By Alex Paris
Dr. Edward G. Voss, roaming botanist, inspiring professor, and long-time MNA member, died in his Ann Arbor home on February 12. He dedicated his life to the comprehensive identification and categorization of vascular plants, which is embodied by his award-winning, three-volume Michigan Flora guide. The size and clout of the series illustrates the dedication and passion Ed applied to all facets of his life: from the field to the classroom.
Though born and raised in Ohio, Ed cultivated his botanical interests while in Michigan. Vacationing as a child in Mackinac City, he was fascinated with the surrounding wildlife and began collecting it. Ed went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in biology from Denison University before uprooting to the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in biology and doctorate in botany before becoming a research assistant.
The University of Michigan would go on to serve as the trellis on which the vines of botany and teaching would root and intertwine for Ed. He began teaching field botany at Douglas Lake even before becoming a professor, and persisted until retiring in 1996. “He made the boreal floor come alive,” says former student and MNA trustee Stan Kuchta. He was a stickler for spelling, says Stan, and fittingly served as chairman and editor of national and international plant naming committees, respectively.
By retirement (during which he continued practicing botany and teaching) Ed had racked up countless accomplishments and was known as a trusted authority in the global botanist community. Ed made one last contribution to the study of nature as co-author of the Field Manual of Michigan Flora, which was published three days after his death.
There will be two services to honor Dr. Ed Voss on March 10 in Ann Arbor: a memorial service will be held at First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor (517 East Washington St.) from 12:30-1:30 p.m., and a celebration of Ed’s life and career will be held at the University of Michigan Union, Pendleton Room, (530 South State St.) from 2-4 p.m.
Ed’s new, condensed field manual and all volumes of the Michigan Flora work can be purchased from online retailers. Michigan Flora has also taken the form of a website that is continuously updated.