops hosted by (


Annual Workshop in Evolutionary Biology in Guarda (



The Bee Course ( 


Tropical Field Biology (




Before you complete your degree, or if you are looking to switch jobs, it is important to consider 

your next step—whether it be finding a PI and lab to work in for continuing your education, 

finding a 


 research opportunity, or finding a job that suits your goals and skills. 

Finding out about jobs often happens through personal contacts, but there are great online 

resources as well.

Internship Opportunities

Interning is important to gain experience, to help you figure out what type of research or 

field you want a career in, and to network with those who are in it. This also doesn’t always 

have to be done in a volunteer format. There are many different paid internships to apply 

for the summer, with many of the deadlines in December or early next year. Many botanical 

gardens, arboretums, and museums offer internship opportunities during the summer, or 

even throughout the year, so make sure to check the job opportunities of their websites. Here 

we have a few examples of sites that you can search for internships:


Botanical Society of America: 


Research experiences for undergraduates (REU):


Internships offered by The Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change:


Internships offered by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) research station in Costa Rica: https://


Internship opportunities at the Smithsonian:


Fall internship program offered by the National Tropical Botanical Garden:



Summer internship offered at the Chicago Botanic Garden (REU): 


Internship offered at Montgomery Botanical Center: (


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Graduate/Post-graduate opportunities

These types of jobs are easily searchable on the “EvolDir” website under “PostDocs” and 

“GradStudentPositions”. Click the icon, and listings will pop up in a list from the newest 

to the oldest. This site shows positions from across the biological sciences, but it is a great 

option for plant evolutionary biologists. If you are interested in more of the ecology side of 

research, make sure to check out “ecolog”. Contact people from the university/college that 

you’re interested in to ask for more information.





Academic Teaching Positions

Check the BSA website, click on the “Careers/Jobs” tab, and you can select the “Post-doctoral, 

Fellowship, and Career Opportunities” link to see a current list of a variety of job postings. The 

BSA website is a great resource for one-stop-shopping for careers and other opportunities in a 

variety of botanical sciences. Another good resource for finding jobs (including postdoctoral 

opportunities) can be found through AAAS, at the Science Careers site.


Botanical Society of America:   


AAAS Science Careers: 

Government Positions and Non-Academic Jobs

Searches for government jobs can begin at and A good 

resource for non-academic jobs is the Conservation Job Board; this site allows you to search 

within various fields by state and is updated regularly. Networking sites like LinkedIn and 

ResearchGate will help you connect with and organize your professional contacts, so be sure 

to keep your profile pages updated and polished!


Government positions: and 


Conservation Job Board: 

Use your University!

Many academic institutions have offices that focus on helping alumni succeed after 

graduation. Check with your department or institution for resources on job announcements, 

workshops focused on personal development (such as CV/resume writing or getting a 

teaching certificate), and networking opportunities. Since Botany 2019, we started to offer 

CV/resume-reviewing booths for students to have their CV/resume viewed and commented 

on by professionals. More information regarding the schedules for Botany 2021 will come out 

soon, so stay tuned!

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Use your University!

Check out your university’s funding for conference travel. Often universities have small 

internal grants for students (both undergraduate and graduate) to present at a conference. Due 

dates and amounts may vary by university. Botany is always a great networking opportunity, 

definitely an easy conference to justify. 

BSA Student Travel Awards

Including TRIARCH “Botanical Images” Student Travel Award and  

Awards Given by Sections

Amount: Variable

Deadline: Mar.-Apr.

Purpose: Travel to the confer-


More info: 
You can also research out to your section leaders to ask about awards they are offering this year! BSA travel 

awards include: Pteridological Section & American Fern Society Student Travel Awards,  TRIARCH “Botanical 

Images” Student Travel Award, Vernon I. Cheadle Student Travel Awards,  Developmental & Structural Section 

Student Travel AwardsEcological Section Student Travel Awards, Economic Botany Section Student Travel 

Award, and the Genetics Section Student Travel Awards. These are all due on April 10th. 

Botany 2021 Travel Grants for Presenters from Developing Nations

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Mar. 15th

Purpose: Travel to the confer-


More info:


We would love to see you at Botany 2021!  If Botany 2021 is in person, we outlined funding 

opportunities to help you afford attending. 


Both BSA and ASPT offer travel grants for Botany 2021. BSA travel grants are due April 10th. 

ASPT has a travel grant lottery that is normally announced in March. 

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Amount: Variable 

Deadline: Mar. 1st

Purpose: Cover costs of travel, registration, food, and accommodation at the conference.
More info:
If you have never been to Botany, check out the PLANTS grant through BSA. The goal of this program is 

to enhance diversity at the Botany Conferences. If you receive this grant, the cost of the conference is fully 

covered, you get paired with a mentor to help you navigate the conference, and you’ll be able to participate 

in networking and professional development opportunities. Check out more about the PLANTS program at (BSA student rep Imeña 

received this grant in 2015, so feel free to contact her if you have any questions!)

BSA Student and PostDoc Travel Award

Amount: $500

Deadline: Apr. 10

Purpose: Travel to the 


More info:

Bio REU Travel Grant (Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory)

Amount: Up to $2,000 

Deadline: At least 1 month prior to the conference

Purpose: To present your REU research at a conference.

More info: Have you participated in an NSF-REU (National Science Foundation Research Experience for 

Undergraduate) within the past three years? If so, you can request up to $2,000 to present your REU research 

at a conference through the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory Bio REU travel grant (https://www.rmbl.

org/students/bio-reu-travel-grant/). You have to apply at least one month prior to the conference, and the 

total cost of the conference will be fully reimbursed after the conference. One of the current BSA student reps, 

Shelly, was funded through this program for presenting her work at Botany 2017, so feel free to contact her if 

you have any questions.

PP Systems Travel Grant

Amount: up to $1,000 

Deadline: Unknown for 2021

Purpose: To present research using the CIRAS-3 Portable Photosynthesis System at a conference.

More info:  Does your research utilize the CIRAS-3 Portable Photosynthesis System from PP Systems? And 

are you active on social media (“via your own lab blog, Twitter, etc.” )? If so, you could apply for up to $1,000 

to attend a conference or workshop through PP Systems ( 

BSA student member Rebekka Davis (University of Central Florida) received this grant to attend Botany 2019. 

See her video here (


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Through BSA, there are many ways for students to have discounts on their registration. To have 

your registration reimbursed, you can volunteer with BSA at the conference. Keep a look out 

for emails from BSA soliciting volunteer sign-up; these emails will be closer to the conference. 

If you are part of the Planting Science team, you can get half-off registration for the Botany 

conferences with a code that is distributed by the Planting Science team. BSA Student Chapter 

members will also receive a small discount on registration; just make sure to select that you are 

a chapter member during registering. 


As we continue in our careers, we hope to see the academic culture shift to be healthier and 

more inclusive. Below are a few papers we think you should read if you hope to lead. We hope 

to continue to recommend “Papers to Read for Future Leaders” to BSA Student members, if you 

have papers you would like us to include please share it with us via this google form: https://


Baker, K., M. P. Eichhorn, and M. Griffiths. 2019. Decolonizing field ecology. Biotropica 51: 288–292.


Chaudhary, V. B., and A. A. Berhe. 2020. Ten simple rules for building an antiracist lab. PLOS Computa-

tional Biology 16: e1008210. 


Emery, N. C., E. K. Bledsoe, A. O. Hasley, and C. D. Eaton. 2021. Cultivating inclusive instructional and 

research environments in ecology and evolutionary science. Ecology and Evolution 11: 1480-1491.


Gewin, V. 2021. How to include Indigenous researchers and their knowledge. Nature 589: 315-317. 


MacKenzie, C. M., S. Kuebbing, R. S. Barak, M. Bletz, J. Dudney, B. M. McGill, M. A. Nocco, T. Young, and 

R. K. Tonietto. 2019. We do not want to “cure plant blindness” we want to grow plant love. Plants, People, 

Planet 1: 139-141.


“Full disclosure: this is my paper. That said, an inclusive and equitable future in botany includes how 

we talk about our botanical research—and our love for plants in general—with broader audiences. 

Stop using ableist metaphors to describe underappreciation, unawareness, and/or ambivalence to-

wards plants!” - Dr. Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie (Colby College)


Parsley, K. M. 2020. Plant awareness disparity: A case for renaming plant blindness. Plants, People, Planet 2: 



“This is an important issue in Botany education. I feel that if you are a teacher you should understand 

literature surrounding ‘Plant awareness disparity.’ As educators, we need to be as politically correct as 

possible.” - Lydia Tressel (University of Texas at Austin)


Schell, C. J., C. Guy, D. S. Shelton, S. C. Campbell-Staton, B. A. Sealey, D. N. Lee, and N. C. Harris. 2020. 

Recreating Wakanda by promoting Black excellence in ecology and evolution. Nature Ecology & Evolution 

4: 1285-1287.

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Congratulations to Dr. John Kiss (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), who has been awarded the COSPAR 

International Cooperation Medal for distinguished contributions to space science and work that has contributed 

significantly to the promotion of international scientific cooperation; he receives this with Dr. F. Javier Medina 

of Spain. Along with the medal is the Kiss asteroid (#8267)! Dr. Kiss and Dr. Medina have both been active in 

international spaceflight research for more than two decades during which they studied the growth and development 

of plants under microgravity in spaceflight. Both served as principal investigators for a joint spaceflight project 

named Seedling Growth (SG) where Kiss was funded by NASA and Medina by ESA and the Spanish National 

Research Agency to conduct studies on board the International Space Station. The Awards ceremony took place 

during the 43rd COSPAR Scientific Assembly in January 2021 in Australia.

