©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
July 1999
April 2003


Ghana. 1972 (Nov), 1976 (Sep). Review contract for supplying plant samples to the USDA/NCI anticancer cooperative agreement; ecological study of Cynometra forest, collected ~60 associated species.

*Kenya. 1972-1973 (Nov-Mar), 1973 (Oct-Dec), 1976 (Sep-Oct). Recollected more than 200 samples of antitumor plants (100 kg/sample); reconnaissance of southwestern Kenya for Gnidia subcordata; assisted in procurement of 16 tons of Maytenus buchananii stems in the Shimba Hills—SW of Mombassa; cuttings of Brucea antidysenterica from Mt Kenya; ~2,000 specimens of vascular plants, lichens, mosses, and liverworts from coastal regions, the Kikuyu Escarpment, Mt Londiani, Mt Kenya, Kericho, and Kakamega.

Tanzania. 1973 (Oct). Re-collections of antitumor plants, Southern Highlands (Mufindi)—~100 kg/sample from 50 species; 200 specimens of bryophytes.

Zambia. 1976 (Sep). Reconnaissance for Maytenus buchananii.


Western Australia. 1992 (Aug-Nov), survey and collection of Conospermum. spp. 1991 (Feb): Re-collections of Conospermum and Anthocercis. 1981 (Aug-Oct): 758 general samples (1-2 kg/sample).

Tasmania. 1981 (Nov). 70 kg of Notelaea ligustrina root from southwestern rain forest with assistance from the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, the American Embassy, and CSIRO.


  • Galapagos Islands. 1997 (Jun). Special collections of Castela for chemical analysis of antitumor agents.


Baja California 2000 (May): Recollections—Gulf Desert, lichen exploration—Pacific Coast. 1996 (Mar): Recollections—Gulf Desert, lichen exploration—Pacific Coast (San Carlos Mesa, Vizcaíno Peninsula-North Coast E of Punta Eugenia, San Igancio to San Juanico). 1994 (Mar): 56 general samples, one 20 kg re-collection, and lichens, Pacific Coast between Punta Canoas and Punta Baja, Gulf Coast from Punta Bufeo to San Felipe. 1993 (Mar): 52 general samples, one 10 kg re-collection, Pacific Coast between Punta Canoas and Punta Baja, Gulf Coast from Punta Bufeo to San Felipe. 1991 (Feb): ~83 general samples for chemopreventive screening, one lichen—Vermilacinia leopardina for antibiotic screening, and general collections of lichen specimens. Coastal chaparral and the Gulf Coast south to Bahía de Gonzaga. 1990 (Apr): General lichen collections; recollections of antitumor active plants Eriogonum preclarum and Dalea juncea, and 66 general (100-500 g) samples, Vizcaíno Peninsula N to Punta Abreojos, and Gulf Coast near Bahía San Luis Gonzaga. 1989 (Apr): General collections of lichens; re-collections and general samples of vascular plants; entire peninsula including a transect of the Cape Mountains, also Isla Cedros and Isla Santa Margarita. 1988 (Mar): Lichen collections and general samples of vascular plants for chemopreventive screening, Pacific Coast between San Quintín and Punta Santa Rosalillita. 1986 (May): 103 general samples (1 kg/sample) and ~10 re-collections of vascular plants (7 kg/sample) for antitumor screening; ~1,200 lichen collections, entire peninsula of Baja California. 1985 (May): ~50 samples of lichens for antitumor and anti-AIDS screening (25–100g/sample) from Pacific Coast—Tijuana to San Antonio Del Mar, Punta Negra to Punta Santa Rosalillita, and also from the San Pedro Martír. 1980 (Feb-Mar): ~200 general samples (1.5–2kg/sample) for antitumor screening, mostly from BCS. 1979 (Feb-Apr): ~150 general samples (1.5-2kg/sample) for antitumor screening; entire peninsula.

Coahuilla. 1976 (Aug). Procurement of 5 tons (dried) of Bouvardia ternifolia.

Jalisco. 1980 (May). 50 general samples (1-2 kg) for antitumor screening, primarily between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara on back roads.


