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Musselman Signs On for Prairie Home Companion Cruise

Lytton Musselman

Old Dominion University botanist Lytton Musselman and entertainer Garrison Keillor have been friends for years, and this has resulted in Keillor visiting ODU twice to lecture and perform for the campus community. Now Musselman is returning the favor.

The ODU professor will be a guest naturalist on Keillor's APHC at Sea summer cruise next year between Boston and Montreal. APHC, of course, is the acronym for Keillor's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," and the cruise will give passengers aboard the Holland American liner Maasdam a chance to interact with the show's headliners.

Other performers and educators on the cruise, including Musselman, will give lessons and lectures on music, dance, bird watching, botany and marine ecology.

The ship will leave Boston on Sunday, July 9, and travel via the Saint Lawrence Seaway to Montreal, arriving Sunday, July 16. Stops will include Bar Harbor, Maine, offering passengers a chance to explore Acadia National Park, and Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, where they also can hike in natural settings.

Musselman said Keillor invited him and his wife along for the cruise and has given him an assignment that he describes as "sketchy" so far. "I hope I can do field trips. That is my best teaching venue," he added. "Fortunately, I have taught botany at the State University of New York Cranberry Lake Field Station in the Adirondacks the past two summers, so I am familiar with the flora" in that part of the world.

The Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany at ODU, Musselman is the author of "Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran" (2007, Timber Press). This is an edition with numerous photographs and illustrations celebrating more than 100 plants-ranging from acacia, the wood of the tabernacle, to wormwood, whose bitter leaves flavor absinthe-that are named in the Old Testament and New Testament, including the Apocrypha, as well as in the Quran.

The book's foreword is by Keillor.

Musselman has studied plants of biblical lands for three decades and also published "Jordan in Bloom - Wildflowers of the Holy Land" (2000), commissioned by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

He said a person from Prairie Home Productions called him and confirmed he definitely will be asked to give talks during the cruise about plants of the Bible. More about the cruise is at http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/features/cruise/2011/guests.shtml.

Musselman's wife, Libby, is responsible for the Keillor connection. She came to be friends with him nearly 50 years ago. "Gary (as the Musselmans call Keillor) has always been so generous in not only giving our family free tickets for the best seats at his shows, but also showing the children and grandchildren backstage. He even gave a ride to three of my grandsons on his tour bus."

This article was posted on: November 11, 2010

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