-From a statement by the American Society for Gravitational & Space Research

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A History of Plants in Fifty Fossils


Botanicum Medicinale: A Modern Herbal of Medicinal Plants

Endophytes for a Growing World

Herbarium: The Quest to Preserve and Classify the World’s Plants

Name that flower - The Identification of Flowering Plants

Orchids of Romania

Population, Agriculture, and Biodiversity: Problems and Prospects 

Saffron: A Global History

The Comstocks of Cornell

The Theory of Evolution - Principles, Concepts, and Assumptions

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks


A History of Plants in 

Fifty Fossils

By Paul Kenrick

2020. ISBN-13: 978-


US$18.89, 160 pp.

Smithsonian Books

A History of Plants in Fifty 

Fossils, by research scientist 

Paul Kenrick, is a beautiful work produced 

by Smithsonian Books. The book is a basic 

botanical text, evolutionary biology narrative, 

and geological work all under one cover. The 

stunning photography drips from the pages of 

this information-dense publication. I chose 

this book because of my admiration for my 

friend, Karl Niklas, professor emeritus at 

Cornell University. Karl is a pure educator. The 

sense of excitement I felt watching Karl teach 

is the same sense of enjoyment I received from 

reading Kenrick’s beautiful book. “It’s not 

easy being a plant.” (Kenrick, p. 5) is the first 

sentence to the “Introduction,” and is a section 

that should be considered required reading for 

any introductory botanical or horticultural 

course. If your botanical sensibilities don’t 

tingle with anticipation right from the onset 

of this first sentence, then put the book down. 

Otherwise, read on!
The author has such a delicate mastery of 

description that when he bids the reader to 

“imagine,” one does just that. One gets an 

unmistakable feeling of incredulity to read 

of the preservation of plant tissues, which 

are transformed over millennia into fragile 

compounds, that collectively maintain their 

strength through time and decomposition 

to reveal their secrets. Kenrick’s masterful 

storytelling of a single cell adapting to its 

environment to evolve, then adapt again, in a 

repeated process of growing and strengthening 

and straightening toward sun on stalk, and 

with open canopy, is unlike much of what I 

ever read or learned about these processes. It’s 

refreshing and engaging.
The secrets of a rock that was once upon a 

time a lithe tree (here Kenrick writes of the 

Eospermatopteris), or an insect captured for 

all time in its amber cocoon, astonishes with 

their secrets as one learns of the expansive 

and pliant adaptations of all of these venerable 

fossils. Plants, and the animals that ate them, all 

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developed and evolved specialties through the 

ages to ensure their individual and, by default, 

collective survival. These adaptations may be 

seen in the fossils of seed dispersal, pollen 

preserved within the guts of amber-embedded 

insects, and coprolites (viz., fossilized feces—

if that’s a new word for you as it was for me) 

of early herbivores.  Kenrick weaves his tale 

of plant evolution through seed, fern, and 

tree cone describing the “living fossil” lineage 

of the modern horsetail (Equisetum) to the 

possible food (the Cycads) of the dinosaurs.
I love the beautiful fan-like shape of the 

Ginkgo biloba leaf. It is elegant and simple. 

The leaves shimmer together and have for 

several millennia, imitating an ancient dance 

contrived in its country of origin. Long before 

the steps were choreographed, the Ginkgo’s 

ancestor established its geological history. 

Reading this history is akin to creating a plait 

between the cords of climate, seed dispersal 

tactics, and geography. According to Kenrick, 

Ginkgo has been found on every continent, 

including Antarctica (Kenrick, p. 80). All 

terra firma has had this beautiful tree rooted 

in its worldly soil. Ancient winds once blew 

through the fossilized leaves much as our 

zephyrs of today swirl about our Ginkgos. 

What a thrilling connection to our botanical 

We are time travelers in Kenrick’s ship, 

and with him at the helm we are vividly 

transported in our mind’s eye to the very base 

of the trees of the fossils he describes. I was 

transported to, once again, stand before the 

Metasequoia glyptostroboides in residence at 

the Cornell Botanic Garden in Ithaca, NY. To 

read Kenrick’s history of the dawn redwood, 

once thought extinct yet pulled from the 

brink, gives one a thrill of association with 

the efforts of early botanists. We may all stand 

before this magnificent tree because of these 

conscientious scientists, and through Kenrick 

we realize the significance of the magnitude of 

these efforts. 
Interspersed with the fossilized plants and 

plant structures are basic, yet elegant, botanical 

explanations of the principles of xylem, 

stomata, photosynthesis, decomposition, 

crystallization, and botanical rebirth and 

extinction. Kenrick’s remark that “...extinction 

appears to be the ultimate fate of all species” 

is a haunting phrase that punctuates a 

section where the reader won’t find much 

comfort in the pointed descriptions of mass 

extinction and changing ecosystems. For all 

the academic jollification of this wonderful 

book, Kenrick masterfully, and soberingly, 

reminds the reader that understanding the 

violent extinctions of the past, through these 

botanical casts, will contextually impress upon 

the consciousness of our humane influences 

and impacts on our delicate world.
In the sections following the significant 

words of extinction is the 13-million-year-

old fossilized leaf of an Acer trilobatum found 

in a volcanic crater. This photograph gave 

me pause for the renewal, and regrowth, of 

adaptation and plant diversity from pole-to-

pole and in-between. The leaves that senesce 

in our autumnal months are strikingly 

similar to this ancestor. The organized veg of 

an Antarctic fossil, and the contrary messy 

clumping of deciduous leaves in a Saharan 

sample, fed my curiosity about regrowth from 

extinction—what a different place the Earth 

was with not only a green Antarctic, but a 

green Sahara as well! Kenrick reminds the 

reader that “by their presence alone, plants 

can transform their habitats” (p. 100)—and 

ours as well. 
This wonderful book ends with an image index 

of the 51 specimens exampled and discussed 

throughout. For any cartographers, there 

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are maps of the Earth through time, and the 

“gneiss guys” among botanists will appreciate 

the succinct geological time scale. Through 

his surreptitious tutelage, Paul Kenrick leads 

us on an evolutionary journey to ourselves 

and of the symbiotic relationship we have 

with the botanica in our world. 
–Karen Penders St. Clair, Ph.D.


Victoria Dickenson

2020. ISBN: 9781789141931

$27.00; £16.00 (Hardcover); 208 


Reaktion Books, Ltd., London, 

UK, distributed by University of 

Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Victoria Dickenson, Adjunct Professor, 

Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill 

University, explored multiple library and 

museum collections to prepare a delightfully 

illustrated historical review of berries. 

Her familiarity with archival resources is 

demonstrated through charming creations 

by the famous: Hieronymus Bosch, Lewis 

Hine, Hokusai, Winslow Homer, Dorothea 

Lange, and unknown (e.g., the frescoes of 

Pompeii, buoyed by poetry and prose of 

eminent modern writers: Emerson, Jefferson, 

Shakespeare, Thoreau, Tolstoy; and ancient: 

Aesop, Ovid, Pliny the Elder, Virgil).  
Dickenson opens with an essential definition 

of terms because her book is about culinary 

berries, distinct from the strict botanical 

definition of berries, those fleshy fruits without 

a stone (pit) produced from a single flower 

containing one ovary. Berries so defined 

include grapes, currants, peppers, tomatoes, 

cucumbers, eggplants, and bananas, but 

exclude certain fruits that meet the culinary 

definition of berries (e.g., strawberries and 

raspberries). The latter culinary berries are 

aggregate or compound fruits containing seeds 

from different ovaries of a single flower, with 

the individual “fruitlets” joined together at 

maturity to form the complete fruit. Examples 

of aggregate fruits commonly called “berries” 

include members of the genus Rubus, such 

as blackberry and raspberry. Multiple fruits 

are the fruits of two or more multiple flowers 

that are merged or packed closely together. 

As mentioned in a previous review (Bedigian, 

2020), the mulberry is a berry-like example of 

a multiple fruit; it develops from a cluster of 

tiny separate flowers that become compressed 

as they develop into fruit. Strawberry is the 

aggregate of seed-like achenes, actually the 

“fruits,” derived from an aggregate of ovaries; 

the fleshy part develops from the receptacle. 

Here, Dickenson includes among berries all 

small, bright-colored, edible fruit lacking a pit.  
A breadth of subjects is incorporated here. 

Frugivore bats, birds, reptiles, and insects are 

all stars. We must beware the snake in the 

grass when searching for strawberries. Berries 

often figure in legends and may symbolize 

love as well as betrayal, as with the strawberry 

fields in Ingmar Bergman’s archetypal 

classic 1957 film Wild Strawberries. Cedar 

waxwings are almost exclusively fruit eaters; 

consequently, they have large livers to deal 

with their occasionally alcoholic repasts, and 

their extendible throats hold large quantities 

of berries, including species toxic to humans. 

This was evident during an icy January in 

University City MO, when a rush of wings 

and reedy calls caught my ear. Turning to 

the window, I observed a huge flock of cedar 

waxwings that had located the handsome holly 

grove in my yard. Over the course of two days, 

they plucked the poisonous fruit, leaving the 

branches bare of berries. 

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Generous attention is given to gathering 

tools, such as berry combs constructed of 

wood or, along the Pacific Northwest, salmon 

backbone. A special one is made of steam-

curved wood, with the seam bound by a tough 

walrus thong, and an ivory handle. Contrast 

those with modest Crisco and coffee cans 

whose wire handles were carefully wrapped to 

prevent callouses. 
Child labor, upon which the United States 

relied as the industry grew in the period 

following the Civil War, is reviewed in the 

section about cultivating. Human rights are 

foremost in documenting production; much 

was borne on the backs of countrywomen. 

Dickenson depicts Italian immigrants from 

Philadelphia, Syrians from Boston, and Poles 

and black Portuguese ‘Bravas’ who picked 

cranberries in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and 

New Jersey.
Horticultural varieties are many, and efforts to 

make a better berry favoring size, flavor, and 

productivity were sought. Dickenson reports 

in a colorful quote that the blackberry has 

been called “a primitive thug that has been 

turning parts of the northern hemisphere into 

off-limit areas since well before the last Ice Age 

began, some thirty-five thousand years ago 

(Jonathan Roberts, The Origins of Fruit and 

Vegetables),” complaining about brambles. 

