phot of slopeside vegetation, with patchy litter and herbaceous cover in the foreground and taller woody plants in the background against a blue and white sky

The life and scientific legacy of Lena Artz

“The life and scientific legacy of Lena Artz: a hidden figure of central Appalachian shale barren botany”

A (Virtual) Lunchtime Lecture by Dr. Andrea Weeks (George Mason University)

The shale barrens of the central Appalachian mountains are renowned ecological communities in the eastern US, whose distinct flora and extreme environment conditions have captured the attention of botanists and ecologists for over a century. These communities are patchily distributed in the Ridge & Valley and Massanutten Mountains of the mid-Atlantic where shale bedrock is exposed on steep slopes having southerly aspect, and they have accumulated a diverse assemblage of endemic or near endemic herbaceous perennial plant species. Systematic exploration of these areas began in the mid-1920’s, coincident with the activity of the Virginia Flora Committee of the Virginia Academy of Science, and multiple floristic studies and checklists were published in the decades following. While some the authors of these works are well-known researchers (e.g., Harry A. Allard, Earl L. Core), a key individual responsible for much of what we know about the Massanutten Mountain flora and morphological adaptations of shale barren specialist plants, Lena Artz (1891-1976), has remained in the shadows until recently. This presentation will detail the discovery of Lena Artz’s collection notebooks and professional papers and the reconstruction of her remarkable life’s journey as a botanist outside of traditional research institutions. It will conclude with how her relocated herbarium specimens and detailed field notes are reinvigorating efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of shale barren endemic species and the historical biogeographic construction of this unique biome.

This 1-hr seminar will include a short Q&A session after the lecture.

Lena Artz and a Massanutten Mountains shale barren community
Lena Artz (circa 1942 to 1947) and a Massanutten Mountains shale barren community. This is the only known extant location of Astragalus distortus var. distortus in Virginia, relocated using the notes of Lena Artz.

This virtual seminar will be broadcast using the Zoom platform. Click here to connect to the eventLecture begins at noon (Central) and includes a chat-based Q&A with the speaker. This event has ended. Pending permission from the presenter, a recording of the lecture will be posted here a few days after the event. Check out past lectures here.



About the Research Lecture Series

The BRIT Research Lecture Series is designed to create community wide conversation about a diverse range of important and rapidly developing topics. This series gives scientists and speakers a forum for sharing the most current information about their areas of expertise and allows the public to interact with leading members of the local, national, and international scientific community. Read more at


Sep 06 2022


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

The event is finished.


Morgan Gostel, PhD


Morgan Gostel, PhD