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General & Concurrent Sessions

Wednesday Evening

7:30pm - Plenary 1 – Bill Finch - Where biodiversity matters: A loud and never-ending debate between Texas and Alabama

The more we learn about biodiversity in North America, the more we appreciate the great centers of biodiversity on this continent. Texas commands the land west of the Mississippi (well, until you get to California). And Alabama and northwest Florida dominate biodiversity measures in the Eastern U.S. But whose biodiversity is really greater? How are they different? Whose matters most? Loos does Tejas. Bill does Bama.

Thursday Morning

10am - Plenary 2 – Falling in Love with Southeastern Grasslands, Paintings from Prairie to Páramo- Philip Juras

With the lushly forested Southeast as his point of reference, it has been a true journey of discovery for Georgia artist Philip Juras to step into the rich ecology, gorgeous aesthetics, and fascinating history of Southeastern grasslands—a journey that coincidentally began 25 years ago at the Cullowhee Conference! Philip will share that journey through presenting his landscape paintings and by drawing on descriptions of the presettlement landscape by early chroniclers and his own studies and adventures in southern nature. His grassland journey will traverse high mountain balds, grassy Piedmont barrens, historic Alabama prairies, remnant coastal plain savannas, colorful seaside meadows, and a few grassy locations outside of the region before returning home. Through all of these settings his paintings will celebrate a wealth of grassland aesthetics while also highlighting that these forgotten ecosystems, and the species that depend on them, are deserving of our attention.

11 AM - Plenary #3 - Southeastern Grassland Initiatie, Dwayne Estes

Thursday Afternoon Concurrent Sessions

1:30 Session
Concurent 1A – Clematis with Dwayne Estes

Description coming soon

Concurrent 1B – Matt Candeis- In defense of Plants

Come learn about how In Defense of Plants is working to change the conversation about plants as well as the work being done to understand how native plants in southern Appalachia are responding to changes in their environment.

Concurrent 1C – Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center: A Story of Hurricane Disasters, Recovery, and Resilience

Located in Southeast Texas, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is an oasis of gardens and nature on the edge of the coastal prairie, flatwoods, and bayous of the Gulf Coast. It also lies in a highly vulnerable region of Texas that has suffered devastating impacts from past tropical weather systems. Unfortunately, in late August, 2017 Shangri La Gardens and Southeast Texas were the targets of Hurricane Harvey’s fury when it inflicted historic flooding as a result of the highest storm-event rainfall amounts ever recorded in North America. Rick Lewandowski, Shangri La Garden’s Director, offers a glimpse into the overwhelming power of natural forces as well as the resilience and survival of plants, gardens, nature, and the people that call the Gulf Coast home.  Along the way, explore some of the takeaway lessons from this and past catastrophes that offer a sobering but hope-filled perspective of recovery and restoration.

Concurrent 1D – Seat belts, everyone! Channeling Ms. Frizzle to connect people with native plants.

There has never been a more critical time to engage people with nature—and native plants provide an excellent entry point. We can successfully connect people of all ages with native plants and the natural world by taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy! Throughout my varied teaching experiences in formal and informal settings, I’ve used citizen science, service-learning, field experiences, and writing to help people appreciate native plants, see the forest for the trees, ask questions, observe, and think like ecologists. I’ll share some of my favorite teaching moments and ideas, and hope you will share some of your experiences as well. Copies of my ecological hiking guide to the Southern Appalachians will be available for sale at the conference.

2:45 - Plenary 4 – Emily McCoy – Landscape Commissioning: Verifying Performance in an era of assumptions

Achieving resilience in the built environment requires a land development paradigm shift. Rather than assuming that built sites perform as intended—from managing stormwater to increasing employee retention—sites must increasingly prove their performance as critical, dynamic resources that enhance environmental sustainability, foster social benefits, and wisely steward financial resources. As one of the largest public landholders globally, GSA collaborated with Andropogon to investigate the feasibility of applying a commissioning process – to verify sustainable site performance during design, construction, and management – for GSA's future developments.

4pm Session
Concurrent 2E - In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit- Andrew Moore

What is a pawpaw, and why has it been so neglected? Andrew Moore offers a brief history of the pawpaw, the largest edible fruit native to the United States, and offers some explanations as to why it has been overlooked in modern times. He also provides an overview of the growers and producers working to raise the fruit’s profile, and how the fruit tree can be reintegrated into our diets and culture.

Concurrent 2F – Plant Rescue 101 w/ John Clarke & Tom Harville

The North Carolina Native Plant Society has a mission to promote the enjoyment and conservation of North Carolina’s native plants and their habitats through education, cultivation and advocacy. When the inevitable development happens, we work with landowners/developers to obtain permission to rescue native plants ahead of the construction.  We have done that successfully at a number of locations in North Carolina.  Rescued plants have gone to numerous gardens including Duke Gardens, North Carolina Botanical Garden, the North Carolina Museum of Art for propagation studies and restoration work.  We will focus on our approach to gain approval and our upcoming goals for plant rescues.

