Archive for the ‘botany’ Category

No. 11, Rhubarb, Ruibarbo blanco, Cedros [Jatropha podagrica Hooker, Euphorbiaceae], watercolor on paper by Charles Dorat (?1806–ca.1870), 30 × 23.5 cm, HI Art accession no. 5683.11.

Dr. Charles Dorat and His Unrealized Central American Medicinal Flora
Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation
Pittsburgh, PA
April 2 – June 29, 2018

Charles Dorat (?1806-ca.1870) was a European physician and naturalist who lived in El Salvador and traveled in Honduras between 1850 and 1870. Acquainted with Central American medical professionals, government officials and companies interested in material medica, it is thought Dorat was hired by companies because of his knowledge of mining and economic plants.

While in Central America, Dorat pursued interests in nature and art, and by 1860 had painted 150 watercolors of useful plants. These paintings were supposed to be published as a flora of Central America, but Dorat appears to have died around 1870.

Learn more about Dr. Charles Dorat at Dr. Charles Dorat and His Unrealized Central American Medicinal Flora.

About The Hunt Institute

The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, a research division of Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the history of botany and all aspects of plant science and serves the international scientific community through research and documentation. To this end, the Institute acquires and maintains authoritative collections of books, plant images, manuscripts, portraits and data files, and provides publications and other modes of information service. The Institute meets the reference needs of botanists, biologists, historians, conservationists, librarians, bibliographers and the public at large, especially those concerned with any aspect of the North American flora.

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A new ten-week class has been added to Classes Near You > England!

Lewisham Arthouse, London

The Lewisham Arthouse once served as the central library of Deptford. Designed by architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas (1868-1948) and funded by Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), this former library is now a public gallery and studio space for professional artists. Artist studios are open to the public once per year. Exhibitions in the gallery are open to the public year-round, free of charge. Botanical illustration classes are taught by Alison Day.

    Drawing from Plant Life
    September 29 – December 8, 2014
    Mondays, 1:00 – 2:30 PM

    This introductory ten-week course aims to provide an opportunity to explore the art and science of botanical Illustration. Students will have the opportunity to explore both drawing and painting plants while learning a range of graphic techniques used to represent plant material. Some basic theory is taught and, where relevant, historical and contemporary practice is referenced. The course is taught by a practicing artist who has a background in the science of botany and the practice of fine art.

    Students are asked to bring their own ideas and specimens to the course as well as drawing plants provided. Basic materials are provided, together with reference literature, students must provide their own sketch book pencils and colors. All are welcome, no experience needed. This is a small class and provides and supportive and relaxed environment in which to draw. Places are limited so booking is required.

    Cost: £95/90 concessions

    To register, contact Alison Day at Lewisham Arthouse.

    Transport :
    BR/Overground New Cross/New Cross Gate
    Bus 136, 21, 436, 321
    Disabled access

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I love history and am especially interested in people who take it upon themselves to teach others about plants. The self-initiated projects launched by these individuals are inspiring. They also are good stories to share with students.

Today I would like to introduce you to the herbarium by Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma (1835-1877), a Dutch physician who worked for the Dutch government on St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles.

Dr. van Rijgersma was one of six physicians who cared for freed slaves after slavery ended in the Dutch colonies (Ehn & Zanoni, 2002). He was also an amateur naturalist and documented the flora and fauna of St. Martin.
Van Rijgersma’s life has been documented in the book Flowers of St. Martin, the 19th Century Watercolours of Westindian Plants Painted by Hendrik van Rijgersma (1988).

I first learned about Dr. van Rijgersma in The Herbarium and Botanical Art of Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma, an article by Mia Ehn and Thomas A. Zanoni published in the journal Taxon. They write about the discovery of van Rijgersma’s herbarium at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm and write about the locations where parts of his collection have been found. Of the 127 specimens they located, 73 include artwork by van Rijgersma (Ehn & Zanoni, 2002). These herbarium sheets have pencil sketches, ink drawings or small paintings that included below the pressed specimen. Ehn and Zanoni include in their paper a list of specimens discovered in Stockholm, as well as written documentation of the type of artwork found on the herbarium sheets.

