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Published: Wednesday, 3/7/2012

Edward G. Voss, 1929-2012: UM botanist had been 1946 valedictorian at Woodward


ANN ARBOR -- Edward G. Voss, a botanist renowned for his expertise in the plants of Michigan, who as an academic star at Woodward High School already had a wide collection of flora and butterfly specimens, died Feb. 13 in his Ann Arbor home. He was 82.

He did not recover from an incapacitating brain bleed Dec. 10, his sister, Elly Hendricks, said.

He was a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan and curator emeritus of its herbarium. For 35 summer sessions, he taught at the UM Biological Station on Douglas Lake in northern Lower Michigan.

His magnum opus was the three-volume Michigan Flora, detailing plant life across the state.

"Ed absolutely pervaded Michigan with the definitive description of all the plants that occur in the state. It's really the definitive work," said Mark Hunter, a UM professor and acting chairman of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The final volume appeared in 1996. He and a colleague, Anton Reznicek, recently updated the information and released it in a single volume, Field Manual of Michigan Flora.

Mr. Voss believed firmly in teaching -- whether in the lecture hall or with a clutch of students rambling through a bog: "He spoke for those plants. They couldn't speak for themselves," said Mr. Reznicek, the current curator of vascular plants at the herbarium.

He was born Feb. 22, 1929, in Delaware, Ohio, to Katherine and David O. Voss. He grew up on Summit Street in Toledo.

He was valedictorian of his 1946 class at Woodward. He was named among 300 American high school seniors with the most outstanding promise and ability in science.

He collected from around the family cottage near Mackinaw City thousands of plant, animal, butterfly, and moth specimens.

He received a bachelor's degree in biology from Denison University. He had a master's degree in biology and a doctorate in botany from UM. Denison awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003.

Surviving is his sister, Eleanor "Elly" Hendricks.

Memorial services will be from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday in First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor. A celebration of his life and career will be from 2-4 p.m. Saturday in the Pendleton room of the UM Union in Ann Arbor.

Tributes are suggested to the UM Biological Station; the Nature Conservancy; Little Traverse Conservancy; First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, or Church of the Straits, Mackinaw City, Mich.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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