|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 429 November 10, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
Georgia Mason (1910-2007) was a relative newcomer to the West when she set out in the early 1960s to compile a flora of the Wallowa Mountains in the northeastern corner of Oregon. Georgia had traveled from her home state of New Jersey in 1958 to work on a Master of Science degree at Oregon State College (now OSU). At the time of her move she had been teaching grades one through nine in the New Jersey public schools for twenty-seven years, and there is evidence that she intended to return to that occupation when she completed her advanced degree. However, something about the glorious scenery of our mountainous West must have tugged at her heart, for she remained here for the rest of her life, becoming the author of two published floras as well as one of the state's major plant collectors before dying in Eugene at the age of 97.
Mason, whose birth name was Georgia Mavropoulos, was born in West Orange New Jersey on March 16, 1910, the middle of three daughters of Greek immigrants Peter and Bessie Mavropoulos. Young Georgia attended high school and college in her home state, studying to become a public school teacher. In 1931, still in New Jersey, she began teaching grades one through seven in Wallington, remaining there for 10 years. It is said that she changed her name to Mason at this time so it might be more easily pronounced by her pupils. After taking college correspondence courses in science, Mason moved to Passaic to teach General Science to grades six through nine. She taught there for 17 years throughout World War II and the Korean conflict. However, things were about to change and Georgia Mason would take a momentous step in her life because, on October 4, 1957, on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan, the Russians launched Sputnik and transformed the world!
When the Soviet Union beat the United States to space, America took a good look at its educational system and did not like what it saw, especially in the field of science teaching. Plans were quickly made at the Federal level to improve the training of scientists - notably in the public schools. The National Science Foundation (NSF) offered incentives to help bring teachers up to speed, and Georgia Mason, after 27 years of teaching in New Jersey, applied for and was awarded a grant to study for a Master of Science degree at Oregon State across the country in Corvallis. Georgia was a private person who has left scant written records of her activities - not even a collecting notebook -- so we must piece together the account of her life in Oregon from the official documents available to us, notes she left at the University of Arizona, and the OSU Herbarium records of her plant collections. Her niece, Susan Teller, as well as various people who knew her in Oregon, have also provided their recollections for which we are grateful.
In September 1958, Georgia Mason, age 49, climbed into her green 1954 Chevrolet and left Clifton New Jersey for Oregon. Arriving in Corvallis, she rented an apartment near campus and registered for Botany 411, Entomology 412, Education 507, and Natural Resources 421 and 590. Although her New Jersey Superintendent expected her to return at the end of the 2-year course of study, except for brief visits to the east, she would live in the west for the remainder of her life. In the Botany Department at OSC, Georgia would soon have met Dr. Helen Gilkey and her students. Gilkey was 72 years old and retired when Georgia arrived in 1958, but was still actively authoring botanical publications and working in the Herbarium most days. She had previously published Livestock-Poisoning Weeds of Oregon, Aquatic Plants of the Pacific Northwest, and Weeds of the Pacific Northwest. Helen was a woman botanist who encouraged other women to seek careers in botany as well. Her students Patricia Packard and La Rea Dennis were co-authors with her of such publications as Winter Twigs, and Handbook of Northwest Flowering Plants. Georgia Mason had entered an academic world where women were respected and encouraged to publish floristic works. We can only assume that the newcomer was both impressed and inspired by these connections.
Another important connection for Georgia was established that same year when, in one of her classes, she met fellow graduate student and PhD candidate, George Van Vechten. Like Georgia, Van Vechten was from the east (New Jersey and Vermont), where he had earned his Master's Degree at Rutgers. At OSC, he was researching the geology and ecology of the Three Sisters Mountains of Central Oregon for his thesis. He and Georgia were lab partners and began to study together. He remembers her as ".very outgoing and a lot of fun to be with." When the snow left the Three Sisters high country, George invited Georgia to go hiking and plant collecting with him. At some point they chartered a plane to fly over the rugged peaks to photograph the glaciers and forested areas. Once they were snowed in during an early fall storm and spent the night camping at Sunshine Shelter. In March 1960 they took a spring break trip to botanize in the Southwest, hiking and collecting at Lake Mead, in Death Valley and the Grand Canyon. Thus, Georgia was introduced to the thrill of backcountry explorations and plant collecting. It is not surprising that at the end of her two years of graduate work in Corvallis she chose not to return to school teaching in New Jersey.