Jams and jellies offer an ancient technology 

for preserving the harvest, which gave way to 

the production of “Factory Fruit.”
In recent years, their distinctive chemical 

constituents led to considerable consumption 

of berries (and the leaves of some species), in a 

natural pharmacopeia. Berries are recognized 

as superfruits for their polyphenol contents. 

Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries 

saves back-breaking stoop labor during 

harvest. A Japanese researcher’s innovation 

in the 1990s—thin nutrient films made of 

hydrogel—“provides everything a growing 

strawberry needs, resulting in increased yields 

of very clean berries.”  However, Dickenson 

closes with a cautionary note about “industry’s 

increased reliance on plasticulture, pesticides, 

fertilizers, irrigation and chiefly female labor.” 
The design of this well-bound book is 

attractive, featuring a vivid cover photo and 

signature endpapers—here, the deep purple 

hue of blackberry pie. Standard features of 

the Botanical series are included: a brief 

timeline, reference notes to each chapter, a 

select bibliography, a list of associations and 

websites, and a five-page Index. Readers with 

an interest in nutrition and food trends, as 

well as horticultural history, will find this 

volume full of gems. This book is a spectacular 

success. The illustrations are botanically and 

culturally relevant and allow the reader to 

happily wander amidst splendidly curated 



Bedigian,  D.  2020.  An  extended  commentary  about 

Mulberry by Peter Coles. Plant Science Bulletin 66(2): 


–Dorothea Bedigian, Research Associate, Mis-

souri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 


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Botanicum Medicinale: 

A Modern Herbal of Me-

dicinal Plants

Catherine Whitlock

2020. ISBN: 978-0262044479

$29.95 (hardcover); 224 pp.

MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

I have a rudimentary 

understanding of herbal medicinals and 

know something of the soothing properties 

of chamomile for nerves, and of aloe for 

burns. Wouldn’t one consider pineapple, or 

papaya, a fruit? Cinnamon, or cardamom, 

spices? Autumn crocus and Lily-of-the-

Valley, flowers? Yet, in Catherine Whitlock’s 

Botanicum Medicinale: A Modern Herbal 

of Medicinal Plants (2020), all of these and 

more fall into an additional herbal medicinal 

category. Whitlock’s book is an interesting 

read of the common, and not so common, 

plants carefully chosen for her purposes of 

education and discussion of a traditional form 

of therapeutics.
The book’s focus is on educating the reader on 

herbal medicine by making use of any plant 

part, (i.e., root, bark, leaf, flower, or fruit). 

Whitlock chose 100 plants to feature based on 

historical use or modern medical research—

all from diverse habitats. Many plants may be 

familiar to readers depending on where they 

grew up, or currently live, while the converse 

is also true. Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum

and the May apple (Podophyllum peltatum

are very familiar to me as the chamomile 

mentioned above because I live in a temperate 

climate. However, this is very different from 

the Indian Snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina

and Han Fang Ji (Stephania tetrandra), 

which are either native to the tropics (the 

aforementioned) or to China (the latter), and 

neither of which I’ve visited. This interesting 

geographical representation of species is one 

facet that reflects from each herbal to make 

this work a book of discovery and enjoyment. 
A discussion of the “unbroken tradition 

of herbalism” (p. 9) includes Ayurvedic 

and Chinese herbal medicine followed by 

European, then later American, traditional 

restorative botanicals. This is not an extensive 

section, but rather a base for the author to 

lead into her basic discussions of the plant 

chemistry of flavonoids (antioxidants found 

in brightly colored fruits and vegetables), 

alkaloids (think: bitter taste), or glycosides 

(a sugar component combined with a non-

sugar component). Whitlock is not laying an 

intricate biochemical foundation, but rather 

continuing her discussion for the layman. 

This is one of the reasons why this book is 

so enjoyable—it allows readers with varying 

degrees of proficiency to be entertained, or 

enticed, or both.
Botanicum Medicinale is encyclopedic in its 

layout. The introductory material is followed 

by the plant synopsi, and there are five essays 

inserted for further commentary on garlic 

(Allium sativum), marijuana (Cannabis 

sativa), turmeric (Curcuma longa), opium 

poppy (Papaver somniferum), and yew (Taxus 

spp.).  The detailed alphabetized contents and 

index, combined with the comprehensive 

“Actions of Plants” chart and glossary, ensure 

that you will find your plant (if it is one of the 

esteemed 100!). 
Whitlock capsulized the breadth of botanical 

medicinals for her book by choosing select 

plants, each beautifully illustrated and 

inclusive of each selection’s name (common 

and scientific), key uses, medicinal uses, 

habitat and harvest, and, importantly, 

“Cautionary Notes.” This last section 

emphasizes drug interactions herbals may 

have with prescription medication, as well 

as notes on allergic reactions and potential 

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toxicity of their own accord. I believe that 

this is very smart on Whitlock’s part, for 

this interesting, and visually appealing, work 

draws the reader in quickly and almost self-

Whitlock has provided us with a gateway into 

a specialized garden that has been selectively 

accessed over the centuries. This book is 

not a medical treatise, but rather a botanical 

sampling of an ancient mastery thousands of 

years old including its uses, and associated 

folklore, without being prescriptive. 
–Karen Penders St. Clair, Ph.D.

Endophytes for a Grow-

ing World, 1st Edition

by Trevor R. Hodkinson (Edi-

tor), Fiona M. Doohan (Editor), 

Matthew J. Saunders (Editor), 

Brian R. Murphy (Editor)


ISBN-10: 1108471765;  

ISBN-13: 978-1108471763

US$140.00 (Hardcover), 444 pp.

Cambridge University Press

An endophyte is an endosymbiotic organism 

that lives within a plant. Typically, these life 

forms are bacteria and fungi. Endophytes for 

a Growing World is based on an international 

conference held in Ireland in 2017 and is a 

series of interesting review articles (that were 

peer-reviewed) on basic and applied aspects 

of endophytes in plants. There are a total of 56 

contributing authors who represent a strong 

group of international scientists in the field.
Every chapter has an extensive list of 

references that are up to date as of 2018–2019. 

The reviews contain line diagrams and half-

tone images, and the center of the book has 

selected color plates for the various chapters.

The first chapter is a comprehensive 

introduction to endophytes, and it is clear 

that the definition of the term itself is unclear! 

Throughout the book, while consensus among 

scientists exists on definitions, there also are 

some variations on the theme. For instance, 

some researchers prefer the definition of an 

endophyte as being beneficial or neutral for 

the plant. Other workers see endophytes as 

on a continuum from beneficial to neutral 

to pathogenic. A further complication is that 

mycorrhizal fungi have a distinct scientific 

literature but can be considered endophytes 

in a broad definition of the term (Dauzart et 

al., 2016; Genre et al., 2020).
Part II of the book consists of six chapters on 

the role of endophytes in biotic and abiotic 

stress resistance in plants. For instance, one 

review considers the use of some groups of 

fungi as biological control agents to prevent 

plant disease in order to improve crop 

production. The authors point out that some 

fungi are endophytes in one situation but 

can be pathogenic in other cases. Another 

chapter reviews the use of endophytic fungi 

as a biological control mechanism in barley 

Part III considers the community ecology 

of endophytes in five chapters. For example, 

chapter 10 summarizes the ecology of bacterial 

endophytes in plant leaf tissue. Another 

chapter in this section considers using a 

meta-omics approach to study the endophytic 

bacterial communities in Brassica napus

(oilseed rape), an agriculturally important 

Part IV includes three chapters and provides 

an interesting perspective on using endophytes 

as a potential source of novel biomolecules 

for applications in industry and medicine. 

One chapter examines the use of endophytic 

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fungi as a source of bioactive compounds. The 

authors point out that while plants have long 

been used as natural products to treat human 

disease, there has been an increased effort in 

drug discovery using endophytes. The story 

of the discovery of the cancer treatment drug 

Taxol from an endophytic fungus in Pacific 

yew trees is given as a prominent example of 

the potential of endophytes in drug discovery.
The last section (Part V) focuses on the 

application of endophytes in crop production 

and has three chapters. A particularly 

interesting review considers endophytic 

bacteria that promote growth of agricultural 

plants and that have been used in field trials in 

Europe. Part of the impetus for this research 

is that the European Union has increased 

restrictions on chemical use in farming 

throughout the continent. This author takes an 

interesting approach in considering political 

factors as well as looking at the basic biology 

of these approaches.
This book provides a wealth of up-to-date 

information on the biology of endophytes 

and their host plants. While I have done 

some research on mycorrhizal fungi in ferns 

and in flowering plants (Swatzell et al., 1996; 

Lionheart et al., 2018), this book certainly has 

broadened my horizons. It will be a welcome 

addition and could be used in advanced classes 

in plant physiology, medical botany, and 

horticulture. As such, it is more suitable for 

advanced undergraduates, graduate students, 

and professionals.


Dauzart A. J. C., J. P. Vandenbrink, and J. Z. Kiss. 2016. 

The effects of clinorotation on the host plant, Medicago 

truncatula, and its microbial symbionts. Frontiers  in 

Astronomy and Space Sciences 3: 3.

Genre, A., L. Lanfranco, S. Perotto, and P. Bonfante. 

2020. Unique and common traits in mycorrhizal sym-

bioses. Nature Reviews Microbiology 18: 649-660.
Lionheart G., J. P. Vandenbrink, J. D. Hoeksema, and 

J. Z. Kiss. 2018. The impact of simulated microgravity 

on the growth of different genotypes of the model plant 

Medicago truncatulaMicrogravity Science and Tech-

nology 30: 491–502.
Swatzell L. J., M. J. Powell, and J. Z. Kiss. 1996. The 

relationship of endophytic fungi to the gametophyte 

of the fern Schizaea pusillaInternational Journal of 

Plant Sciences 157: 53-62.

