Q. What sets a botany survey course apart from other science classes?
A. Sometimes plants get forgotten. Plants are something that students are surprised by — by how integrated they are in our everyday lives. They have such an interesting way of living.
Q. From the perspective of a plant biologist, which plants in New Haven are most worth a closer look?
A. We’re in the Elm City, so you can pay attention to the elms [laughs]. One of the first plants to come out in the spring is the skunk cabbage in East Rock Park — like its name indicates, it smells. It should be coming out in April. It’s kind of a cool plant to see, very charismatic. There are also gingkoes and blooming dogwoods on campus. When the gingkoes drop their seeds, they also smell bad — I don’t know why odor keeps coming up. A lot of people forget about the Marsh Botanic Gardens [Yale’s eight-acre botanical garden located just north of Science Hill], too.
Q. Do you have any tips for dorm-room plant enthusiasts? Which plants are especially suited for suite horticulture?
A. Things you don’t have to water much. Cacti are good. It’s good to get into desert gardening.
Q. And do you have any plants at home?
A. I’ve had a fig tree for 12 years. That was my dorm plant when I was an undergraduate, and I’ve had it ever since. It’s gone from being one foot to eight feet tall.
Q. What’s your opinion of the forsythia blooming in Branford and other premature signs of spring on campus? Is this cause for concern?
A. Well, it’s an unusually warm winter, and I think some of [the blooming] is sparked by that cold snap we had in October. It tricked the plants into thinking they’ve had their dormant period. I’m curious to watch them in the spring and see how they’ll respond — I’ve never seen anything like this before. We’ll be keeping tabs on them.
Q. If you were shopping courses, which classes (besides your own) would be on your short list?
A. Any course that gets me outside, observing nature. But I haven’t thought about taking courses in a long time.