Georgia received her Master of Science Degree from Oregon State in August 1959 and began to collect plant specimens in western Oregon. (That winter she made a short return visit to New Jersey.) In June of the following year, George Van Vechten completed his PhD and left Corvallis to teach at Eastern Oregon College in the town of La Grande located in the far corner of the state near the Wallowa Mountains. He recalls that Georgia visited him and that the two hiked in the Wallowa high country. Georgia's niece has stated that her aunt truly fell in love with the mountains at this time. OSU Herbarium records show that Georgia began her serious study of the Wallowa flora in 1960-1961; and Kenton Chambers, newly hired professor of Botany and Curator of the OSU Herbarium, recalls Georgia working on her Wallowa specimens in the herbarium. We do not know when Mason began to contemplate writing a Flora of the area, but it seems reasonable to assume that the example of Helen Gilkey and her students Dennis and Packard influenced Georgia to undertake this project. At the time she was 50 years old and perhaps living on savings, although this situation would change temporarily the following year.
In 1961, Georgia Mason was hired for the 1961-1962 academic year by the University of Oregon in Eugene as Acting Assistant Curator of the UO Herbarium during the sabbatical leave of Curator LeRoy Detling. Georgia moved to Eugene, rented an apartment near the UO campus, and took charge of the day-to-day running of the Herbarium that was then part of the Museum of Natural History located near the University Science Building. During the summers she spent major periods of time in the Wallowas, collecting over 300 specimens in both 1961 and 1962. The former was a very busy year for her; she collected heavily in eastern Oregon as well as in the Three Sisters, in Washington State, Nebraska and Wyoming. At this time, she and Van Vechten lost touch with each other and he has stated that he believed she had moved back to New Jersey. Upon the return of Herbarium Curator LeRoy Detling in the fall of 1962, Georgia chose to remain in Eugene, which would be her home for the remainder of her life. Records show that she lived in at least three rental apartments there between 1962 and 1964. Since Georgia spent summers in the Wallowas, she perhaps gave up her apartments during those months. Georgia did not again secure salaried employment in Oregon until she returned to the U of O Herbarium as Acting Assistant Curator from 1970 to 1976. Meanwhile she worked steadily on her Wallowa Flora for the next seven years.
We are fortunate to know a good bit about Georgia Mason's activities during this unemployed period due to Oregon Flora Project records and copious notes she left in the Herbarium at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. These show that she collected in the Wallowas each year between 1961 and 1971, thus spending entire summers in the mountains she loved for a full decade until she was over 60 years of age. During this period, in 1967 and again in 1969, Kenton Chambers corresponded with Georgia about collections she was donating to the OSU Herbarium. In 1967 she wrote to Chambers from Joseph, Oregon and he replied to thank her for the 1,210 specimens she had thus far donated to OSU. In another letter she verifies that the University of Oregon gives her no financial support. In June of 1969 she writes that she is in Lostine and that there has been a savage hailstorm that has closed most of the trails. In 1967 Georgia wrote to Dr. Chambers from the ASU Herbarium. Her detailed collecting notes on file there indicate that she was making use of their facilities to identify and prepare labels for her hundreds of pressed specimens.
Finally, in 1970, Georgia Mason's lean financial period came to a temporary end when she was once again hired by the University of Oregon to manage the Herbarium following the death of LeRoy Detling. She held this position for seven years. According to David Wagner, who followed her as Curator, Georgia accomplished a prodigious amount of work. She continued to gather data for her Flora of the Wallowas, mounted, labelled and accessioned the approximately 3,000 specimens collected by Oregon botanist Lilla Leach, incorporated the approximately 3,800 collections of Eugene collector Orlin Ireland, acquired much-needed herbarium cases, prepared new genus covers, and formally accessioned hundreds of specimens.
