Dr. Katharine Gregg

Dr. Katharine Gregg

Dr. Katharine Gregg,

Professor Emerita of Biology

Curator, George B. Rossbach Herbarium

Director of the Greenhouse

Dr. Gregg is Professor Emerita of Biology, having taught at Wesleyan since 1976.  She earned a  B.A. degree from Emory University and a Ph. D. in Biology from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL.  Her course specialties were Plant Systematics, Experimental Biology, and Survey of Organisms and co-leading numerous tropical ecology study courses in Jamaica, Belize, and the Peruvian Amazon.  Long interested in the biology of orchids, she has published 20 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals or compendia and presented her work at international, national, and regional meetings.  Her orchid research has contributed to the management of orchid populations on the Monongahela National Forest, at Canaan Valley State Park, in The Nature Conservancy’s Green Swamp Preserve, North Carolina, and at Morningside Nature Center, Gainesville, Florida.  She has mentored and will continue to mentor students in research projects that explore reproductive and population biology of orchids, as well as floristics of a site in southern Upshur County.  With a grant from WV’s Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research, she is data-basing and imaging the 25,000+ specimens in the Rossbach Herbarium


Even though I won’t continue to teach formal courses, I do plan to stay active researching orchids, doing floristics of special places, and data-basing and imaging the 25,000+ specimens in the George Rossbach Herbarium.  As work-study assistants and interns, students continue to contribute to this important project that is making the specimens in our herbarium available online to anyone in the world “24-7”.  

I will welcome interested students into my orchid and floristics projects and into working with me in the herbarium.   Skills learned in these projects will be valuable in almost any chosen endeavor, so come see me!  For more information and photos with students, read on. 

Current on-going field projects with students are located on a 48-acre property along Straight Fork in southern Upshur County, WV.  In 2011 and spring 2012, two students worked with me on a couple of studies.  Jen Collins compared the vascular plant species of the upper and lower meadows, while Kady Rogers compared four different forest slope communities (yes, where I flipped and landed on my left shoulder doing serious blunt force trauma according to the surgeon).   In the left photo below, Jen and Kady sample the upper meadow flora; in the right-hand photo below, Kady lays out a transect line on an east-facing slope.


We received a grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Division of Science and Research that is enabling the data-basing and imaging of the estimated 25,000 specimens of vascular plants primarily collected by the late Dr. George Rossbach.   

As the third largest herbarium in the State, it is a repository of regional importance, the majority of which documents plant biodiversity in West Virginia.  However, the contents of the herbarium are not inventoried and can only be searched and accessed by hand.  Because of inevitable damage to the fragile specimens from handling, use of this important botanical resource has not been freely available to students, researchers, or the public.  The development of a virtual herbarium via data-basing and imaging is creating a collection of plant specimens, some 3500 of which are already accessible “24/7” from Wesleyan’s Annie Merner Pfieffer Libarary on its Pages in Time site.  On Wesleyan’s web pages, go to Academics→Library→Pages in Time→George B. Rossbach Herbarium, or click on the link below. 


Top left, Dr. Gregg showing how the specimens are stored.  Lower left, Langley Salyers (’16) is adding barcodes.  Above right, Dawn Craft (‘’18) is stamping specimens with the George Rossbach Herbarium stamp.    

 Link to the virtual herbarium: http://cdm16111.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15135coll5


Ongoing Research 

With Dr. Larry Klotz, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA, I am collaborating on a revisit of the flora of a 7.3-hectare meadow in Barbour County, WV.  The meadow was originally studied by Eleanor Bush (Floristic Study of a Wet Meadow in Barbour County, West Virginia, Castanea 53: 89-109, 1988), who reported 113 taxa.  We have now identified 320 taxa.  

Annual monitoring of three orchid populations continues (Malaxis unifolia, Listera smallii, and Liparis liliifolia), along with collaborations with the U. S. Forest Service and W. V. State Parks.


Past Research Projects 

Although my doctoral work explored the physiology, morphology, and ecology of sex expression in two tropical orchids, my research interests since coming to West Virginia have been in ecology, reproductive strategy, pollination, systematics, and population dynamics of native terrestrial orchids.  Publications are listed below. 

I’ve worked with researchers at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, to elucidate relationships using DNA analysis of the spreading pogonia orchids (Cleistes divaricata and C. bifaria).  Using 10 years of my population data on Cleistes in a West Virginia meadow, a postdoctoral Swiss biologist and I have investigated how zoological mark and recapture modeling can help us better understand why orchids have the intriguing habit of “mysteriously” disappearing and reappearing in a seemingly unpredictable manner.  Student Sara Pyles carried out an undergraduate research project comparing behavior of the orchids in West Virginia and Florida.   


A big project completed and published in Natural Areas Journal in 2004 was a study that described effects of and recovery from moderate and severe herbivory by deer in showy lady’s slipper orchids.  Because West Virginia has only two documented populations of Cypripedium reginae, this study helps us better understand and protect this species which is becoming very rare in the southeast.  Students like Heather Browning and Matt Becker (below right) were terrific field assistants and welcome participants in my research. 



