THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST
BEYOND THE BOTANY-LIFE WITH ED VOSS
John S. Russell
5260 Textile Rd.
Saline, MI 48176
I was honored to share a home with Ed Voss for three years, to assist him in
several courses at the Biological Station, and to be on his short list for camping
companions at the end of many summers. He was on my doctoral committee,
and was an advisor, advocate, and friend for many years.
Ed was the ultimate curator. His house was curated. His car was curated. His
medicine cabinet was curated, and his refrigerator was curated. At supper following a night when I had left a half-empty bottle of wine in the refrigerator, I
was presented with the statement: "I trust that bottle of alcoholic beverage on the
milk products shelf is NOT for our mutual consumption?" Hard to answer that
correctly! His basement had a complete set of National Geographic from day
one, but no TV. Surprisingly, his yard held several alien species. I planted an
Abies concolor in the front yard by the drive only after a prolonged discussion
about what image that would convey.
I am sure that Ed was comfortable with me as a Teaching Assistant, not because of my botanical ability, but because I could keep the boats running, tie
them on the trailer securely, and keep the cars running. I was happy with that
role, as my guesses at plant ID were usually wrong anyway. I learned to say
"Here's an interesting find," instead of "This looks like a gentian." If it wasn't a
gentian, even though it looked like one, I was in minor trouble. I increased my
value when I, somewhat guiltily, confessed to him that I had agreed to assist
Howard Crum in Bryophytes & Lichens. Ed snorted, and said "Good. Now I
won't have to stoop to identify the little stinkers."
The most relaxed and fun aspect of life with Ed was during the end-of-summer camping trips. Sometimes there would just be the two of us, and sometimes
three. We always sought out Lake Superior shorelines, for there we found the
greatest privacy and the best botany (Fig. 4). Each trip had a theme. We might
focus on exploring new areas, or on following a newly acquired map. One year
it was a search for a new record for Empetrum. Some themes recurred, such as
finding and consuming vast quantities of blueberries. Six species were available
on the shore in August, and here, mixing of species was permissible! Pies, puddings, or fresh-any way was fine. Ed's appreciation of wild things edible extended to the fungi. I honestly believe that he was saddened when fungi were degraded and removed from the plant kingdom. That did not, however, affect their
edibility. Chanterelles were particularly relished. One summer I discovered a
Sulfur Shelf that fed us for several days-omelets, scrambled eggs, chili, and
mixed with vegetables. We never had the nerve to try boletes or amanitas, and
successfully lived on. We reminisced over Alex Smith's contention that ALL
fungi were edible. Some, however, would kill you.