BEN # 258
aceska at victoria.tc.ca
Wed Oct 11 21:46:12 EST 2000
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No. 258 October 11, 2000
aceska at victoria.tc.ca Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
ROBERT ORNDUFF (1932-2000)
Botanist Robert Ornduff, an expert on California plants and
former director of the University of California, Berkeley's
Botanical Garden, died Sept. 22 at Alta Bates Medical Center in
Berkeley from complications of metastatic melanoma. Ornduff, a
professor emeritus of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, was
Ornduff was a field biologist who concentrated on California
native plants as well as plants that grow in similar Mediter-
ranean climates, such as in South Africa and Western Australia.
His book, "_Introduction to California Plant Life_" (UC Press,
1974), is still in print and is a popular layman's field guide
to one of the most varied floras in the world. He also was a
longtime member of the California Native Plant Society and
served as editorial advisor for its publication, _Fremontia_,
for 27 years.
"Bob was a very, very caring person and a great teacher who
deeply loved and appreciated plants," said Peter Raven, his
friend for the past 45 years and director of the Missouri
Botanical Garden, an organization dedicated to the study and
conservation of the floras of the New World. "This came through
in one of his biggest contributions, which was turning the UC
Botanical Garden into a world-class garden and a leading place
for studying and displaying the unique variety of California
Ornduff directed the garden from 1973 until 1991, expanding its
plant collection to include specimens from areas like South
Africa and Chile that have similar Mediterranean climates. He
was particularly proud of the docent program he instituted while
there, said Phyllis Faber, co-editor with Ornduff of the Natural
History Series at University of California Press.
During his 48-year career, Ornduff wrote more than 100 scien-
tific papers and 50 other papers on horticultural and related
topics. His interests ranged from the giant sequoias of the
Sierra Nevada to the small but showy yellow flower called
goldfields that carpet California's Central Valley in the
"Bob was one of the treasures of the botanical world," said
Arthur Kruckeberg, professor emeritus of botany at the Univer-
sity of Washington, Seattle, and one of Ornduff's mentors. "He
was a green-thumb botanist who delighted in growing plants and
disseminating his interest to the general public."
Among his abiding interests, however, were the unusual reproduc-
tive strategies of plants and how they evolved. After encounter-
ing early in his career a peculiar fall-blooming California
plant called _Jepsonia_, he got interested in heterostyly, a
peculiarity of some plants where a single species develops two
or three different types of flowers that encourage outcrossing
and discourage self-pollination.
He also was fascinated by the plants that evolved to inhabit
small islands - essentially rocks frequented by birds - that he
referred to as guano islands, Kruckeberg said.
Born in Portland, Oregon, on June 13, 1932, Ornduff attended
Reed College, graduating in 1953 with a BA in biology. As a
Fulbright Scholar, he spent the next year in New Zealand, where
he collected material for his thesis. He completed his MSc at
the University of Washington in 1956 and his PhD at UC Berkeley
After a year teaching biology at Reed College and a year at Duke
University, he returned to UC Berkeley in 1963 to assume the
faculty position of his retiring major professor, Herbert Mason.
Ornduff retired in 1993.
As a botany professor, he instituted a popular course on
California flora that he taught for 30 years. The notes and
experiences teaching this course resulted in his book on
California's plant life. He also wrote two chapters for a recent
book, "_California's Wild Gardens: A Living Legacy_," edited by
Faber and published by the California Native Plant Society.
His other positions while at UC Berkeley included curator of
seed plants and, eventually, director from 1967 to 1982 of the
University Herbarium; director of the Jepson Herbarium, a
repository for California plants, from 1968 to 1982; chair of
the Department of Botany from 1986 until 1989, when the depart-
ment was reorganized into the Department of Integrative Biology;
and executive director of the Miller Institute at UC Berkeley
from 1984 to 1987.
