Mr. Wolffia
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A Brief Biography Of Wayne P. Armstrong (Mr. Wolffia)
Left: Mr. Wolffia, the editor of WAYNE'S WORD, photographing living specimens of two minute aquatic plant species, the Asian Wolffia globosa and the Australian Wolffia angusta, through a Bausch & Lomb dissecting microscope. These are the undisputed world's smallest flowering plants. Individual plants are less than one millimeter in length and have seldom been seen by mortal humans. [Kodachrome 35mm image circa 1980.] Right: Mr Wolffia at Portage Glacier near Ankorage, Alaska (2009).

Walking on pink snow above Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada (circa late 1970s).

East crest of the Sierra San Pedro Martir Plateau, Baja California. Wayne is standing on a ridge overlooking Cerro de la Encantada, elevation about 9,000 feet. On this trip Wayne was searching for the rare, endemic San Pedro Martir cypress (Cupressus montana). Photo was taken in April 1971, scanned from 35 mm Kodachrome transparency.

The trail to Mt. Whitney passes by the subalpine foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana). The Whitney Spires are rugged extensions of the flat-topped eastern escarpment. The highest is the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,500 ft.). In this photo Wayne is getting intense UV exposure contributing to his basal cell carcinomas later in life. Photo was taken in August 1968, scanned from 35 mm Kodachrome transparency.

  UV Radiation Causing Skin Tumors In People  

Flat-topped summit of Mt. Whitney (14,500 ft.) and eastern escarment of the Sierra Nevada. In the distance is Consultation Lake, about 3,000 ft. below the summit. Photo was taken in August 1968, scanned from 35 mm Kodachrome transparency.

Wayne P. Armstrong (alias Mr. Wolffia), a native Californian, grew up in the Arcadia-Pasadena area of Los Angeles County. He graduated from California State University at Los Angeles with a Bachelor's Degree in Botany and a Master's Degree in Biology. He has taken numerous graduate courses in biology and botany at the University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University and San Jose State University, including courses in ethnobotany, cellular biology, ecology and field seminars in alpine and subalpine botany. He also received National Science Foundation Grants in biological oceanography, ecology and tropical botany at Oregon State University, Colorado State University and the University of Miami.

Professor Armstrong joined the Life Sciences Department of Palomar College in 1966 as an associate professor of biology and botany. In addition to General Biology (Biology 100) and General Botany (Botany 100), he also teaches courses in Botany of Spring Wildflowers (Botany 110) and a popular economic botany course called Plants and People (Botany 115). With the rapid popularity of the Internet, Professor Armstrong has also developed on-line versions of his lecture courses: Plants and People (Botany 115) and General Biology (Biology 101). The courses are completely on-line, with no meetings on campus. Both courses are based on the thousands of pages of lecture notes that were laboriously placed on blackboards and whiteboards for more than thirty years. Now all of this material plus more than 7,000 photo images and illustrations are available on-line in Professor Armstrong's massive website called Wayne's Word: An On-Line Textbook of Natural History. Details of the on-line courses can be found on the Wayne's Word website. Wayne's Word can be accessed through Palomar College at the following two URLs:

  http://waynesword.palomar.edu and waynes-word.com  

During his career at Palomar College, Professor Armstrong has been instrumental in establishing the Palomar College Arboretum, the Coastal Sage Scrub Preserve northeast of the campus, and the Palomar College Herbarium. The latter collection received international herbarium status with the acronym PASM, and is listed in Index Herbariorum (Herbaria of the World) at the Missouri Botanical Garden WWW site. He has also served as co-instructor on numerous national and international Palomar College Field Expeditions to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Yucatan, French Polynesia, Ecuador (The Galapagos Islands and Napo River--a tributary of the Amazon), Grand Cayman, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Dominica.

