Alexis Nikole Nelson introducing people to Crash Course Botany.

One of the COOLEST People on TikTok Just Became a Crash Course Host of a New Science Series

I’ve been a Crash Course stan for roughly eight years, and I’m at the point now where a host announcement—even in a subject that has never really interested me—fills me with joy.

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For the uninitiated, Crash Course is educational programming started by Hank and John Green that features dozens of series across different subject matters. In addition to basic classes like Chemistry, World History, Literature, and Economics, the programs include series on Linguistics, Video Games, the History of Science, and Film Production. Some courses are available in other languages (like Spanish and Arabic) and there’s a general science channel for 5th graders. On March 11, Crash Course revealed the feisty forager of TikTok, Alexis Nikole Nelson, as the host of an upcoming course on botany.

Produced by Complexly and PBS Digital Studios, Crash Course Botany will run 15 episodes and features a partnership with PBS’s Nature. Like the others, these videos are for anyone and everyone, from people who just want to learn a little more on the topic to students studying for class. All free and online! This is very much in line with Nelson’s goals in the accessibility of knowledge.

A Chrysogonum virginianum is born


Microplaning le roots onto some snacks this evening!!

♬ original sound – Alexis Nikole

Nelson was one of those internet finds that I immediately fell in love with when I was shown her videos. The highly energetic science communicator is best known for sharing info on plants people find in their neighborhoods across America—most notably, how edible many are! Deemed juvenile or an activity undertaken out of boredom, many people refuse to pick and eat plants that aren’t cultivated by farming. While Nelson expresses childlike joy, she also explains how normal it was, before urbanization, to forage and use found plants. (She does it without getting into the weird pseudo-science stuff.)

In addition to finding edible plants, Nelson will show you how to use plants for non-edible purposes like perfumes and more. Nelson’s videos are not just “Oh, did you know this?” (Though I love that!) She also talks about the human impact of foraged food and the intersection of race and class. This includes the many names a plant will have because of regional differences and colonization. She explains how foraging is not just for people in the sticks, but also in densely populated cities, too. Last year, Nickole discussed anti-foraging laws in the must-see, Emmy-nominated AJ+ documentary series Eat This With Yara.

@alexisnikole Black history meets Black joy. #makeblackhistory #foraging ♬ original sound – Alexis Nikole

Not that follower counts are everything, but Nelson has over four million followers on TikTok, and her videos regularly garner a few hundred thousand views. Last fall, she started to catch the attention of major media like CBS Morning, Rolling Stone, Bon Appétit, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and much more. Additionally, her local magazine Columbus Monthly has multiple features on her work! Then, the accolades in cooking started rolling in too! It was only a matter of time before someone offered her a role to expand the reach of this information.

A match made in heaven

Alexis Nikole Nelson introducing people to Crash Course Botany.

In the course intro, Nelson states:

We’ll explore what separates plants from other living things—and what we have in common. We’ll uncover how plants work, from their itsy-bitsy cells, to their water-absorbing roots. And we’ll learn how the very first plants evolved, kicked off by a weird event where a microbe got a little hangry. 

We’ll also see how changes in genes across millennia sparked the whole wild kaleidoscope of plant life—every tomato, every tree, every stinky corpse flower. And we’ll explore how people have manipulated plants’ genes in increasingly precise ways—influencing not just the plants’ future, but our own.

While I love Crash Course, as a Humanities girlie, I’ve never watched an entire STEM course (unless you count the History of Science, which I wouldn’t). I tried and realized that the best route for me was just watching the topics/videos that interest me in each subject. However, with Nelson, I think I will give it another try. I’ve never taken Botany, but I’ll give this a shot! After all, her videos have changed my life and made my neighborhood walks more adventurous.

The first episode was released on March 18.

(featured image: Complexly/Thought Cafe)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.