Campus News

Horticulturist passes on passion for plants

David Knauft
David Knauft

David Knauft flipped through the brown manual he had worn thin since Michael Dirr had given it to him when they first met. As an associate dean, woody ornamentals were just a pastime then.

Now, as the first Dirr Professor for Wood Plant Instruction, Knauft’s turning his plant breeding skills from plants he has grown as a hobby into a career.

“I want to carry on the passion he has for teaching,” says Knauft. “It’s not just about plants.”

The brown book was Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, the leading horticultural text and primary reference of its kind on such plants, which include shrubs and trees. It’s one of a vast number of publications Dirr wrote, and it grew out of his teaching as a horticulture professor.

Dirr’s research has made an immeasurable impact on the nation’s plant industry. His work has influenced a generation of students, gardeners, nurserymen and professional horticulturists.

“I was hoping for an individual who cared about students-undergraduate and graduate-and David was the perfect fit,” Dirr says of Knauft’s appointment. “His enthusiasm for teaching is already reflected in the organic gardening and new plant breeding courses. The latter will open new horizons for students across plant sciences.”