Ornduff was involved with many plant and plant conservation
organizations. In addition to being a fellow of the California
Native Plant Society, at the time of his death he was a member
of the board of councilors of the Save-the-Redwoods League, the
board of directors of the Pacific Horticultural Foundation and
the board of trustees of the Center for Plant Conservation, a
national organization dedicated to preserving rare and endan-
gered plants of the United States. He also served as president
of the California Botanical Society in 1981-82, and was a long-
time trustee of UC Berkeley's Jepson Herbarium.
For the past eight years, he was grants director of The Stanley
Smith Horticultural Trust, which funds research and education in
horticulture. Ornduff redirected the trust's grants towards
small gardens and publication projects both in the United States
He also served as president of the American Society of Plant
Taxonomists in 1975 and chaired the editorial committee of UC
Press from 1975 to 1989.
Among his honors were an Award of Merit from the American As-
sociation of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta (1993), a Merit
Award from the Botanical Society of America (1993) and the F.
Owen Pearce Award of Horticulture from the Strybing Arboretum in
San Francisco (1994).
Ornduff, a resident of Berkeley, is survived by a sister, Anne
Vial, of Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Bob Sanders, Senior Science Writer
Media Relations, Public Affairs
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-4204
email: rls at pa.urel.berkeley.edu
NEW BOOK: FUNCTIONAL ECOLOGY OF ALPINE PLANTS
From: Adolf Ceska [aceska at victoria.tc.ca]
Koerner, Christian. [correctly Krner with umlauted "o"] 1999.
_Alpine plant life: Functional plant ecology of high mountain
ecosystems_. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, New York. vi + 338
p. + 4 Plates.
ISBN 3-540-65054-7 [hardcover] Price: US$119.00
ISBN 3-540-65438-0 [softcover] Price: US$64.95
Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010 USA
Phone: 212-460-1500 Fax: 212-473-6272
Springer-Verlag New York's website:
(see also http://www.springer.de)
This book should be required reading for all ecologists and
ecology students. Alpine environments are extreme, and plant
responses to these extremes are unique. The author considers
alpine areas to be sites of grandiose natural experiments "which
provide unbeaten opportunities for comparative ecological re-
search, the study of plant adaptation and the mechanisms for
survival of physical stress." For this reason, alpine environ-
ments have attracted generations of plant scientists. Koerner's
book gives us a nice summary of alpine plant studies and covers
all parts of the world, including the tropics.
In the introductory chapters, the author describes the main
physical parameters of the alpine environment, climate and
soils, and deals with the impact of the main parameters (such as
snow) on alpine plants and alpine ecosystems. Other chapters
deal with physiological ecology of water and nutrient relations
of alpine plants, their photosynthesis, growth physiology,
biomass production and plant reproduction. The closing chapter
covers global changes and human impacts on plants in alpine
environments. The author tried to present the reader with "the
bulk of scientific findings" related to alpine plants in a
reasonably condensed way. There is an amazing amount of
references (close to 1,000) that help the users of the book who
want to look for more detail.
The treatment of these topics is thorough and in-depth. Modern
treatment of alpine ecology and the inclusion of tropics and
good treatment of tropical alpine environments makes this book
unique. I would have expected more on plant communities and the
role of competition in alpine environments, and also a more
thorough coverage of animal-plant relationships. The latter is
covered only in a subchapter on "Biomass losses through her-
bivores" and in a subchapter on pollination. In the chapter on
mountain climates, the author failed to mention Jan Jenik's
anemo-orographic systems (see _Preslia_ 31: 337-357, 1959) that
explain many vegetation patterns in high mountains. Koerner's
book is written in clear English, but it is marked with notice-
able German syntax. Too many subordinate clauses and parentheti-
cal phrases require good mental concentration; the book cannot
be read in large strides. The lack of a glossary is a serious
oversight; should I be ashamed that I don't know what Fick's law
of diffusion is?
The book is beautifully produced, richly illustrated and, in
spite of my critical comments, the best modern treatment of
"functional ecology" of alpine plants. Springer Verlag has found
a significant niche in publishing cornerstones of ecophysiology
such as Larcher's _Physiological Plant Ecology_. In publishing
the _Alpine Plant Life_, Springer Verlag has added another
valuable classic to their repertoire. Both the author and the
publisher should be commended for this book.
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