Concurrent 2G – Endophytes: The Dark Matter that Binds Life

Endophytes are mysterious fungal organisms that thread into and between plant cells, as endosymbionts, including the leaves, stems, and sometimes roots.  They differ in their relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, yet their modes of existence have evolved to benefit the plant with disease resistance, and even insect or herbivore damage.  Many fleshy mushrooms and fungi that create visible fruitbodies can also exist in an endophyte stage, waiting for an environmental or host change to sequence the next stages of their developments. Come learn how you may be able to cultivate these fungi using low tech methods to benefit transplants and cuttings. Understanding and recognizing these largely invisible organisms will make you appreciate all they do to protect and harmonize our native plant communities.

Concurrent 2H – Erika Galentin - Not-so-well-known Medicinal Virtues of Appalachian Native Plants

Join Clinical Herbalist and native plant obsessive in an exploration of native herbaceous and woody plants of the greater Appalachian region whose medicinal properties are not so well-known. Erika will cover traditional use as described by colonial physicians of the late 18th and early 19th century as well as guide attendees through modern clinical use, including the harvest and preparation of medicinal extracts and commercial trade of these undervalued natives.

Friday Afternoon
2pm - Plenary 5 – Film : Five Seasons - The Garden of Piet Oudolf

Revolutionary landscape designer Piet Oudolf is known for designing iconic works like New York City’s High Line and Chicago’s Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, public spaces that help reestablish our connection to nature. This gorgeous, meditative documentary immerses viewers in his work, taking us inside Oudolf’s creative process. From his aesthetic theories to his strikingly abstract sketches to the ecological underpinnings of his designs, the film poetically reveals how Oudolf upends conventional notions of nature, public space, and, ultimately, beauty itself.

3:15 - Project of Promise:      

Bird-Friendly Communities, Kim Brand
Andy Fox on his work at NCSU on coastal resilience planning

Plenary 6 – Claudia West Wild and Neat: Bridging the Gap between Great Garden Design and Ecology


Our planet is rapidly losing its foundation of life—the very plants that sustain us and most other creatures on earth. We know that planting more native plants in our gardens is an important part of the solution. However, many native plant gardens that focus on ecological benefits often suffer for aesthetic challenges and fail to inspire the public. Great planting design is an essential part of the solution. Join us as we dig deeper into inspiring design principles derived from wild plant communities that resonate deeply within us and trigger stunning emotional responses. We will analyze archetypal landscapes and translate their principles into smaller garden spaces to help you create the native plant oasis of your dreams that will blow you away with stunning beauty!

Friday Evening Moth Night

With the use of sheets and black lights, we’ll attempt to draw in some of the fascinating moths of the nighttime world.  This will be a good opportunity to get an up-close look at the beauty and diversity of an incredible group of insects that are often overlooked and disregarded.  Learn about the important roles that moths play in the environment and discover some of the tips and challenges to classification and identification while we examine their amazing patterns, colors and shapes.  This will also be a good chance to discover the fun and excitement behind moth nights, which are now becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, as well as in many parts of the world.

Saturday Morning, July 21

Plenary 7 – Randy Burroughs – Tale of Two Meadows (meadow making)

With habitat loss being the major cause of wildlife decline; and lawn being the #1 crop of that land; meadows are the happy solution to one of our worst cultural habits. But how does one meadow? The ways are many. We’ll examine two: one for civilized gardeners and one for gardening naturalists. The “Meadow Garden” evolves from the English Herbaceous Border, with familiar wildflowers drifting in a sea of warm-season grasses, which add structure, stability and winter appeal. Case studies illustrate design variations & installation. Bird, bee and butterfly approved. The “Old Field Meadow” springs from abandoned fields, pastures and waysides where the real wildflowers grow. Local plants are emphasized. Site analysis will be discussed along with design, plant sources, establishment and meadow culture.  There will be a handout with guidelines, formulas, books, plant sources, etc. Teachers are welcome to copies of the PowerPoint presentation.

Plenary 8 – Chuck Canon: Adapting to the Anthropocene

We have entered a new era in Earth’s history. One dominated by human beings.  Our population is exploding.  Our consumption of resources is increasing, converting the Earth’s surface to serve our purposes.  We are literally pushing our climate into unpredictable and unprecedented conditions.  We should expect continued invasion of devastating pests and diseases driven by global trade. Many biologists suggest that we have already entered the sixth great extinction that our planet has experienced.  Fortunately, plants seem particularly resilient in the face of these challenges, even trees.  During the last great extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, fossil evidence suggests that plant diversity survived relatively unscathed.  In this presentation, I will point out many of the unique characteristics of plants possess which allow them to adapt quickly and explore how we might utilize these properties to assist them in their ability to adapt and thrive in the Anthropocene.

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