|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS
|No. 364 July 19, 2006
North American mycologist, Orson K. Miller, Jr. passed away June 9, 2006, several months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. He collapsed with a seizure at a mushroom foray in Oregon and died several days later in Boise, Idaho. Orson devoted his career to promoting and furthering the discipline of mycology. He was born on Dec. 19, 1930 in Cambridge MA and graduated from Acton high school in 1948 where a project on white pine blister rust sparked an early interest in forest pathology. Orson graduated from the four year forestry program at the University of Massachusetts in 1952, and enlisted in the Army where he served several years in Germany. He and his lifelong companion Hope C. Hartigan were married his on July 11, 1953. Orson entered graduate school at the University of Michigan in 1955, where he earned an M.S. degree in 1957 in forestry and a Ph.D. in botany (mycology) in 1963 from the University of Michigan where he studied with eminent mycologist Alexander H. Smith. His dissertation was titled The Gomphidiaceae, a monograph of the genera and species and their world distribution. Forty years later it was the topic of Orson's presidential address to the Mycological society of America (Miller 2003). During this time Orson spent summers in Idaho and met the polypore specialist Josiah Lowe who further excited Orson's interest in fungi. Lifelong friendships were initiated with mycologists Robert L. Gilbertson (polypores) in Idaho and Robert A. Patterson (aquatic fungi) at the UM Douglas Lake Biological station.
Orson began his professional career with the U.S. Forest Service as a research botanist studying fungi and worked in Spokane WA and then Moscow, Idaho where he studied Echinodontium tinctorum along with Hal Burdsall. In 1964 he joined the USDA Forest Disease Laboratory in Beltsville MD where he worked with Hal Burdsall and John Palmer who founded NACOM along with Edward Hacskaylo. Orson spent the next several years completing monographs on the wood- inhabiting fungi Xeromphalina, Panellus and Lentinellus. In 1967 and 1968, he visited Alaska with Bob Gilbertson which stirred his fascination with Arctic fungi, on which he continued to publish throughout his life. At this same time, he began teaching at the University of Montana Biological Station on Flathead Lake, taking over for Bob Gilbertson who took a position in Arizona. This continued regularly on alternated years from 1971 to 1995. Here Orson developed a rigorous course on mushroom identification that inspired many students (myself included) to continue in mycology. Mycologist Egon Horak of Austria/Switzerland who visited the lab in 1989, said there was nothing comparable in Europe.
Orson was able to devote himself to both his love of teaching and the fungi while he served as Professor of mycology and Curator of fungi at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University from 1970 until his official retirement in May, 2002. During his 42 year's as a professional mycologist (32 at VPI), he focused on the systematics and ecology of higher fungi (primarily Basidiomycetes), highlighting the Agaricales (gilled mushrooms), Boletales, and Gasteromycetes. His monograph has established him as a world authority on the Gomphidiaceae. His 1972 Mushrooms of North America (Miller 1972), one of the first color field guides for this continent, is a notable milestone for mushroom identification in North America. He published eight books, including Gasteromycetes: Morphological and Developmental Features with keys to the Orders, Families and Genera and his last North American Mushrooms (Miller & Miller 2006) published just before his death. Three of the books included his wife Hope as co-author. Orson published over 150 papers, gave over 500 presentations to professionals and amateur mushroom clubs, formally described more than 100 new species of fungi, and made over 28,000 fungal collections. His efforts focused on Arctic fungi, mycorrhizal fungi, the Gomphidiaceae, Gasteromycetes, Amanita, and numerous other genera. Orson collected fungi all over the globe with his wife Hope, completing expeditions to Asia, the Greater Antilles, Belize, the Arctic, Europe and Australia. Hope tells us that his greatest joy was seeing the 32 M.Sc. and Ph.D. students he mentored achieve successes in teaching, research, and industry. Some are now leaders in the field. In 2004, a festschrift (Cripps 2004) was presented to Orson by his students at the Mycological Society of America meeting in Asheville, NC. On this happy occasion, his students had the opportunity to thank him for his excellent teaching style, constant support of our graduate efforts, and continuing interest in our futures. We are grateful that this goal was achieved.
Dr. Orson K. Miller, Jr. was elected an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 1995. In 1989 he received the William H. Weston Award for Teaching Excellence in Mycology, and in 1997, the Distinguished Mycologist Award, both from the Mycological Society of America for which he also served as President (2000-2001). Orson was intimately involved with the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), the Southern Idaho Mycological Association (SIMA) and various other local mushroom clubs. He always worked to bridge the gap between professional and amateur mycology. The North American Mycological Association Award honored him for his Contributions to Amateur Mycology in 1981. At the time of his death, he was a professor emeritus of botany at Virginia Tech, and was retired to his "private lab" set among the conifer-aspen forests of McCall, Idaho where he enjoyed fishing, hiking, and collecting mushrooms. Orson is survived by his wife Hope and three daughters.