In addition to teaching biology and botany courses at Palomar College, Wayne served as a contributing editor for Herbalgram, the journal of the American Botanical Council and Herb Research Foundation. He has been a contributor/consultant for numerous environmental and floristic studies, including the Oregon Flora Project (Oregon State University) and the Flora of North America Project (Missouri Botanical Garden), and has verified the identification of Lemnaceae species for research botanists from throughout the United States and other countries. His research interests include the taxonomy of the duckweed family (Lemnaceae), California floristics, post-burn plant succession, lichen symbiosis, fig pollination, tropical drift seeds, natural seed jewelry, and botanical natural history. As stated above, he is also the author and editor of an award-winning web site called Wayne's Word: An On-Line Textbook of Natural History (published on-line through Palomar College) and Lemnaceae On-Line: A Pictorial and Descriptive Taxonomic Key to The Duckweeds of North America (also published on-line through Palomar College).

His more than 200 botanical articles have appeared in numerous natural history publications including: Pacific Discovery (California Academy of Sciences), Terra (Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History), Environment Southwest (San Diego Society of Natural History), Pacific Horticulture (California Horticultural Society), World Magazine (National Geographic Society), Madrono (California Botanical Society), Zoonooz (San Diego Zoological Society), California Garden (San Diego Floral Association), Fremontia (California Native Plant Society), Ornament (International Bead Journal), Ocean Realm (Friends of the Sea), Herbalgram (American Botanical Council) and Sea Frontiers (International Oceanographic Foundation).

  See List Of Publications By Wayne P. Armstrong  

In addition to full length published articles, many of his photos, descriptions and articles have appeared in other publications, including the following books: Chapter 9: "The Closed-Cone Pine and Cypresses" in Terrestrial Vegetation of California (John Wiley & Sons); "Duckweed Photos and Descriptions" in A Monograph of the Lemnaceae by E. Landolt (Swiss Geobotanical Institute, Zurich); "Smallest Flowering Plant and Smallest Fruit" in Guinness Book of World Records; "Duckweed Photos and Descriptions" in Biology of Plants by Peter Raven (Worth Publishers); "Ocean Drift Seeds" in The New Book of Knowledge And Popular Science Annual 1992, 1999, and 2000 (Grolier Publishing Company); "Section on Lemnaceae" in the Flora of San Diego County by R.M. Beauchamp; "Section on Lemnaceae" in Jepson's Flora of California (University of California Press); and "Section on Lemnaceae" in Neotropical Plant Families (New York Botanical Garden).

    Wayne says, "writing allows me to vent my enthusiasm and creativity beyond the classroom and contribute to my field."

Wayne is also the Botanical Consultant for the the Palomar College Arboretum and editor of the Friend's of the Palomar College Arboretum Newsletter. He initiated the Wayne's Word Fund for the Palomar College Foundation. This money supports the Palomar College Arboretum and helps to pay hourly student employees working in the Arboretum.


  Plants Of The Palomar College Aboretum  
Palomar College Aboretum Home Page

Collecting Lemna obscura on the island of Kauai.

  See The Duckweed Family Home Page  

Research in the herbarium of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California.

Studying floral variation in coral tree (Erythrina) flowers. Some of these flowers are typically pollinated by hummingbirds, while others are pollinated by perching birds (passerines).

See Article About Pollination Of Erythrina Flowers

Left: Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park with the legendary naturalist Dr. Carl Sharsmith, authority on the flora and fauna of the Sierra Nevada. Right: Photographing the silver sword on Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui.

  See Photos Of The Silver Sword & Its Relatives  

Left: Botany 110 field trip to Anza-Borrego Desert. Right: Discovering the unusual parasitic broomrape Orobanche corymbosa attached to the roots of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in the subalpine Sierra Nevada.

  See Article About Parasitic Flowering Plants  

Mr. Wolffia photographing western salsify (Tragopogon dubius) in the sagebrush scrub of the eastern Sierra Nevada.

  See Article About Wind Dispersal  

Mr. Wolffia photographing the remarkable "monkey puzzle" tree (Araucaria araucana), a tree that is difficult (and painful) to climb for monkeys and people.

  See Article About The Araucaria Family (Araucariaceae)  

Mr. Wolffia (foreground) and geologist Henry Ivey collected brine in Searles Lake. Mineral-rich brine is pumped to the large Kerr-McGee Chemical Plant in Trona, California where valuable minerals are recovered. The brine samples contained a homogeneous population of the green alga Dunaliella salina.

  See Wayne's Word Article About Pink Salt Lakes  

Go To World's Smallest Flowering Plant
See A List Of Mr. Wolffia's Publications
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