Staff Profile
Photo for Dennis Whigham


The ecology of plants has been Dennis Whigham’s primary interest and his research has resulted in journeys through forests, fields and wetlands around the world.  Explorations have lead to studies of woodland herbs – including orchids, vines, wetland species, invasive species and studies of forests in the tropics, temperate and boreal zones.  In recent years, studies of interactions between orchids and fungi have lead in new and exciting directions.  Whigham’s current focus is on wetlands, including the role of wetlands associated with juvenile salmon habitat in Alaska; the rarest terrestrial orchid in eastern North America; and invasive species.  His current passion is to establish the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC), an initiative of the Smithsonian and the United States Botanic Garden.  NAOCC will be based on continentally focused public-private collaborations that will result in the conservation of the genetic diversity of native orchids, initially in the U.S. and Canada.


Whigham obtained an undergraduate degree from Wabash College and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.  He joined the Smithsonian in 1977.  Whigham and his collaborators have published more than 235 articles in journals and books and he has co-edited 10 books.