    • Sep 2001–Aug 2004. Systematic Collection of Samples for Antitumor Screening under reimbursable agreement
      with the National Cancer Insitute, United States and Territories, collections primarily from SW US, including TX,
      also AK, HI (Kauai, Oahu), and the territory of Puerto Rico, ~ 2,700 samples supplies, mostly dried, ~500 g,
      ~30 fresh.

    • 1998 CA NV OR (Jun-Jul): 240 systematic collection of samples. 1997 CA (May): Selected seed samples of alkaloidal legumes and other medicinal plants for tissue culture. 1995 SEUS (May): 88 general samples from mostly FL TX and NM, also scattered collections from MI AR OK and TN; 5 recollections, 5-10 kg each from FL AR and WV; 1 special collection for preclinical studies of anticancer compounds. 1994 AZ (Oct): Recollection in TX for preclinical study of antitumor agents. Great Lakes region: ~20 general (100–500 g) samples for antitumor screening; recollection of 1 bryophyte and 1 vascular plant. Pac NW (Jul, CA OR WA ID MT and NV): Recollections, 1 fern, 2 bryophytes, 50 general samples. 1993. MI (Oct): recollection, moss. CA (Jul): Recollections, mosses, ferns, for antitumor research, ~100 general samples for antitumor screening. NC (May): two 5 kg recollections, mosses. 1992. Pac. NW (Jul-Aug): Recollections, lichens, mosses, for antitumor/ anti-AIDS research; taxonomic study of Taxus. 1991. N US and Canada (Jul-Aug): general samples (100+ g/sample) for antitumor screening, 67 vascular plants, 38 bryophytes; 1-5 kg samples for analysis of taxane compounds, shrub and tree forms of yew, Californian nutmeg, Taxus canadensis, Taxus cuspidata, Torreya californica); 1-2 kg lichen re-collections for antitumor screening, Cladina arbuscula, Peltigera canina, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia, 1-5 kg of bryophytes for antitumor screening, Dicranum ontariense, Lescuraea incurvata, Pellia epiphylla, Ptilidium ciliare, and 5 kg of vascular plants, Betula papyrifera, Comptonia peregrina, Eriodictyon californicum, Eriogonum microthecum. NV (May): 22 general samples (100+g) for antitumor screening of vascular plants, 5 kg of Stanleya pinnata for antibiotic screening. MD (Jun, Cumberland): 7 bryophytes samples (100+g). 1990. NV AZ (Dec): 5 kg—Peucephyllum schottii, Forsellesia nevadensis, Fallugia paradoxa for antibiotic screening. Oct—TN (Great Smoky Mts. Natl. Park), NY (Letchworth St. Park) and PA (Alleghany Natl. For.): 30 bryophyte samples (100 g/sample) for antitumor screening. Sep—CA: Taxus brevifolia seed, bark (5 kg) and root (5 kg), and live plants; 5 kg of vascular plants (3 spp.); 10 general samples (100 g/sample) of bryophytes and vascular plants for antitumor screening. NH (Aug, White Mts. Natl. For.) 33 kg of moss Polytrichum pallidisetum for antitumor screening; 60 general samples (100 g/sample) of bryophytes for antitumor screening; live and dried samples of Taxus canadensis for tissue culture and antitumor screening. Pac NW (Jun-Jul): 100 bryophyte samples (100 g/sample) and 5 re-collections (5 kg/sample) of vascular plants for antitumor screening. SW U.S. (Apr, TX NV CA AZ): 5 re-collections (5 kg/sample) and 30 general samples (100 g/sample) of vascular plants for antitumor and chemopreventive screening. WA (Mar, Jul) yew bark inspection; bryophyte general samples for antitumor screening.
