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

National Old Stuff Day

In honor of National Old Stuff Day (March 2nd), the BRIT Herbarium wants to highlight one of our more interesting specimens from Oklahoma. Although not as old as the oldest illustrated flora from the early 1530s, some of BRIT’s oldest collections speak to the history of the Southern Great Plains. Herbarium specimen of Monarda punctata collected by J.W. Blankinship from Oklahoma in 1895. (Credit: BRIT Herbarium, J.W. Blankinship s.n., BRIT569198) Our specimen today is a collection of Monarda punctata, also known as Spotted Beebalm or Dotted Horsemint, a common sweet-scented perennial in North America. But our focus for today is the locality data for this specimen: Creek Nation, I.T. (Indian Territory). Many readers are likely familiar with the name for this First Peoples tribe, but “Indian...
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National Old Stuff Day

In honor of National Old Stuff Day (March 2nd), the BRIT Herbarium wants to highlight one of our more interesting specimens from Oklahoma. Although not as old as the oldest illustrated flora from the early 1530s, some of BRIT’s oldest collections speak to the history of the Southern Great Plains. Herbarium specimen of Monarda punctata collected by J.W. Blankinship from Oklahoma in 1895. (Credit: BRIT Herbarium, J.W. Blankinship s.n., BRIT569198) Our specimen today is a collection of Monarda punctata, also known as Spotted Beebalm or Dotted Horsemint, a common sweet-scented perennial in North America. But our focus for today is the locality data for this specimen: Creek Nation, I.T. (Indian Territory). Many readers are likely familiar with the name for this First Peoples tribe, but “Indian...
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FWBG | BRIT Research Teams Awarded More Than $1.95M for Plant Exploration at Home and Abroad

Last December, two BRIT botanists and their teams of colleagues were awarded separate grants from the National Science Foundation’s Systematics & Biodiversity Science Program for a combined total of $1,950,000. Drs. Alejandra Vasco (L) and Weston Testo (R) display their collections of Elaphoglossum ferns at a study site in South America in 2018. Dr. Alejandra Vasco, a fern expert, and her team of colleagues will receive $1.1M over four years to support the project “Accelerating Lineage Discovery to Document Neotropical Fern Diversity.” Beginning in late summer of this year, the team will study the diversity of ferns in Colombia, one of the most species-rich countries on Earth. Working with two graduate students and more than a dozen undergraduates, Dr. Vasco and her colleagues Dr. Weston T...
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Encounters with Plants that BITE!

In late 2018, the BRIT Philecology Herbarium received funds from the National Science Foundation Grant: “Endless Forms most beautiful and most wonderful” to digitize collections of species across 15 plant families that have unique adaptations and morphologies. These plants may live in extreme and highly specific environments that face elevated risks of extinction in the rapidly changing climate that we’re seeing today. Dozens of herbaria across the United States are digitizing their collections representing these peculiar families in an effort to aid in research about their evolutionary history, ecology, conservation tactics, and more. Some of the groups of plants that fall under this grant include epiphytes (such as orchids), succulents (cacti and some euphorbs), and carnivores! The carni...
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Will the real four-leaf clover please stand up?!

There are many plant species bearing the iconic clover look in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The true lucky clover is believed to be the white clover of the legume family - Trifolium repens . Although Trifolium is derived from the Latin words tres (three) and folium (leaf), a unique genetic mutation causes some plants to grow an additional leaflet! A simple Google search will tell you the likelihood of a four-leaf clover is 1 in 10,000. However, it was not until 2017 that a study was conducted by enthusiasts to see if this number was accurate. They found the frequency to really be 1 in 5,076 ! This is not the only surprise this species brings to the table. Some of these plants across the world not only grow one extra leaflet, but sometimes up to 8 leaflets. There is even a Guinness Worl...
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A Natural Nature Networker

The annual Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention was held at the Fort Worth Convention Center at the end of March. The associated trade show was open to the public, and there were more than 200 exhibitors/vendors offering giveaways and information at various booths. Our own Dan Caudle, Resident Research Associate, worked several booths on behalf of the Youth Range Workshop , Texas Grazing Land Coalition (TXGLC) , and the Grazing Animal Nutrition (GAN) Lab at the Blackland Research and Extension Center , this last of whom (according to Dan) "test livestock fecal samples with Near Infrared Spectroscopy to determine nutritional value of the forages that have actually been consumed, digested, and passed through the animals." You know...as one does (!!!!). Though officially "retired"...
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Two Dozen Reasons

Resident Research Associate and retired USDA-NRCS rangeland specialist Dan Caudle shares his thoughts on the value of his continued involvement with the annual Texas Youth Range Workshop, the flagship educational opportunity of TSSRM (Texas Section of Society of Range Management).
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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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