Anna Pedersen Kummer

Students looking at Anna Kummers Weed Exhibit 1942 300dpi 2048x1427
March 10, 2021

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a closer look at the life and work of some of the women who were important figures in the history of the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Today, we’re taking a look at Anna Pedersen Kummer (1899 – Unknown).

Anna Pederson Kummer with botany specimens 2048x1357

Anna Pedersen Kummer working with plant specimens in the Academy’s herbarium, ca. 1944.

“The study of weeds is open to every natural history enthusiast, even the city apartment dwellers”

Anna Pedersen Kummer, a botanist with an eye for the often overshadowed members of the botany world, common weeds

Kummer was a local botanist and teacher, associated with the University of Chicago and Waller High School in Chicago. She studied native plant species that most people identified as “weeds” but was a proponent for recognizing these native plants’ value in local habitats. She published numerous articles in journals for colleagues and the general public. In 1938, she created an exhibit featured at the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ museum that focused on common weeds of the area, composed of her own specimens. This attracted considerable attention at the Academy, and a year later, she furnished another exhibit, this one much larger, comprised of about 50 species from the Academy’s botanical collection, which she collected locally and in other locales around the Midwest. Kummer served as Honorary Curator of Botany for the Academy through the 1940s, during which time she managed the herbarium and added many of the plant specimens she collected from across Illinois and Indiana.

Students looking at Anna Kummers Weed Exhibit 1942 300dpi 2048x1427

School children looking at the Weeds exhibit, created by Anna Pedersen Kummer, in the Laflin building in 1942.

In 1942, she created her largest exhibit yet in the Laflin building, featuring 192 common weeds found in the Chicago area. Her work on weeds in the Chicago Naturalist demonstrated that the short-grass regions of our Midwest and west were vital plant species. She is quoted in the article, “While the weed cover seems a deterrent to successful reoccupation of the short grass, it is actually necessary to that process.” And again, “Without them [weeds] the short grass could not have survived as climax vegetation.” Kummer is credited with illuminating the vital role these plants play in ecosystems and their ability to pave the way for the return of short grass. As guardians of the soil, and a powerful player in the complex world of plant weeds, Kummer’s observation rings true — “weeds are not all without beauty”.

Chas herb 3619 lg

Blazing star (Liatris scariosa) specimen collected by Anna Pedersen Kummer in September, 1939.

Chas herb 3636 lg

Bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) specimen collected by Anna Pedersen Kummer in Baileytown, Indiana on June 29, 1940.

Bringing Science Home

Let’s press our own plants! Click here for directions on pressing plants and mounting plants, or check out our plant pressing episode of Curious By Nature below.

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