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Kayri Havens, Ph.D.

Kayri Havens
Medard and Elizabeth Welch Director, Plant Science and Conservation
(847) 835-8378
Curriculum Vitae: 
Teaching and Research Affiliations: 
  • Director, Plant Science and Conservation, and Senior Scientist, Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Illinois at Chicago; Chicago, IL
  • Adjunct Associate Professor of Biology, Northwestern University; Evanston, IL
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology, Loyola University Chicago; Chicago, IL
  • Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden Research Associate
Selected Professional Associations: 
  • American Public Gardens Association
  • Botanic Gardens Conservation International, U.S. board member and treasurer
  • Center for Plant Conservation
  • Midwest Invasive Plant Network
  • Plant Conservation Alliance
  • Project BudBurst, co-developer and senior scientist
Research Interests: 
  • Biology of rarity and invasiveness
  • Ex situ conservation of plants
  • Plant responses to climate change

My research interests generally fall under the umbrella of reproductive ecology and conservation of plant species. I have worked on nonrandom reproductive success in a rare evening primrose (Oenothera organensis), and outbreeding depression in Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower) and Lobelia siphilitica (great blue lobelia). I am currently working with a number of colleagues on genetic and demographic studies on a threatened thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) that is being impacted by a biocontrol weevil and on the responses of native species to changed climates, particularly in relation to germination tolerances.

I am also interested in developing measures of success and best practices for ex situ plant conservation programs, from collecting genetically diverse seed accessions to minimizing genetic change during storage and increasing likelihood of success of restorations. A more recent area of focus involves examining the pros and cons of assisted migration for plants.

A final area of research focuses on invasive plant species. I am interested in improving predictive risk assessments and evaluation procedures for deliberately introduced plants, and worked with a team that developed the Chicago Botanic Garden's Invasive Plant Policy.

Most of these projects are carried out in collaboration with graduate students. I have worked with students from programs at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign. A National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program (IGERT) grant, LEAP (Landscape, Ecological and Anthropogenic Processes), is funding students to work on conservation and restoration projects at the University of Illinois at Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Selected Publications: 

Fant, J.B., A.T. Kramer, E. Sirkin, and K. Havens. 2013. "Genetic changes in reintroduced populations of the narrowly endemic thistle, Cirsium pitcheri (Asteraceae)." Botany 91: 301-308.

Havens, K. and S. Henderson. 2013. "Citizen science takes root." American Scientist 101: 378-385.

Schwarz-Ballard, J. and K. Havens. 2012. "The Elephant in the Room: Recognizing and Addressing Climate Change at Public Gardens." Public Garden 27:26-28.

Havens, K., C.L. Jolls, J.E. Marik, P. Vitt, and A.K. McEachern. 2012. "Effects of a Non-native Biocontrol Weevil, Larinus planus, and Other Emerging Threats on Populations of the Federally Threatened Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri)."  Biological Conservation 155: 202-211.

Madeja, G., L. Umek, and K. Havens. 2012. "Differences in Seed Set and Viability of Miscanthus Cultivars Grown in Zone 5 and Their Potential for Invasiveness." Journal of Environmental Horticulture 30: 42-50.

Henderson, S., D.L. Ward, K.K. Meymaris, P. Alaback, and K. Havens. 2012. "Project BudBurst: Citizen Science for All Seasons." Citizen Science: Public Collaboration In Environmental Research, J.L. Dickinson and R. Bonney (eds.). Cornell University Press.  Pp 50-57.

Havens, K., P. Vitt and S. Masi.  2012. "Citizen Science on a Local Scale: The 'Plants of Concern' Program Undertakes Rare Plant Monitoring." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10: 321-323.

Sundberg, M., P. DeAngelis, K. Havens, K. Holsinger, K. Kennedy, A.T. Kramer, R. Muir, P. Olwell, K. Schierenbeck, L. Stritch, and B. Zorn-Arnold. 2011. "Perceptions of strengths and deficiencies; disconnects between university science students and potential employers." BioScience 61: 133-138.

Havens, K.  2011. "Research at Public Gardens." Public Garden Management: A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, D. Rakow and S. Lee (eds.). John Wiley & Sons Inc., New Jersey. Pp. 272-283.

Kramer, A.T. and K. Havens. 2011. "Assessing botanical capacity in the United States: gaps identified and strategic recommendations made to maximize conservation success." Australasian Plant Conservation 19: 21-22.

Havens, K. 2011. "Dynamic Floras and the Need for Consistent Terminology." Natural Areas Journal 31: 115-116.

Knight, T.M., K. Havens and P. Vitt. 2011. "Will the use of less fecund cultivars reduce the invasiveness of perennial plants?" BioScience 61: 816-822.

Tienes, M., K. Skogen, P. Vitt and K. Havens. 2010. "Optimal Monitoring of Rare Plant Populations: Report for the USDA Forest Service." 57 pages. Available at

Fant, J., A. Banai, K. Havens and P. Vitt. 2010. "Hybridization between the threatened plant, Lespedeza leptostachya Englem. and its co-occurring congener Lespedeza capitata Michx.: morphological and molecular evidence." Conservation Genetics 11: 2195-2205.

