2014 Grady Webster Award Winners: Kristen Hasenstab-Lehman & Michael Simpson

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Boise, Idaho, July 29, 2014 – The American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Kristen Hasenstab-Lehman, a Ph.D. candidate in Botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden & Claremont Graduate University, and Dr. Michael Simpson, Professor of Biology at San Diego State University and Kristen’s former M.S. advisor, their Grady Webster Award at the Society’s annual meeting. The biannual award was given for the most outstanding paper published in the Society’s journals Systematic Botany and Systematic Botany Monographs during the two-year period of 2012-2013. Their winning paper, “Cat's Eyes and Popcorn Flowers: Phylogenetic Systematics of the Genus Cryptantha s. l. (Boraginaceae)” was published in the July 2012 issue of Systematic Botany.  It is available for download at:




This exemplary paper reports work that integrates knowledge of growth form and reproductive morphology with DNA sequencing data to disentangle the evolutionary history of the large, taxonomically complicated plant group consisting of the genus Cryptantha and its close relatives, a largely western North American group of species of relatively dry habitats that are known commonly as cat’s-eyes and popcorn flowers. Demonstrating the power of a holistic approach to understanding plant evolution, Hasenstab-Lehman and Simpson used their extensive data set to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among the cat’s-eyes and their relatives, and in the process were able to infer the evolutionary history of several traits that helped lead to the exceptional modern diversity of the Cryptantha complex, including annual versus perennial growth form, flower morphology (especially cleistogamy and heterostyly), and several aspects of fruit (nutlet) morphology.  They were also able to infer that the South American species of cat’s-eyes are largely derived from North American ancestors via chance long-distance dispersal events between the continents.  Hasenstab-Lehman and Simpson also provided a comprehensive and much-needed revision of the taxonomy of the group, which represents the first such revision based on both DNA sequence and morphological data.

This paper represents research that Hasenstab-Lehman completed for her M.S. thesis at San Diego State University, with additional data collected for the manuscript at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Both Hasenstab-Lehman and Simpson are experts on the forget-me-not family (a large family that includes Cryptantha). Hasenstab-Lehman has continued her work on this family for her Ph.D. dissertation research at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, where she is studying the genus Varronia, a large and widespread genus of trees and shrubs that occur in tropical ecosystems throughout Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.  Dr. Simpson is also the curator of the herbarium at San Diego State University, and is the author of Plant Systematics, a widely used college textbook.

The award is named for Dr. Grady L. Webster, a prominent botanist at the University of California at Davis who passed away in 2005. Dr. Webster published widely on comparative morphology and anatomy, relationships and evolution, and biogeography. He also conducted extensive fieldwork in the tropics and subtropics and inspired many students to study systematic botany.

About the American Society of Plant Taxonomists:

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists promotes the research and teaching of the taxonomy, systematics, and phylogeny of vascular and nonvascular plants. Organized in 1935, the Society has a membership of over 1200. The Society publishes the scientific journals Systematic Botany and Systematic Botany Monographs, supports a variety of honorary and charitable activities, and conducts scientific meetings each summer. Information on the Society’s 2014 joint meeting with four other botanical societies (Botany 2014) can be found at http://www.botanyconference.org/.


Michael Moore, Chair of the Public Relations Committee

American Society of Plant Taxonomists

(440) 775-6876



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