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December 2020 — Volume XXVI, Number 12 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society

From the Board

Georgia Native Plant Society is thankful for your membership and we hope that you will honor us by renewing your membership for 2021.  It is only with our members' support that we can fulfill our mission of supporting the stewardship and conservation of Georgia's native plants and their habitats through education, with the involvement of individuals like you. GNPS continues to grow even in these unprecedented times, thanks to your commitment and passion. 

You can check the status of your membership and renew it online at our "Join Us" link. (To check membership status, log in from the link in the upper right, then select "Manage Membership" after logging in. You will have a choice of member options in a dropdown menu.)

If your membership is set up for auto-renewal, now is also an excellent time to ensure that your credit card information is up-to-date by using the same link. Members who have auto-renewal enabled will be reminded around December 15, about two weeks before their card is charged. Members without auto-renewal will be reminded before that date if their membership expires in 2020. 

We are looking forward to working with you to educate about and conserve Georgia's native plants in 2021!

Symposium 2021 

We are planning to host a virtual two-day event in February for 2021. Since we like to have our symposium events in February — to inspire you for the upcoming planting season — we know that indoor events will likely still be restricted.

The focus for this year’s program will be how native plants support Georgia's wildlife. We’ll share more details in the weeks ahead as we confirm the exact date and speakers. Expect a format that might be two hours on a Saturday morning followed by two hours on Sunday afternoon.

Native Plant Certificate Program Scholarship

The GNPS Board of Directors is excited to announce that we have established a scholarship to help people complete the Certificate in Native Plants, a unique educational program offered by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (SBG) in Athens and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance.  This program teaches basics of botany and plant conservation, and it prepares and motivates people to contribute to the conservation of Georgia’s flora and native plant habitats, which is directly in line with the mission of GNPS. This scholarship will help people obtain the certificate without financial impediment.

Our first scholarship recipient is Julie Pope, a single, working mother, who interned this summer at the safeguarding nursery at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Gainesville location for credit toward her horticulture degree at the University of North Georgia. Emma Neigel, Senior Safeguarding Nursery Horticulturist at ABG Gainesville, wrote to us this summer telling of Julie’s hard work, her passion for native plants, and her desire to obtain the native plant certificate. Emma inspired us to reach out to the SBG about starting a permanent scholarship.  Sean Cameron, the Education Coordinator who oversees the certificate program, and Cora Keber, SBG’s Director of Education, were thrilled that GNPS wanted to partner. They immediately offered to help us administer and promote this scholarship opportunity.

The certificate program provides committed individuals with a comprehensive series of short courses in identification, cultivation, propagation, ecology, and conservation of native Georgia plants.  Courses focus on the ecological significance of native plants and provide learners with practical conservation knowledge. Certain courses are geared specifically to the flora of the Piedmont and others to the Coastal Plain. In a typical year, the classes are taught in Athens and Tifton, although due to the coronavirus pandemic, all courses moved to a virtual format in September 2020.

In keeping with our new focus on greater statewide reach, the GNPS Board earmarked funds for two annual scholarships, one for a resident of the Piedmont and one for a resident of the Coastal Plain. We are extremely fortunate that SBG is willing to handle many of the administrative duties around this scholarship, but we do need a state scholarship committee to review applications and select the recipients. I have agreed to serve as a temporary chair of this committee, and Marc LaFountain has offered to serve. Please contact me at loriconway@gnps.org, if you would like to help me and Marc implement this exciting opportunity to grow the next generation of native plant lovers and conservationists, or if you know of someone in financial need who would like to apply, particularly residents of the Coastal Plain, as we have not awarded the second scholarship for this year.

The Certificate in Native Plants program

We encourage all GNPS members to consider enrolling in this worthy educational endeavor to become a more knowledgeable citizen, native plant gardener, and conservationist. Information on the certificate program and how to enroll can be found here.

The next online offering starts in February 2021, a four-part series entitled Natural Communities of Georgia. Click here for course information or to register. 

Chapter News: West Georgia


Flo Hayes — Standing in for Mother Earth

West Georgia Chapter dedicates this article to Florence R. Hayes (better known as Flo) who has left West Georgia to pursue her passion for native plants in a new place, the lucky state of Virginia.

Standing in for Mother Earth, Flo was indeed the mother of the West Georgia Chapter (WGC) of GNPS.  It was her idea to start the first chapter outside the Atlanta chapter, which at the time was synonymous with the state organization.  Flo, Wendell Hoomes, Vicki Ring, Vicki Lloyd and W.H. Smith, along with Gina and Mike Strickland, held the initial meeting of the Steering Committee in July 2008. The discussion covered the identification of officers, the process for applying for chapter status, contacting potential members, the formulation of bylaws in keeping with the state organization, as well as the agenda of the public meetings.  The first General Meeting was held in September and the slate of officers was approved unanimously.  Though Flo was nominated for President, she deferred due to other commitments, instead serving as Vice President.  Bylaws were developed and the WGC was off and running.

