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Page 24 ï~~ 24 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 50 ED VOSS-FIELD BOTANIST IN SUMMER, CURATOR IN WINTER A. A. Reznicek University of Michigan Herbarium 3600 Varsity Drive Ann Arbor, MI 48108-2228, USA No, I'm not suggesting that Ed led a dual botanical life. He was devoted to the vascular (especially the flowering) plants of Michigan at all seasons and throughout his life. But his botanical seasons were definitely compartmentalized, like so many other elements of his life. In summers (from mid-May to the Labor Day weekend, slightly longer after retirement) Ed was based "up north," staying at the Biological Station on Douglas Lake while teaching (for 36 summers; 1963-1974, 1976-1998, 2003; plus four years as a teaching assistant, 1949, 1951-1953) (Fig. 7). Ed attended the International Botanical Congress in Leningrad in 1975, John Thieret substituting for him that summer. When not at the station, Ed stayed at his cottage on the straits near the tip of the Lower Peninsula looking out over the Mackinac Bridge. He likely went in the field more often than any other botanist in the region. I always wished I could have as much field time as Ed. His field work, though, was usually tightly focused and organized, like everything else in his life. When he was teaching, he was scouting class trips and looking for new areas to take people or show them special things, such as transient species of disturbed habitats, which were always a challenge. However, he was always keen to explore a new bog or fen, and was especially interested in comprehensively documenting the plants of favorite areas in the straits region, including Grass Bay, the Headlands, or Saint Helena Island (Voss 2001). He built a great body of knowledge about plants of the Biological Station area, and his work, added to earlier collectors, made the Douglas Lake region (Emmet and Cheboygan counties) one of the best known in the state. In fact, this flora, including all the interesting Great Lakes endemics centered on the straits region, was the subject of his doctoral thesis (Voss 1954) and most of his botanical publications prior to 1957. The Douglas Lake region was so well known that it was a banner day when a new native species was added. So I was particularly lucky on 9 August 1978, the very first time I went out with Ed in the region, to spot right in the trail to Mud Lake Bog, Torreyochloa (Puccinellia) fernaldii-a new, though inconspicuous, native grass to the Douglas Lake area (which ended up as Voss No. 15,000). I felt then that I had passed muster as a field companion. Ed also collected in southern Michigan in the fall, often in conjunction with scouting for the well-known aquatic plants course which he taught for many years in Ann Arbor. He was especially fond of the Lake Erie marshes, and was interested in their dynamic changes with fluctuating lake levels. Whenever I was with him, he always enjoyed seeing if this was a year that the very local Bolto
Page 25 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 25 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 25 FIGURE 7. Ed Voss (second row, far right) with the 1963 UMBS Aquatic Flow ering Plants class. Photo UMBS archives. nia asteroides or Sagittaria montevidensis would be in evidence. He was also interested in Great Lakes shoreline dynamics "up north," with his Cecil Bay transects, conducted over many years, and there is little doubt that the habitats of the Great Lakes shorelines were a special interest to Ed his entire life. Another important element for Ed was, of course, trying to make the maps in the Michigan Flora (Voss 1972, 1985, 1996) represent the distributions of species accurately. As time allowed in the summers, he ranged widely over the state. He once noted that he had collected plants in every county in the State (and on many of the islands). His collection numbers reached nearly to 17000, the vast majority from Michigan, far exceeding the totals of any other Michigan collector. These collections will be one of Ed's lasting legacies. Ed also made important collections from the Ontario shore of Lake Superior, and occasionally collected farther afield-usually in conjunction with International Botanical Congress field trips. His greatest activity was in the early years of the Michigan Flora project; in 1957, he collected 2088 numbers, on some days gathering nearly 100 numbers from interesting sites. He made collections until 2008. Much to some field companions dismay, Ed moved quickly through areas-but he missed little. Ed's collecting was very even handed. He liked sedges and never avoided them, freely collected willows, and was particularly fond of aquatics, though he did claim not to like ferns (despite collecting them assiduously). He was fearless about getting wet feet (or more) and was very willing to wade in to get a special wetland plant (Fig. 8); biting insects and other discomforts did not seem to bother him when he was on a mission. When he was doing serious collecting, he always had his pick slung in a loop and clippers in their sheath on his jeans-high botanical fashion-so was not afraid to tackle tough-rooted weeds either. His vehicles, for a long time Jeeps, then Ford Explorers, were selected with the purpose of serving as a field vehicle. The ideal vehicle had a back tailgate that lay down to produce a surface useful for pressing and other related duties. When tailgates were converted to a lift up action it caused Ed consternation, though he did realize it provided some rain shelter. He wanted a vehicle where the floor did not have a raised lip at the doors, so that debris and sand could be easily swept out, and he decried the loss of the front bench seat, which made for
Page 26 ï~~ 26 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 26 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 FIGURE 8. Ed Voss sinking in Barclay Lake in 1997. Photo b John Russell. convenient placement of a box with collecting accoutrements. In fact, his nextto-last vehicle was a special order to get that bench seat. Ed was a careful collector, as one might expect from a student of Rogers McVaugh, and his specimens were always of high quality; carefully prepared, complete, with good notes, and consistent, accurate labels. His scholarship was based on specimens and he knew firsthand how difficult it was for a researcher to deal with poor specimens. He carried a vasculum in the field where feasible, and often carefully floated out aquatics to make the best collection possible. His press was always handy in the vehicle (see Fig. 12). He recorded data as soon as possible in the field and anybody who collected with him knew his pocket-sized aluminum clipboard (see Fig. 20) with rubber bands disciplining the sheets within. These roughly written, barely legible notes were neatly transferred into a small three-ring binder (Ed freely admitted that his handwriting was not the best), which served as his permanent field notes and were augmented with final determinations, notations about herbaria to which duplicates were distributed, and revisions by specialists. These will be deposited at MICH. Besides collecting specimens, Ed always wanted to know and recognize Michigan species as living plants in their habitats (Fig. 9). This was very important to him for many reasons. He described habitats in the Michigan Flora volumes from data compiled from herbarium specimens, but he always liked to note specific information from his own experience, as information derived from specimens was often generalized and imprecise. He liked to include helpful field
