The Authors

George Diggs, Ph.D. is a botanist and evolutionary biologist who has taught for more than 30 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. His research interests include the flora of Texas, evolution as it relates to human health, biogeography, and the systematics of the Ericaceae (the blueberry family). He has co-authored four books and more than 30 scientific articles and has given hundreds of public lectures. In his research he has traveled to all seven continents. He is the Donald MacGregor Chair of Natural Science at Austin College and a Research Associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

Barney Lipscomb is a botanist, editor, public speaker, and researcher who began his career at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1975 and is now the Leonhardt Chair of Texas Botany at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth. His research interests include the flora of Texas, taxonomy of the Cyperaceae (the sedge family), poisonous plants, the application of botany to forensic science, and natural history art as it relates to science. He has co-authored three books, contributed more than 30 scientific articles, and has given more than 700 public lectures to advance the public’s understanding of botany.


Austin College

Austin College is a private, residential, coeducational college dedicated primarily to educating undergraduate students in the liberal arts and sciences. The Austin College education emphasizes academic excellence, high achievement, intellectual and personal integrity, and participation in community life. Founded in 1849 by the Presbyterian Church, Austin College is the oldest college in Texas operating under its original charter.

The mission of Austin College is to educate individuals to prepare them for productive and meaningful lives in an increasingly complex world, providing diverse educational opportunities both on campus and in other countries, as well as select pre-professional programs and a graduate teacher program. Approximately 70 percent of Austin College students spend some time abroad during their four years at the school, either during the special January Term semester or through a study abroad program.

Austin College has a long history of excellence in the sciences, being particularly well known for its pre-medical program. The College also has a tradition of strength in the area of field biology and the environment, and has an active Center for Environmental Studies. This Center promotes multidisciplinary inquiry of environmental issues and problems through education, research, and outreach programs. These programs are designed to increase scientific knowledge, expand community awareness, and foster greater appreciation for the interdependence of humans and other species.

Botanical Research Institute of Texas

The Botanical Research Institute of Texas is a private, nonprofit, international botanical resource center. Its mission is to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value plants bring to life. This mission is realized by discovering new information through research and interpreting this research so the public may understand its meaning and importance, leading to greater stewardship of these vital resources. BRIT is comprised of two main collections: an herbarium of about 1,000,000 dried plant specimens and a research library containing over 100,000 items. The core of the collections is the Lloyd H. Shinners Collection in Systematic Botany, originally at Southern Methodist University, and the Vanderbilt University Herbarium, acquired in 1997. The BRIT library has one of the finest collections of botanical literature in the United States with books dating to 1549. A special part of the collection is the Oliver G. Burk Memorial Library of children’s botanical literature—a rare collection of over 4,000 children’s books. BRIT is also well known for its scientific press. Two scientific journals, Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas and Sida, Botanical Miscellany, and other botanical book publications are published by the institute as well as an online newsletter, The Leaflet. Annually BRIT gives its Award of Excellence in Conservation to an individual whose life and work epitomize the ideals set forth in the BRIT mission. Along the same lines of excellence in conservation, BRIT also gives an International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing. The institute has special programs in research, education, and public outreach. Several of the main activities of the research program include biodiversity exploration of the Andes to Amazon Botany Program in Peru, LBJ National Grasslands, Cider apple agrobiodiversity, the Illustrated Texas Floras Project, and Biodiversity Informatics. The education and public outreach programs are actively engaged in providing lectures, workshops, and teaching materials to local schools and other educational organizations in order to bring botany alive to students and teachers. The new BRIT SEED (Science-based Experiential Education Design) School for educators, located in the Suzanne Rall Peacock Education Center, inspires and supports educators in connecting children to nature through the use of outdoor classrooms, nature, and urban environments.