Amanda Cochran (below) got her feet wet, literally, in wetland orchid investigation!




Official retirement, May 2012

My son Jeff, his wife Jennifer, my granddaughter Natalie, my husband Carl, and many faculty and staff all joined in the retirement festivities.  My left torn rotator cuff  -- from doing a back flip off a slippery fallen branch on a steep, wooded slope doing field work, of course --is now repaired and completely healed.


Gregg, K. B. 2011.  Recovery from bud disappearance explains prolonged dormancy in Cleistes

            bifaria (Orchidaceae).  American Journal of Botany 98 (2):  326-330.


Gregg, K. B.  2007.  Do orchids hedge their bets?  You bet, and Cleistes can bet-hedge with

           the best!   The Native Orchid Conference Journal 4: 1-6, 9-12.


Gregg, K. B., and Marc Kéry. 2006.  Comparison of size vs. life-state classification in 

           demographic models for the terrestrial orchid Cleistes bifaria." Biological Conservation

           129: 50-58.


Kéry, Marc, K. B. Gregg, and Michael Schaub. 2005. Demographic estimation methods for

           plants with unobservable life-states." Oikos 108: 307-320.


Gregg, K. B. 2004. Recovery of showy lady’s slippers (Cypripedium reginae Walter) from

           moderate and severe herbivory by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus  virginianus

           Zimmerman).  Natural Areas Journal 24: 232-241.


Kéry, Marc, and K. B. Gregg. 2004. Demographic analysis of dormancy and survival in the

           terrestrial orchid Cypripedium reginae." Journal of Ecology 92: 686-695.


Kéry, Marc, and K. B. Gregg. 2004. Demographic estimation methods for plants with

           dormancy.  Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 27:129-131.


Kéry, Marc, and K. B. Gregg. 2003.  Effects of life-state on detectability in a demographic 

           study of the terrestrial orchid Cleistes bifariaJournal of Ecology 91:265-273.


Smith, S. D., R. S. Cowan, K. B. Gregg, M. W. Chase, N. Maxted, and M. F. Fay. 2004.  

           Genetic discontinuities among populations of Cleistes (Orchidaceae, Vanilloideae) in

            North America.  Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society 145:87-95.


Kéry, Marc, and K. B. Gregg.  2003.  Effects of life-state on detectability in a demographic

           study of the terrestrial orchid Cleistes bifaria Journal of Ecology 91:265-273.


Gregg, K. B, and P. Catling. 2002.  The genus Cleistes (Orchidaceae).  Pages 510-511 in

           Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.) The Flora of North America North of

           Mexico. Volume 26.  Oxford University Press, New York.


Catling, P., and Gregg, K. B.  1992.  Systematics of the genus Cleistes in North America. 

           Lindleyana 7:  57-73.


Gregg, K. B.  1991.  Variation in behavior of four populations of the orchid Cleistes divaricata

           (L.) Ames, an assessment using transition matrix models.  Pages 143-163 in Willems,       

           J. H., and T. C. E. Wells [eds.], Population Ecology of Terrestrial Orchids.  SPB

           Academic Publishing bv, The Hague.


Gregg, K. B.  1991.  Defrauding the deceitful orchid:  pollen collection by pollinators of Cleistes

           divaricata and C. bifariaLindleyana 6 (4):  214-220.


Gregg, K. B.  1991.  Reproductive strategy of Cleistes divaricata (Orchidaceae).  Amer. J.

           Botany 78:  350-360.


Gregg, K. B.  1990.  Protection of rare and endangered plants in West Virginia.  Pages 7-24 in

           Buckelew, Albert R. [ed.] Endangered and threatened species in West Virginia. 

           Special Publication of Brooks Bird Club, #2.  The Valley Press, Inc., Wellsburg, WV.


Gregg, K. B. 1990.  The natural life cycle of Platanthera.  Pages 25-39 in Sawyers, C. [ed.],

           North American nativeterrestrial orchid propagation and production.  Brandywine

           Conservancy/Mt. Cuba Center/New England Wildflower Society, Chadds Ford, PA.


Gregg, K. B.  1989.  Reproductive biology of the orchid Cleistes  divaricata (L.) Ames var.

           bifaria Fernald growing in a West Virginia meadow.  Castanea 54:  57-78.


Gregg, K. B.  1984.  Stress-induced ethylene production by developing racemes of Catasetum

           and Cycnoches -- How orchids say,  "Ouch!"  American Orchid Society Bulletin 53: 50-



Gregg, K. B.  1983.  Variation in floral fragrances and morphology: incipient speciation in

           CycnochesBotanical Gazette l44: 566-576.


Gregg, K. B.  1982.  Sunlight enhanced ethylene production by developing racemes of

           Catasetum and Cycnoches and its relation to female flower production.  Botanical

           Gazette 143: 466-475.


Gregg, K. B.  1978.  The interaction of light intensity, plant size, and nutrition in sex expression

           in Cycnoches (Orchidaceae).Selbyana 2:  212-223.


Gregg, K. B.  1975.  The effect of light intensity on sex expression in species of Cycnoches

           and Catasetum (Orchidaceae).Selbyana 1:  101-113.




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