Pennacchio, M., L. Jefferson, and K. Havens. 2010. Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany as Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense, and Medicine. Oxford University Press, 247 pp.

Kramer, A., K. Havens, and B. Zorn-Arnold. 2010. "Assessing Botanical Capacity to Address Grand Challenges in the United States." 64 pp. plus appendices. Available at

Vitt, P., K. Havens, A.T. Kramer, D. Sollenberger, and E. Yates. 2010. "Assisted migration of plants: changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes." Biological Conservation 143:18-27.

Vitt, P., K. Havens, and O. Hoegh-Guldberg. 2009. Assisted migration: part of an integrated conservation strategy. Letter in response to Ricciardi and Simberloff. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24:473-474.

Kramer, A., and K. Havens. "Plant conservation genetics in a changing world." 2009. Trends in Plant Science 14:599-607.

Vitt, P., K. Havens, B. Kendall, and T.M. Knight. 2009. "Community-level management increases the viability of Tomanthera auriculata, a rare prairie annual." Biological Conservation 142:798-805.

Hawkins, Belinda, Suzanne Sharrock, and K. Havens. 2008. Plants and Climate Change: Which Future? Botanic Garden Conservation International report, 96 pp.

Havens, K., P. Vitt, and J. Schwarz. 2008. "Your garden, our climate." Chicagoland Gardening 2:20-21.

Schwarz, J., K. Havens, and P. Vitt. 2008. "Understanding climate change through citizen science." Roots 

Jefferson, L.V., M. Pennacchio, K. Havens, B. Forsberg, D. Sollenberger, and J. Ault. 2008. "Ex situ germination responses of midwestern USA prairie species to plant-derived smoke." American Midland Naturalist 159:251-256.

Pennacchio, M., L.V. Jefferson, and K. Havens. 2007. "The inhibitory effects of plant-derived aerosol smoke on seed germination of Arabidopsis thaliana." Research Letters in Ecology, Vol. 2007:ID65083, 4 pp. Online.

Pennacchio, M., L.V. Jefferson, and K. Havens. 2007. "Where there's smoke, there's germination." Illinois Steward Fall:24-28.

Havens, K., P. Vitt, J. Schwarz, B. Orr, and T. Crimmins. 2007. "Chicago Botanic Garden's conservation and outreach efforts on climate change." BGjournal 4:13-16.

Pennacchio, M., L. V. Jefferson, K. Havens, and P. Olwell. 2007. "International conservation and land management exchange program."" Public Garden 22:29.

Havens, K., P. Vitt, M. Maunder, E. O. Guerrant Jr., and K. Dixon. 2006. Ex situ plant conservation and beyond." BioScience 56:525-531.

Havens, K. 2006. "Developing an invasive plant policy at a botanic garden: lessons learned." BGjournal 3:22-24.

Farnsworth, E.J., S. Klionsky, W.E. Brumback, and K. Havens. 2006. "A set of simple decision matrices for prioritizing collection of rare plant species for ex situ conservation." Biological Conservation 128:1-12.

Pennacchio, M., L.V. Jefferson, and K. Havens. 2005. "Smoke: Promoting germination of tallgrass prairie species." Chicago Wilderness Journal: Best Practices in Conservation and Restoration 3:14-19.

Pennacchio, M., L.V. Jefferson, and K. Havens. 2005. "Arabidopsis thaliana: a useful test species for phytotoxic bioassays." Journal of Chemical Ecology 31:1877-1885.

Maunder, M., K. Havens and E.O. Guerrant. 2004. "Ex situ plant conservation: out of the garden and into the world." Public Garden 19:8-12.

Havens, K., M. Maunder, E.O. Guerrant, and P. Vitt. 2004. "Conservation research at botanic gardens and arboreta." Public Garden 19:8-12.

Jefferson, L., K. Havens, and J. Ault. 2004. "Implementing invasive screening procedures: The Chicago Botanic Garden model." Weed Technology 18:1434-1440.

Havens, K., L. Jefferson, and P. Vitt. 2004. "Chicago Botanic Garden reaches beyond its borders." Public Garden 18:35-36.

Havens, K., E.O. Guerrant, M. Maunder, and P. Vitt. 2004. "Guidelines for ex situ conservation collection management: Minimizing risks." In Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, ed. E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and M. Maunder, pp. 454-473. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Guerrant, E.O., P. Fiedler, K. Havens, and M. Maunder. 2004. "Revised genetic sampling guidelines for conservation collections of rare and endangered plants." In Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, ed. E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and M. Maunder, pp. 419-441. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Maunder, M., E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and K. Dixon. 2004. "Realizing the full potential of ex situ contributions to global plant conservation." In Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, ed. E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and M. Maunder, pp. 389-418. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Vitt, P. and K. Havens. 2004. "Integrating quantitative genetics into ex situ conservation and restoration practices." In Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, ed. E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and M. Maunder, pp. 286-304. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Maunder, M., K. Havens, E.O. Guerrant, and D. Falk. 2004. "Ex situ methods: A vital but underused set of conservation resources." In Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, eds. E.O. Guerrant, K. Havens, and M. Maunder, pp. 3-20. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Guerrant, E.O., K. Havens, and M. Maunder, eds. 2004. Ex Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species Survival in the Wild, 504 pp. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Havens, K. 2002. "Developing an Invasive Plant Policy: The Chicago Botanic Garden's Experience." Public Garden 17(4):16-17.

