BRIT History

Our History

Founded in October 1987 and based in Fort Worth, BRIT documents the diversity of plant life and conducts extensive research around the world. In the last 10 years, BRIT scientists have located and described scores of species previously unknown to science. Similar to the botanist-explorers of the 18th century, our scientists share the same desires and traits. We’re adventurous, curious, passionate, independent, and smart. In addition, we are teachers. We are driven to find new plant species and research plant life for agricultural, economic, environmental, medical, and social uses and to share that knowledge in the classroom and the research laboratory.

Significance of BRIT

BRIT supports botanical solutions to address globally challenging problems ranging from pollution clean-up to sustainable food sources. By serving as a think tank and catalyst, BRIT inspires learning and forms interdisciplinary collaborations for critical research within scientific, educational, social, cultural and business communities.

Our work impacts our community and the world in a number of functional areas including: The environment, by giving people a local sense of stewardship; society, by training a new generation of thinkers and problem solvers; and conservation, by offering methods for better stewardship of the land.


  • 2020 – BRIT and Fort Worth Botanic Garden announce June 1 reopening at 25% occupancy during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 2020 – City of Fort Worth approves agreement for BRIT to manage the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
  • 2020 – BRIT announces temporary closing due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 2019 – BRIT and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden expand GROW partnership to offer joint membership.
  • 2019 – BRIT and the University of North Texas Health Science Center enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on research, educational activities and community programs.
  • 2018 – BRIT opens the George C. and Sue W. Sumner Molecular and Structural Laboratory adding unique dimension and depth to research education programs in plant systematics (biological classification of plants).
  • 2018 – BRIT and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden launch the GROW partnership on education and volunteer efforts. The partnership, signed by the Fort Worth City Council and the BRIT board of directors in the fall of 2017, transfers responsibility for the Garden’s education and volunteer programs to BRIT.
  • 2017 – BRIT and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sign research and education Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU creates a collaborative working relationship that advances plant conservation and programs that will educate the public about the importance of maintaining wild spaces for the health and well-being of people in Texas.
  • 2017 – BRIT and TCU sign education and research Memorandum of Agreement. Undergraduate and graduate students in TCU’s College of Science & Engineering and College of Education will work with BRIT’s Ph.D. botanists and research staff performing plant science and field research to help satisfy their degree requirements.
  • 2017 – BRIT rescues 470,000 plant specimens from the University of Louisiana – Monroe bringing the total number of specimens housed at BRIT to 1.47 million and elevating BRIT’s herbarium to ninth largest in the US.
  • 2017 – BRIT signs MOU with the City of Fort Worth partnering with the Fort Worth Botanic Garden to improve and expand education programs for the community.
  • 2017 – BRIT signs MOU with University of Texas at Arlington.
  • 2017 – BRIT joins the Center of Plant Conservation (CPC) to help lead Texas organizations in protecting and preserving rare and endangered native plants.
  • 2017 – BRIT celebrates its 30th anniversary.
  • 2016 – BRIT joins American Horticulture Society (AHS) and American Public Gardens Association (APGA).
  • 2016 – BRIT and Tarleton State University Sign Agreement Promoting Common Interests and signs BRIT and Tarleton to team on TxDOT plant research.
  • 2015 – BRIT Names Dr. Edward Schneider as New President and Executive Director.
  • 2013 – BRIT establishes it Urban Youth Field School, later transformed into the Green Revolution, for middle and high school students served through the Morningside Children’s Partnership.
  • 2011 – Acquired copies of volumes of the Banks’ Florilegium
  • 2011 – The BRIT SEED School opened with a classroom, teacher resource center and early childhood “tree house” exploration center through support of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation. The Teacher Tuesday program begins to attract teachers from districts across the region.
  • 2011 – Grand opening of new headquarters building to the public – first building in the region to have a “living” roof that is planted with flowering plants of the Fort Worth Prairie variety suitable for this climate.
  • 2010 – Atrium, a biodiversity information system is developed with the goal of revolutionizing biodiversity information management by enabling researchers and organizations to share, synthesize, manage, and publish biodiversity data in a collaborative, online environment.
  • 2010 – Apiary, an online digital workflow system established that allows humans to quickly and accurately extract the textual data from digital specimen images with the assistance of computer processes such as optical character recognition (OCR).
  • 2010 – Establishes the International Award of Excellence in Sustainable Winegrowing to honor organizations in the wine industry that are taking a leading role in implementing sustainable practices. The awards first recipient is HALL Wines of St Helena, California.
  • 2010 – BRIT’s herbarium contains approx. 1,000,000 plant specimens and its botanical library contains approx. 100,000 volumes of books and journals.
  • 2009 – Signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Regional Government of Cusco to collaboratively implement new regional conservation areas in one of the most biologically diverse states of Peru. The result was BRIT’s Amazon to Andes Biodiversity Program that researched and published a variety of floras for parts of Peru.
  • 2009 – Groundbreaking ceremonies on a new $46 million LEED platinum-certified building in the Fort Worth Cultural District.
  • 2007 – Bella the Begonia was introduced as part of BRIT’s Distance Learning Outreach to schools across the nation. Bella became BRIT’s preschool mascot for its early childhood programs in 2011, influencing thousands of children to explore nature through the inspiration of children’s literature.
  • 2003 – BRIT acquires the Heber W. Youngken, Jr. Collection of Medicinal Plants (MCP).
  • 2002 – BRIT acquires the Dartmouth College (HNH) Herbarium.
  • 2001 The first teachers were awarded the Wendy Owsley Garrett Science Teacher award.
  • 2001 BRIT acquires the Houston Public Museum (HPM) herbarium.
  • 2000 – BRIT Education joins forces with the Fort Worth Botanic Garden to open the first tropical butterfly exhibit and education program in the Garden
  • 2000 – The BRIT Distinguished Lecturer Series hosts its most popular series, the Sixth Extinction, bringing in internationally known experts on the urgent issues involving biodiversity conservation.
  • 1999 – BRIT Press publishes, “Shinners & Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas.” The first fully illustrated flora for any region of Texas or adjacent states.
  • 1999 – BRIT receives its first education endowment and grants to begin a Texas ecosystem expedition program for environmental science teachers and an environmental science youth mentoring program.
  • 1997 – Vanderbilt University Herbarium (VDB) acquired
  • 1997 – The Oliver Burk Memorial Children’s Library is established with a gift of 2,000 children’s books on botany and natural history. BRIT published its first children’s book, Pepe’s Family Reunion.
  • 1995 – BRIT receives a grant from the Meadows Foundation to open a learning center and write botany curriculum for elementary schools
  • 1995 – BRIT establishes its International Awards of Excellence in Conservation program to honor individuals and organizations whose contributions and leadership best reflect BRIT’s core principles of conservation, sustainability, and wise stewardship of the land.
  • 1993 – BRIT hires its first executive director, Dr. S.H. Sohmer.
  • 1987 – BRIT incorporates as a non-profit organization to house the Southern Methodist University herbarium, consisting of 450,000 specimens and its botanical library with 75,000 volumes from the personal collections of Lloyd H. Shinners, one of the most influential Texas botanists of the 20th century. BRIT occupies 11,500 square feet on two floors of a turn-of-the-century warehouse in downtown Fort Worth,Texas.
Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) | FWBG