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College of Sciences

Department of Biological Sciences

Lytton John Musselman
Current Positions:

Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany
Manager, Blackwater Ecologic Preserve
Visiting Professor, Cranberry Lake Biological Station
Visiting Professor, American University of Iraq-Sulaimani
Eminent Visiting Professor, Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Research, Universiti Brunei Darussalam


Doctor of Philosophy, 1974 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Master of Science, 1968 University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Bachelor of Science, 1965 Beloit College

Teaching Responsibilities:

Biol 340, Field Botany
Biol 332, Ethnobotany
Biol 334, Field Ethnobotany
Biol 419/519, Wetland Plants
Biol 438/538, Dendrology
Biol 400/500, Vascular Plant Families
Biol 474/574, Mushrooms

Administrative Responsibilities:

Manager, Blackwater Ecologic Preserve
Chair, Department of Biological Sciences 2002-2008

Research Interests:

Plants fascinate me. I am intrigued by their diversity of form, function, and habitat. I especially enjoy studying them where they live--on mountain slopes, tidal rivers, or deserts. This means I spend a lot of time in the field with my three main research interests.  This fieldwork allows me to read nature in the language in which it was written.

I have devoted the majority of my career to parasitic plants, especially the witchweeds (genus Striga), broomrapes (genus Orobanche), dodders (genus Cuscuta), and the family Hydnoraceae (Hydnora and Prosopanche). Witchweeds are mainly African and include some of the most serious pathogens of subsistence crops in the semiarid tropics. Broomrapes are chiefly Mediterranean plants that parasitize a diversity of hosts and are serious problems in legumes and other crops.  Witchweeds and broomrapes are of limited concern in the United States. Dodders are yellow vines resembling parasitic spaghetti. They cause problems on five continents. Species of Hydnoraceae include some of the most bizarre plants on our planet! One species, H. triceps, flowers underground-one of only two species known to have hypogeous flowering. See the "Strangest Plant in the World".

In contrast to the desert and semi-desert regions where the Hydnoraceae and witchweeds occur, another of my active research efforts involves aquatic fern-like plants, quillworts, species of the genus Isoetes. Along with Dr. Rebecca Bray and students in our department, I have been investigating quillworts of the southern United States, South Africa, and the Middle East. Studies in tidal freshwater marshes in the Virginia Coastal Plain are revealing a previously unknown diversity in Isoetes taxa. See the ODU Quillwort Page.

Another research endeavor involves the life and botanical activities of pioneer botanists of the Middle East including George Edward Post (1838-1909). He was one of the founders of the medical school of the American University of Beirut where I was a Visiting Professor in 2002 .  Post was also a professor of botany. While in Syria, he contributed the treatment of plants and animals to the most widely circulated Bible dictionaries. For information on Post and his activities, Click Here. The revision of Post's flora was done by John Edward Dinsmore (1862-1951) and published in 1932 by the American University of Beirut. This flora is available on line at: http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/saab/post-flora/ . For many years it was the most widely used flora in that region yet very little is known about Dinsmore. He moved from Maine to Jerusalem in the 1890's to join a Protestant commune called The American Colony.

My work in ethnobotany has resulted in several books, the most recent is A Dictionary of Bible Plants (see below).  Closer to home, my book on edible wild plants (with co-author and former student Hal Wiggins) will be published in May 2013 (see below).  A fun project-and potential book-is making cordials and aperitifs from native plants.  See:  Foraging for Cocktails  and Old Dominion Magazine pages 22-25.

I am privileged to be able to teach a variety of courses both at ODU and a several other institutions including the University of Virginia Mountain Lake Biological Station, State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry field station at Cranberry Lake in the beautiful Adirondacks where I teach each summer (http://www.esf.edu/clbs/), and the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (http://auis.edu.iq/) where I teach a botany course.

A botanist at sea?  Sounds unlikely but for the past several years I have worked at a botanist on A Prairie Home Companion cruises. See APHC at sea.

Selected Publications:

Musselman, L. J. and H. J. Wiggins. 2013. Quick Guide to Edible Plants. Johns Hopkins University Press.  ISBN- 1421408716.  144 pages.

Musselman, L. J. and D. A. Knepper. 2012. Plants of Chesapeake Bay-An Illustrated Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN-10: 1421404982, ISBN-13: 978-1421404981. 232 pages. 200 color illus.

Musselman, L. J. 2011.  Dictionary of Bible Plants. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9780521110990. 220 pages. 118 b/w illus. 77 color illus.

My Websites:

ODU Plant Photo Site: A large compilation of plant pictures and information.

Blackwater Ecologic Preserve: Information on the preserve, now part of the Zuni Pine Barrens State Natural Area.

My Home Page includes my curriculum vitae and other information as well as links to my courses.

Lectures including presentations on George Edward Post, pioneer botanist of the Middle East, lectures on Bible plants, and other material.

Haustorium Parasitic Plants Newsletter: Official Organ of the International Parasitic Plant Society.

Contact Information:

Department of Biological Sciences
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529-0266
Phone: (757) 683-3597
Cell: (757) 771-6156
Fax: (757) 683-5283
e-mail: lmusselm@odu.edu

"Dr. Musselman is a passionate botanist. Walking among plant life makes him very happy, which means he is happy most of the time, except when riding in a car stuck in a long tunnel. He will stop people on the street to tell them some great news from the plant world."

- Garrison Keillor