In July 2009, permission to work the property around Buffalo Creek was obtained from the Ag Agent at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, and the application was completed for the property to become a restoration site. Flo assumed directorship of the Buffalo Creek Trail (BCT) within the Buffalo Creek Outdoor Education Center. The initial focus was on removal of the invasive plants from the trail, which included an overwhelming overgrowth of privet and several non-native grasses and vines. Her greatest passion was the Buffalo Creek Trail.  She volunteered tirelessly on workdays and was central to shaping plans to make the Trail a conservation site for native plants.  As a facilitator, she led numerous rescues and has always been ready to share her knowledge with new participants.

While intent on removing invasive species, she was a voice for keeping the Trail as wild as possible. She was instrumental in obtaining the volunteer efforts of the Boy Scouts, members of area garden clubs and students from West Georgia University, as well as encouraging individuals in the community. Participating in long range planning, she handed off directorship of the BCT to Carol Hight, who has since moved beyond reclamation to the establishment of natural areas such as the Pollinator Garden and the Azalea Trail, among others.

Frank Bennett joined the WGC in 2010 and has become a pillar of the group, participating in many workdays on the trails, leading rescues and serving as the A/V guru at the meetings. In his own words, he describes Flo: “My first encounter with Flo was in 2010 when she was interviewing people for master gardeners.  Her obvious enthusiasm and dedication made me realize there was more here than met the eye.  It was fun hanging out with her and learning new stuff and she quickly pulled me into the West Georgia GNPS chapter. Despite her threats of midnight phone calls for native plant volunteers, she was one of the most patient people I’ve ever met. Without even trying, her attitude towards GNPS and its members was so positive it motivated me to work harder on rescues, workshops, and projects.  I intend to pester her with late-night emails to Virginia asking about what new native plants she has discovered."

She served as President for 2011-12 and again in 2019-20, as well as serving on other committees over the last decade. She was a member of the WGC delegation which assisted in developing the GNPS strategic plan to become a statewide organization.  During 2019-20, she served on the GNPS Strategic Planning Task Force that formed a new state board structure, then in 2020 continued to serve on the Conservation and Membership committees of the new board.  Even though she is nearly 500 miles away, she will fulfill her role as Immediate Past President of WGC in 2021.

Self-described that she must have gypsy blood, she is always ready to jump in the car and seek out an adventure. This included teaming up with Carol Hight, Ann Ethridge and Diane Rooks to attend the annual Symposium or to enjoy the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. Along the road, with the encouragement of Carol, they visited many of the nurseries that sold native plants. Her car was often filled with good companions, luggage, and native plants.

Flo is a wonderfully warm soul whose gentle, generous ways touched many and was instrumental in growing a thriving chapter. Her greatest passion is the Buffalo Creek Trail and the enjoyment of the chapter members as well as the visitors from Carroll County and the surrounding counties. She constantly sought ways to include others in all activities. 

According to Gina Strickland, “There would not have been a chapter or a restoration project without her.”

We extend heartfelt thanks for the vision and energy of this amazing woman and wish her the happiest days exploring new territory and building her native garden around her new home.

Plant Spotlight: Plant One for Wildlife: Native Oaks

Quercus alba

White oak (Quercus alba)

Native oaks are one of our most abundantly supportive plants for wildlife. Those who are new to understanding the relationship of native plants to wildlife might at first consider only the fall crop of acorns as the benefit they offer. Oaks in the white oak group — which include such well-known species as white oak (Quercus alba) and live oak (Quercus virginiana) — drop abundant acorns each year, while those in the red oak group take two years for acorns to mature. And while the acorns are important food sources for our wildlife, oaks contribute significantly to supporting a vast array of insects as well.

A new book coming out in March (and now available for pre-order if you need gift ideas) by Doug Tallamy will highlight the benefit of this keystone plant for landscapes that aim to sustain our wildlife. According to the publisher’s description:  “Oaks sustain a complex and fascinating web of wildlife. The Nature of Oaks reveals what is going on in oak trees month by month, highlighting the seasonal cycles of life, death, and renewal. From woodpeckers who collect and store hundreds of acorns for sustenance to the beauty of jewel caterpillars, Tallamy illuminates and celebrates the wonders that occur right in our own backyards. He also shares practical advice about how to plant and care for an oak, along with information about the best oak species for your area.”

I’ll spotlight some of our most significant oaks over the next few months. I hope these profiles will help you learn more about some species that you might incorporate into your landscape or areas that you might be helping to restore or maintain. Before I go further, let me share a free and excellent resource for identifying the many native species in Georgia: The Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America can be viewed or downloaded as a PDF from this site. While it is no longer in print by the original publishers, others have reprinted it and you can order it from a variety of online sources if you like.

For this first spotlight, white oak (Quercus alba) is a wonderful choice as well as native throughout the state. Chosen by our members as the 2009 Plant of the Year, this large canopy tree supports wildlife in a number of ways — as all oaks do — from the abundant acorns favored by turkeys, deer, and a number of mammals to the handsome foliage that is host to over 550 species of caterpillars. I personally love the deep burgundy color of the fall leaves and its distinctive flaky bark. If you live in the metro Atlanta area, Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs is a great place to see some exceptionally large (and flaky) white oaks. It makes for a great winter visit because the oaks are noticeable and magnificent even without their leaves.

Auttumn leaves of Quercus alba

Autumn leaves of white oak (Quercus alba)


Georgia Native Plant Society
PO Box 422085
Atlanta, GA 30342
(770) 343-6000

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