TPP finds this really, truly, deeply depressing news. Fewer students are taking botany classes and herbaria are shuttering their doors. What this means is that fewer and fewer people have the skill and experience to identify plants. This goes far beyond taxonomy. A new graduate student, JP, has asked TPP to serve on her committee, but her background is in microbiology and she only recently "discovered" plants and the great outdoors where biology actually happens. All of TPP's recent students who had gotten their "novice" plant ID badges have gotten jobs in part because of this knowledge. The herbarium TPP curates costs our institution very little (translation: it doesn't have a budget), but it takes up space always at a premium and it needs a somebody. Right now that person is an emeritus faculty member, but one way or another his days are numbered. Then what? Colleagues already point to low enrollments to argue against hiring another botanist. Such decisions are always a zero-sum game or viewed as such. Part of the trouble is that human biomedicine is the tail that wags the biological dog in this country, so students often get little if any decent botany in biology courses. Their teachers are not well versed in botany and so do a poor job teaching it, and you can see how this leads to a vicious cycle of dwindling botany. They enter university thinking there are only two career paths: medical professional or high school teacher. Our undergrad program produces plenty of both, but many of them needing but one more course take a botany elective out of sheer desperation or curiosity or a course df = 0. And they are surprised, even delighted, how interesting plants are, but then they say, "Gee, discovered botany too late." Well, it isn't too late, but like most undergrads, what do they really know? JP is working hard at learning plant ID, and like anything you work at, she will develop the necessary skill and knowledge ("square stem, opposite fragrant leaves" = mint family, and so on). Botany has always been a ill-treated stepchild in the field of biology in the USA, always in the minority, and never having the financial support of bio-medicine. Yet all the medical afflictions together are small potatoes if you find yourself miserable, naked, and hungry, those basics provided by plants.