When UO archaeologist David Cole became Georgia's Department head in 1971, he advised her that her primary responsibility should be to complete and publish her Wallowa Flora. The book needed an illustrator, Professor Cole employed his 19-year old son (also David Cole) to make plant drawings during the summer of 1971. Young Cole, who had just graduated from high school and was waiting to join the navy, completed 600 or 700 drawings for the book that summer at a rate of one dollar per drawing. The following year, University of Oregon student, John Christy, prepared the map for the book and made the final drawings of the grasses and grass-like plants. He recalls Georgia at the time as ".busy annotating Wallowa specimens, sending out loans, and single-handedly labelling new genus folders for the entire collection." He noted, "She was not given to chatter, but had some interesting stories about the Wallowas and her collecting there." The younger David Cole remembers Georgia reporting that during her Wallowa years, she made friends with some of the elderly miners she met during her summers in the mountains. Georgia's 411-page Guide to the Plants of the Wallowa Mountains of Northeastern Oregon was published by the Museum of Natural History of the University of Oregon in December 1975 and reprinted with additions and corrections in 1980. (The second edition remains in print and is available at the Museum in Eugene.)
During her final two years as Herbarium Curator at the University of Oregon, Georgia collected and catalogued wetland and weedy species of Eugene and Lane County. She reluctantly retired in 1976 at the age of 66 when David Wagner was hired as Curator. Dr. Wagner has written, "After retirement she kept a door key and came into the herbarium to work evenings and weekends. She did not stop coming until all her collections were mounted. After that she stayed away feeling she might be in the way despite my encouragement for her to work there as much as she wished. I know she was rather bitter towards the UO over being forced into retirement. She would have continued happily for another ten or twenty years."
About this time, Georgia showed her appreciation to the Botany Department at Oregon State University in Corvallis by contributing $5,000 as an endowment to finance student work in the OSU Herbarium. Known as the Georgia Mason Herbarium Fund, the 1978 gift has been invested to provide funds for student workers to participate in the day-to-day operating activities of the Herbarium and its programs. Georgia stipulated at the time that her donation be used to " .assist students who are interested in plant taxonomy, and to support research and teaching in this field of botany."
Georgia Mason's second and last book, Plants of Wet to Moist Habitats in and Around Eugene Oregon, was self-published in 1983 and sold in bookstores and by mail from her home. The 207-page, paperbound book, a copy of which is filed in the UO Science Library, is out-of-print and difficult to find today. For a number of years after retirement Georgia Mason taught adult education botany courses at Lane Community College in Eugene and led local plant walks, frequently to wetland sites. Otherwise, an increasingly reclusive person, she lived quietly with her dogs in a rented duplex in Eugene's Danebo neighbourhood. Some of those who had known Georgia at the University lost track of her, but neighbours remember her as a person who loved dogs, cats, birds, and gardening.
What can be said of Georgia's botanical legacy? Oregon Flora Project records reveal that, with 4,549 herbarium specimens to her credit, she is far and away the most assiduous of Oregon's female collectors. Among all Oregon collectors to date, she ranks fourth in number of collections after Morton Peck of Willamette University, and L. F. Henderson and LeRoy Detling of the University of Oregon. And, with two published floras to her credit, Georgia Mason may rightfully claim a secure place in the pantheon of Oregon botanists.
Georgia was no longer living in Eugene's Danebo area at the time of her death on October 8, 2007. Her later years were spent in an apartment in west Eugene and her final six months at an assisted living facility in nearby Springfield. Her niece Susan Teller came to Oregon from New York to handle the arrangements. Georgia Mason was quietly cremated and there was no funeral. Her niece, with whom she was very close, is the person commemorated in Georgia's Wallowa Flora:"To Susan whose confidence, encouragement and unflagging interest have made this flora possible."