–John Z. Kiss, Department of Biology, Univer-

sity of North Carolina–Greensboro, Greens-

boro, North Carolina, USA

Herbarium: The Quest 

to Preserve and Classify 

the World’s Plants

Barbara M. Thiers

2020. ISBN: 9781604699302; 

ebook: 9781643260525

US$40.00 (Hardcover); 304 pp.  

Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Herbarium delivers an 

expert’s perspective with an entertaining 

account about systematically arranged 

collections of dried plant specimens amassed 

for scientific study. The reader is taken on 

a journey through the history of botanical 

collecting, led by an author knowledgeable 

about its many facets. Barbara Thiers—

director of the William and Lynda Steere 

Herbarium at the New York Botanical Garden 

(NYBG), President of the American Society 

of Plant Taxonomists (2020-2021), and past-

president of the Society for the Preservation 

of Natural History Collections—is perfectly 

positioned to introduce the general reader to 

the particulars and purposes of an herbarium. 

Thiers is responsible for overseeing the 

NYBG’s 7.9 million collections of algae, 

bryophytes, fungi, and vascular plants, and 

the staff who manage these collections. As 

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editor of Index Herbariorum, the guide to 

the world’s approximately 3300 herbaria, 

Thiers has applied information technology 

to herbarium management and to increasing 

access to specimen-based data for the scientific 

community. These interests have led to the 

searchable database of digitized herbarium 

specimens (4.5 million so far, with 400,000 

added each year), comprising the Steere 

Virtual Herbarium. 
Thiers’ purpose in writing the book is stated 

as (1) an introduction to herbaria for natural 

history enthusiasts and for colleagues to share 

with students, staff, and institutional leaders; 

(2) to show the wide range of circumstances 

under which specimens have been gathered 

and handled after collection; and (3) to 

engender appreciation for the institutions that 

made a commitment to preserve specimens in 

The impetus for the establishment of herbaria 

was the number of new plant species coming 

into  Europe  during  the Age  of  Exploration. 

It was nearly impossible to keep plants alive 

on long sea voyages, so seeds and dried 

specimens often became the Europeans’ first 

introduction to unknown plant species. Italian 

physician/professor Luca Ghini (b.1490) 

advanced the study of plant medicine and 

created  the  first  herbarium—a  book  filled 

with pressed specimens of plants, glued onto 

the pages alongside annotations about the 

plant’s features, the circumstances behind its 

collection, its known medical properties, and 

other facts. “If handled carefully and kept 

protected from moisture, insects, and light, 

a dried plant specimen could be preserved in 

this manner indefinitely.”
A synopsis of the contributions of major plant 

collectors follows, such as William Dampier, 

an English explorer, pirate, and navigator who 

became the first Englishman to explore parts 

of what is today Australia, as well as the first 

person to circumnavigate the world three times. 
Running through the book are examples of 

the fact that this is a world dominated by men. 

Those who subsidized the missions—ship 

captains and high-ranking officials—took 

a dim view of women. A remarkable brave 

and determined pioneer of plant exploration 

whose experiences piqued my curiosity is 

Jeanne Baret, who accompanied naturalist 

Philibert Commerson. Disguised as a man 

on the 1676–1679 French expedition of L.A. 

de Bougainville as his valet, Baret kept her 

identity hidden from all but Commerson for 

many months. Baret proved herself capable of 

demanding manual labor. She was invaluable in 

assisting Commerson as his slogger, collecting 

botanical specimens when Commerson’s 

health had failed, although she received no 

acknowledgement as collector. Baret also 

organized his collection and papers, of which 

he was neglectful, and ultimately became the 

first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
Although Thiers relied on Ridley (2011) in 

retelling Baret’s role, some, including Gimson 

(2014), Helferich (2011), Knapp (2011), 

and Lack (2012), have questioned Ridley’s 

speculations; perhaps some of their concerns 

were overlooked. Dunsmore’s 2002 biography 

seems to be more factual but is presently 

unavailable  in  bookshops;  only  six  copies 

exist  in  the  United  States,  at  the  Library  of 

Congress and universities.  Reviewer Philippa 

Jamieson wrote: “[Dunsmore] outlines the 

historical context, and details life on board an 

eighteenth-century sailing ship: the cramped 

conditions, rats, dwindling supplies, scurvy. 

He has been assiduous in his research; the 

book  includes  diary  excerpts,  footnotes,  an 

index and bibliography.”

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A major dilemma for many herbaria surfaces 

in Thiers’ effective and cautionary description 

about the plight of the Lewis and Clark 

herbarium: “The specimens follow the same 

sorry trajectory of those by early European 

explorations—the specimens were gathered 

and preserved with great effort through 

the course of a difficult journey, only to be 

forgotten and neglected later, due to the 

weakness of the scientific infrastructure.”
A debated preference amongst taxonomists 

figures in Thiers’ description of Rafinesque’s 

penchant as an extreme splitter, who based 

new species on slight variations in leaf shape 

or size, or flower color; thus, most of his 

species names are now disregarded. 
Herbarium is intended, according to the 

author’s preface, to provide context for 

readers lacking knowledge about historic 

plant explorations or herbaria. Thiers tracks 

the evolving discipline of plant taxonomy, 

including the practical roles that herbarium 

specimens play, e.g., now enabling research 

using genomics tools, that may even provide 

information about extinct species. Naturally, 

readers will assess the book as it relates to 

their specific disciplines. For this reader, it 

seems that the information researchers glean 

from herbaria deserves more emphasis: (1) 

labels hold significant indigenous knowledge 

about medical, edible, fiber, and ritual uses 

of plants (Von Reis and Lipp, 1982; Bedigian 

2004a, 2004b, 2013a, 2018; Nesbitt 2014); (2) 

a major source for species discovery (e.g., 

Bedigian, 2013b); (3) vernacular names help 

to trace trade (Bedigian, 2004a) or (4) confirm 

occurrence at a specific location (Bedigian, 

2011); and (5) facilitate an understanding of 

how climate data (heat, drought and insect 

outbreaks, extreme rainfall patterns) are 

affecting species composition, or adaptations 

to new environments. 

The range of topics covered depict social 

and geographic, as well as botanical, history. 

Herbarium is a useful resource for students, 

educators, and natural history enthusiasts with 

an appetite for travelogues and the history of 

plant exploration. This well-bound, profusely 

illustrated hardback belongs in every library 

with any focus on biology. Thiers’ style is 

easy to read; specialist terms are defined. 

It’s a hefty book with attractive moss green 

cover and bright yellow endpapers. Thiers 

presents a useful introduction that assembles 

a series of significant events in the history of 

plant collecting and the people who made it 

happen, correlated with world affairs. Those 

vivid stories bring specimens to life.


Bedigian, D. 2004a. Importance of botanical data to 

historical research on Africa. In: Philips, J. E. (Ed.). 

Writing  African  History:  Methods  and  Sources, pp. 
152-168. Rochester University Press, NY.


Bedigian, D. 2004b. Slimy leaves and oily seeds: Dis-

tribution and use of wild relatives of sesame in Africa. 

Economic Botany 58: S3–S33.
Bedigian, D. 2011. Sesame cultivation and irrigation 

in the Kingdom of Urartu (Ararat), Armenian High-

lands, and its aftermath: major agricultural innovation. 

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

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants - Industrial Profiles se-

ries, pp. 367-388. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 

Boca Raton, FL. 
Bedigian, D. 2013a. African origins of sesame culti-

vation in the Americas. In: Voeks, R., and J. Rashford 

(Eds.). African Ethnobotany in the Americas, pp. 67-

120. Springer, NY.
Bedigian, D. 2013b. Ecogeography and taxonomy of 

Rogeria J. Gay ex Delile (Pedaliaceae). 


Journal  of  Plant  Taxonomy  and  Geography  68:  103-

Bedigian, D. 2018. Feeding the forgotten: Wild and 

cultivated Ceratotheca and Sesamum (Pedaliaceae) 

that nourish and provide remedies in Africa. Economic 

Botany 72: 496-542. 

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Dunmore, J. 2002. Monsieur Baret: First Woman 

Around the World, 1766-68. Heritage Press, Auckland, 

New  Zealand.  Website:

Gimson, M. 2014. Comment. Response posted in Nug-

gets from the Archives on March 12, 2014 by Elizabeth 

Kiernan. Website:

Helferich, G. 2011. Incredible voyage. Wall Street 

Journal 24 January. A 11.
Knapp, S. 2011. The plantswoman who dressed as a 

boy. Nature 470: 36-37. 
Lack, H. W. 2012.  The discovery, naming and typi-

fication of Bougainvillea spectabilis (Nyctaginaceae). 

Willdenowia 42: 117-126. 
Nesbitt, M. 2014. Use of herbarium specimens in eth-

nobotany. In: Salick, J, K. Konchar, and M. Nesbitt. 

(Eds.) Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook, 

Chapter 22. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Richmond, 

Surrey, UK. 
Ridley, G. 2011. The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A 

Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman 

to Circumnavigate the Globe. Broadway Books, NY.
Von Reis, S., and F. J. Lipp. 1982. New Plant Sources 

for Drugs and Foods from the New York Botanical 

Garden Herbarium. Harvard University Press, Cam-

bridge MA.

–Dorothea Bedigian, Research Associate, Mis-

souri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, 


Name That Flower: The 

Identification of Flower-

ing Plants, ed. 3

By Ian Clarke and Helen Lee

2019. ISBN:  9780522876048

US$39.99; 374 pp.

