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Biodiversity Blog

 
Hidden Greenhouse Gems

Hidden Greenhouse Gems

On the roof of the Patterson building (PAT) lives one of the world’s most diverse greenhouse collections of mainly neotropical vines from the large genus of Passiflora. Dr. Larry Gilbert, Director of the Brackenridge Field Lab, has been growing them for studies of coevolution, chemical ecology and biodiversity of the insect fauna that relies on the...
History of UT Botany, Part 3: Curator Mary Sophie Young

History of UT Botany, Part 3: Curator Mary Sophie Young

This piece was originally published in January 2017 in the Dept. of Integrative Biology History Project. The third blog in our UT botany history series focuses on Marie Sophie Young. In 1912, Young became the first official curator of the relatively new herbarium at UT, when the university was only 29 years old. She was an early Texas STEM educator...
History of UT Botany, Part 2: the Herbaria

History of UT Botany, Part 2: the Herbaria

This is an updated post that originally ran on March 13, 2017 in the Integrative Biology History Project    Lundell Herbarium 1964 specimen of Hibiscus lasiocarpus Cav. Few landmarks on the UT campus are as iconic as the Tower, visible to thousands daily as part of the Austin skyscape. Yet, not many people realize that eight diffe...
History of UT Botany, Part 1: The Beginnings

History of UT Botany, Part 1: The Beginnings

Front and back of 1904 photo by HB Buck. (From Dolph Briscoe Center for American History). "Department of Botany U of T, Cooperia drummondii, Rain 'lilly', Campus U of T, April 20, '04. From HB Buck, 400 W. 38th St. Austin, TX." This blog starts off the new series for our Biodiversity Collections, with the focus on botany and what is now c...
The Woods of 214

The Woods of 214

When you enter room 214 in the Biological Laboratories Building (BIO), the first thing that may strike you is the wood paneling. You may then dismiss the room as a relic from the 1970s when cheap and sometimes synthetic wood paneling was all the rage. (That along with linoleum and an over-abundant use of anything avocado colored.) But BIO 214 has a...
Lichens we consume, lichens we admire

Lichens we consume, lichens we admire

 Cladonia parasitica, a lichen found at Stengl Lost Pines (Photo: Liz Bowman) Lichens are beautiful, sometimes otherworldly, in ways that aren’t overlooked by arts and culture. They also have had medicinal and culinary uses for millenia. As explored in What the Heck is a Lichen, our introductory blog, lichens are complex organisms created b...
Meet Lauren Hoff!

Meet Lauren Hoff!

 (Photo: George Yatskievych) Lauren is our new Assistant Curator in the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center. Lauren took some time out of her busy day to tell us a little about herself and how she got her start. Tell us where you came from before UT, and what you studied.  I recently graduated from California Polytechnic State Univ...
A Chat with Botanist Domingos Cardoso

A Chat with Botanist Domingos Cardoso

Domingos holding an inflorescence of Parkia discolor, a legume species ecologically dominant in Amazonian periodically-flooded forests locally known as "igapós" Domingos Cardoso is an esteemed Brazilian botanist very active in biodiversity and conservation in Brazil. His main research interests are how evolutionary processes have shape...
Trees of BFL: the Redbud

Trees of BFL: the Redbud

Photo collage: Larry Gilbert   Nothing quite signals the coming of spring in Austin like when a redbud tree starts to bloom. After our brief but botanically-drab Austin winters, the bright pink flowers are a welcome and invigorating sight. At Brackenridge Field Lab, redbuds grow there natively in places where limestone quarries existed in t...
All things creepy: parasitism pt 2, the corpse lily

All things creepy: parasitism pt 2, the corpse lily

Photo: Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported) Next in our parasitism series is the flowering plant in the parasitic genus Rafflesia, also known by the evocative names of the “corpse lily” or “carrion flower.” Why does it deserve our attention in the Halloween series? Because it t...

Through the Herbarium Cabinet: a Student View of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center

Sarah 2 webby Sarah Hunter This summer, through the ongoing haze of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I had the unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at UT. The Herbarium Curation Summer Graduate Fellowship program allowed me three months of hands-on training in the varied aspects of herbarium curat...
Shrubs of BFL: Texas lantana

Shrubs of BFL: Texas lantana

Photos: Larry Gilbert   This ubiquitous native low shrub is hard to miss. Part of the verbena family, those red, orange, and yellow blooms appear when the weather in Central Texas becomes close to unbearable. The scientific name is Lantanta urticoides, however it often gets confused with Lantana horrida, the name inspired by its strong odor...
Saving Water Damaged Species

Saving Water Damaged Species

by Viv Shu (undergraduate Museum Studies Certificate student and Sustainability major) Living plants need water to survive, but dried museum specimens of plants are exactly the opposite! The Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center houses more than 1,000,000 such herbarium specimens in the Main Building. This 85+ year-old landmark, also known as the...
Linda Escobar 2021 Award Recipients Announced

Linda Escobar 2021 Award Recipients Announced

The Linda Escobar Award was established by family and friends to honor the memory of the late Linda Katherine Albert de Escobar (1940–1993), a botanist, educator, and alumna of the UT Plant Biology program whose research centered on the systematics of the genus Passiflora, the widespread and taxonomically diverse plant genus that includes the culti...
Influential People of Biodiversity: Billie Turner

Influential People of Biodiversity: Billie Turner

Posing in 1970 with Perityle turneri (Asteraceae), one of many species named in Turner's honor. (Photo: Mike Powell) I first met Billie Turner in early 2016. That was when I’d started working on the Integrative Biology History project, and as Turner had a seven-decade career, I knew I had to interview him. With so much to cover, one meeting woul...
The Power of Poop

The Power of Poop

We all know poop. When it comes to plants, we might think of poop as the manure that gives our yards and crops a little pep and vigor. But poop is also one of the many ways plants propagate. Plants need a little help getting their offspring out into the world. They’ve evolved many methods to do that, and providing a nutritional bit of food to a pas...
It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

The February winter storm “Uri” saw temperatures drop into the single digits and stay below freezing for days. The last time Austin had single digit temperatures was in 1989, the year the Berlin wall fell, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, and Taylor Swift was born. So, yeah. It’s been a while. Uri not only caused havoc for Texans and ou...

Botany Basics: Understanding Leaves

Venation 01 web2With fall leaves swirling about, there is no better time to understand some of ways botanists examine leaves to identify the plant from which they come. Certainly not exhaustive, these are just some of the common markers.  VENATION Venation: The arrangement of veins in a leaf is called the venation pattern. Veins...
Shrubs of BFL: Catclaw Acacia

Shrubs of BFL: Catclaw Acacia

This perennial shrub (Senegalia wrightii) grows 6-10 feet tall although some accounts say it can grow to triple this size. The lacey foliage is twice pinnately-compound and semi-evergreen. Pinnately-compound refers to a leaf that is divided into smaller leaflets and those leaflets are arranged along each side of the leaf's central stalk, or rachis....
Shrubs of BFL: American Beautyberry

Shrubs of BFL: American Beautyberry

 Ripe berries on Beautyberry (Photo: Nicole Elmer) Around this time of year, this shrub is difficult to miss. The normally inconspicuous green berries turn bright purple and become quite popular for wild bird and animal populations. This plant’s scientific name is Callicarpa americana, or better known as the Beautyberry or American Beautybe...