[Taxacom] Art Kruckeberg (1920-2016)

Adolf Ceska aceska at telus.net
Sat Jun 4 05:05:49 CDT 2016

Art Kruckeberg, Emeritus Professor of Botany, University of Washington,
Seattle, died on May 25, at age 96. Art left a legacy as a scholar, teacher,
promoter of gardening with native plants, and conservation activist.
Art joined the Botany Department as an Assistant Professor in 1950 after
completing his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. He grew up in California and was imbued
with all things botanical from an early age; his family owned a publishing
house called Kruckeberg Press, which published gardening and horticultural
publications. He began grad school in 1941 at Stanford, where he spent the
previous summer as a field assistant for the famous botanical research team
of Jens Clausen, David Keck, and William Heisey (Clausen, Keck, and Heisey
rolls off the tongue of most botanists the way Tinker, Evers, and Chance
does baseball aficionados).
Due to forces beyond his control, graduate study would have to wait. After
the attack on Pearl Harbor, Art enlisted in the Navy and was recruited into
their language program, where he learned Japanese. He spent the rest of the
war years and a year of postwar occupation, translating Japanese documents
and interpreting interrogations of captured Japanese prisoners. To the very
end of his life, Art was proud of his mastery of Japanese. I had the
occasion to spend a week at a conference in Japan with Art in 1989; he could
still speak the language AND remembered the plants he had seen there even
though it had been over 40 years since he had left Japan.
After the war, he returned to California to start grad school again, this
time at Berkeley. He completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of Herbert
Mason, with Hans Jenny and G. Ledyard Stebbins on his committee. Mason had
recently begun studying the unique flora found on serpentine soils in
California. Art's dissertation (An Experimental Inquiry into the Nature of
Endemism on Serpentine Soils) helped bring the descriptive work on
serpentine endemism into the realm of experimental science. Art maintained a
research program on serpentine plants throughout his career, writing several
books for both academic and lay audiences, in addition to a significant body
of scientific publications.
Once Art's academic bona fides were well established, he increasingly
devoted his attention to public outreach through his writings, promotion of
conservation activism, and pushing for the establishment of environmental
legislation to preserve lands for their value to biodiversity. In 1972, he
led the movement to create the Washington Natural Area Preserves Act, in
1973, he developed the first list of rare and endangered plants in
Washington, in 1976 he helped found the Washington Native Plant Society, in
1982 he helped create the Washington Natural Heritage Program within the
Department of Natural Resources to oversee management of natural area
preserves and endangered species, and during those years also served on the
US Forest Service commission to identify parcels of federal land to preserve
as Research Natural Areas. Art was awarded the prestigious Peter Raven Award
for public outreach in botany by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists
in 2006.
Art leaves a living legacy in the form of the 4-acre garden he and his wife
Mareen developed over the course of 50 years in Shoreline. This is the "type
garden" for his most widely known book "Gardening with Native Plants in the
Pacific Northwest." This book has turned on generations of gardeners to the
joy and conservation value of using our native flora in home gardens. When
the book was first published, it won the "Governor's Award" for outstanding
books published by Washington authors. The Kruckeberg Botanic Garden is now
a public garden owned by the City of Shoreline and managed by the Kruckeberg
Botanic Garden Foundation.
Art served on my Ph.D. committee and I have a debt of gratitude for Art's
support over the years. During the last few weeks, I have been sorting
through the detritus of a career left behind in Art's last office in the
Plant Lab. With news of his passing, the many memories into the man who
influenced me so, take on additional meaning. A legion of friends,
colleagues, and many who never met him, but were influenced by his work,
will mourn his passing.
--Dick Olmstead
Gifts in honor of Art can be directed to the Kruckeberg Foundation or to the
endowment he created in the Department of Biology for Plant Biology. Please
make checks out to the University of Washington, with "Kruckeberg endowment"
on the memo line. Questions? Contact Lisa at <lisatran at uw.edu> or

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