Melbourne University Press

“What is the importance 

of naming flowers?” one 

might ask. In fact, I was asked this same 

question very early in my career. I remember 

sitting in an introductory systematics class 

as a first-year undergraduate student at 

the University of São Paulo in Brazil. My 

instructor at the time was Dr. Renato de 

Mello-Silva, a bright and inspiring botany 

professor and herbarium curator in my 

institution. He, unpretentiously, asked the 

class a simple question after presenting a 

picture of a tree: “What’s the name of this 

tree?” Nobody knew. He continued by saying 

that if you cannot name that tree, it simply 

does not exist. He explained that as long as 

biologists do not name and describe species, 

no one could accurately study and refer to 

them. That powerful line has been stuck in my 

memory since that day, and the book Name 

That Flower reminded of me that moment. 
The introductory chapter provides the readers 

with a background on land plant evolution; 

it discusses the historical relevance of 

plants and emphasizes their economic value 

throughout human history. It also covers the 

overall organization of the book and some 

essential pieces of information on how to use 

the book. Chapter 2 describes very objectively 

the structure of flowers without omitting 

crucial details and exemplifies the 


with great illustrations. Although this chapter 

is very technical and detailed, it is also very 

pleasant to read. 
The remaining chapters of the book are 

focused on describing the major land plant 

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families that are 

common to southeastern 


. Helpfully, the authors included a 

key morphological trait that is easy to spot for 

every family. 

The plates are especially visually 

appealing; the images are detail-rich and 

provide different angles and points of view 

of the flower parts. 

The book also contains a 

brief key for identifying plant species

, focused 

on identifying the species illustrated on the 

The book proposes a traditional approach 

to plant identification in which the reader 

should be outdoors with tweezers and scalpels 

dissecting a flower to run a dichotomic 

key. But the authors also acknowledge the 

wonders of recent advances in technology 

in which books and guides can be accessed 

online, the pictures can be magnified, the keys 

can be interactive, and museums and herbaria 

can be visited remotely from everywhere. 

The concepts and skills that one could obtain 

from this book are easily transposable to other 

books or keys that cover plant species from 

any other region in the world. I consider the 

chapters on morphology and the stunning 

illustrations especially relevant. In summary, 

I definitely recommend this book for casual 

plant enthusiasts and professionals alike.
–Aline Rodrigues de Queiroz, MS, Biochem-

istry Department, University of Nebraska-


Orchids of Romania

Nora De Angelli and Dan 


2020. ISBN: 978-973-0-32586-7

US$75.00 (Hardcover); 300 pp.


Beautiful books containing 

good descriptions and 

excellent photograph of spectacular tropical 

orchids are common. Much less common 

are similar books that deal with temperate 

climate orchids, which are mostly terrestrial, 

small, and often not attention grabbing. This 

book (full disclosure: the authors sent me a 

copy, graced with a flattering inscription, as a 

gift) belongs to the latter category.
A problem with temperate climate orchids 

is that their flowers are mostly small, even 

if they’re as beautiful as their large tropical 

cousins. Because of that, they are hard to 

notice even in their natural habitats, and 

they’re not easy to see and appreciate. The 

authors overcame this problem by using 

macro photography (with Nikon and Canon 

cameras and lenses; my lifelong experience 

and bias are that Micro Nikkor lenses are 

hard to beat) and the relatively new technique 

of photo stacking. This technique consists 

of combining many images (sometimes as 

many as 100) in a single photograph to obtain 

greater depth of field, which decreases as 

magnification increases. Examples of this are 

the anther details on pages 177 and 181, and 

flower and labellum details on pages 257, 261, 

263, and 283. (This information was provided 

via email by the first author.)
The photographs are very sharp; the ones on 

pages 22 and 182 and inside the front and back 

covers are spectacular. Most photographs are 

properly cropped to emphasize the orchid. 

The background of those that are not cropped 

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is: (1) just enough out of focus to create 

pleasant bokeh resulting in photographs that 

are artistic but still draw attention to the 

orchid, or (2) informative regarding habitats 

and other plants near the orchid. 
In addition to photographs of orchids only 

(flowers, inflorescences, plants, habitats), 

there are also images of visitors (pollinators, 

robbers, predators, visitors who came to rest or 

feed, and ones who just happen to be there). On 

page 10, six interesting photographs illustrate 

the pollination sequence of Cypripedium 

calceolus by a solitary female Lasioglossum 

bee. In Asia and tropical America, predatory 

spiders associate with orchid flowers, mimic 

them, or hide near/in them to prey on 

pollinators. (I saw one in the Bogor Botanical 

Gardens in Indonesia; its web was very hard 

to see, and my student there at the time, the 

late Djunaidi Gandawijaja, had to squirt a fine 

mist of water on it to make possible a now long-

lost photograph.) Some Romanian spiders 

also prey on orchid visitors. A yellow spider 

waiting for small insects was photographed 

on the same color pouch of C. calceolus (p. 

10). A butterfly on an Anacamptis palustris 

is oblivious to a hard-to-see spider, which 

was probably stalking it (p. 47) and may have 

made a meal of it since the photograph was 

taken. On page 255, a crab spider on Neottia 

ovata feasts on a garden chafer.  
Altogether, the photographs create a 

magnificently illustrated, visually attractive, 

and botanically instructive book—a rare 

and very welcome combination. A drawback 

is that the photographs do not contain size 

indications either as a magnification factor 

(the usual “×” followed by a number in the 

caption) or a scale bar on the image. Size 

indications are especially important in this 

case because the orchids are small and some 

are magnified in the photographs.

Descriptions of genera and species are 

sufficient to acquaint readers with the 

taxon, which is being described without 

including many of the boring, and sometimes 

numbing, terms favored by taxonomists. The 

meanings and/or origins of generic, specific, 

and varietal epithets are always explained. 

Where appropriate, legends, mythological 

information, usage details, and historical data 

are also included. All are clear and easy to 

read. A problem with the descriptions is that 

information about size and dimensions is not 

included. It should have been.
The origin of the term “orchid” is usually 

attributed to the ancient Greek, so-called 

Father of Botany, Theophrastus (371–287 BC) 

who saw a similarity between mammalian 

testicles (orchis or, as listed in the book, orkhis, 

a spelling I saw for the first time; I do not 

know which is correct). There is even a story 

of goat sperm that fell to the ground during 

copulation and fermented into orchids. 

Most authors (including myself) usually just 

repeat these stories. Not the authors of this 

book. They tell a little-known (by me, also) 

story, the Myth of Orchis. It is of Orchis, the 

son of a satyr and a nymph, who attempted 

to rape a Dionysus (the Greek god of wine) 

favorite. Angered by this, the Maenads, female 

followers of Dionysus, tore him apart.  Orchis’ 

father begged the gods to revive him, but they 

refused; instead, they transformed his testicles 

into the root tubers of an orchid, which was 

first called Satyrion and later became known 

as Orchis.
Enough literature is listed in the References 

and Bibliography to allow those who are 

interested in further reading to do so. I am 

especially pleased that papers by A. Fuch and 

H. Ziegenspeck are cited. These two friends 

(at least one of them was a pharmacist, if 

memory serves correctly) studied German 

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native orchids extensively and published very 

long and detailed papers (largely forgotten at 

present) in the mid-1900s in the Botanisches 

Archiv and its Beihefte. When Fuchs died, 

Ziegenspeck wrote a touching obituary of 

his friend and continued to work by himself 

for a while. However, I was disappointed not 

to see in the References and Bibliography 

Bertil Kullenberg’s seminal work on 

pseudocopulation and ultraviolet reflection 

images of Ophrys. His ultraviolet reflection 

images may well be the first application 

to orchids of this type of photography. M. 

Pouyanne, president of the court in Sidi-

Bel-Abes in Algeria, who first described 

pseudocopulation in Ophrys  speculum  in 

1916, is cited.
An interesting feature for those interested in 

both orchids and postage stamps is on pages 

296-297: Photographs of Romanian postage 

stamps that feature orchids. Many countries 

(including the United States) publish postage 

stamps that bear photographs of native 

orchids, but few local-orchid flora books 

mention them. 
The last page of the book contains two 

photographs of the kind one does not generally 

see in orchid books. One photograph is of 

the author and her very handsome Belgian 

Malinois (spelled in the book as Malionois) 

dog, Ringo. The other is of Ringo alone. He, 

according to the author “is probably the only 

orchidolois (sic) Beligian Malionois (sic) in the 

world.” Probably so. As a dog lover, I welcome 

what may well be the first acknowledged 

canine orchidologist and look forward to 

many more. Why not? Orchids have been 

connected with dogs in the English language 

for a long time. In describing Ophelia’s 

garland in Hamlet, Shakespeare refers to 

“long purples”—probably Orchis mascula, 

which has the “grosser” name “dog stones” 

because its roots are shaped like testicles (the 

use of “stones” to mean “testicles” is ancient 

according to the Oxford English Dictionary).
I was disappointed to note that the book 

has no index. A large (a heavy 300 pages 

measuring 28.5 cm H × 23.5 cm W × 2.3 cm 

thick), complex, diverse, informative, and 

meticulously produced book like this one 

should have a very detailed, extensive, and 

comprehensive index.
Altogether this is a beautiful and interesting 

book that presents temperate climate European 

orchids excellently in text and photographs. It 

would be appropriate in general botany and/

or orchid specialists’ libraries (I am certainly 

glad to have it in mine), and/or to grace 

any coffee table. Romanian consulates and 

embassies should have it in their waiting and/

or reception rooms because it may attract 

visitors who are interested in orchids. 
–Joseph Arditti, Professor of Biology Emeritus, 

University of California, Irvine 

Population, Agriculture, 

and Biodiversity: Prob-

lems and Prospects

J. Perry Gustafson, Peter H. 

Raven, and Paul R. Ehrlich 

(eds.)  2020.   

ISBN: 978-0-8262-2202-2 

US$45.00 (Hardcover),  

398 pp.  

University of Missouri Press, 

Columbia, MO

Since the recognition of Planetary Boundaries 

(Rockström et al., 2009), we have had a tool 

to evaluate human impact on the biosphere. 