It must be noted that the links in Ehn and Zanoni’s article are no longer valid. Fortunately for us, van Rijgersma’s collection is still online. The current URL to van Rijgersma’s herbarium is extremely long. To view his collection of herbarium specimens and drawings, click on the link below.

The article by Ehn and Zanoni can be purchased online for $17.95. You can also search for the article at your local college library.

View Herbarium and Botanical Art of Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma

Literature Cited

Ehn, Mia and Thomas A. Zanoni. 2002. The Herbarium and Botanical Art of Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma. Taxon. 51(3): 513-520


Graduate students Michael Pin and Elizabeth Luscher lead a conversation about genetically modified plants. Photo credit: Plant Discovery Day Staff

Graduate students Michael Pin and Elizabeth Luscher lead a conversation about genetically modified plants. Photo credit: Plant Discovery Day Staff

There are many places to see plants in an urban setting, but where can you go to learn about plants and current plant research?

Elementary school students in Riverside don’t have to look too far to learn about plants. They only need to turn to UC Riverside. Some local students have the opportunity to learn about plant research first-hand every school year and it is this exciting opportunity that is the focus of this issue of Plants, Life, Riverside.

Each Spring one hundred fifth-grade students from Highland Elementary School in Riverside get to immerse themselves in the plant sciences thanks to the dedication of graduate students in the Department of Botany & Plant Sciences at UC Riverside.

Launched in June 2012, Plant Discovery Day was created by graduate students Jessica Diaz and Erin Brinton, National Science Foundation (NSF) research fellows who wanted to do more than mentor undergraduates and make classroom visits to satisfy the outreach requirement for NSF grants funding their research. They wanted to do something more meaningful and fun that involved more of the department. After doing some brainstorming, they decided to invite students from a local school to campus and Plant Discovery Day was born.

Originally called “Where Does Food Come From”, the first Plant Discovery Day took eight months to plan. Jessica and Erin selected Highland Elementary School as a partner because it was close to campus and served minorities underrepresented in the sciences. 

At the first Plant Discovery Day, students visited several interactive stations, each about a separate plant science topic. This format has proven to be successful and Plant Discover Day is well on its way to becoming a model example of how to engage students in activities related to plants, science and higher education.

This year graduate students provided each student with a white lab coat and a folder for their work. With lab coats on and with folders in hand, students engaged in interactive activities about:

  • Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Citrus research at UCR
  • Carbon Dioxide Exchange
  • Plant Physiology
  • Alternative Energy/Biofuels
  • Strawberry DNA Extraction
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Going to College

Students also learned about botanical illustration. I had the opportunity to participate in Plant Discovery Day and led an activity called “Discover Seeing” that was about how to see plants while using drawing as a learning tool. I also introduced students to scientific illustration as a career and brought attention to the many ways scientific illustrators teach us about science. 

What’s Next for Plant Discovery Day

Event founders Jessica Diaz and Erin Brinton will soon complete their graduate studies and they have started working with the graduate students who will coordinate Plant Discovery Day after they leave.

I asked Jessica and Erin what they envision Plant Discovery Day becoming. Both said they would like it to become a public event benefiting the entire Riverside community. Erin added, “If we could invite more children, have more events, and involve entire families in the event, I feel we would have really succeeded in creating a special outreach event that fills a niche not yet explored by UCR.”

Both founders are very aware, however, that to grow Plant Discovery Day, they will need more funding. While the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences contributes some money towards the event, graduate students are left on their own to raise money to pay for expenses associated with materials, equipment and lunch for the children. 

Would you like to help this group of bright, passionate and dedicated graduate students with Plant Discovery Day 2015?

Go to UCR Online Giving and select the fund titled, “Excellence in Botany and Plant Sciences”. This is a general fund benefiting activities sponsored by the department. Please enter Plant Discovery Day in the box labeled “Special Instructions” and use Appeal Code 14CNAS05. This will make sure your contribution will be used to support this wonderful outreach event. 

