Thursday, February 7, 2013

Longtime Botanist Retires From Morris Arboretum

Today, in a world that revolves around technology, one of Ann Rhoads’ greatest pleasures is taking her grandchildren for woodland walks. As someone whose career has involved spending a significant amount of time outdoors, Ann has always encouraged people of all ages to appreciate and take pleasure in the natural world. In January, Ann retired from a long and prolific career at the Morris Arboretum. Ann served as Director of Botany at the Arboretum from 1976 to 2000, at which time she stepped back to the position of Senior Botanist in order to allow now Director Tim Block to assume the position.

An expert in the flora of Pennsylvania, Ann and former Arboretum Director, Bill Klein, built on work initiated in the 1930s by Edgar T. Wherry by creating the Flora of PA database. Today the database holds approximately 400,000 specimen records from the major Pennsylvania herbaria. During her tenure, the botany department at the Morris Arboretum also produced several important books.  In 1993, The Vascular Flora of PA, Annotated Checklist and Atlas by Rhoads and Klein was published by the American Philosophical Society.  The Plants of Pennsylvania, An Illustrated Manual by Rhoads and Block, first published in 2000 by the University of Pennsylvania Press, has proven to be a valuable resource both within and outside the state. A second edition, incorporating recent taxonomic changes, was published in 2007. Trees of Pennsylvania appeared in 2005, and Aquatic Plants of Pennsylvania was released in 2011.

Ann has also taught and mentored students through the years both at the Morris Arboretum--supervising or co-supervising the Plant Protection and Pennsylvania flora interns, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught Plant Systematics and Field Botany.  An active spokesperson for environmental issues, Ann was instrumental in drawing attention to the issue of deer overabundance and its severe impact on the structure and composition of Pennsylvania’s forests and natural areas. She has served on statewide committees and developed reports to help educate the public about the importance of this issue.

Even though she is retiring from the Arboretum, Ann says she will continue to expand her knowledge of plants, and will still be involved at the Arboretum, helping out in botany and maybe even writing another book.  In the meantime, her message not only for her grandchildren, but for all of us is a simple one- “Get out into the woods!”

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