What usually goes unsaid, however, is 

brought to the forefront by the editors in their 

introduction. There is a single underlying 

cause for all of these existential problems: “If 

our goal is environmental stability, we really 

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need to limit population growth” (p. 2).  The 

editors go on to summarize the problems and 

approach of the book as they introduce the 

topics that will be covered in the subsequent 

15 essays. In the next 30 years, agricultural 

productivity will have to increase by 2.5% 

to 3% to feed the estimated 9 to 10 billion 

people, yet agricultural production currently 

contributes about 21% of greenhouse gases 

and nearly 40% of the methane, contributing 

to climate change.  Between 500 and 2000 L 

of water, as well as large amounts of chemical 

fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, are 

necessary to produce 1 kg of grain, half 

of which is fed to animals, while runoff 

and percolation contaminate surface and 

groundwater. Biodiversity is lost as croplands 

replace forest and grassland.  All of these 

intricate relationships are addressed in this 

volume, and while many are familiar to our 

professional community, the authors and 

editors have done a good job of integrating 

the complexity in a way that can be presented 

to the general public. What I found especially 

useful was the integration of the agricultural, 

economic, and social perspectives throughout 

the book, not just in specific chapters. 
Paul and Anne Ehrlich set the stage in the 

first chapter with an overview of the current 

state of the problem with considerations of 

how the interconnection of human nutrition, 

the environment, economics, resources, and 

politics affects and is affected by population 

growth. I found the most encouraging 

chapter to be Nina Federoff’s treatment of the 

possibilities and probabilities of feeding 10 

billion people. She begins with a brief history 

of agriculture, from crop domestication 

through crop improvement by breeding, the 

mechanization of agriculture, and the Green 

Revolution. This segues into a series of sections 

describing molecular genetic modification 

of crops and technological innovations in 

production as tools to do more with less. 

She is enthusiastic about the possibilities, 

but realistic about the cultural pushback and 

need for more effective education. Success 

will “require both cultural changes in how 

we view food and substantial increases in 

educational level worldwide, both of which 

present challenges as great as that posed by 

the necessary technological advances” (p. 55).
Specific problems impinging on agricultural 

production, and their possible solutions, 

are the focus of the next 10 chapters. These 

include the role of trade, climate change, 

tropical deforestation, increasing yield in 

grain crops, physiological breeding, wild 

ancestors and breeding, genome engineering 

techniques, insecticide, fungicide and 

herbicide resistance, and water. A new, and 

particularly appropriate, concept for me was 

that of “wicked problems,“ introduced in 

the chapter “Feeding a world in the wake of 

climate changes and resource constraints.” As 

defined by Batie (2008), “…wicked problems 

tend to be intractable and elusive because 

they are influenced by many dynamic social 

and political factors as well as biophysical 

complexities.” This book is ultimately a case 

study of the wicked problems that must be 

solved in the next half-century.  
The final three chapters focus on loss 

of biodiversity: the impact of livestock, 

agriculture, and pollution in the environment, 

and direct impacts of agriculture on 

biodiversity. I particularly liked Pimm’s 

treatment of extinction in the last chapter. 

His approach is reminiscent of The World 

According to Pimm (2001), where he uses 

real, but simplified (rounded), data to 

calculate concrete values to illustrate theory. 

In the sections on “How fast are species 

going extinct” and “How fast should they 

go extinct,” he introduces the concept of 

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Saffron: A Global History

Ramin Ganeshram

2020; ISBN 9781789143300

US$19.95 (Hardcover),  

142 pp. 

Reaktion Books, London 

Saffron, by food writer and 

professional chef Ramin 

Ganeshram, is a new 

addition to Reaktion Books’ Edibles series. 

Targeted to epicures, Ganeshram promotes 

the “preciousness of saffron,” literally worth 

its weight in gold. As with other books in this 

series, this book does not exceed 150 pages in 

length, resulting in a short summary rather 

than a comprehensive reference work.
Keeping to its subtitle, Saffron is organized 

into short chapters titled: “Origin and Early 

Cultivation,” “Ancient World and Silk Road,” 

“Medieval and Renaissance Eras,” “North 

America and Caribbean,” “Arts and Medicine,” 

“Modern Market,” and “A Saffron Primer.” 

Although it includes attributes of a scholarly 

book: select references, a brief bibliography, 

and succinct index, the target audience for 

this book is not an academic reader. Instead, 

the audience may range from foodies to 

laypersons interested in a history of globally 

consumed foodstuffs. 

extinctions per million species-years (E/MSY) 

with an example from the birds he knows well. 

Thirteen of the 1230 species of birds known in 

1900 were extinct by 1980. This cohort of 1230 

species, over an 80-year period, accumulated 

about 98,400 years, so the extinction rate is 

13  × 10


/ 98,400 = 132 extinctions/million 

species years. Calculation of the background 

rate is more complex, but the result is <1 E/

MSY (~0.1 E/MSY). Where do extinctions 

occur, where is biodiversity high, where do 

we find agricultural lands, and what happens 

when these collide are the questions addressed 

in the remainder of the chapter. 
Many of the 45 figures and 15 tables, distributed 

among two thirds of the chapters, will be 

useful for teachers. Derek Byerlee’s chapter 

on agriculture and tropical deforestation is 

particularly useful as he compares the trends 

in plant oil and livestock production over time 

and by region as well as how they are affected by 

market supply and demand, commodity value, 

state policies, local initiatives, and individuals’ 

participation. Equally comprehensive is the 

multi-authored chapter on livestock impact 

on biodiversity. A projected 20% increase in 

meat, eggs, and fish production in the next 30 

years was not surprising, but I was not aware 

that milk production was more than twice 

the total of all of the above in 1980 and is still 

projected to be 20% more than the total of 

meats, eggs, and fish in 2050. The book is full 

of little gems of information I will add to class 

notes for several of my courses. If you teach 

general education, you will want this book on 

your shelf and in the school library. Several 

of the chapters, by themselves or in groups, 

could be the scaffold for a graduate research 

seminar. I recommend it very highly.


Batie, S. S.  2008. Wicked problems and applied eco-

nomics. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 

90: 1176-1191. 
Pimm, S. L. 2001. The  world  according  to  Pimm:  a 

scientist audits the earth. McGraw-Hill.
Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. 

Chapin III, E. F. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, et al. 2009. A 

safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461: 472-475.

–Marshall D. Sundberg, Roe R. Cross Professor 

of Biology, Emporia State University, Emporia, 


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Ganeshram offers a brief overview of the 

biology of the plant—its origin, varieties, and 

production—and then shows how saffron 

became a global commodity. She shows 

varying roles that saffron plays in different 

countries, citing a variety of festivals, myths, 

and practices, brightening the chapters 

with anecdotes and details about numerous 

preparations using saffron. As saffron is the 

most expensive agricultural commodity in the 

world, it ranks among the most adulterated 

food items internationally. The reason for 

its hefty price is its labor-intensive harvest, 

which cannot be automated. Saffron is revered 

for its medicinal properties to enhance libido, 

boost mood, and improve memory, along 

with numerous treatments that have been 

investigated in controlled studies (Mousavi 

and Bathaie, 2011; Poma et al., 2012; 

Christodoulou, 2015; Hosseini et al., 2018; 

Cardone et al., 2020).
As regards antiquity, Ganeshram relies 

heavily on Day (2011) and Dewan’s (2015) 

thoroughly documented research for her 

Introduction. Notwithstanding, she writes (p. 

9) that “Saffron traces can be found in cave art 

in Mesopotamia dating back at least 50,000 

years,” a claim of momentous significance, if 

correct. Unfortunately, she cites no publication 

attesting to this fact, and my own searches for 

confirmation found none. One would have 

to infer that saffron was used as a pigment 

for cave art by Neanderthals, many centuries 

before the earliest date (6th–5th millennium 

BCE) for Sumerian civilizations. The next 

question is, would water soluble saffron 

pigment persist for 50,000 years?
Adding to the confusion, the book’s back cover 

also postulates: “Traces of saffron can be found 

in 50,000-year-old cave art of Mesopotamia.” 

Ganeshram may be referring to an image 

illustrating a woman collecting saffron stigmas 

designated “Saffron Gatherer” from the 

excavation of the Bronze Age Minoan town 

Akrotiri on the island of Santorini, Greece. 

Sometime between 2,000 and 1,600 BC, the 

Minoans arrived in Santorini and settled in 

Akrotiri. Its strategic location enabled that 

Minoan city to develop with public buildings, 

streets, stone houses, markets, and even 

a sewage system. The frescoes of Akrotiri 

are renowned for their vivid colors and 

beautifully preserved depictions. Ganeshram 

appears to conflate Mesopotamian with 

Minoan or Mycenean civilizations, which are 

entirely distinct geographically, temporally, 

and culturally.
Most cave paintings date to the Upper 

Paleolithic, which begins ca. 40,000 BC in the 

Near East. Prior to this period, Neanderthals 

were the inhabitants of this area, although 

cave art is not associated with them (Shipley 

and Kindscher, 2016). The most famous 

Mesopotamian site is probably Shanidar Cave 

in Iran (Sommer, 1999). 
Paleolithic artists seem to have used two 

main colors, although others have been found 

in some cave art. The dominant two are red 

(which tends to be iron oxide: natural hematite 

or heated goethite) and black (charcoal or 

manganese oxides) (Siddall, 2018). What is the 

likelihood of saffron pigment surviving 50,000 

years? Saffron pigment is primarily produced 

by crocin (chemical composition: C






(Bathaie et al., 2014), one of the few naturally 

occurring carotenoids,  and is easily soluble 

in water. This water solubility is one of the 

reasons for its widely preferred application as 

a colorant in food and medicine. Therefore, its 

persistence for 50,000 years on impermeable 

rock seems doubtful. 
Admittedly, this is the first in Reaktion 

Books’ Edibles series that I have read; it may 

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serve some general interest, but I hesitate to 

recommend this book to librarians or students. 

Their Botanicals series seems to be directed to 

more serious readers, written by authors who, 

in most cases, are experts in their fields. 
Overall, the book introduces the long history 

of saffron and the many ways in which cultures 

have valued saffron as a spice and a symbol. 

