Phytophilia

Phytophilia

Official blog of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Phytophilia = Love of Plants. BRIT's mission is to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value plants bring to life.

Recent Articles

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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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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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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All Sealed Up

One of the first steps in curating the NLU collection is ensuring its security. Herbarium specimens are vulnerable to damage from light, bugs, rodents, dust, and water. The metal cabinets used to store herbarium specimens are designed to protect from these damaging elements conveniently and easily – but only if they are in good shape and sealed airtight. Each cabinet of the 336 total we received from the university was inspected to confirm that it was performing its job. Of the 336, there were 156 cabinets with seals that appeared damaged or deteriorated. We decided to make a plan to fix this problem before moving forward with the curation process. Adhesive turned out to be a lot trickier to remove than anticipated! Trying to just peel it off with fingers was frustrating and, frankly, woul...
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Curating the NLU Collection

The R. Dale Thomas Collection (NLU) officially completed its journey to BRIT in August 2017. However, this was only the beginning! Follow the NLU rescue team for the next year as they work to make this priceless collection secure and accessible to researchers and the public. Prior to its move to BRIT, the R. Dale Thomas Collection (NLU) was housed at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The herbarium acronym NLU comes from the University’s previous name—Northeast Louisiana University—when Dr. R. Dale Thomas took the collection from 250 specimens to over 400,000. Today, the NLU herbarium contains an estimated 472,000 specimens of vascular and nonvascular plants collected across the globe. The NLU collection has strengths in Louisiana flora and in the daisy family, Asteraceae. Left: The he...
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Bringing NLU to BRIT

In March 2017, the scientific community was ablaze with the news that the University of Louisiana at Monroe would no longer be able to care for its natural history collection, including a significant fish collection and 470,000 herbarium specimens. The issue made national headlines as well, inspiring articles from the likes of Smithsonian Magazine , The Washington Post , Nature , Gizmodo , and Atlas Obscura . It was a rare drama for the typically quiet collections world, and BRIT was soon to find itself right in the thick of it. Headlines from March - July 2017 But let's back up a bit. Several years ago, the natural history collections at University of Louisiana at Monroe were moved from a campus building to an old print shop underneath Brown Stadium. Conditions were far from ideal for hou...
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Recycling Rocks!

Mixed-stream recycling is pretty amazing. We get to throw all of our recyclables into one bin, and then — POOF! — they magically get taken away and sorted elsewhere. No more icky sorting of paper from soda cans, milk jugs from mason jars! But have you ever wondered how the sorting ACTUALLY HAPPENS and WHO DOES IT?
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