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