Respected for his extensive knowledge of mushrooms and fungi, it is Dr. Miller's ability to transform the technical into easily understood synopses that made him so appreciated by students, colleagues, and avid mushroom enthusiasts alike. He could crystallize the diagnostic features of a mushroom with a few salient phrases, while dispensing knowledge with enthusiasm, warmth, and humor. He has enriched the lives of many by making the study of fungi accessible and appealing. We will miss him.
Memorials can be given to the Mycological Society of America Endowment Fund in the name Orson K Miller. This will be a Student Travel Fund. Please send to: Dr. T. Harrington, MSA endowment Chair, Dept. of Plant Pathology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011.
Spurge-laurel (Daphne laureola L.) continues to have a major presence at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site of Canada, Victoria, British Columbia. Where shade or partial shade is present this plant often forms an extensive and continuous cover crowding out most other species of plants and is thought to alter soil chemistry (GOERT 2003).
Although it has been reported that Daphne laureola flowers in its second year and can sprout from lateral roots (GOERT 2003), neither of these phenomenon have been observed at Fort Rodd Hill. A more recent study indicates that this shrubby plant, which propagates by single seeded berries, first produces seed at four years of age (Byrne et al. 2005). However, this study may have underestimated the age due to inherent inaccuracies in method used to age the plants. Cohorts of young plants known to be in their fourth year at Fort Rodd Hill have not yet flowered (personal observation).
Two methods are used to control Daphne laureola at Fort Rodd Hill (1) pulling and (2) cutting. (1) For smaller (= 50 cm) individuals pulling is still preferred, especially at lower densities. In these cases it generally doesn't result in a large amount of soil disturbance and, depending on the situation, it is easier to grab the plant and pull it out than to properly cut the plants-the proper cutting method (described below) may be needed if the plant breaks off above ground. (2) An effective cutting method has been developed for control of larger mature plants that are hard to pull and cause extensive soil disturbance when pulled. This method works especially well in areas of high D. laureola density and also works on smaller plants if desired. The method is to cut plants beneath the soil, below the point where there is a visible color change from brown stem to orange root. Bypass loppers or hand pruners are the best tools for this method. It is very important that the plant be cut below ground level; even a small portion of aerial stem left above ground will resprout. The growth form of D. laureola is often a source of confusion as the lower portion of stems frequently lies horizontally in the duff layer, a common mistake is to cut plants where the stem emerges from the duff layer rather than below the point where the plant is actually rooted in the soil-tugging on plants or branches can help determine the actual rooting location if the duff layer is thick. When this method is properly employed only a very small number of stems resprout (personal observation). Contrary to other studies (Byrne et al. 2005) it appears that cutting can result in good control when the cut is below ground.
While each method has its place in Daphne laureola removal efforts at Fort Rodd Hill, the cutting method is the method of choice for initial removal of dense D. laureola cover. The small numbers of plants that do manage to resprout are inconsequential compared to the high density of seedlings that germinate after the canopy of mature D. laureola has been removed.
Trials have indicated a potential method of dealing efficiently with the large numbers of Daphne laureola germinants that emerge in densely infested areas. While trials are still in progress it appears that cutting the tops off seedlings up to three years old gives good control-three- year-old plants were the oldest in these trials, the response of older plants is unknown at this time. Both cutting with a weed-eater and hand hoeing resulted in significant seedling mortality (>95%). It appears that young plants do not have enough stored energy to resprout when cut. While different methods of cutting D. laureola seedlings appear successful, the use of high-speed cutters such as weed-eaters aerosolizes the plant toxins that can cause respiratory and eye irritation; appropriate protection is required. Hoeing while effective is time consuming, tiring, and results in undesirable soil disturbance. Alternate methods are preferred and initial trials with a grass whip appear promising. While slower than gas powered cutters manual cutting with a tool such as a grass whip or weed whip is still faster than pulling which took from 3.2 to 13.8 person minutes per square meter.
In addition it appears that the number of plants germinating from the seed bank drops off drastically after the second year. It is currently not known what the background level of seed rain into the trial areas is-they are still surrounded by large stands of adult Daphne laureola-, or what portion, if any, of the seeds exhibit extended dormancy. However, it does appear that the vast majority of germination occurs in the first two years after removal of adult plants, which is encouraging from a control perspective.
Must-have. Quality. User-friendly. Colourful. It's easy to conjure complimentary adjectives to describe this recent work by Bellingham photographer Mark Turner and Central Point (Medford) writer Phyllis Gustafson.
The title of the book clearly delineates its focus: wildflowers, wildflowers and wildflowers. Pteridophytes, lichens, fungi, mosses, trees and inconspicuous flowering plants are all absent, though flowering shrubs are included. The Pacific Northwest is defined here to include southern British Columbia, all of Washington and Oregon, and northern California.
Physically, the quality of the publication is high - no surprise, considering its Timber Press origins. As much as I can tell from having the book for only a few weeks, it seems to me that the binding, paper stock and inks will survive the heavy use required of a field guide. The book is slightly larger and heavier than books in Lone Pine Publishing's Plants, a reflection of the broader scope of this volume. This makes it slightly less attractive than the Lone Pine books for hikes where every gram of weight counts, so I personally would continue to use those volumes (when available) in those instances. However, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest becomes indispensable when one is traveling across ecological zones or natural history touring in the Pacific Northwest. To my mind, there is nothing similar that provides as much information in a compact book that can accompany me on a long weekend loop through the Pacific Northwest's varied ecoregions, nor act as a better stand-in when a local field guide is unavailable or multiple field guides would be necessary.
