Bioculture: Plants and People Interacting

People and plants have been sharing the planet for a very long time, and, through the ages, a great number of plants have become important to human culture. The Garden’s William L. Brown Center is thrilled to present a free talk series that focuses on that relationship. The series, called Bioculture: Plants and People Interacting, will feature ten webinars now through the end of June. Every webinar in the series is free to attend.

What Is the William L. Brown Center?

The William L. Brown Center is dedicated to studying the relationship between people and plants and began developing its biocultural collection in 2012. Collection objects include biological specimens and cultural artifacts that preserve traditional knowledge and plant use, document livelihoods, and demonstrate the lasting influence of plant-people relationships on both plants and humans.

Objects from the William L. Brown Center’s Biocultural Collection. Photos by Jered Willis.

Objects range from plant-based medicines and foods to farming tools, household items, textiles, baskets, clothing, paper, art, and more. Over the past 10 years, a variety of objects have been on display at the Garden in the Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum, Ridgway Visitor Center, and Climatron. The current Sachs Museum exhibit, Grafting the Grape: American Grapevine Rootstock in Missouri and the World, features six objects from the collection including a plant budding knife (Acc. No. 02063) and a bottle opener made with grape vine (Acc. No. 01404).

In the fall of 2021, the William L. Brown Center was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to assist in making the collection more accessible. The Bioculture: Plants and People Interacting talk series, which is free to the public, was one of the initiatives made possible by this grant.

The Bioculture: Plants and People Interacting Talk Series

We’re thrilled to have experts from within and beyond the Garden speaking to the importance of plants in many facets of human life—from food, fuel, and fiber to magic, medicine and music. The full schedule, along with links to talk details and registrations, can be found at The webinars take place via Zoom every other Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. CST. Each talk will be recorded and posted online afterward on the Missouri Botanical Garden YouTube channel and linked to the Biocultural Collection webpage, and ASL interpretation with live captioning will be provided. Join us as we explore the interactions of plants and people through the highlights of the collection’s 7,000 objects!

Domestication and Diversity of Mango

Wednesday, February 16 | 12:30 p.m. | Dr. Emily Warschefsky | Watch the Recording

Hand Papermaking Traditions of Việt Nam

Wednesday, March 2 | 12:30 p.m. | James Ojascastro | Watch the Recording

Brown Gold for a Developing Irish Nation – Peat: An Important Plant-derived Resource

Wednesday, March 16 | 12:30 p.m. | Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson | Recording not available

Narragansett Food Sovereignty and Art

Wednesday, March 30 | 12:30 p.m. | Dr. Jan Salick, Dawn Spears, and Cassius Spears| Watch the Recording

Wild Roots: Harvesting and Using the Wild Forest Medicinal Plants of Appalachia

Wednesday, April 13 | 12:30 p.m. | Kate Farley | Recording coming soon

Deconstructing a Traditional Amazonian Ceremonial Costume: Unveiling the Role of Plants in Its Elaboration and Cultural Significance

Wednesday, April 27 | 12:30 p.m. | Carolina Romero | Register
*This talk will be in Spanish with English translation and ASL interpretation available.

Colada Morada: An Ecuadorian Tradition of the Day of the Deceased

Wednesday, May 11 | 12:30 p.m. | Dr. Carmen Ulloa | Register
*This talk will be in Spanish with English translation and ASL interpretation available.

Shaping Utensils to Shape Your Cuisine: The Oklagija in Bosnian Traditional Cooking

Wednesday, May 25 | 12:30 p.m. | Ashley Glenn | Register

When a Calabash Is Not Just a Calabash: How It Weaves Traditions and Identities in the Caribbean

Wednesday, June 8 | 12:30 p.m. | Betsabe Castro Escobar | Register
*This talk will be in Spanish with English translation and ASL interpretation available.

Malagasia Musicalis: Native Sound from the Island of Madagascar

Wednesday, June 22 | 12:30 p.m. | Dr. Armand Randrianasolo and team | Register
*This talk will include Malagasy content with English translation, with the introduction and Q&A in English. English translation and ASL interpretation will be available.

More About the WIlliam L. Brown Center

For more information, including how to schedule an in-person visit to the collection, donate objects, access the online catalog, view current events and internship opportunities, and more, please visit our webpage:

Aurora Prehn

Kristina DeYong
Public Information Coordinator

This project, “Restoring Access to the Biocultural Collection at the Missouri Botanical Garden,” has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities

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