When asked what message they wanted to get across about Plant Discovery Day, Jessica replied, “The overall goal is to get kids thinking about the amount of research that has been done on plants and the types of research that has been conducted about plants and plant ecology. Don’t take plants for granted. Science is not only working with mice.”

Questions about contributing to Plant Discovery Day should be directed to
Dr. Edie Allen, Department of Botany & Plant Sciences, UC Riverside.
(951) 827-4714

About Erin Brinton

Erin is a 5th-year Ph.D.candidate in the lab of Dr. Julia Bailey-Serres at
UC Riverside. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her interest in plants is rooted in years of gardening with her father while growing up in Colorado. It was at Occidental College that Erin cultivated her love of plants and her desire to feed the world. While at Occidental, she studied the root system of desert agaves and aloes in the lab of Dr. Gretchen North. She received a Beckman Fellowship for her undergraduate work. As a graduate student, Erin was awarded a NSF graduate research fellowship to fund three years of her schooling and research. She was recently awarded the UCR Dissertation of the Year Program Fellowship to fund her remaining time at UCR. Erin will return to Occidental College in January to begin a two-year post-doctoral research position in Dr. North’s lab. Dedicated to making science accessible to all people, Erin’s previous outreach experience includes presentations at colleges and high schools and working as a math and science tutor with elementary school and high school students.

Erin is currently investigating flood tolerance in corn at the molecular level. She explains that, “Crop loss to flooding in the US costs on average $1 billion dollars with over half of that coming from corn. Improving corn’s tolerance to flooding could not only save money, but also have the potential to alleviate crop loss in areas of the world where farmers cannot afford to replant their corn fields after a flood as we do here in the US.”

About Jessica Diaz

Jessica is a 5th-year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Patricia Springer’s lab at UCR where her current research is focused on creating rice plants that have more upright leaves so they can be planted at a higher density. Her research also focuses on creating these plants without altering any other parts of the plant’s architecture. Jessica was awarded an NIH MARC U-STAR (National Institutes of Health Minority Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training for Academic Research) fellowship in 2007 as an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge. The NIH MARC U-STAR program focuses on encouraging and preparing underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in research. Jessica credits this program with providing her with a sense of direction in her life. Jessica is a past-participant in the Plant Genomics Research Program at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. Since beginning her research at UCR in 2009, she has been awarded a two-year IGERT fellowship sponsored by NSF, followed by a three-year NSF graduate research fellowship to fund her research.

Originally from Arleta, CA, a predominantly Latino city, Jessica found it difficult to learn about education beyond high school because she did not know anyone with a higher education. While working as a Playground Supervisor at an inner city school, she created an academic and recreational program promoting a positive social atmosphere that went beyond standard school hours. Dedicated to increasing science literacy in underprivileged areas, Jessica wants students to know that science can be enjoyable and stimulating and not intimidating. Jessica explains, “I feel if I can convey to them what I have learned through my journey, I can bring diversity to the science community and integrate it to inspire other students.”

Inspire young botanists.
Contribute to Plant Discovery Day.

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We’ve taken a look at grocery store botany in this column before. This week we return to the produce section of the grocery store to explore an online resource that can be used in anywhere there is Internet access.

Garden teachers, science teachers, scout leaders, botanical artists and more will appreciate the educational resource, Supermarket Botany, on the website of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation. It is a free interactive tool helping students explore the botany behind the plants we store in our refrigerators.

Created by professors Geoff Burrows and John Harper, Supermarket Botany is very easy to use. The platform is composed of two parts. In one section, students can learn about plant morphology by viewing labeled photographs and reading concise descriptions. This review of plant morphology prepares students for The Challenge!, an engaging activity that makes up the other section of this resource.

