In Memoriam

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Robert Ornduff ’53

Robert Ornduff ’53, September 22, 2000, in Berkeley, California, from complications of metastic melanoma. He was an expert on California plants and former director of the University of California, Berkeley, botanical garden. After graduating from Reed, he spent a year in New Zealand as a Fulbright scholar, where he collected materials for his master’s thesis. He earned a master’s in science at the University of Washington in 1956 and a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1961. After teaching biology for one year at Reed and one year at Duke University, he joined the faculty of the botany department at UC Berkeley, where he remained until his retirement in 1993. At Berkeley, he served as director of the Jepson Herbarium, chair of the botany department, and curator of seed plants. He created a popular course on California flora that became the basis for his popular field guide, Introduction to California Plant Life, published in 1974. In 1986, he made headlines when he cultivated the only Bolivian Puya raimondi in the Northern Hemisphere, a plant that only blooms every century and shoots up a stalk two stories high to produce its flower. His research took him all over the world, and he was also active in local and state conservation organizations. After retiring, he continued to curate the botanical garden, and was grants director of the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for seven years. In 1999, he was appointed cogeneral editor of the California Natural History Guides series, published by the University of California Press. He is survived by a sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: February 2001

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