Michael Nee

The hills, rivers and woods of the unglaciated "Driftless Area" of Wisconsin and Iowa inspired Antonin Dvorak in music and Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture, but for me they inspired a lifelong passion for exploring the natural world, especially the plants. Long before I was aware of the words "herbaria," "flora," and "taxonomy," I had a desire to know about the plants--what were their names and where did they grow. I am still adding material towards a flora of Richland County, Wisconsin.

During the early 1980's, I was at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, as part of a project producing a flora of the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico. Veracruz is so varied in topography and climate that it includes tropical rain forest, arid tropical thorn forest, temperate deciduous forests, montane oak-pine forests, deserts, and alpine tundra.

On moving to the New York Botanical Garden in 1984, I chose to work in Bolivia for several reasons. The Garden has a long-term interest in tropical South America, Bolivia is the least known country botanically in tropical America, and it is like the state of Veracruz on a grander scale--the flora is richer, the mountains are higher, the deserts are drier. My collections to date amount to about 12% of all the plants ever collected in the country.

At the same time I am continuing my research on the Solanaceae (potato family), which involves all the species in the family, especially those which are not economically important in themselves and have therefore not been intensively studied. Solanum itself remains my main research interest; it is said by some to be the largest genus of flowering plants, with over 2000 species. I have also become interested in the Cucurbitaceae (squash family) and the origin of the cultivated squashes and pumpkins.

E-mail Address: mnee@nybg.org

Selected Publications