Bell, T.J., M. Bowles, K. Havens, P. Vitt, and K. McEachern. 2002. "Reintroducing Pitcher's Thistle." Endangered Species Bulletin 27(3):14-15.

Havens, K. 1999. "Pollination biology: Implications for rare plant conservation." Ecological Restoration 17:217-219.

Ault, J.R. and K. Havens. 1999. "Micropropagation of Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'." Hortscience 34:353-354.

L.F. Delph and K. Havens. 1998. "Pollen competition in flowering plants." In Sperm Competition and Sexual Selection, ed. T.R. Birkhead and A.P. Moller, pp. 147-174. Academic Press.

Havens, K. and D.L. Holland. 1998. "Factors affecting reproductive success in a rare grass, Calamagrostis porteri ssp. insperata." Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 85:64-68.

Havens, K. 1998. "The genetics of plant restoration." Restoration and Management Notes 16:68-72.

Havens, K. and L.F. Delph. 1996. "Differential seed maturation uncouples fertilization and siring success in Oenothera organensis (Onagraceae)." Heredity 76:623-632.

Havens, K., K.A. Preston, C.R. Richardson, and L.F. Delph. 1995. "Nutrients affect allocation to male and female function in Abutilon theophrasti (Malvaceae)." American Journal of Botany 82:726-733.

Havens, K. 1994. "Clonal repeatability of in vitro pollen tube growth rates in Oenothera organensis (Onagraceae)." American Journal of Botany 81:161-165.

Graduate Students: 
Jessamine Finch (Northwestern University, Ph.D. program)
Christopher Warneke (Northwestern University, master's degree program)
Paul Gulezian (University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D., 2011)
Jennifer Ison (University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D., 2010)
Glen Madeja (Northwestern University, master's degree, 2010)
Andrea Kramer (University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D., 2009)
Alona Banai (Northwestern University, master's degree, 2008)
Andrea Southgate (Northwestern University, master's degree, 2007)
Leora Siegel (University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, master's degree, 2007)
Kathleen Craft (Univeristy of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D., 2005)
Barbara Zorn Arnold (University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D., 2005)
Hanilore Artiomow (University of Wisconsin, master's degree, 2002)
Lara Jefferson (Post-doctoral student: Ph.D., Curtin University, Western Australia)

Pitcher’s Thistle Restoration Project
Our collaborative work on pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is outlined on this website. Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is a native of the shorelines of the western Great Lakes. In the early twentieth century, pitcher’s thistle was found along virtually the entire coast of Lake Michigan. Currently, it is extinct in Illinois, except for an experimental reintroduced population. Ninety percent of the remaining populations is found in Michigan. We have been studying the demography, genetics, and reintroduction success of this species for more than 20 years.

Project BudBurst
Project BudBurst is a national citizen-science campaign to collect plant phenology data. Phenology (the timing of natural events such as first flower, bud burst, leaf color change) is related to the climate. Phenological observations have been used for centuries by farmers to maximize crop production, nature lovers to anticipate optimal wildflower viewing conditions, and by many of us to prepare for seasonal allergies. Today, this well-established science is also used by scientists to track the effect of global warming and climate change on organisms and to make predictions about the future health of the environment. By tracking changes in the timing of these phenological events, scientists are able to better understand how our environment is changing.

Seeds of Success
The Chicago Botanic Garden is a member of the U.S. national seed banking program called Seeds of Success (SOS). SOS is actively collecting seeds of native plant species to use for restoration and to store for future needs.

Plant Conservation Alliance
The PCA is a consortium of ten federal government member agencies and over 225 non-federal cooperators representing various disciplines within the conservation field: biologists, botanists, habitat preservationists, horticulturists, resources management consultants, soil scientists, special interest clubs, nonprofit organizations, concerned citizens, nature lovers, and gardeners. PCA members and cooperators work collectively to solve the problems of native plant extinction and native habitat restoration, ensuring the preservation of our ecosystem.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)
Both BGCI and its U.S. program, BGCI-US, are networks of botanic gardens dedicated to the conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being, and climate change.

Center for Plant Conservation
The Chicago Botanic Garden is a member of CPC, a U.S. network of botanic gardens that is actively involved in ex situ conservation, reintroduction and research of rare plants. The mission of the CPC is to conserve and restore the imperiled native plants of the United States to secure them from extinction.