For the figures see: http://bomi.ou.edu/ben/429/aceria_photos.pdf
The Scotch broom gall mite - suspected to be, and hereafter referred to as, Aceria genistae (Nalepa) Acari: Eriophyidae - was first found on Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius L.) in the Tacoma WA and Portland OR regions in 2005. Subsequent surveys have established that the mite is widely distributed throughout western Washington (excluding the Olympic Peninsula), some areas of eastern WA where Scotch broom or ornamental broom species are found, much of western Oregon (south to Roseburg), and south-western British Columbia. Since its original detection, the mite has been rapidly dispersing into previously uninfested areas. Its distribution in British Columbia is relatively unknown to our project and all reports would be greatly appreciated. [_Aceria galls are common on Scotch broom on southern Vancouver Island and have been reported from several Gulf Islands. AC]
Observationally, the mite appears to reduce Scotch broom seed production And biomass. At high densities there is often extensive stem die-back which can kill most of the plant. The eriophyid mites are extremely tiny and generally cannot be seen with the naked eye. Galls are usually found forming on plants that are at least three years old, although we do occasionally find them on younger plants. When mites first begin attacking broom stems, we tend to find most galls located on the lower, interior branches and then spreading to the upper, outer branches as the mite population increases; however, this can be quite variable. Overwintering individual mites are found in the stem buds and sometimes the previous year's galls. Gall development begins as temperatures increase in the spring. Initially, the buds appear deformed and hairy and then grow into a hairy open-gall formation as the season progresses. The diameter of the gall can vary greatly, ranging in size from 0.5 cm to around 3 cm. Gall size appears to be correlated with an increase in temperature. Cool springs seem to set back gall development and may reduce their overall seasonal impact on Scotch broom. The hairiness of the galls gives them a grey-green appearance and they can be difficult to detect early in the growing season but become increasingly prominent as summer progresses. In late August, most galls begin drying out and turn a reddish-green colour. By late fall and winter, they are quite distinct as they darken to a brown-black.
In 2006, Washington State University Extension and the United State Forest Service (Rocky Mountain Research Station) initiated a research project to assess the host-specificity of Aceria genistae to determine whether it could be approved as a biological control agent in the United States. Over 20 ecologically- and economically-valued species were tested in greenhouse and open-field studies, with a particular emphasis on native Lupinus species. Surveys of non-target species naturally co-occurring with mite-infested Scotch broom were also assessed.
During these studies, mites and gall formations were noted on hybrids and ornamental species of Scotch broom. In 2008 and 2009, under greenhouse tests, gall-like growth and eriophyid mites were found on Lupinus densiflorus Benth. (=? L. microcarpus Sims), a species listed as endangered in Canada. Unfortunately, we were unable to transfer clean specimens to our test plants and we cannot be certain that our mite transfers were not contaminated with other mite species. We have not been able to replicate the attack under field conditions and only found one eriophyid mite and no deformed growth on L. densiflorus at naturally occurring populations growing sympatrically with mite-infested Scotch broom on Vancouver Island. If Aceria genistae is capable of developing on L. densiflorus, the ephemeral winter annual life cycle of the plant may prevent the mite from impacting plant populations. Nevertheless, we will continue to survey the L. densiflorus on Vancouver Island in 2011 to assess mite presence and potential impact.
Currently the ambiguous taxonomy of the mites found on Scotch broom, gorse (Ulex europaeus L.) and L. densiflorus has added further complications to the study. Although this mite species was first recorded in the United States in the 1990's on gorse (Ulex europaeus) and French broom (Genista monspessulana [L.] L. Johnson) by Chan and Turner (1998), it does not create galls on these species. The galls found on Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) were not discovered until over a decade later. Recently, Jim Amrine, a mite taxonomist from West Virginia University, tentatively identified the mite on gorse as Aceria spartii (Canestrini), the mite on Scotch broom as A. genistae, and the mite on L. densiflorus as closely resembling A. spartii. This information has increased the confusion about whether Lupinus densiflorus is at risk from the mite attacking Scotch broom. We will continue to pursue taxonomic clarification for each of these mite species and how they relate to the respective plant species. The results of the taxonomic work will likely influence whether we petition for biological control agent approval.
[If you have any questions, concerns or want to report a Scotch broom gall mite site, please contact Jennifer Andreas - firstname.lastname@example.org ]
ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2010) - Alaska may be staking out yet another claim to a natural treasure. In article appearing in October in the journal The Bryologist, a team of researchers from Austria, Norway, Spain and the United States reports the highest diversity of lichens found anywhere on the North American continent from the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (KLGO).
