botanist and taxonomist

Study of bioclimatic vegetation zones

Leena Hämet-Ahti has studied the bioclimatic vegetation zones of the northern hemisphere, especially areas similar to Finland on the northern coniferous zone. Hämet-Ahti completed her doctoral dissertation on the mountain birch forests of Finnish Lapland and northern Norway in 1963. A publication on the vegetation zones of northeastern Europe, co-authored with Teuvo Ahti and Jaakko Jalas, has been required reading for several generations of students since the 1960's. In addition to northeastern Europe, Hämet-Ahti has been interested in western North America, especially the timber line meadows of British Columbia, and in East Asia, especially Japan. Hämet- Ahti has found interesting points of comparisons in the false beech (Nothofagus) forests of South America, Australia and New Zealand. Comparative studies between vegetation zones are of the utmost importance for both horticulture and forestry, so that the most sustainable species may be chosen for ornamentals and forest cultivation.

Taxonomy of vascular plants

Plant taxonomy, meaning the classification and naming of plants, is the essential basis for studying and maintaining biodiversity. Hämet-Ahti has focussed on various groups of vascular plants, above all on rushes (Juncus) and wood-rushes (Luzula) in northwestern Europe, North America and East Asia. She is a member of an international working group compiling a monograph on the family of rushes (Juncaceae) for the series Flora of the World. She has also participated in the compilation of two basic works of plant taxonomy in Finnish, Retkeilykasvio and Suomen puu- ja pensaskasvio.

Popularisation of science

Leena Hämet-Ahti was one of the authors of Maarianheinä, mesimarja ja timotei ('Holy grass, arctic bramble and timothy'), which won the National Publicity Award in 1987. In 1989 she received the Book of the Year award by the Finnish Federation of Learned Societies and in 1990 she was given an award by the Finnish Cultural Fund for her contribution to the promotion of Finnish botany and plant geography. Over the years, numerous articles by Hämet-Ahti have appeared in the journal Sorbifolia of the Finnish Dendrological Society. Thanks to her solid expertise and inspiring gift of speech, Leena Hämet-Ahti is a popular guide on botanical excursions in Finland and abroad.

Marjatta Rautiala

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1 Battle Mountain 1961. Leena Hämet-Ahti with castilleja occidentalia flowers.

2 Publication of "Suomen puu- ja pensaskasvio" by Finnish Dendrological Society in Kaisaniemi orangery August 31, 1989. This book received the prize for the best science book that year. Centre left: amanuensis Annikki Palmén and prof. Leena Hämet-Ahti. Photo: Atte Rusanen, University AV centre.

3 Leena Hämet-Ahti at an outing in connection of a dendrological lecture series at Mustila arboretum, October 1, 1982. Photo: Pentti Alanko.

4 Leena Hämet-Ahti at Lenin park in Helsinki at an outing in connection of a dendrological lecture series May 26, 1982. Background: blossoming Amelanchier laevis. Photo: Pentti Alanko.