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Scott Zona on the gardener’s guide to biology


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Today’s session, in contrast to the more challenging subject of the last two weeks, will take me back into my comfort zone, namely, nerding out about plants and how bizarre and amazing they are. 

I don’t claim to be a plant expert, far from it. I’m more like a fanboy of a stadium band that has been around forever pumping out the hits and that I only found out about recently and act like I discovered them. I hope those of you who’ve been growing and studying plants your whole lives will forgive me. 

A perfect example of a person who’s been a lifelong aficionado of the plant kingdom is Scott Zona. Scott holds a B.S. in horticulture and an M.S. in botany from the University of Florida. His Ph.D. in botany is from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (now the California Botanic Garden) and Claremont Graduate University, California.

He has explored plants in Florida, California, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, and Madagascar. His interests are in the diversity and natural history of tropical plants, especially palms, salvias, and bryophytes, and has published over 175 articles on these topics in various magazines, book chapters, and scholarly journals.

He is the co-author of two books, Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms (2nd ed.) and The Palm Collection at the Jardín Botánico de Culiacán.

His third book, A Gardener’s Guide to Botany, will be out in December 2022. Scott is also a member of American Bryological and Lichenological Society, Cactus & Succulent Society of America, International Association of Bryologists, International Palm Society, North American Rock Garden Society, and the Royal Horticultural Society and he is a Research Collaborator with the Herbarium of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

All of this has made him way over qualified to write his new book, A Gardener’s Guide to Botany: The biology behind the plants you love, how they grow, and what they need. 

In this interview, Scott and I really just spend the whole time talking about why plants are the coolest and why everyone should love them too. This brings us through a world of plant physiology and biological processes, nutrition hydration and soil health principles, and the incredible adaptability and senses that have evolved in the vegetative world to overcome all manner of stresses and challenges in different environments. 

Despite the fact that Scott reminds me a few times that his book is not about how to grow plants or garden, I can’t help but prod him for advice and insights about exactly these topics since that’s my own most vivid connection with plants. All the same there’s something for every plant lover in this episode.

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