Native Plant Society Donates ‘Flora of Virginia’ to Mason

Posted: April 11, 2013 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: April 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

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By Tara Laskowski

Andrea Weeks, right, accepts "Flora of Virginia" from Marjorie Prochaska, MA ’87, BS ’94, a representative of the Virginia Native Plant Society and a former student of Bradley.. Photo by Tara Laskowski

Andrea Weeks, director of Mason’s Ted R. Bradley Herbarium, right, accepts “Flora of Virginia” from Marjorie Prochaska, MA ’87, BS ’94, a representative of the Virginia Native Plant Society and a former student of Bradley. Photo by Tara Laskowski

George Mason University’s Ted R. Bradley Herbarium got another precious artifact added to its collection recently — a copy of the official and newly revised “Flora of Virginia.”

The 1600-page tome will be a valuable resource for botany students and faculty and visitors to the herbarium. The herbarium is a collection of dried, pressed plant specimens that are maintained for scientific reference. Mason’s herbarium was started in 1967 by former Mason professor Ted R. Bradley.

The “Flora of Virginia” was a decade-long project led by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Botanical Associates, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the Virginia Academy of Science and the Virginia Native Plant Society. It contains keys for identification, taxonomy, habitat and status information, and a detailed description of each plant. Almost half of the plants in the book are also accompanied by an illustration depicting key features.

The book was presented to the herbarium by Marjorie Prochaska, MA ’87, BS ’94, a representative of the Virginia Native Plant Society and a former student of Bradley.

According to Mason associate professor Andrea Weeks, the last complete “Flora of Virginia” was created in 1762, so the resource was in need of an update.

“This is a very valuable resource. Virginia is one of the most species-rich states. People don’t often think of Virginia as being biodiverse, but it has the most amazing mix of species,” says Weeks, director of the herbarium.

floraThe Flora describes 3,164 species of plants native to or naturalized in Virginia, including several species, like the Peters Mountain Mallow, which are found only in the state.

Weeks is especially proud of the university’s contributions to Flora, including allowing research of the 60,000 specimens in the Mason herbarium. In addition, one of Weeks’ former graduate students is cited in the book. Sara Alexander, MS ‘10, completed her master’s thesis on the taxonomic boundaries of the Virginia Saltmarsh Mallow varieties in North America, and her published work is referenced in this manual. “As a consequence of her work, we know precisely which groups are present in Virginia,” says Weeks.

Research for the Flora also identified several gaps in knowledge of certain plant species, and Weeks says that her current students are working to fill those holes. Karoline Oldham, a master’s student in environmental science and policy, is working to identify areas where the American Cow-wheat, a wildflower that parasitizes tree roots, grows in the state, and she is also elucidating how this species migrated in North America after the glaciers receded.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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