The New York Botanical Garden


Robert F. C. Naczi

Arthur J. Cronquist Curator of North American Botany, Institute of Systematic Botany

Ph.D., The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan (1992)
Expertise: Floristics of eastern North America, Systematics and ecology of Cyperaceae, Systematics and ecology of Sarraceniaceae


The major focus of my research is the floristics of eastern North America. Specifically, my research entails study of the identification, geographic distribution, frequency, ecology, and conservation of plants growing wild in this region. The chief aim of this research is revision of Gleason and Cronquist's Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada (The New York Botanical Garden Press, 1991).

The Gleason & Cronquist Manual is the latest in a rich tradition of books on plants of northeastern North America published by New York Botanical Garden staff. Since Nathaniel Lord Britton published his Illustrated Flora in 1896, the goal of these books has been to enable the user to correctly identify plants growing in the wild in a vast region. The geographic coverage of the Gleason & Cronquist Manual encompasses all or portions of 22 states of the U.S.A. and five Canadian provinces. Major advances in botanical science since the last edition of the Manual mean the time is ripe for a revision.

In addition, I conduct research in plant systematics. Much of this research is devoted to revisionary systematics of sedges, particularly the genera Carex and Rhynchospora (Cyperaceae). Carex, with about 2000 species, is the largest genus of flowering plants in North America and one of the world's largest genera. Data from field, laboratory, and herbarium studies permit me to describe new sedge species, reconstruct their phylogenies, and improve their classifications. I am especially keen on utilizing phylogenetic trees to understand sedge morphology, chromosome number variation, and biogeography.

I also study the systematics of the Western Hemisphere Pitcher Plants (Sarraceniaceae), carnivorous plants with pitcher-like leaves functioning as traps. Despite their inherent interest and popularity in horticulture, pitcher plants remain poorly understood. I am applying novel approaches to study their systematics. For example, I use symbiotic and host-specific mites and flies as flags for potential realignments in the current classification scheme of these plants. Many threats to the survival of pitcher plants exist. Habitat destruction, fire suppression, and poaching are the most serious menaces, and several species are critically imperiled. An improved understanding of the systematics of pitcher plants and of their arthropods will help ensure the long-term survival of these fascinating plants.

Selected Publications

Naczi, R. F. C. 2009. Insights on using morphologic data for phylogenetic analysis in sedges (Cyperaceae). The Botanical Review 75: 67-95. [link]

Naczi, R. F. C. and B. A. Ford, eds. 2008. Sedges: Uses, Diversity, and Systematics of the Cyperaceae. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis. 298 pp. [link]

Sarver, M., A. Treher, L. Wilson, R. Naczi, and F. B. Kuehn. 2008. Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and their Native Look-alikes: An identification guide for the Mid-Atlantic. Delaware Dept. Agriculture, Dover. 62 pp. [pdf, 7 MB]

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