Page 27 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 27 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 27 FIGURE 9. Ed Voss admiring Lithospermum caroliniense during the 2004 minicourse. Photo by John Russell.
Page 28 ï~~ 28 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 28 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 FIGURE 10. Ed Voss photographing at Crisp Point. Photo by John Russell. recognition hints from his own experience. He also liked to test his keys as he wrote the treatments. All this, of course, was essential for writing the original keys that made his floras so accessible. He disdained floras that were uncritical compilations from literature and specimens, and had choice words to say about people who wrote about plants as if they knew them, but from their comments, had obviously never seen them alive. Ed deeply enjoyed being in the field, especially in bogs, fens, and on his beloved Great Lake shores, dunes, and beaches (Fig. 10). It was far more than a career, it was his, singular, life. A highlight every year was his annual week camped on Lake Superior just before coming back to Ann Arbor, usually shared with a botanically minded friend. This was the closest he ever came to taking a vacation (see article by John Russell). Ed's life as a Curator, during the academic year was, of course, a natural extension of his work as a field botanist collecting plants. But for Ed, curation was also a critically important element of his research on the flora of Michigan. They were inseparable, as specimens were his basic research tools, serving not only as documentation for the occurrence of plants in Michigan, but also as the raw material for the development of his original keys, and his synthesis of habitats, flowering times, etc., across the State, especially for plants with which he had little or no familiarity in the field. Ed was very concerned about specimen quality even after collecting, and carefully watched the mounting of specimens, and the herbarium staff heard about it if plants were mounted in such a way as to impede study of diagnostic features. Perhaps the most time consuming element of Ed's curation was the enormous
Page 29 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 29 effort that he put into supplying accurate identifications for the 230,000 or so specimens utilized for the Michigan Flora project. Ed was very strict about records for the Michigan Flora; every dot on every map in his volumes was based on specimens that he personally studied and determined. If he had not seen a specimen, the record didn't exist. Having to some degree assumed that mantle, I know how much time it takes to do the painstaking determinations of plants that Ed did for about 60 years, not only for specimens at the University of Michigan Herbarium, but also numerous collectors and students all over the State and even the Great Lakes region. It meant consistent late nights and weekends working at the Herbarium. But his helping and encouraging others in this way was probably as helpful to Great Lakes Botany over the years as his teaching and his flora. Specimens labeled with obscure localities were a particular challenge to Ed, and he worked assiduously to locate them at least to county. Very often, these collections with obscure data were historical specimens of considerable potential value for information about past distributions, and he would sometimes spend many hours researching collectors habits, itineraries, and other details to produce a more complete label or to resolve apparent contradictions. This was especially important for Michigan because immediately upon achieving statehood in 1837, the Michigan Legislature authorized a geological survey of Michigan's natural resources, headed by Douglass Houghton. One of the important duties of this first survey was to collect plants to document the flora, and thus Michigan has an unusually good series of collections before extensive settlement-but with many hard to-place localities. This work led to a helpful catalog titled Gazetteer of Some Possibly Puzzling Collecting Localities for Michigan Plants (Voss 2005; and also at: http://www.lsa. umich. edu/herb/michvoss/index.html) that summarized his notes about localities gained over a half century. Naturally, Ed's own labels were models of consistency and precision. I recently learned that early contact with Lloyd Shinners in 1951 at the Biological Station may have provided Ed with the format for his specimen labels. He would rail against vague and meaningless statements on labels, pointing out that locality descriptions like "south of Ann Arbor" could mean Ohio, or worse (Voss 2002). In the course of all this study, Ed became an expert on the handwriting, label styles, and collecting and labeling habits of all of the major Michigan and Great Lakes collectors, ranging from the highly productive and talented, but disorganized and eccentric, Oliver A. Farwell (whose initials Ed thought quite appropriate), to collectors he admired for their diligence and perspicacity in finding rare plants and new records. He noted Charles K. Dodge's obsession with having his address on every label, sometimes even two or three times, regardless of where the plant was collected, or certain collectors inability to correctly read maps. With his focus on collections, and the tangible results-send in a collection and a dot goes on a map-Ed stimulated many people to collect plants in their local region to contribute to the Michigan Flora project. And, of course, contributors always got back typewritten lists of corrections to their determinations. With Ed's attention to label accuracy and strong interest in historical collections, it is no surprise that he also had a strong interest in Botanical history. A curator working with historical specimens has to be part historian, part geographer, part handwriting expert, and part detective. Ed was all of those in good measure.