    • 1989 WA (Nov 8-11): bark inspection (Taxus brevifolia), 20 samples (100 g/sample) of bryophytes for antitumor screening. U.S. wide (Aug 25-Oct 16): 150+ samples (100-500 g/sample) of vascular plants for chemopreventive and antitumor screening, 20 re-collections (1 kg/sample) of lichens for anti-AIDS screening. NC VA (Jul): 3 lichen recollections (1-5 kg/sample) for anti-AIDS screening. 1988 CA OR (Jul): ~70 samples, edible and medicinal plants for chemopreventive and antitumor screening; inspected 30 tons of yew bark. 1987. MD, VA NJ (Sep-Oct): 20 general samples, edible plants (500 g/sample). CA NV (May): re-collections, Cercocarpus betuloides (8 kg rt), Cryptantha confertiflora (10 kg whole plant). MD: 20 general samples, edible plants. 1986. E U.S. (NC to MA, WI, Jul): Recollections, bryophytes and lichens for antitumor screening (Anomodon attenuatus 50 kg, Bazzania trilobata 5 kg, Brachythecium laetum (oxycladon) 1 kg, Dicranum fulvum 22 kg, Hylocomium splendens 23 kg, Peltigera canina 3 kg, Peltigera elizabethae 1 kg, Polytrichum pallidisetum 6 kg, Plagiomnium ciliare 1 kg, Ptilium crista-castrensis 22 kg, Tortula ruralis 1 kg). 1985. OR CA (May-Jun): ~100 general samples (25-100 g/sample) of lichens. E U.S. (MD to FL, Jul): ~50 samples of lichens. WV VA MD (Oct-Nov): 2–50 kg/sample (dried) of bryophytes—Bartramia pomiformis, Eurhynchium pulchellum, Polytrichum ohioense for isolation of antitumor agents. 1984. W U.S (CO UT AZ NM) TN (Aug): 17 general samples (100+ g/sample) of lichens for antitumor screening; recollection (1 kg), moss (Anomodon attenuatus). NEUS (Jul, White Mts), 10–20 kg recollections of bryophytes for antitumor screening (Anomodon attenuatus, Dicranum fulvum, Polytrichum pallidisetum, Bazzania trilobata, Diphyscium foliosum, Pleurozium schreberi, Ptilium crista-castrensis). 1983. CA (Jul): Recollection of moss Plagiomnium venustum for isolation of active agents. 1981. TX NV CA OR (Apr-Jun): Recollections for isolation of antitumor agents, 50 kg of Erioneuron pulchellum, Kalanchoe tubiflora, Gutierrezia microcephala, Iris missouriensis, 100 kg of moss Claopodium crispifolium; 57 general samples (1-2 kg/sample) of selected medicinal plants for antitumor screening. 1980. US-Wide: 200 (1-2 kg) samples of bryophytes for antitumor screening [TN and NC (Great Smoky Mts Natl. Park), KT (Nov), WV (Oct), MD VA PA NH ME (Sep)]. CA AZ UT NV (May- Jul) ~100 general samples (1-2 kg) of vascular plants from for antitumor screening; recollections, Dirca occidentalis (50 kg), Claopodium crispifolium (150 kg) and Plagiomnium venustum (150 kg) for isolation of antitumor agents.
    • 1979. CO NV CA OR (Sep, Feb-Apr). Recollections (50 kg/sample), Ipomopsis aggregata, Horkelia fusca; ~125 general samples for anticancer screening (1-2 kg/sample) of higher plants, 17 species of bryophytes. 1978. TX (Big Bend Natl. Pk) NV CA (Nov-Dec): ~100 samples (1-2 kg/sample) for antitumor screening. VA NC TN (Sep): ~50 general samples (1-2 kg/sample) for antitumor screening. TX CA (May-Jun): reconnaissance of the Chuckawalla Mountains (CA) and of TX for 1 ton samples of Colubrina californica and C. texensis; 75 general samples (1- 2 kg/sample) for antitumor screening. 1973 WI (Jul): ground and aerial reconnaissance of WI and southern Ontario for 4 tons of seed of Thalictrum dasycarpum. AZ CA (Apr-May): 20 recollections for anticancer screening. 1967-1972 CA: ~300 samples (.5-1 kg/sample) for antitumor screening, Mohave and Colorado Deserts, 50 large samples (50 kg/sample) from northern and southern CA; ~1,300 collections for thesis, ~1,000 collections from wilderness areas, Trinity Alps, Marble Mts, Yolla Bolly Mts, Salmon Scott Mts.


