Margaret Berry Gargiullo, a plant ecologist and botanist born into a family of writers followed in their footsteps writing extensively on the subject, died on August 6 in Plainsboro, NJ. She was 76. Her family said the cause was complications due to breast cancer, a disease she battled periodically since 2004.
Her varied career began in nursing. Inspired by the Sue Barton series of books for young girls written by her godmother, Helen Dore Boylston, and mother, Jane Cobb, under the former’s name, she became a registered nurse in 1963 at St. Luke’s Hospital and worked private duty for several years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York, NY.
She attended the City College of New York and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1970 and, after marriage, relocated to New Jersey and worked several years at the Textile Research Institute in Princeton, NJ, analyzing and identifying the combustion products of fabrics.
She began studying for her doctorate in biochemistry at City University of New York but changed her focus to the study of plants, a topic she had loved all her life having grown up in a wooded, rural area of Connecticut. She earned a PhD in 1991 in Plant Ecology from Rutgers University in NJ by studying the role of secondary metabolites in over-wintering bird-dispersed fruits in two species of holly.
In the mid-90s, she joined the Natural Resources Group of the New York City Parks Department as a Plant Ecologist researching and writing the book, A Guide to Native Plants of the New York City Region. Her interests extended well beyond the city limits however. While attending a botany course in Costa Rica, she came to realize there was no guide to the plants of the country written specifically for the casual visitor. Working for several years with two photographers, she published the well-received A Field Guide to Plants of Costa Rica. She most recently published an on-line book entitled An Ecological Manual of New York City Plants in Natural Areas (nyc.books.plantsofsuburbia.com).
She is survived by her husband Robert of East Windsor, NJ, her son and daughter-in-law Michael and Paula Gargiullo, grandchildren Tia, Matthew and Noah of Hightstown, NJ, and her brother and sister-in-law, Ben and Carole Berry of New York, NY.
Funeral services will be private and the family will host a gathering celebrating her life at a date to be announced.
In Lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations cam be made in Margaret’s memory to either,
or The Organization for Tropical Studies www.tropicalstudies.org
Arrangements are under the direct care and supervision of Robert L. Pecht, Bordentown Home for Funerals 40 Crosswicks St. Bordentown, NJ 08505. Please go to Margaret’s book of memories page at www.Bordentownhomeforfunerals.comto upload a picture, make a donation, or offer condolences to the family.