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Ashley Buchanan

Ashley Buchanan

Ashley Buchanan is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Plant Humanities at Dumbarton Oaks. She is a historian of the early modern world, with a particular interest in plants, recipes, and medicinal cultures in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. She received her PhD in early modern history from the University of South Florida in 2018. Her research spans many topics which includes the history of science and medicine, women, and politics as well as the dynamics of gender and authority. Her current book project, coming out of her dissertation, investigates the social, cultural, and political significance of pharmaceutical experimentation as well as the medicinal and botanical patronage at the court of the last Medici Princess, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici (1667–1743). Her goal is to broaden the global dimension of recipes by studying the numerous exotic plants imported into Tuscany from the New World, East Africa, and Southeast Asia in the late 18th century. In addition to almost a decade of teaching and working with undergraduates both in the United States and in Italy, Ashley has been a junior fellow in residence with the Medici Archive Project at the Archivio di Stato di Firenze and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at The Huntington.

Garlic Mustard

Plant of the Month: Garlic Mustard

As garlic mustard naturalized in North America, it became a popular plant to forage for impoverished and rural communities.
Jacques Cartier at Hochelaga engraving from A popular history of the United States: from the first discovery of the western hemisphere by the Northmen, to the end of the first century of the union of the states; preceded by a sketch of the prehistoric period and the age of the mound builders

Plant of the Month: Tree of Life

Indigenous people in North America used the conifer as an effective cure for scurvy during cold winters.
Detail from the recently rediscovered Seldon Map from the Bodleian Library (

Plant of the Month: Agarwood

Agarwood has long been prized for its olfactory splendor. Its essential oil is even known as liquid gold today.
Botanical manuscript of 450 watercolors of flowers and plants

Plant of the Month: Dittany

Did women in the premodern world have much agency over reproduction? Their use of plants like dittany suggests that they did.
from Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici by Antonio Franchi

Plant of the Month: Peony

Peony's effectiveness as an ancient cure translated into a tool of statecraft in the eighteenth century.
Source: . Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, DC

Plant of the Month: Stanhopea Orchids

How did some orchids transform from rare, all-but-inaccessible flowers into popular houseplants you can purchase at a supermarket?

Plant of the Month: Agave

The international popularity of tequila threatens the quantity, health, and biodiversity of all species of agave.