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Biodiversity Blog

 
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...
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...