It is an accessible resource, nicely illustrated 

with 48 color plates; of particular note, 

these include botanical prints, the frescoes 

of ancient Santorini, Mogul-era miniatures, 

saffron-hued robes of Buddhist monks, and 

photographs of recipes starring saffron. 

Twenty pages of recipes close the book.


Bathaie, S. Z., A. Farajzade, and R. Hoshyar. 2014. A 

review of the chemistry and uses of crocins and cro-

cetin, the carotenoid natural dyes in saffron, with par-

ticular emphasis on applications as colorants including 

their use as biological stains. Biotechnic & Histochem-

istry 89: 401–411.
Cardone, L., D. Castronuovoa, M. Pernio, N. Cicco, 

and V. Candido. 2020. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.), the 

king of spices: An overview. Scientia  Horticulturae 

272: 109560.
Christodoulou, E., N. P. E. Kadoglou, N. Kostomitso-

poulos, and G. Valsamia. 2015. Saffron: A natural prod-

uct with potential pharmaceutical applications. Journal 

of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 67: 1634–1649.
Day, J. 2011. Counting threads. Saffron in Aegean 

Bronze Age writing and society. Oxford Journal of Ar-

chaeology 30: 369–391.
Dewan, R. 2015. Bronze Age flower power: The Mi-

noan use and social significance of saffron and Crocus 

flowers. Chronika 5: 42–55.
Hosseini,  A.,  B.  M.  Razavi,  and  H.  Hosseinzadeh. 

2018. Saffron (Crocus sativus) petal as a new pharma-

cological target: A review.  Iranian  Journal  of  Basic 

Medical Sciences 21: 1091–1099.
Mousavi,  S.  Z.,  and  S.  V.  Bathaie.  2011.  Historical 

uses of saffron: Identifying potential new avenues for 

modern research. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine 

1: 57–66.

Poma, A., G. Fontecchio, G. Carlucci, and G. Chi-

chiriccò. 2012. Anti-inflammatory properties of drugs 

from saffron crocus. Anti-Inflammatory & Anti-Allergy 

Agents in Medicinal Chemistry 11: 1–15.
Shipley, G. P., and K. Kindscher. 2016. Evidence for 

the paleoethnobotany of the Neanderthal: a review of 

the literature. Scientifica Article ID 8927654. 
Siddall, R. 2018. Mineral pigments in archaeology: 

their analysis and the range of available. Minerals 8: 

Sommer, J. D. 1999. The Shanidar IV ‘Flower Burial’: 

A re-evaluation of Neanderthal burial ritual. Cam-

bridge Archaeological Journal 9: 127–129.

–Dorothea Bedigian, Research Associate, Mis-

souri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

The Comstocks of 

Cornell: The Definitive 


Anna Botsford Comstock

(Editor: Karen Penders St. 



ISBN: 9781501716270

US$39.95 (hardcover); 532 pp.

Comstock Publishing, Cornell 

University Press

What if you realize that a published 

autobiography is noticeably different from the 

manuscript that the autobiography is based on? 

If you have a penchant for naturalist educator 

Anna Botsford Comstock, who in this case 

wrote the manuscript, and you are a doctoral 

candidate at Cornell University, you might 

give thought to restoring and reconstructing 

Anna Comstock’s voice in its entirety. Karen 

Penders St. Clair did just that with her newly 

edited publication, The Comstocks of Cornell: 

The Definitive Autobiography. Her work to 

revise and update Anna Comstock’s diaries 

took five years of archival research and a 

patient, sentence-by-sentence comparisons 

of Anna’s original manuscript to that of an 

autobiography published in 1953. The result 

is a noticeably longer text and a grand look at 

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how biologists and biology educators worked, 

long before the arrival of electron microscopes 

and genome sequencing.
Who were the Comstocks? John Henry 

Comstock founded Cornell’s entomology 

department in 1876. His wife, Anna, worked 

alongside him, supplying many illustrations 

for his publications. Anna later became a 

nature-study professor in charge of summer 

institutes for teachers and writing for a myriad 

of Cornell’s nature-study publications. The 

Comstocks were instrumental in founding 

the Comstock Publishing Company in 1892, 

mainly to publish their own books. One of 

these books, the Manual of the Study of Insects 

(1895), essentially put John Henry, the writer, 

and Anna, the illustrator, on the map. 
As a relatively self-taught artist, and a good 

one at that, Anna worked with water color and 

pen-and-ink mediums before learning wood 

engraving to provide illustrations for the 

Comstock’s publications. Anna is best known 

for writing the Handbook of Nature-Study for 

Teachers and Parents (1911). While teaching 

and illustrating, Anna also started a diary of 

sort in 1914 and continued documenting her 

life at Cornell through the late 1920s. Before 

her death in 1930, she typed her diaries and 

her husband’s biography into a manuscript 

suitable for publication. Upon John Henry’s 

death in 1931, all of the Comstock’s papers 

were transferred to a new owner, Glenn 

Herrick, an entomology professor at Cornell 

and Anna’s cousin. 
Herrick saw fit to publish Anna’s manuscript, 

and friends of the Comstocks urged Herrick 

to publish Anna’s autobiography in its entirety. 

Their sentiments did little to influence Herrick 

or Woodford Patterson, director of Cornell 

University Press. Patterson did not think 

Anna’s manuscript was scholarly enough and 

he saw no future for its publication unless 

the manuscript was heavily edited with a 

focus on academic work. Herrick seized upon 

Patterson’s suggestions (which were much in 

line with his own) and, acting as the book’s 

primary editor, removed nearly 215 pages 

of Anna’s manuscript along with changing 

Anna’s language and tone. 
The archived manuscript that Penders St. 

Clair worked from was the heavily marked-

up manuscript used by Herrick and Patterson. 

In some cases, whole pages and chapters 

were absent. In particular, Chapter 14’s focus 

on nature-study education was missing. The 

discipline that Anna is most known for while 

she taught at Cornell is apparently lost and 

explains why you might be disappointed in 

seeing so little discussed about nature-study 

in Anna’s own words. 
The new autobiography consists of 20 chapters 

and includes a rededication with Anna 

Comstock placed front and center. Penders St. 

Clair opens with an introductory explanation 

of her editing process and the changes that she 

made to the 1953 text. Each chapter includes 

a short introduction written by the editor. In 

doing so, Penders St. Clair allows her voice 

to be heard along with Anna’s. The first three 

chapters of the book deal with John Henry’s 

childhood and arrival at Cornell. Chapter 

4 revolves around Anna’s early childhood 

through her early 20s when she became a 

student at Cornell. Anna grew up in Otto, 

New York, where her love of nature was set by 

her mother, while a sense of duty and work 

came from both parents who were successful 

farmers. John Henry’s childhood was quite 

the opposite of Anna’s in terms of stability. 

His widowed mother could not afford to feed 

her family and sent John Henry to live with 

various relatives, none of whom seemed to 

take a liking to the young boy. John Henry was 

eventually taken in by a family who treated 

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PSB 67(1) 2021


him as their own son. They encouraged him 

to work and save money for college. It was at 

Cornell that instructor John Henry Comstock 

met student Anna Botsford, and the rest of 

the chapters detail their lives together at the 

Anna’s writing is stoic, as setbacks with 

publishing and close friends leaving for war 

in Europe are treated somberly and with 

little emotion. She describes much about her 

husband’s entomology work and less so about 

her own, but we must remember that her details 

about the nature-study movement were most 

likely destroyed by Herrick. Nevertheless, 

Anna’s descriptions of her husband as a 

Department of Agriculture entomologist, his 

return to Cornell and a new laboratory, and 

the Comstock’s long-lived association with 

Stanford University provide a deep look into 

American science in the late 1800s. The two 

seemed to always be writing, researching, and 

teaching—so much so that they had live-in 

caretakers and cooks. Never having children, 

they welcomed many Cornell scientists and 

graduate students to board with them. It is 

apparent that Anna was always focused on a 

relationship-rich life, whether with faculty or 

students new to the university. This is one of 

her lasting legacies.
The 1953 autobiography ends with Chapter 20 

and curiously, the one-page entry supposedly 

covers Anna’s writing from 1926 through 

1930, ending with a short description of 

another stroke suffered by John Henry. One 

is left to wonder what Anna’s life was like after 

her husband was bed-ridden. Penders St. Clair 

restores Chapter 20 in its entirety and provides 

a most welcome editor’s epilogue that gives 

more archival information about the last year 

of Anna and John Henry’s lives in Ithaca.
So, who might find this new autobiography 

interesting? Certainly, anyone who studies 

the history of science will find nuggets of 

information about the rise of American 

science departments and AAAS history. Those 

interested in nature-study and early science 

education will also find this book worthwhile. 

And since Anna does not just write about 

academics, this book provides context to 

what a rural life was like at the turn of the 20



century. By restoring Anna’s voice, Penders St. 

Clair throws a wide net to a broad audience. 

She allows us to see the many facets of Anna’s 

drive to maintain human connections in her 

academic and her social life, and how these 

connections drove her success. A model 

thought for today’s modern academic world. 


Comstock, A. B. 1911. Handbook of Nature-Study for 

Teachers  and  Parents.  Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, 

Comstock, J. H. 1895. Manual of the Study of Insects. 

Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, NY.


Karen Wellner

, Chandler-Gilbert Community 


The Theory of Evolution: 

Principles, Concepts, 

and Assumptions

Samuel M. Scheiner and David 

P. Mindell, eds.  


ISBN 13:978-0-226-67116-1

US$45.00 (paper).  442 pp.  