Each of the main 1220 wildflower entries include the scientific name and synonyms, scientific family name, common name, habitat information, abundance, time of year in flower, height, description of the plant, and whether the plant is native or not. I give kudos to the authors for deciding to lead each entry with the scientific name. Turner's top-notch photographs accompany all but 40 or so of the entries - but worry not, other photographers have supplied images, so each entry is accompanied by a portrait-perspective photograph. Written descriptions of each taxon often include notes on similar-appearing taxa, expanding the number of species and infraspecific taxa mentioned in the book nearly twofold. Completing the triumvirate of necessary information one expects in a field guide, each entry is accompanied by a distribution map based on presence / absence within state counties or
British Columbia forest districts. The authors of the book have chosen to organize the wildflower entries in a way that is approachable for all users. Entries are first organized by wildflower colour and subsequently divided by flower morphology (e.g., number of petals, ovary inferior / superior, irregular petals united into a tube, composite flowers). I generally prefer a taxonomic approach for my own use, but the user- friendly approach accompanied by the emphasis on scientific names and plant families throughout the book is a far better way to design a book for mass use while simultaneously promoting the importance of scientific terminology and organization.
While the bulk of the book consists of the wildflower entries, the taxa are placed in the context of their habitats by a detailed chapter on the area's ecoregions. Additionally, a chapter on "How to Explore for Wildflowers" provides necessary reminders on safety and responsibility. A section summarizing the plant families in the book is a pleasant surprise in a field guide - this is something that should be a standard feature, but is too often lacking in other similar books. A short bibliography and glossary are also included, as well as flower morphology illustrations on the inside covers.
As someone familiar with design and photography, I can't emphasize strongly enough that the visual aspect of the volume is of superior quality. The vast majority of photographs triumphantly straddle the elusive line between science and art, providing enough technical detail for identification while simultaneously revealing a dedication to the aesthetic. Accuracy of colour is excellent - I'm hard- pressed to find examples of blown-out colours or too-bright highlights. My only photographic critique is a wish to see more of Turner's landscape photographs. These are used throughout the book to introduce chapters or provide a visual interpretation of the ecoregions, but sparingly (and rightly so for a field guide - perhaps a future companion volume on Plant Communities of the Pacific Northwest would be an appropriate place for them?).
Along with the photography, I truly appreciate the small details present in the book where it is clear the authors and publisher went the extra 1.6 km to provide a user-friendly tome. Niceties such as text directing to different coloured flowers of plants in the same genus can be found at the bottom of pages throughout the book. Entries are coded with L+C if the plant was "discovered" by Lewis and Clark. A ruler in both inches and cm is present on the back outside cover (unlike many field guides which put it on an inside cover), allowing easier measurements to be made in the field. The top-level organization of the book by flower colour is reflected in the edges, making it easy to access the groupings.
For the obligate criticisms, I have two. First, the book's authors reside in Washington and Oregon, and the book does reflect an emphasis on their home states. For example, the introductory section on National Parks states: "The Northwest is blessed with four outstanding scenic and natural areas in Olympic, Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Crater Lake national parks." These parks receive a similar treatment to the L+C expedition throughout the book, as entries are accompanied by small codes for each of these parks if a taxon is present in the park. However, the stated scope of the book and distribution maps encompass National Parks beyond the states of Oregon and Washington: California's Redwoods and Lassen National Parks are absent from the above treatment, as are British Columbia's Pacific Rim and Gulf Islands National Park Reserves. It would have been more inclusive if these other outstanding scenic and natural areas were given equivalent emphasis.
The other criticism needs to be tempered with praise. The distribution maps accompanying each entry were a risky undertaking, as the authors relied on herbarium data, including historical collections. Bravo to them for attempting this approach, as it provides a specimen- based foundation for the maps. However, historical herbarium data can create errors in modern distributions, caused by factors such as misidentification or extirpation. The maps indeed reflect this, with many puzzling disjunctions. To be fair, the authors do state the maps should only be used as a guide in their discussion of how to perceive the maps. However, it might have been better to somehow demarcate with a different colour those regions for which only historical records exist, so as to highlight what is likely the largest source of errors for modern distributions.
One head-scratcher that perhaps spans both of the above criticisms is the distribution map for Ericameria nauseosa (syn. Chrysothamnus nauseosus). Common as mud in the southern interior, the distribution map shows the species as being absent in British Columbia. I suspect the oversight has something to do with changes in the scientific name, but haven't been able to guess how. I imagine this will be fixed in future editions.
Taking the criticisms into consideration, it is still hard to imagine a book of similar size and scope that could improve on this superior work for what it is intended to be - a field guide for a select group of plants in a broad region. The authors and publisher should be justifiably proud of this book. It is both a highlight and necessary addition to the body of literature on natural history in the region, and it is a joy to see some innovative approaches within a field guide. Highly recommended.
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