Richard Spjut has more than 20 years experience in plant exploration activities, primarily in the acquisition of plant samples for biological screening programs (anticancer, anti-AIDS, antibiotics, chemo-preventive medicine). His undergraduate and graduate training include courses specifically dealing with the taxonomy of bacteria, algae (fresh water), fungi, lichens, bryophytes, aquatic plants, grasses, and general and advanced work in vascular plants (ferns, conifers, flowering plants). This experience has been maintained for all groups of terrestrial plants as a result of collecting plants for the NCI antitumor and anti-viral screening programs (e.g., Spjut et al. 1986, 1988, Spjut 1994, 1995, 1996; Terrell et al. 2000).

Prior to collecting plants for the NCI antitumor screening program, Richard Spjut conducted floristic surveys of the Trinity Alps and Yolla Bolly Wilderness areas in the Klamath Region of California.  During the summers of his early graduate studies he backpacked with a plant press into these wilderness areas collecting and identifying more than 600 species of vascular plants. He also collected in other areas of the Klamath Region such as along Willow Creek in Humboldt County and along the Smith River in Del Norte County after daily work on Survey Lines for new roads where he had to camp for ten day periods. Consequently he learned to recognize more than 800 species in northern California. This knowledge formed the basic foundation for his later contract work and employment with the USDA as recognized by his peers.

During the next ten years the Richard Spjut continued collecting for the NCI program as an employee of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS).  From 1973–1977, he obtained recollections of more than 200 species in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania), Australia (Western Australia, Tasmania), Mexico, and throughout the United States. One of his more productive recollection trips was in Tanzania where he re-collected 50–100 kg of fourteen species: Apodytes dimidiata (ws, sb), Boophone disticha (whole plant), Croton macrostachyus (rt, sb, tw-lf), Dais cotiniifolia (st-lf), Ekebergia benguelensis (sb, tw-lf), Garcinia smeathmannii (sb), Podocarpus milijianus (sb), Gnidia glauca (rt, ws, sb, tw-lf), Gnidia kraussiana (whole plant), Hypoxis spp. (whole plant), Maesa lanceolata (sb), Peponium vogellii (aerial parts), Psorospermum febrifugum (rt), and Schefflera volkensii (rt).  The active agents of several of these recollections were reported in Cassady et al. (1990).

He has also perhaps acquired the most experience of any ethnobotanist in the procurement of massive recollections: 15 tons of Maytenus buchananii stems in Kenya, reconnaissance of Zambia for Maytenus buchananii, reconnaissance of Kenya for 500 pounds of Gnidia subcordata leaves, aerial and ground reconnaissance of Wisconsin and Ontario for 8,000 pounds of Thalictrum dasycarpum seed, 5,000 pounds of Bouvardia ternifolia plants from Coahuilla (Mexico), ~500 pounds of Colubrina californica and C. texensis stems in California and Texas, aerial and ground reconnaissance of Western Australia for Conospermum spp., and certified the identification of massive collections of Taxus brevifolia bark for the NCI.

In late 1977 when the NCI modified their extraction methodology and requested that ARS botanists put more emphasis on collecting new taxa, Richard Spjut subsequently targeted medicinal plants and genera not previously collected for the NCI. Geographical areas with concentrations of taxa of interest became the focal point for ‘bio-diversity’ sampling.  During 1978–1981, he obtained 1,736 samples, 758 of which were from Western Australia, an area that has ~12,000 species, 80% of which are endemic.  One of his samples led to the discovery of the Anti-HIV chemical conocurvone; this was the root of Conospermum unilaterale (Proteaceae).

