Phytophilia

Two Botanists and An Artist Walk Into the Desert...

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (ACMAA) sponsored Barney Lipscomb and Tiana Rehman to serve as botanical guides to West Texas for artist Mark Dion. Commissioned by the ACMAA, Mark—a contemporary artist who is part explorer, part historian, part naturalist, and part collector—is making a series of exploratory journeys through Texas that are inspired by four early naturalists/artists in Texas: Sarah Ann Lillie Hardinge (1824–1913), John James Audubon (1785–1851), Frank Law Olmsted (1822–1903), and Charles Wright (1811–1885). In 2020, the ACMAA Special Exhibition Galleries will tell the story of these early Texas Artists and natural history travelers in Texas. Map of Wright's journey through West Texas (from Flowering Plants of Trans-Pecos Texas and Adjacent Areas ) BRIT’s West Texas t...
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Summer 2017 Research and Herbarium Interns

Education: Junior in Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa Most Recent Project: Vanessa is currently collaborating with Dr. Harold W. Keller at BRIT on a paper about corticolous myxomycetes, a type of slime mold found on Texas American elm trees. Vanessa started this project during her 2017 summer internship and has continued the project in the year since. Favorite Memory of Summer 2017 BRIT internship: “Helping with the NLU collection acquisition in the herbarium, which led to lots of fun and laughter. The most memorable part of the whole experience for me was each intern getting a dinosaur-based nickname. Mine is Vanessasaurus Rex.” Education: Senior in Ecology at the University of Texas at Dallas Most Recent Project: Over the summer of 2018, Natch helped with BRIT summ...
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A Summer Deep in the Weeds: Surprises Found Along the Way

Article written by Kelly Carroll, 2018 BRIT Herbarium and Research Intern and student at Trinity University. The property doesn’t look like much, driving by – a sea of seemingly uniform brown grass studded with mesquite trees, bordered by development and what looks to be a small-scale hackberry forest with a dry creek-bed running through it. Of course, everything looks different when you get close enough to see detail. Still, I didn’t have very high expectations when I arrived with Dan Caudle , a BRIT Resident Research Associate and grass and prairie expert, in May of 2018 to do a survey of the vegetation cover and biodiversity on the property ahead of construction that would ravage a good-sized section. When the summer started, I had no real experience in identifying anything beyond being...
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A Day as a Botanical Illustrator

Article written by Isabella Wu, 2018 BRIT Herbarium and Research Intern and student at Emory University. Clear skies heralded a warm afternoon with no cover from the blazing sun. I was on my way to the LBJ Grasslands an hour away from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (more commonly referred to as “BRIT”) where this whole herbarium adventure began. Kim Taylor, who is a rare plants expert at BRIT, had planned an outing to assess a new species first published two years ago in 2016. Memory’s Rose, latin name Rosa memoryae, sounded so good and beautiful. But there was a real possibility that it might not actually be a new species but rather a variation of the abundant Rosa foliolosa. We intended to find out. More specifically, we were going to collect the plant and record the number an...
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What Is This Thing? Bur oak acorn cap

"What is this thing???" We often hear this question from friends and family in relation to natural "treasures" found in the landscape. Sticks, leaves, flowers, fruit, fungi, lichens, moss. You name it, somebody has likely brought it to BRIT for identification at some point (or emailed us a photo). This time we feature the crazy, gargantuan, monster acorn caps from the bur oak tree ( Quercus macrocarpa ). RAWR! Monster caps! Bur oak distribution in Texas. Adapted from digital version of "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. U.S. Geological Survey. Bur oak is native to the central and eastern US, including most of the middle swath of Texas, top to bottom. This fast-grower typically likes an open, limestone or chalky clay habitat and is adapted not only to fire and drought b...
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Dr. Eula Whitehouse

In our "Hidden Treasures" series, Special Collections Librarian Alyssa B. Young features notable works in the BRIT rare book collection. The work of Dr. Eula Whitehouse spreads tentacles throughout BRIT. Our herbarium contains over 500 specimens she collected, our library houses six of her publications, and the Eula Whitehouse Collection in the BRIT Archives documents her life's work. Much like the names Mahler or Shinners, Whitehouse's name is omnipresent since she's integral to the core of BRIT as an institution. To celebrate Women's History Month , we want to tell the story of this remarkable woman. Eula Whitehouse was born in Cleburne, Texas, on August 1, 1892. She attended University of Texas in Austin, where she received a B.A. in 1918, M.S. in 1931, and a Ph.D. in 1939. Such educati...
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A Ferntastic Day with NLU

On Sunday, February 25th, BRIT staff had the pleasure of hosting members of the Southwestern Fern Society, our local chapter of the American Fern Society, for a volunteer day. Six volunteers worked hard to organize and sort ferns and lycophytes from the recently acquired University of Louisiana at Monroe’s (NLU) herbarium collection. Ferns and lycophytes (once referred to as “fern allies”) are two special groups of plants that do not have flowers or seeds but rather reproduce by spores. Happy volunteers and BRIT staff hold "golden tickets" found among the collections. Tickets were exchanged for fun prizes! NLU Collections Assistants Miranda Madrid and Ashley Bordelon and BRIT Research Botanist Dr. Alejandra Vasco led the group on a tour of BRIT’s plant preservation studio, digitization stu...
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What Is This Thing? Oenothera triloba fruit

"What is this thing???" We often hear this question from friends and family in relation to natural "treasures" found in the landscape. Sticks, leaves, flowers, fruit, fungi, lichens, moss. You name it, somebody has likely brought it to BRIT for identification at some point (or emailed us a photo). The object below was brought in recently by a Fort Worth resident. Roughly the size and shape of a pine cone, this is actually an aggregation of many fruits (capsules) from a plant called stemless evening-primrose ( Oenothera triloba ). A winter annual, this native wildflower comes up in disturbed places (and often lawns) at the end of the year, overwinters as a rosette, then produces yellow flowers in the spring. Flowers arise from the base of the plant, meaning fruit eventually develop at the b...
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BRIT® and the Fort Worth Botanical Garden Partner to Strengthen Shared Mission

Starting in March 2018, BRIT and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden will launch new education and volunteer opportunities as part of an innovative public-private partnership between the institutions. The partnership, signed by the Fort Worth City Council and the BRIT board of directors in the fall of 2017, transfers responsibility for the Garden’s education and volunteer programs to BRIT. “There’s potential for enormous synergy between BRIT as a scientific and education organization and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden as a municipal garden,” says BRIT Executive Director Ed Schneider. The organizations, which have shared a campus since 2009, are making use of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of shared responsibility that has grown in popularity in the U.S. and around the globe. It is bas...
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Trudy and Charles Hess

Trudy and Charles Hess Q: How did you come to be interested in conservation and botany? A: Our earliest realization of the need to protect our fragile environment comes from our SCUBA diving days. The exposure to what was then mostly undisturbed ecosystems, and the exposure to an incredible display of diversity with all its amazing interrelationships, gave us an understanding of the true complexity of nature. And of course, we greatly value its beauty also. A very important part of SCUBA certification was the emphasis on not disturbing the environment. This instilled in us a lasting respect for nature which has evolved into our deep concern for the survival of critical habitats. In our lifetime we have sadly witnessed the massive destruction of large parts of our ecosystem. After retiring...
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