Edward G. Voss, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, curator emeritus of vascular plants at the University Herbarium and a legendary teacher at the U-M Biological Station, died Feb. 13, just three days before the release of his latest book.
On Feb. 16, the U-M Press released “Field Manual of Michigan Flora,” co-authored by Voss and Anton Reznicek, curator of vascular plants at the University Herbarium. According to the publisher, the new “Flora” is the most up-to-date guide available for all seed plants growing wild in Michigan.
With a distinguished career in both natural history and systematic botany, Voss is a nationally recognized scholar, teacher and regional leader in conservation. His three-volume work, “Michigan Flora,” was the culmination of 40 years of collecting, identifying and describing more than 2,500 seed-bearing plants native to Michigan. These books represent a significant contribution to the Michigan historical literature. Voss’ role as the leading authority on a large flora came about during an era of growing awareness and interest in threatened biological diversity.
Born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1929, Voss spent his childhood in Toledo. His early interest in plants and insects began at his family’s cottage in Mackinaw City, where he spent summers collecting caterpillars, moths, butterflies and plants. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology with honors from Denison University in 1950, Voss continued his education at U-M, where he earned a master’s degree in biology in 1951 and a doctorate in botany in 1954. He had homes in Ann Arbor and Mackinaw City. He is survived by his sister, Eleanor (Elly) Hendricks, her husband, Tom, and their two sons, Jim and Andy.
He joined U-M in 1956 as a research associate at the Herbarium and was appointed assistant professor in 1960, promoted to associate professor in 1963 and professor of botany in 1969. Voss served as curator of vascular plants from 1961 until his retirement in 1996. He spent 55 summers teaching at the U-M Biological Station at Douglas Lake introducing generations of biologists from all over the country to field botany.
Voss’s focus of research was the vascular plants of the Great Lakes region: their taxonomy, identification, phytogeography, postglacial history and status in natural environments — with special interest in boreal plants generally and in aquatic plants. He also was interested in the history of biology (especially the early exploration in the Great Lakes region) and in Lepidoptera of the northern Great Lakes area.
“There are enough Ed Voss accomplishments to fill a book,” wrote Jim McCormac, a biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, who considered Voss a mentor. “But all of that aside, what Ed did throughout his career that was at least of equal importance to his academic work was his encouragement of others,” he continued in a blog post about Voss.
The new “Field Manual of Michigan Flora” significantly expands and updates the three-volume “Michigan Flora” by incorporating the discoveries of numerous additional species, recent systematic research, and a vast trove of new information on the shifting distributions of Michigan species.
— Submitted by Gail Kuhnlein, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
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