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About Judith Sumner

Judith Sumner is a botanist who specializes in ethnobotany, flowering plants, plant adaptations, and garden history. She has taught extensively both at the college level and at botanical gardens, including the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Garden in the Woods.  


Judith graduated from Vassar College and completed graduate studies in botany at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  She studied at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and at the British Museum (Natural History) and did extensive field work in the Pacific region on the genus Pittosporum.   She has published monographic studies in the American Journal of Botany, Pollen et Spores, and Allertonia, as well as monographing two families for  Flora Vitiensis Nova.  


Her other projects and areas of interest have included field studies in the Great Smoky Mountains, work with AID/Santo Domingo on developing petroleum-rich plants, and a commitment to science education. Judith served as a visiting scientist for several summers in the LEAP (Learning About Plants) program at Harvard for Boston school teachers and has volunteered as a National Public Radio Science Mentor. She has spent summers working with teachers the Museum Institutes for Teaching Science (MITS) program and conducting workshops on science writing.


Judith has been the lecturer-in-residence at the Star Island Natural History Conference, and she has been a guest on the Martha Stewart Living television show, the PBS program "Cultivating Life" with Sean Conway, and various other PBS and educational programs. She recently presented a First Friday lecture at the Boston Museum of Science and was a featured lecturer at the Herb Society (USA) annual meeting. Her column “The Gardener’s Kitchen” (under the pseudonym Laura Craig) appeared in Horticulture magazine for several years. In 2007 Judith was awarded the Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature by the Herb Society of America.   Her book American Household Botany won the American Horticultural Society Book Award in 2005


 Judith is a frequent invited lecturer for botanical and horticultural organizations and symposia, including:

Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University

Native Plant Trust, Garden in the Woods

New York Botanical Garden

Herb Society of America

Plimoth Plantation

Old Sturbridge Village

Berkshire Botanical Garden

Polly Hill Arboretum

Strawbery Banke

Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mohonk Mountain House and Preserve

Cornell Plantations

Garden Study School, Garden Club Federation

Environmental Studies School, Garden Club Federation

Rhode Island Native Plant Society

Boca Grande Garden Club, Florida

Rockefeller Pocantico Center, Kykuit

Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park

Victorian Society of America

School of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island

The Fells

Maine Garden Day

Master Gardeners

Museum of Science, Boston

New England Flower Show



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