The Society for Ethnobotany

Fostering research and education on the past, present, and future uses of plants by people.

Charles B. Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award

Compliments Indiana University The Charles B. Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award was created at the 2007 Council Meeting, to honor the Dr. Charles B. Heiser, Jr. The Student Committee initiated the Charles B. Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award to honor outstanding ethnobotanists who have substantially impacted the training and professional development of ethnobotany students. This award, chosen by students, spotlights dedicated educators who foster the development of the field by example and through student mentoring.

Dr. Charles Heiser, Jr. is former President and Distinguished Ethnobotanist (DEB) and an Honorary Life Member. He is one of only 4 Distinguished Ethnobotanists who have served as SEB President and DEB. Heiser (1978), Prance (1996), Walter Lewis (2006) and Hardy Eshbaugh (2007). His hallmark work has been in the origins of agriculture but his research included domestication, natural and artificial selection, reproductive biology, systematic patterns and processes and evolution). He taught for 50 years at Indiana University and twenty nine students have received their doctoral degree under his direction.

Dr. Charles Heiser was born in Cynthiana, Indiana in 1920. He received his A.B. (1942) and M.A. (1943) from Washington University in St. Louis and his Ph.D. from the University of California in Berkeley in 1947. In that same year he joined the faculty of Indiana University. His early research was with sunflowers (Helianthus), a genus that includes several cultivated plants as well as a large number of wild species. Through these studies Heiser first became interested in natural hybridization and its evolutionary significance and later in the origin of domesticated plants. The latter in turn led to consideration of the origin of agriculture. In addition to sunflowers he has also become an authority on a number of other plants, mostly ones of ethnobotanical importance, such as chili peppers, naranjillas, various gourds and the totora.

He has served as president of the following organizations: American Society of Plant Taxonomists (1967), Society for the Study of Evolution (1974), Society for Ethnobotany (1978) and the Botanical Society of America (1980). He also has received the following honors: Guggenheim Fellowship (1953), Gleason Award of the New York Botanical Garden (1969), Merit Award of the Botanical Society of America (1972), Distinguished Ethnobotanist from the Society of Ethnobotany (1984), Pustovoit Award from the International Sunflower Association (1985) the Asa Gray Award from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (1988) and the 2002 Raven Award presented by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. In 1987 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his scientific papers, he has written six semi-popular books dealing with useful plants and related subjects. Twenty nine students have received their doctoral degree under his direction.

Fellow biologist and Distinguished Professor emeritus Charles Heiser received the 2002 Raven Award from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. The award recognizes exceptional efforts in sharing the wonders of plant classification with non-scientists. He also received the Asa Gray Award in 1988 for forwarding the society's research and teaching goals. His latest book, Weeds in My Garden: Observations on Some Misunderstood Plants (Timber Press) was published in 2003. Seed to Civilization: The Story of Food is a must read for all botany undergraduate students.

Dr. Heiser's Biography

Award Criteria


2019 Dr. Cassandra Quave, Emory University

2017 Dr. Tinde van Andel, Wageningen University

2016 Dr. Jim Howell, Allegany College of Maryland

2014 Dr. Sunshine Brosi, Frostburg State University

2011 Dr. Douglas C. Daly, New York Botanical Garden

2010 Dr. Hugh Popenoe, University of Florida