Natural historians who have spent cherished time meandering through fields, forests and farmlands across the face of the North American continent and who are inspired by the profound natural beauty of wildflowers that adorn our landscapes, this review is to inform you of an entirely new and marvellously presented wildflower guide that has just been published. It is a wholly unique guide, presented differently from any before. Authors of field guides must make a fundamental decision early to determine what species to include. Dr. David Brandenburg's approach to wildflower was to include "naturally growing, usually herbaceous (non-woody) plant having showy or otherwise interesting flowers." Guided by this definition, Brandenburg effectively eliminated thousands of trees, shrubs and grasses, nearly all sedges, and all plants with inconspicuous flowers or inflorescences such as those found in Lemnaceae, Potamogetonaceae, Najadaceae, etc. Nevertheless, he was still able to include over 2,300 species or nearly 10% of the entire North American flora and approximately 20% of the North American flora considered to be wildflowers. Within the introduction, Brandenburg provided an extensive (and very useful!) shape and color key to flowers found within the Guide via exceptionally colourful thumbnails of over 600 flowers and inflorescence types. He also provided brief essays on how to identify wildflowers, conservation issues and habitat types where wildflowers might be found. The Guide is arranged hierarchically by family, genus and species. The species included within each genus generally represent its most showy or significantly attractive members or those with the most impressive inflorescences. Family and generic names are arranged alphabetically and for the most part, follow traditional usage. All taxa are provided with brief morphological and ecological descriptions including critical characters considered to be most useful for plant identification. Equally useful are the colourful and accurate range maps for both genera and species; an attraction rarely found in wildflower field guides and more reminiscent of those found within field guides of the vertebrate fauna. Certainly, most impressive is the overwhelming and spectacular collection of photographs used to display flowers, inflorescences and to illustrate other plant organs of particular species. In total, nearly 5,000 photographs are included, producing a kaleidoscope of colour on nearly all 673 pages. I found the textual content including both taxonomy and nomenclature to be current and the identification of the photographs to be extremely accurate. Although there are a few abnormalities in color-reproduction and perhaps some users of the Guide might quibble about its thickness (nearly 2 inches thick), once opened, those quibbles fade quickly. Being a collector of field guides for over forty years, I feel certain that Dr. Brandenburg's Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America will set a new standard of excellence and quickly become one of the most popular Field Guides in use. Without reservations, I recommend strongly, the purchase of this guide to anyone who has an appreciation of wild plants that grace our landscape and perfume the scenes.
When science is contemplated it is often of people in white lab coats in a room surrounded by impressive apparatus, presenting ideas using esoteric math or an impressive sounding jargon. Also the hard objectivity of science is often stressed as is the power of the scientific method. There is the hint of a methodological approach to the natural world, do the proper procedures in the proper sequence and the truth shall be revealed. This is a sterile and cold view that clashes with the experiences that have brought many scientists to their chosen vocation, one that often seems more like an avocation. What first attracts the eye and mind is the beauty of nature, the brilliant plumage of a bird, the patterning of a butterfly's wing, the sweet smell of a cluster of lilac flowers, the sweeping flagella of a unicellular animal. This appreciation of the beauty of the natural world extends even to things as mundane as a grass, seemingly consisting of little more than green stalks but to some showing an attraction sufficient to offer pleasure by the simple act of lying down among them. The beautiful side of nature has even been expressed by the physicist Paul Dirac's argument that mathematical formulae must be judged by their beauty. This is what we are trying to capture here, the beauty of the natural world that has drawn us into a commitment of time and energy that defies rational explanation. We're using two artistic devices to express the innate beauty of nature, the photos of Dan Brooks and poems of Jack Maze.
Dan Brooks is an internationally recognized tropical biodiversity specialist. He is a Fellow of the Linnaean Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Academy of Sciences), and has received honorary degrees from Stockholm University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2010, he was awarded a prestigious 1-year Senior Visiting Fellowship at the Collegium Budapest in Budapest, Hungary. He has traveled and done fieldwork extensively throughout Latin America, and has taught in more than 20 countries on 5 continents. His photography draws on two inspirations - his more than 30 years as a field biologist, and his experience growing up with two blind brothers. His homage to his brothers' legacy is My Brothers' Eyes: How My Blind Brothers Taught Me To See.
Jack Maze was raised in Hollister, CA, the birthplace of the American biker, and has held faculty positions at the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia. His research focus has consistently been whole plant botany but with a catholic assortment of interests: taxonomic revisions, interspecific hybridization, the effect of climate change on plants (long before it was popular), population differentiation, the interface between development and evolution, theoretical plant morphology and the synergy between modern monotheism and evolution. He has taught introductory botany; introductory ecology; plant ecology, anatomy, morphology and taxonomy; the history and philosophy of biology and in an introductory Arts program. One dictum he has tried to follow, and to convince students to follow as well, when choosing a plant to study, pick one that grows in a pretty place.
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