Camille Nowel

Monday, November 13
Camille Nowell

“North American Cercis (Redbud): A Study of Evolution and Adaptation


For many centuries, Cercis, a genus of attractive woody plants that includes our native western redbud, has been a focus of botanical study and appreciation. The first recorded mention of the group was by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus, circa 325 BC. Native Americans, distinguished botanists, and eminent statesmen, including Carl Linnaeus, Edward Lee Greene, Milton Hopkins, and Duane Isley, have also taken an interest in Cercis.

More recently, scientists have been investigating this genus to better define its species and to understand its global patterns of distribution. The traditional taxonomic treatment of Cercis described two species
in North America: the eastern species C. canadensis and the western species C. occidentalis (western redbud). In her master’s research on Cercis, Camille Nowell found through DNA analysis that Cercis in the Colorado River drainage may in fact be a different species.

In her presentation, Camille will introduce the redbud genus and explain how she determined that there could be a “cryptic” third species in North America. Camille Nowell has conducted botanical surveys in Southeastern Idaho, the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the San Joaquin Valley. She earned her M.S. degree in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology, with an emphasis on California native flora. Her research on Cercis took her on expeditions throughout montane California and the Colorado Plateau. Camille has also enjoyed working on barn owl, golden eagle, and prairie falcon studies for the East Bay Regional Park District.