After 40 years of work, “Michigan Flora” by Prof. Edward Voss is published

March 13, 1997

EDITORS: Color slide available on request.

ANN ARBOR—”On the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies of the University of Michigan approved the Michigan Flora Project for five years of funding through the Faculty Research Fund,” Edward Voss writes in the final volume of “Michigan Flora.” “It is a pleasure to be able to draft this preface and submit the final portion of manuscript just 40 years later!”

The now completed “Michigan Flora” is a guide to all the conifers and flowering plants of the state and is based on the author’s examination of nearly a quarter-million specimens in herbarium collections (pressed and dried specimens) throughout the state and elsewhere. The three volumes of “Michigan Flora” tell where in Michigan a plant grows, or once grew, under what conditions, and how it may be distinguished from other plants through distribution maps and illustrations.

“It is not an encyclopedia of information about the kinds of plants that happen to grow in Michigan,” Voss says. “In its checklist function, it is intended to include all species authentically known from the state, including not only native plants but also those which have established themselves as escapes from cultivation or as unwanted ‘weeds.'” Specimens from all 83 counties of the state and an additional seven islands or island groups in the Great Lakes are included in the books.

Voss reports that the earliest explorers in Michigan mentioned few plants. “Charlevoix, for example,” he writes, “reporting on his 1721 voyage, discussed poison-ivy at Detroit and the importance of ginseng around the St. Joseph River. But he dismiss Mackinac Island as ‘only a quite barren rock, and scarcely covered with a little moss and herbs.'”

The first person with a professional interest in natural history to collect and study plants in Michigan was apparently English-born Thomas Nuttall, a naturalist who set out from Philadelphia in 1810 on an expedition to the Northwest which brought him to Michigan, though a Dr. Dennis Cooley began collecting mostly in Macomb and Oakland counties when he moved to Michigan in 1827. Voss says his specimens, now at Michigan State University, are the first by a resident collector. After obtaining statehood in 1837, one of the first departments created by the legislature was a geological survey which was also charged with surveying the plant and animal life in the state.

The geographic distance covered in the three volumes of “Michigan Flora” is as large as that from Detroit to New York and includes plants of the prairies, deciduous and coniferous forests, marshes, sand dunes, 35,000 lakes and ponds, a myriad of bogs and fens, limestone alvars, sandstone cliffs, granitic rocks.

Voss has devoted much of his time during his 40 years at U-M to completing “Michigan Flora.” Now a professor emeritus of botany, and still teaching summer field courses at U-M’s Biological Station on Douglas Lake, his botanical explorations in Michigan have taken him to every county and to many island in the Great Lakes.

Copies of “Michigan Flora” (all three volumes) are available at $40 from the publisher, Cranbrook Institute of Science, 1221 N. Woodward Ave., P. O. Box 801, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801. Credit card orders can be placed by calling the Institute at

Phone: (313) 647-4418

Michigan Flora