“Holy Botany: Plants of the Bible” with Dr. Lytton John Musselman


A graduate of Beloit College, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Dr. Lytton John Musselman is the Mary Payne Hogan Distinguished Professor of Botany at Old Dominion University where he also served as Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. His main teaching interest and one of his chief research interests is ethnobotany, broadly defined as the human use of plants past, present, and future. 

Ethnobotanical research has centered on two broad geographical regions. The first is the Middle East where he has lived in five countries studying the uses of plants in ancient times resulting in three published volumes: Jordan in Bloom: Flowers of the Holy Landcommissioned by Queen Rania of Jordan and published by the Jordan River Foundation in 2000; Figs, Dates, Laurel and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and Quranwith a foreword by Garrison Keillor published by Timber Press in 2007; and A Dictionary of Bible Plantspublished by Cambridge University Press in 2011. Closer to home, his book on Chesapeake Bay plants (2012) with David Knepper and A Quick Guide to Edible Plants(2013) with Harold Wiggins were published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Wildflowers of the Adirondackswith Donald Leopold will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press 2019.

This presentation, “Holy Botany: Plants of the Bible” will explore Musselman’s extensive research on plants and the natural environment of the Old Testament and New Testament. Throughout history, there have been sometimes futile and occasionally inaccurate attempts to name and identify biblical plants. Musselman has devoted much of his life’s work researching the natural history, ethnobotany, and identity of plants in the holy texts through research in Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Greece, Oman, Turkey, Brunei Darussalam, and the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, Musselman has learned many secrets of plants in the Bible such as flax, mustard, wheat, aloe, and the forbidden fruit. This presentation will discuss key biblical plants some allegorical, some clearly identifiable, and others up for debate. 

Musselman's presentation is scheduled for February 28, 6:30 p.m. in Room 300. It is free and open to the public but reservations are required.

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