When the NCI terminated their agreement with the ARS in 1982, Richard Spjut continued to collect medicinal plants under a new organization, World Botanical Associates (WBA).  As Director, he has procured more than 3,000 samples for pharmaceutical screening and published four reviews on antitumor screening of vascular plants and bryophytes (Spjut 1985, Spjut et al. 1986, 1988, 1992).  In one expedition to Baja California (Mexico) he was accompanied by the Dean of the School of Pharmacy at the Ohio State University (John Cassady) for recollections of plants that had shown activity in the KB and ASK bioassays (Spjut & Marin 2000); during a three week period they obtained 8–10 kg recollections of Atamisquea emarginata, Berginia virgata, Bergerocactus emoryi, Forchhammeria watsonii, Gochnatia arborescens, Jatropha cinerea, Krameria parviflora, Mascagnia macroptera, Phaulothamnus spinescens, Stillingia linearifolia, and Xylonagra arborea, and collected 103 general samples from more than 50 species.

The wide variety of plants collected by Richard Spjut has allowed him to gain an in-depth knowledge of the taxonomy of many families of vascular plants. This is clearly evident in his book on  A Systematic Treatment of Fruit Types” (Memoirs, New York Botanical Gardens, 1994).  The advertisement shown here on the right was reproduced from Economic Botany.

Besides vascular plants, Richard Spjut has conducted studies on lichens in which he (Spjut 1995b) has described one new genus (Vermilacinia) and more then 50 new species in Niebla and Vermilacinia of California and Baja California (Spjut 1996), and supplied lichen samples for antiviral, antitumor and carotenoid screening (Czeczuga et al. 1997).

He also initiated collection of bryophytes for antitumor screening that led to the first discovery of P-388 activity in mosses, Claopodium crispifolium (Spjut et al. 1986).  Because Dean Cassady's group was not obtaining consistent bioassay results with recollections, Spjut re-examined his vouchers and suggested that the antitumor active agent might be the product of an associated organism, in particular a species of Nostoc that he identified in the samples (Spjut et al. 1988). Consequently, he submitted samples of Nostoc to the NCI for which they reported significant P-388 activity (Spjut et al. 1988). This, along with other independent studies, led the NCI to procure more samples of blue-green algae from marine and fresh water habitats.  Cryptophycin, a dioxadiazacyclohexa-decenetetrone, was later isolated from a species of Nostoc, a novel anticancer chemotherapeutic agent that has less drug treatment resistance than vincristine, colchicine and taxol (Smith et al. 1994), while Boyd et al. (1997) have also discovered an antiviral agent Cyanovirin from N. ellipsosporum. However, ansamacrolids were isolated from Claopodium crispifolium, suggesting activity may be due to actinomycetes (Cassady et al. 1990; Suwanborirux et al. 1990). The moss microbial association is perhaps analogous to that in the movie “Medicine Man” where the active agent turned out not in the plant that was initially thought to contain the chemical, but in another organism (species of ant) that happened to be with the plant at the time it was extracted. Other recollections of bryophytes by the PI, however, have led to the isolation of active agents that are clearly a product of the moss (Cassady et al. 1990) or liverwort (Chonigming et a. 1997).

Richard Spjut's collection of bryophytes for the NCI certainlyinfluenced the writing of his major professor’s wife, Carol Norris. One of her many romantic novels, Lost Letters (Fig. 4), was about a fictitious botanist—Brandy who collected bryophytes in California for the NCI, including a recollection of Plagiomnium, a moss that Spjut had recollected 100 kg from near Willow Creek, California. It is interesting that Carol Norris also mentioned taxol as a successful drug for treating cancer, discovered from “Taxus occidentalis,” a name also used by the botanist Nuttall (1849) who described the species.  It was not until 1990 (Rowinsky et al.. 1990) that taxol actually became recognized as a drug (paclitaxel).

Richard Spjut's contribution to the discoveries of antitumor agents in bryophytes has been recognized by a moss named in his honor, Orthotrichum spjutii Norris & Vitt, a species that is known only from the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, California.

Finally, he is working on publishing a taxonomic revision of Taxus.  The information he provided to NCI as a result of his review of the distribution and ecology of T. brevifolia for the USDA in 1977 became part of the contract solicitation that was distributed by the NCI during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  He has subsequently presented his taxonomic concepts of the genus at many international meetings (Spjut 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000; Spjut et al. 1993) and submitted a paper to the editor of Sida Miscellany that is currently under revision.  His taxonomic characters for the North American Flora have been accepted (Hils 1993).