From Plant Press, Vol. 17, No. 3, July 2014.
The Department of Botany and the United States National Herbarium present this award to a botanist and scholar of international stature who has contributed significantly to advancing the field of tropical botany. The José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany is named in honor of Dr. José Cuatrecasas, a pioneering botanist and taxonomist, who spent nearly a half-century working in the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Botany. Dr. Cuatrecasas devoted his career to plant exploration in tropical South America and this award serves to keep vibrant the accomplishments and memory of this outstanding scientist.
The winner of this prestigious award is selected by a committee made up of four botanists on the staff of the Department in consultation with other plant scientists outside of the Smithsonian Institution. Nominations for the Medal are accepted from all scientists in the Botany Department. The award consists of a bronze medal bearing an image of José Cuatrecasas on the front with the recipient’s name and date of presentation on the back. Highlights from past presentations to the recipients are available on the Symposium archives website.
H. Peter Linder is the 12th recipient of the José Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany. Linder is noted for his contributions to the systematics, biogeography, and evolution of Orchidaceae, Restionaceae, and Poaceae. He is also recognized for his valuable contributions to identifying biogeographical patterns in the Southern Hemisphere and especially in Africa.
Linder, a Professor in the Institute of Systematic Botany of Zurich University in Switzerland, received his B.Sc. from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and his Ph.D. while working at the Bolus Herbarium under the supervision of E.A. Schelpe. His dissertation focused on the orchid genus Disa and its allies. This study led to numerous scientific papers and a book written in collaboration with H. Kurzweil entitled The Orchids of Southern Africa (1999). The book originally was intended to be a contribution to the Flora of Southern Africa, but the flora project was discontinued.
Not content to become an expert on orchids alone, Linder then started working on the African Restionaceae. Originally this work, too, was supposed to be for the Flora of Southern Africa. The result has been two major re-orientations of the generic classification (the first based on cladistics of morphology, the second on molecular insights), and a major set of papers using Restionaceae to get at biogeography, key innovations, niche evolution, and palaeoclimates. This work is still ongoing. The revision of the taxonomy was published online in Delta / Intkey format (2001).
In 1988, Linder started working on the grass genus Pentaschistis, which expanded into a study of danthonioid grasses. This research led to a generic re-classification, numerous flora accounts, papers on austral biogeography, and papers on radiation patterns. A monograph is in preparation and if he can find six months somewhere he will complete it.
In short, Linder’s work by and large has been on the African flora, with a series of papers on the regionalization of this flora, and an interest in Africa as a whole. He also has worked in Australia and New Zealand, but hardly has been to the Americas. This last gap in his travel experience will be closed eventually. Linder was unable to attend this year’s Smithsonian Botanical Symposium. He plans, however, to visit in the fall and will present a lecture at NMNH on 2 October 2014. During his visit he will receive the Cuatrecasas Medal in person.
The past recipients of the Cuatrecasas Medal are Rogers McVaugh of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2001); P. Barry Tomlinson of Harvard University (2002); John Beaman of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003); David Mabberley of the University of Leiden, The Netherlands, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney (2004); Jerzy Rzedowski and Graciela Calderón de Rzedowski of Instituto de Ecología del Bajío, Michoacán, Mexico (2005); Sherwin Carlquist of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Pomona College (2006); Mireya D. Correa A. of the University of Panama and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (2008); Norris H. Williams of the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida, Gainesville (2009); Beryl B. Simpson of the University of Texas at Austin (2010); Walter S. Judd of the University of Florida at Gainesville (2012); and Ana Maria Giulietti Harley of the Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Brazil (2013).