The Challenge! is an exploration of 15 fruit and vegetables commonly found in the grocery store. When students begin the game, they are presented with shelves of fruit and vegetables and are asked to respond to the prompt, “What’s on the shelf?”. Students select a fruit or vegetable (i.e., plant part) and must decide if their selection is a root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit or seed. If students choose the correct answer, they are guided to a section where they can learn the technical reasons why their item is either a fruit or a vegetable. If students choose a wrong answer, a pop-up box appears explaining why their fruit or vegetable is not the option they selected. It is this part about this activity that I find especially useful. Students advance through the game understanding why their fruit or vegetable is not a root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit or seed.

Burrows and Harper designed handouts to go with students’ use of their online resource. Teachers can download these handouts free of charge.

Would you like to take The Challenge! yourself?

Go to Supermarket Botany


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On occasion, ​ you come across an opportunity to combine a good story with the technical side of a subject. Such an opportunity presented itself recently and it allows me to weave the technical language botanists use into a fascinating story.


Today we revisit the story of Jeanne Baret, the herb woman and experienced field botanist who traveled on the Bougainville expedition (1766-1769) and who disguised herself as a man so she could join her boyfriend, expedition botanist Philibert Commerson. This historic journey made Jeanne (or “Jean” as she was known on board) the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

Together Baret and Commerson collected more than 6,000 specimens; seventy of these specimens were named after Commerson while none were named after Baret (Tepe et al., 2012). Fortunately, this oversight was corrected two years ago. The plant honoring Jeanne Baret and her accomplishments is described in A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany by Eric J. Tepe, Glynis Ridley and Lynn Bohs.

The naming of Solanum baretiae Tepe, sp nov. was completed as part of an ongoing worldwide project to revise the genus Solanum. In Tepe et al. (2012), you’ll find detailed taxonomic information about the plant, information about Jeanne Baret, pen and ink illustrations by Bobbi Angell, color photographs of
S. baretiae, and GPS location data identifying where living specimens were examined.

The article by Tepe et al. (2012) serves as an example of how botanical illustration and botany work together to describe the diversity of plant life on earth. It is a good classroom example of how new plant species are described by botanists. Teachers might be interested in pairing this article with the book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley. Pairing the article with the book would help teachers link Baret’s life story to subjects related to plants, geography, ​and history.

To learn more about Jeanne Baret, read my interview with Glynis Ridley.

This article by Eric J. Tepe, Glynis Ridley and Lynn Bohs is available for free online.

Literature Cited

Tepe, EJ and Glynis Ridley, L. Bohs. 2012. A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys. 8: 37-47. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.8.2101

You May Also Enjoy

Angiosperm Phylogeny Website
International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi and Plants

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Culturally Responsive Botany

Through this column we’ve seen how classroom activities, informal science activities and drawing can engage students and make learning about plants more interesting. Today we learn how teaching culturally responsive botany can also make plants relevant to students’ lives.

This past Fall, professors Lauren Madden and Arti Joshi published What Does Culture Have To Do With Teaching Science?, an article about teaching the plant sciences from a cultural perspective. They focus specifically on the cultural beliefs and experiences of Asian Indians, the third largest group of immigrants in the US (Madden & Joshi, 2013).

Madden and Joshi (2013) provide information about Hindu beliefs about plants and explain how these beliefs can contribute to children’s prior knowledge about plants and how they grow. They encourage teachers to become familiar with the cultural experiences students bring with them into the classroom and to weave these experiences into their lesson plans.

Madden and Joshi (2012) present five strategies teachers can implement to introduce culturally responsive activities into their classrooms. They include asking parents about the plants they have at home, gathering stories about folk biology and using these stories to create literary connections to plants, and using interactive science notebooks that students and parents work on together.

The authors include links to relevant sections of the Next Generation Science Standards in their article, as well as Web resources and related children’s literature. To learn more about culturally responsive teaching in the plant sciences, buy a copy of Madden and Joshi (2013) online for 99¢.

Do you incorporate culturally responsive teaching techniques in your classroom or environmental education program?

Share your experiences below.

Literature Cited

Madden, Lauren and Arti Joshi. 2013. What does culture have to do with teaching science? Science and Children. 51(1): 66-69


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