The University of Chicago 


In Chapter 15, Edwards, Hopkins, and Mallet 

state: “There are many communication 

difficulties between empiricists and 

theoreticians in the realm of speciation.” This 

seems to be a fair assessment of the entire field 

of evolutionary biology, and it is a problem 

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Synthesis”—notably by Dobzhansky. He is the 

bridge to pivot three, in which the traditional 

biological disciplines converge to produce the 

field of evolutionary biology and the mature 

Modern Synthesis. Pivot four is the Darwin 

centennial and the “growing orthodoxy” of 

adaptationists and selectionists. Pivot five 

begins as a reaction to this orthodoxy with 

the advent of molecular and cladistic tools, 

leading to a call for an expanded synthesis 

that includes the content of several of the 

final chapters of this book.  Bits and pieces of 

this story are well known by most of us, but 

this retelling of the complete story, in five 

“chapters,” provides useful perspective.  
Other chapters in this section focus on 

philosophy of evolutionary theory, modeling, 

traits and homology, nature of species, trees 

and episodic synthesis, and evo-devo. Alan 

Love’s chapter on evolutionary development, 

although the final chapter in the first 

section of overarching issues that cross 

multiple general theories, also has a major 

section treating evo-devo as a constitutive 

theory. Love’s aim is to argue the alternative 

placements within the theoretical hierarchy. 

He begins by arguing that evo-devo research 

has two distinct trends: (1) the evolution of 

development (changes in ontogeny over time) 

and (2) the developmental basis of evolution 

(the regulation and signaling resulting in 

different developmental pathways). Given 

the breadth of developmental studies, Love 

chooses to analyze the evolution of novelty 

as a specific example. He argues that there 

are two alternative approaches to analyzing 

the structure of evo-devo, and specifically 

the origin of novelty, as a general theory. 

The first is to begin with concrete practice: 

how concepts and terms are being defined 

based on different experimental approaches. 

Then, what are the problematic assumptions 

that arise as a consequence? Presumptions 

squarely addressed in this volume. The 

editors assembled a team of 22 contributing 

specialists to flesh out a formal statement of 

contemporary evolutionary theory from a 

variety of perspectives, but always with a firm 

philosophical basis.  
The organization of the book is explained by 

the editors in the first chapter. The goal is to 

provide an explicit philosophical framework 

for evolutionary theory that both connects to 

the other broad general theories of biology, 

such as cell theory, genetic theory, or ecological 

theory and provides a scaffold to connect 

constituent theories such as natural selection, 

multi-level selection, and phenotypic 

plasticity. They also explain the hierarchy 

of theories, and their components, that will 

guide the authors of the subsequent chapters. 

Overarching issues that cross multiple 

specific theories are the focus of the next 

seven chapters, wheres the final nine chapters 

formally address nine constitutive theories 

that are the focus of most empirical research. 

The authors of the later chapters follow a 

uniform model in which they clearly define 

the domain of the concept they are covering 

and provide the specific propositions that 

support that concept, along with appropriate 

models and examples. I will expand briefly on 

just a few of the chapters in both sections that 

I found most interesting and/or provocative.
In Chapter 2, Betty Smocovitis divides the 

long history of evolutionary thought into five 

pivotal moments and provides an extensive 

bibliography to previously published historical 

and philosophical works that can provide 

expansive details to the summary story she 

provides. Not surprisingly, the first pivotal 

moment centers around Darwin and his 

works. Pivot two is circumscribed by the rise 

of Mendalism and corresponding “eclipse” of 

Darwinism and the founding of the “Modern 

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about the underlying theory can be guided 

by the experimental results and assumptions. 

Alternatively, the abstract theory can be 

constructed first, as modeled in several 

chapters, and used to guide inquiry. Both 

approaches have been used successfully in 

multidisciplinary studies.
Love goes on to explain that evo-devo can also 

be approached as a constitutive theory within 

the general theory of evolution, since it ties 

directly to variation. His primary example is 

the eight principles underlying Sean Carroll’s 

genetic theory of morphological evolution 

(Carroll, 2008).
The constitutive theories addressed in the 

second half of the book include: Natural 

Selection, Multilevel Selection, Evolution 

of Life Histories, Ecological Specialization, 

Phenotypic Plasticity, Sex, Speciation, 

Biogeography, and Macroevolution.  I found 

these to be the most interesting chapters but 

will focus on just one, phenotypic plasticity.  

This is in part because of my personal interest, 

but also because, according to the author, 

Samuel M. Scheiner (who is also co-editor 

of the volume), this chapter is the first full 

presentation of a formal constitutive theory of 

plasticity. All of the other theories (chapters) 

in the book have been formally addressed 

previously by one or more authors (p. 258).
The concept of phenotypic plasticity is 

relatively recent (since the 1980s) and has 

generally been approached from one of two 

perspectives: (1) the effect of plasticity on 

different traits or processes or (2) as a mode 

of adaptation to the environment. Scheiner 

focuses on the latter as he develops his theory. 

The domain of the theory is “evolutionary 

change in trait plasticity in response to natural 

selection.” The first four propositions relate to 

the environmental conditions necessary for 

the adaptive evolution of plasticity. In short, 

there must be environmental variability that 

affects phenotypic expression, and optimal 

phenotypic expression varies in space in 

time. However, plasticity is not necessarily 

optimizing and selection can act on either 

individuals or lineages. Although it seems 

obvious, the third proposition is that 

individuals or lineages must be exposed to 

the existing environmental heterogeneity 

and, finally, trait plasticity must be heritable 

and meet all of the other criteria for natural 

selection. The last three propositions address 

the conditions that prevent adaptive evolution, 

the costs of plasticity, and the limitations, 

either sensing an environmental cue or 

resulting from developmental limitations. 

Scheiner presents specific examples for each 

of these along with appropriate references, 

although he notes that additional empirical 

data are needed to determine the relative 

importance of costs vs. limitations, and this 

is the weakest link in the theory: “The theory 

of the evolution of phenotypic plasticity is 

an interesting case of a mature theory where 

a related empirical literature is very large, 

yet where those theory and empirical realms 

interact hardly at all (p. 271).”
The Theory of Evolution is a deep read for an 

evolutionary biologist, like myself, whose 

focus has always been empirical. But it raised 

questions and illustrated connections that 

in retrospect should have been obvious, 

but which I never really considered on my 

own. For that it will be a useful addition to 

every evolutionary biologist’s bookshelf and 

an excellent subject for a graduate reading 



Carroll, S. B.  2008.  Evo-devo and an expanding evo-

lutionary synthesis: a genetic theory of morphological 

evolution.  Cell 134: 25-36. 

–Marshall D. Sundberg, Professor, Department 

of Biological Sciences, Emporia State Univer-

sity, Emporia, KS.

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Wildflowers of the  


By Donald J. Leopold and Lytton 

J. Musselman


ISBN-13: 978-1421-43110-9

US$24.95, 346 pp.

John Hopkins University Press

I have a lot of books, and 

especially field guides, since I believe it’s useful 

to be able to compare descriptions and photos 

to aid with identification. So I was surprised 

to flip to the references in this book and not 

find the original Adirondack wildflower guide 

by McGrath and Treffs. The two guides have 

a lot of species overlap but are set up very 

differently in content. Maybe the authors have 

not reviewed the previous text; that is beyond 

my scope of knowledge. Both books are meant 

to be field guides with the McGrath and Treffs 

book covering fewer generalists.
The McGrath and Treffs book includes several 

differences from Leopold and Musselman, 

including a glossary, visual glossary, and color 

plates instead of photos with each description. 

The grouping is also different that it lumps 

white with pink as a group and purple, red, 

green, yellow, orange, and blue all together 

as a group. The descriptions are technical 

in nature and include flowering period and 

The Leopold and Musselman guide is less 

technical and includes the opinion that 

Dichotomous keys are “an identification 

method devised by people who don’t need 

the keys for people who can’t use the keys.” I 

think all of us have flipped to the photos more 

than once to figure something out quickly, 

so it’s hard to argue with that assessment. 

The authors begin with an introduction to 

wildflowers and state-protected plants of 

the region, then describe plant community 

types and commonly-associated species. That 

section leads into an in-depth discussion 

into groups of Adirondack wildflowers with 

a focus on groups that are less common in 

other areas of the state. Orchidaceae is a 

diverse group in this region, and the section 

discusses biology and pollination of these 

sought-after flowers. After these group 

overviews, the species accounts are broken 

out by colors. Color groups are tabbed at the 

top of the page yellow to orange, red, pink to 

purple, purple to blue, white, and green. Each 

description includes a photo of that flower, 

and for some species name origin and similar 

stories provide interesting anecdotes. The 

accompanying photos are clear and bright and 

show the flowers well. The authors encourage 

the reader to flip through the photos to find 

their identification. This guide would be good 

for the casual observer to provide a quick 

reference to aid them with identification. 

The authors have purposely avoided being 

technical and “avoided botanical jargon” and 

made this guide with that in mind. I think 

this guide would be useful to hikers and 

anyone looking to explore this region. Small 

whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) is 

listed as threatened by the United States Fish 

& Wildlife Service and not endangered as it 

was re-classified in 1994. The authors list it 

as nationally endangered, which is a minor 

oversight but one worth clarification from 

page 4. It is listed by the State of New York as 

an endangered species and was re-discovered 

in New York in 2010 after being considered 



McGrath, A., and J. Treffs. 2000. Wildflowers of the 

Adirondacks (Revised Edition). Earthwords, Manhat-

tan, KS.

-David W. MacDougall, CWB®, PWS - Con-

sulting Biologist

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Plant Science Bulletin

                                                                                    Spring 2021 Volume 67 Number 1

The March issue of Applications in Plant Sciences launched a 

new cover design, which features an image that corresponds 

to an article from a current or recent issue. The inaugural 

cover image highlights an article published in the January 

2021 issue by Breinholt et al.: “A target enrichment probe 

set for resolving the flagellate land plant tree of life.” This 

article introduces GoFlag 451, a new target enrichment 

probe set to help resolve phylogenetic relationships and 

unravel evolutionary history across the flagellate land plant 

taxa. With over 30,000 extant species, flagellate plants 

contain several diverse lineages, including the spore-

bearing bryophytes, lycophytes, and ferns, along with two 

lineages of seed plants within the gymnosperms, illustrated 

here (from left to right). Image credit: Emily Sessa. Image 

design: Jerald Pinson.

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PSB 67 (1) 2021


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