Phytophilia

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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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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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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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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Holiday Botany: Mistletoe

Mistletoe brings to mind a be-ribboned bouquet hung beneath doorways to catch unsuspecting party-goers in a kissing trap, but the evergreen plant has a long history in Western holiday tradition. The original mistletoe of Greek and Celtic traditions, Viscum album , was a symbol of masculinity, vitality, health, and fertility, and its usage as a treatment for barrenness in human and animals is reportedly very ancient. The majority of mistletoes are obligate hemi-parasites, meaning they cannot live without a host but do engage in some photosynthesis with their foliage. The connection between mistletoe and the Winter Solstice was likely made as the species remains evergreen and bears fruit throughout winter, creating festive decoration is the coldest of winter wonderlands. Depiction of a Druid...
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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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