John T. Mickel

My studies are concentrated on the classification and structure of the New World species of ferns and interpretation of these plants to the professional and lay public. The research falls into three categories.

Floristic studies. I have long been interested in the fern flora of Mexico. We have published on the ferns of Oaxaca, the state richest in species of ferns, and those of western Mexico (Nueva Galicia), which together account for three-fourths of all the Mexican species. The goal is to prepare, with collaborators, a treatment for the entire country. I have also written fern floras of Trinidad and North America north of Mexico.

Monographic studies. I have worked for over 30 years on the primitive genus Anemia. Nearly all its 110 species occur in tropical America. This group is over 150 million years old, and its very distinct spores make it easily recognized in the fossil record. The modern species commonly hybridize and form new species. My current work is primarily on Elaphoglossum, one of the largest and most difficult of fern genera. Its 600 species, nearly all with paddle-shaped fronds, are mostly epiphytes. In contrast to Anemia, there is virtually no hybridization, but instead, many new species are formed through mutation and self-fertilization. Thirty to forty percent of the tropical American species were previously undescribed.

Fern cultivation. We are testing ferns from temperate regions of the world for cold-hardiness. Our garden serves as a reservoir of living material for comparative studies on life histories, structure, chemistry, and chromosomes. Spores and plant divisions are shared with other institutions, and some species are being introduced into horticulture as garden plants.

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Selected Publications