Nominations Being Solicited to Help State’s Educational Curricula

University of Tennessee plant scientists are working on a project to list the ten plants that have most influenced Tennessee. The list will form the basis of K-5 curricula that span across several subjects including biology and history. Want to participate? Submit your plant nomination at​. Photo composite courtesy UTIA. Download image​

Have an opinion about the beauty or utility of the state’s greenery? Researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture are accepting nominations to help determine a list of the 10 plants that have had the greatest impact on Tennessee.  

Imagine Florida without oranges or Georgia without peaches. The researchers are looking for nominations of the plants that most represent Tennessee. Members of the public are invited to submit nominations for the “Top 10 Plants that Changed Tennessee.” Participants may submit the name of a single plant that fits into one of 6 categories: food, economy, health, history, landscape, and spiritual or cultural. Plants will be judged by their impact – either positive or negative – across the state’s history.  

Your contributions will be more than just a fun exercise. Nominations will be evaluated by a panel of experts who will ultimately decide upon an official list of the 10 individual plants that have had the broadest impact on Tennessee. This information will then be used to create educational curricula for Tennessee’s elementary schools on a variety of subjects including biology and history.

Natalie Bumgarner and Andy Pulte, faculty members with the UT Department of Plant Sciences, are heading up the project. “Plants influence almost every aspect of our lives,” said Bumgarner. “We eat them, wear products made by them, and sometimes even choose where we live because of them,” she said. 

Pulte said the project already includes a lesson plan for state teachers to get students in grades K-5 thinking about the importance of plants throughout the state’s history, including their importance to today’s economy. The researchers sent a letter to teachers in mid February outlining class activities and asking teachers and students to submit nominations by the end of the school year. Nominations from the general public are open through July 31. “We hope to have a definitive list for future curricula by the beginning of the next school year,” he said.

Jennifer Richards, a UT Extension 4-H curriculum specialist in the Department of Food Science, is also involved in the effort. 

The researchers ask everyone to take some time to ponder some plants, then go to the website and submit a nomination. The submission process is quick and easy, and participants may choose to receive follow-up information on the project by email. 

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing Real. Life. Solutions. through teaching, discovery and service.



Natalie Bumgarner ( and Andy Pulte (​), UT Department of Plant Sciences, 865-974-7324