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Plant Exploration and Species Discovery in a Rapidly Changing World

Founders’ Room
May 22, 2020
03:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Fully Booked
POSTPONED | In discussing the joys and perils of plant collecting, W. John Kress highlights the importance of botanical art and illustration in documenting vanishing biodiversity.

Out of an abundance of caution in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dumbarton Oaks will cancel all public events through the end of May.

Dr. Kress discusses the joys and perils of plant collecting in some of the most remote locations on our planet. He also describes how plant species new to science can be found in some of the most unexpected and everyday places as well. The lecture highlights the importance of botanical illustration and art in documenting vanishing biodiversity as natural habitats rapidly disappear due to human activities.

Dr. W. John Kress is Distinguished Scientist and Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He was Curator of Botany for over thirty years and formerly served as the Interim Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian and Director of Science in the Grand Challenges Consortia. Dr. Kress received his education at Harvard University (BA, 1975) and Duke University (PhD, 1981) where he studied tropical biology, ethnobotany, evolution, and ecology. He is a taxonomic specialist on the tropical Zingiberales and his current research is focused on biodiversity genomics, conservation, and the Anthropocene. Among his over 200 scientific and popular papers are his books Plant Conservation: A Natural History Approach, The Weeping Goldsmith, The Art of Plant Evolution, and The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics. His most recent book on climate change and society is Living in the Anthropocene: Earth in the Age of Humans. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is currently Visiting Scholar at Dartmouth College and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. He lives in Dorset, Vermont.


Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants

Margaret Mee: Portraits of Plants presents 20 stunning paintings of Amazonian flora by the artist, explorer, and environmentalist Margaret Mee (1909–1988) in the Dumbarton Oaks rare book collection. The exhibition draws on manuscript and print works from the rare book collection to situate Mee within a tradition of women botanical artists and illustrators that stretches back to the seventeenth century. Portraits of Plants also interrogates the enduring interplay between art and science through a variety of media (botanical illustration, watercolor, photography) extending to the present day, with works by contemporary photographer Amy Lamb, scientific illustrator Alice Tangerini, and botanical artist Nirupa Rao.

Bryan Poole, Heliconia bihai and Anthracothorax jugularis, 2008