California Botanical Society

2022 Botany Speaker Series

The CalBotSoc botany speaker series aims to showcase and promote the work of early career botanists. If you are an early career botanist interested in giving a talk of general interest to our members, please email us at

HelenFernSCI Helen Holmlund

headshot4 Avery Hill

43D1AB04-EA15-48F1-9C96-8F2C836F2EB9_1_105_c Claire Willing

image Ryan Buck

Snyder_Kristine Kristy Snyder

Coleman Mitchell Coleman

Thursday, August 11, 2022 7-8pm PT
Helen Holmlund, Pepperdine University

"How do California ferns survive
in the drought-prone chaparral?"

Most ferns in the world require abundant water to survive. However, ferns growing in southern California’s chaparral ecosystem experience a six-month summer drought every year. How have California ferns adapted to thrive despite limited water availability? My colleagues and I have assessed fern water use over the last decade and learned that these ferns have adapted a variety of strategies to survive the summer drought. Some ferns are evergreen, surviving the summer drought either by habitat selection (e.g., a perennial stream) or by extreme leaf dehydration tolerance. Other ferns experience summer dormancy, dropping dead leaves in the summer and growing new leaves after the first rain event. Perhaps most remarkable are the resurrection ferns, which can rehydrate (“resurrect”) apparently dead leaves when wetted. These different strategies likely reduce competition for water among fern species. Many questions remain about which ferns will best survive the challenges presented by climate change.

Dr. Helen Holmlund is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Pepperdine University. She earned her B.S. in Biology at Oklahoma Christian University and her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. During her graduate work, she also spent a year training at the Australian National University. Her research in the field of plant physiological ecology explores how plants can survive drought, fire, and salinity. In particular, Dr. Holmlund is fascinated with ferns (which typically require abundant water) and how some ferns have adapted to thrive in dry ecosystems, such as the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California. Her research on these “extreme” ferns has also taken her to the Channel Islands, the mangrove swamps of Australia, and the tropical rainforests in Costa Rica.




Pentagramma drying

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2022 Schedule of Talks

13-Jan: Mitchell Coleman, Tejon Ranch Conservancy and University of California, Riverside

10-Feb: Kristy Snyder, Eastern Washington University

10-Mar: Ryan Buck, San Diego State University

12-May: Claire Willing, Stanford University

9-June: Avery Hill, Stanford University

11-Aug: Helen Holmlund, Pepperdine University

10-Nov: Phebian Odufuwa, Boise State University

View Recordings of Past Talks on our YouTube Channel:

Botany Speaker Series Playlist

California Botanical Society
c/o Jepson Herbarium
1001 Valley Life Sciences Building
Berkeley, California 94720-2465