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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Summer Short Course in Organismic Plant Biology

Students Lucy Delaney (left) and Amy Ny Aina Aritsara collect softwood samples to view vascular tissues under the microscope in Weld Hill’s teaching lab.
Students Lucy Delaney (left) and Amy Ny Aina Aritsara collect softwood samples to view vascular tissues under the microscope in Weld Hill’s teaching lab.

Plant Morphology: Linking Phenotype to Development

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the summer short course will not take place in 2021.

Derek Denney (2016): Geranium
Brandi Zenchyzen (2018): Pinus, short shoot
Julia Dupin (2013): Geranium
Sarah Kopischke (2014): embryo of water liliy

Due to overwhelming interest, plant morphology has returned as the topic for the annual summer short course at the Arnold Arboretum. This short course will be taught by experts from around the world as an intense, two-week lecture, laboratory, and living collections learning experience. The course will be based at the Weld Hill Research Building at the Arnold Arboretum, which offers a state-of-the-art microscopy laboratory for teaching and sits amid the 15,000+ living specimens of more than 2,200 species at the Arnold Arboretum.

This course will provide a working knowledge of tools and concepts that are central to understanding the developmental basis for the remarkable structural and functional diversity of plants. Topics include developmental dynamics, evolutionary diversification, and ecological and physiological function. Ultimately, this course aims to provide the skills necessary to interpret the vast array of morphologies that exist among plants. Each day will consist of lecture and laboratory sessions, with ample opportunity to explore the Arnold Arboretum.

Summer Short Courses are free for all participants.

Erin Cullen (2017): Quercus
Melissa Lacey (2014): Daisy
Harold Suarez (2015): Aristolochia fimbriata, Fly
Adriana Hernandez (2018): Silene vulgaris, winged petal

Course Information


Pamela Diggle (University of Connecticut)
Peter Endress (University of Zurich)
William (Ned) Friedman (Harvard University)
Cynthia Jones (University of Connecticut)


Week 1: Vegetative morphology including embryogenesis and establishment of the basic body plan, modes of germination and establishment, concepts of juvenile and adult phases, phyllotaxy, shoot longitudinal symmetry (including heteroblasty), axis thickening, shoot transectional symmetry, branching, structural and functional specialization of shoot branches, leaf development, leaf lateral and longitudinal symmetry, structural and functional specialization of leaves, root development, structural and functional specialization of roots, plant architecture, evo-devo.

Week 2: Reproductive morphology including inflorescence and flower structure, branching patterns and other features of inflorescences, flower organization and architecture, flower development, phyllotaxy and symmetry, organs of the perianth, androecium and gynoecium, synorganization of floral organs, angiosperm flower diversity, flowers of “basal” angiosperms, monocots, eudicots, the most complex flowers (orchids, asclepiads), structural solutions of functional constraints in reproductive biology, evolutionary trends in flowers.

Evening lecturers: To be Announced


Summer Short Courses are open to postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates in their final year of study (who have been admitted to a graduate or professional program for the fall of 2023).

Non-US-citizens are welcome to apply. Please note that if you are not a United States citizen, you are responsible for obtaining the appropriate visa to travel to the United States to attend the course.

Travel Assistance and Lodging for Participants

Lodging and week-day meals will be provided for all course participants. All participants are eligible to receive up to $500 (domestic travel) or $700 (international travel) USD of funds to help pay for travel to/from the course.

Thales Leandro (2019): Leaf vascular system
Elena Stiles (2018): Itea virginica
Molly Edwards (2016): Aerenchyma
Lin Taylor (2013): Iris stigmatic surface

Application Information

Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted by 11:30 pm March 15.

How to Apply

Applications can be submitted online by clicking the “Submit Applications” link on the bottom of this page.

You will have to register for an account in order to apply. There are a few steps you will need to complete:

1) Please click the Submission link and follow the instructions to register for an account.

2) Search for grant listings for the “Summer Short Course – Plant Morphology: Linking Phenotype to Development” .

3) Click “Apply” or “Add to Cart”. (if you use “Add to Cart”, the listing will now show up when you click on the “My Interest Cart” tab).

4) Follow application instructions. The application includes a way for you to send referee letter requests (submission instructions will be sent to your referees). Be sure to click “Final Review and Submit” when you are ready to submit!

Required Application Materials

1) Contact information

2) Academic information

3) Essay: In a total of 1000 words or fewer, please tell us:
A) Why you want to participate in the course?
B) What are your scientific interests?
C) While no experience is required, please describe your background in plant biology.

4) Contact information (name and email address) for two referees. As part of the online submission, you will be asked to send a request to the referees to submit a letter of recommendation. Each referee will be automatically emailed with a link to an online submission form where they can upload a letter of recommendation. Both referees must upload their letter of recommendation via the link by March 15 at 11:30 pm.

Application Evaluation

The selection committee are charged with evaluating applications. We anticipate announcing application status by mid-April.

Additional Information

Summer Short Courses in organismic plant biology are sponsored by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and New Phytologist Trust


Please contact Pam Diggle for any questions.