Scott Mori, distinguished botanist, dies: Scott A. Mori

Scott Mori, a distinguished botanist at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) for nearly forty years, died on August 12, 2020. Scott was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1941 and grew up in nearby Milton where his love of nature was fostered by frequent hikes and canoe outings in nearby Storrs Lake wildlife refuge. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, majoring in biology and conservation and went on to obtain his MS and Ph.D. at UW-Madison under the mentorship of Dr. Hugh Iltis, whose dynamic teaching style, strong work ethic, and conservation advocacy influenced Scott to switch his career choice to tropical botany.
After receiving his Ph.D. Scott worked for the Missouri Botanical Garden for a year as a plant collector in Panama. He was then invited to take a post-doctoral position at NYBG, working with Dr. Iain Prance on the Brazil nut family (Lecythidaceae), the subject of both Scott’s MS and Ph.D. theses. At the conclusion of his post-doc position, Scott accepted an appointment as Curator of the Herbarium at the Cocoa Research Institute in Bahia, Brazil, where he worked for two years before returning to NYBG to spend the rest of his career working on the Brazil nut family, serving for five years as the Director of the Institute of Systematic Botany. In keeping with his conservation goals, Scott also spent a decade collecting and documenting plants in a remote area of rain forest in central French Guiana resulting in the publication of the two-volume Guide to the Vascular Plants of Central French Guiana. The book was awarded The Engler Medal in Silver from the International Association of Plant Taxonomy for the best publication in systematic botany in 2002. Due in part to the work of Scott and his collaborators, central French Guiana is now included within a large protected zone that comprises most of the southern part of French Guiana.
During his long, adventurous career of plant exploration and research, Scott collected over 27,000 herbarium specimens, many of them species new to science. He described and named 125 new species and has many others named for him by botanists from around the world. He wrote more than 130 scientific papers, dozens of popular articles and blogs, and 12 books during his tenure at NYBG. His prolific career brought him some of the most prestigious awards in botany, among them The David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration from the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the Asa Gray Award from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists.
Scott loved his job and enjoyed sharing his love of plants with others, both as an advisor to several graduate students and through courses and lectures for the general public. Scott and his wife, Carol Gracie, led dozens of botanical tours for the Botanical Garden to the Amazon, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Galapagos, Hawaii, and various parts of Europe.
After Scott’s official retirement from the Garden in 2014, he continued to work on research papers and projects. He also found time to volunteer for the Westchester Land Trust, producing an online flora for one of their preserves in Pound Ridge, NY.
Scott is survived by his wife, Carol Gracie, a son Christopher (Abigail) and two granddaughters, Olivia and Chloe; Carol’s sons, Jonathan Gottlieb (Janet) and grandsons, Cole and Blake; and Geoff Gottlieb (Ana Maria) and grandson, Brandon, all of whom loved his fun-loving, practical joker side. Scott is also survived by two sisters, Kathy Mussey (Bob) and Laurie Gaspar (Dave) and their families in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Donations in Scott’s memory may be made to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund or the Organization for Tropical Studies.