Page 30 ï~~ 30 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST Vol. 51 His historical detective work culminated in his very readable 1978 book on botanical exploration of the western Great Lakes region: Botanical Beachcombers and Explorers: Pioneers of the 19th Century in the Upper Great Lakes (Voss 1978). This is a work notable for its accuracy, deep detail, and also for having 343 sometimes lengthy footnotes crammed into its 100 pages! Ed delighted in having unearthed, from some specimen label or obscure reference, a tidbit of information that shed new light on some collector and their method of operation. All these he considered important items for a curator. Ed recorded all label data, with exasperating literalness, for the collections he examined for the Michigan Flora project for many years on record slips (not index cards, as Ed would quickly correct anyone who referred to them as such) and, starting in 1991, into a computer database. Though never really warming to computers and databases, Ed realized their value for his research immediately, and the Michigan Flora database quickly grew to be the largest one at the Herbarium, as Ed not only supervised entering all new collections he examined, but also the conversion of his paper record slips into digital form. Ed developed precise and detailed instructions-running to six single spaced pages-for entering records into the database, and of course, he requested that a special proofing routine be built so that he could carefully proof each individual record by comparing the specimen label or the record slip to the database entry. Not being one to change a well-developed routine, the printed output from the database had to precisely match the format of the record slips-as Rich Rabeler and I discovered when we created that database. Ed decried carelessness, noting how commonly people misrepresented collection localities in the literature-mistaking the collectors address (often printed on labels from the late 1800's and early 1900's), as the place the plant was collected or coming to the wrong conclusion about which of the numerous "Mud Lakes" a plant was from. Michigan specimens without County, or where the locality was unclear (or obviously incorrect) were always annotated with the correct data if Ed could discover them. It is a tribute to Ed that the distributions of Michigan plants are so well presented in his flora, despite error-prone collectors like Farwell devoting their careers to the State. As of April, 2012, the task of entering all the Michigan records into a database is now complete, finishing a task Ed started at the inception of the Michigan Flora Project in 1956 (Fig. 11). Ed's approach writing his Michigan Flora work was very much an extension of his curation, and was as methodical and deeply detailed. His command of botanical literature was phenomenal, as reflected in his years of contributing Michigan Plants in Print to The Michigan Botanist. He was a bibliophile, and had an extensive (and, not surprisingly, well curated) personal reprint and book collection centered on Michigan plants. He was very interested in the biology and ecology of Michigan plants, and often had concise but perceptive comments on those topics in the Michigan Flora. He also evaluated all literature that he used for the flora with his deep and broad knowledge of plant nomenclature, derived from his years of service to the nomenclature committees of the International Association of Plant Taxonomy, as well as with his knowledge of plants in the field and the herbarium. Not surprisingly, the literature often was judged sadly lacking. However, Ed did not himself delve into researching unresolved
Page 31 ï~~ 2012 THE MICHIGAN BOTANIST 31 systematic questions in the flora, though he encouraged others to do so, and was usually aware of the problems. Ed very much viewed his flora as a synthesis of knowledge available to date. As a consequence, Ed made fewer nomenclatural innovations for the flora than one might have expected, described no new species, and only two new entities; rare color forms of two interesting Cirsium species, the Great Lakes endemic Cirsium pitcheri, forma magenteum (Fig. 13), and the prairie and jack pine barren Cirsium hillii forma albiflorum. This allowed others to name plants in honor of Ed, including the very rare hybrid Platanthera xvossii, and the Michigan endemic Solidago vossii. FIGURE 11 (left). Ed Voss studying herbarium specimens at the inception of the Michigan Flora project. Photo: Asa Gray Bull. n.s. 3: 277-279. 1957. FIGURE 12 (bottom left). Ed Voss pressing ISO.\plants. Photo by Bob Vande Kopple July 2007. FIGURE 13 (bottom right). Holotype of Cirsium pitcheri forma magenteum collected by Ed. Photo by H. Huggins.