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Biodiversity Blog

 

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...
UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

The prestigious journal BioScience just released "Natural History Collections: Advancing the Frontiers of Science," a compilation of recent natural history collection-related papers that sheds light on the importance of digitizing and publishing collections data, and the substantial obstacles confronting collections staff working on that. This come...
BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: the Texas Live Oak

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: the Texas Live Oak

 One of the historic Battle Oaks on the UT campus. Describing a mature live oak as “stately” is a bit of an understatement. They can live several centuries and these older trees command quite a presence. Their trunks can grow 4 feet or more in diameter and their crowns can spread more than 100 feet, sometimes touching the ground in a sprawl...
Trees of BFL: Cottonwoods and Willows

Trees of BFL: Cottonwoods and Willows

  Cottonwood trees and willows are similar in many ways. They germinate through wind dispersion and colonize moist muddy areas exposed to full sun. Both are present in Brackenridge Field Lab, and the cottonwoods in particular have a close connection to the history of the field lab. COTTONWOODS Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are one of the ...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Dandelions

640px Taraxacum officinale 001   Photo: H. Zell (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.) Some make wishes while blowing their seeds into the wind. Others eat them or use them in medicine. And others frown when they see them popping up on their lawns. These are dandelions, probably a plant that just about everyone can identify,...

Trees of BFL: Spanish Oak

SpanishOak Photos: Larry Gilbert At Brackenridge Field Lab, the Spanish Oaks (Quercus buckleyi) is found mainly in the old pasture zone. This tree is sometimes also called “Texas red oak” or “Buckley’s oak.” The tree is native to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It grows on average between 30 to 50 feet tall. The largest known species grows right here in...
Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

   Moth damage to Prickly Pear (Photo: Larry Gilbert) Despite its iconic association with the Southwest, many people may not love Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). However, various species of Opuntia are extremely important plants to most ecosystems in Texas and Mexico. They produce a huge quantity of fruits that are a critica...
The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

The Trees of BFL: Pecans (Carya illinoiensis)

   One of the burried pecans.  Pecan trees (Carya illinoiensis) generally live along river bottom forest, or in places with irrigation systems. You may even have one or two growing in your yard. At Brackenridge Field Lab, the pecans here have a unique relationship with the history of the field lab. In this article “The Dam that ...
One Plant of Thousands

One Plant of Thousands

 The Darwin specimen. (Click on image for larger view) International Darwin Day is observed on February 12, the day Charles Darwin was born. Darwin Day asks people to “reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.” In 1831, when he was...

The Texas Eight: Love ‘Em, Hate ‘Em, or Drink ‘Em

Juniperus deppeana alligator juniperwebTexas has eight species of juniper native to the state. Some prevent slope erosion, some play havoc with allergies, and some go into a gin made by Integrative Biology professor, Dr. Molly Cummings. Dr. Cummings uses berries from two Texas junipers for two different gins made by WildGins Co., a gin company headquartered in Austin and run by Cummings...

Trees of BFL: Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

BaldCypressby Nicole Elmer and George Yatskievych (Botanist, Curator: Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center) Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a deciduous conifer (cone bearing) in the family Cupressaceae. The genus consists of very distinctive trees. They can get very tall, growing up to 120 feet, with massive, lobed ...