EVENT CANCELLED: Dr. Jay Bolin to discuss his hunt for new parasitic plants

**Update: Due to pandemic concerns, this lecture has been cancelled.**

MBU family members and the general public are invited to spend an evening with pioneering parasitic plant taxonomist and ecologist Dr. Jay F. Bolin on Thursday, February 10, at 7 p.m. in the James D. Francis Auditorium. 

The Catawba College associate professor and biology chair will share tales of botanical journeys to the South African Cape of Good Hope, Somali Peninsula, Arabian Desert, and elsewhere in search of the world’s strangest plants. Bolin’s Mary E. Humphreys Biology Lecture will focus on his efforts to locate and identify new species within the parasitic plant genus Hydnora. 

The plants were introduced to the western world in 1774 and have since “astounded and amazed those naturalists that are fortunate enough to observe them,” said Bolin. “However, few people encounter these bizarre and furtive parasites, because they spend most of their life underground stealing water and nutrients from the roots of host plants.”

Catawba College biology professor Dr. Jay F. Bolin has traveled the world searching for new species of strange plants.

Hydnora achieved infamy for their leafless, grotesquely beautiful flowers. The stalky blossoms look like some warped breed of tertiary sea anemone — and seem plucked from a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape.   

What’s more, the flowers “defy expectations by emitting a putrid odor akin to the smell of rotting meat,” laughed Bolin.  

His lecture, titled “Hydnora from Fungus to Foul Flower: The Ecology and Evolution of the Strangest Plants in the World,” will feature a comprehensive historical and biological overview of the botanical oddities. Along the way, attendees will revel in tales of Bolin’s adventures and discoveries while hunting for new species in areas like Namibia’s restricted diamond fields, and the borderlands of Oman’s Rub’ al Kali desert.

The flower of Hydnora Africana emits a fecal aroma to attract dung beetles, which help with pollination.

THE MARY E. HUMPHREYS BIOLOGY LECTURE SERIES was established in 1992 in honor of late professor emerita of biology Dr. Mary Humphreys. She was a pioneering member of Mary Baldwin’s biology department and served the university for 25 years (1943 – 1968). The annual lecture brings prominent scientists to campus to discuss their work and interact with students, faculty, and staff. The program is sponsored by the friends and former students of Dr. Humphreys.

MBU COVID-19 Policy

All visitors to MBU campuses aged 12 and older must show proof of receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend indoor events. All visitors age 18 and older must also show a valid photo ID. Visitors who cannot display proof of vaccination may alternatively provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event. This may be a rapid test or a PCR and must be validated by a healthcare provider or testing center.