Tom's Blog

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Visit from the Botany Department

Yesterday we had a unique group of visitors from the UW-Madison Botany Department. It was a delight to have such a knowledgeable group visiting Pleasant Valley Conservancy. I did not get the exact count, but 32 people signed the register.

This trip was part of a several day event that Ken Cameron, Professor of Botany, had organized in honor of Hugh Iltis, retired professor and long-time head of the Wisconsin State Herbarium. The main event was the Hugh H. Iltis Lecture in Plant Systematics, given by Scott Mori, a distinguished plant taxonomist from the New York Botanical Garden. His lecture, entitled "Brazil Nut Trees: The Plant Kingdom's Equivalent to Jaguars", was given on Thursday, September 2, 2010. We were pleased that Scott and his wife Carol Gracie, also a botanist, were on the trip. Also present was Tom Givnish, the Henry Allan Gleason Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies, who with his Ph.D. student Mark Leach has published so much outstanding work on oak savannas.

The photo above is at the start of the trip, with Ken Cameron (red shirt) making a few introductory remarks and me (right) waiting in the wings.

We gave this group the "full tour" of the Conservancy, starting at the Valley Prairie, continuing through the Pocket Prairie and up into the White Oak Savanna, and then up the final hill through the bur oaks to the Far Overlook, which provided an excellent view of the extensive wetland. Then down the Ridge Trail to Kathie's Prairie (the original prairie remnant, that in 1997-98 Kathie restored mostly single-handedly), and finally across the south-facing slope on the Diagonal Trail, and back to the starting point.

Because of the frequent and extensive rains we have had this year, the short-grass prairie of the south slope (predominantly little bluestem) was brilliant. There was a stiff wind blowing, and it was a delight to see the waving grass. Never has the south slope looked better!

There were, of course, lots of great questions from this knowledgeable group, and Kathie and I were kept busy trying to answer them.

One of the highpoints of the trip was the discovery of a new field guide to wildflowers. This book, by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie, was published by Oxford University Press, and has the best and most extensive set of color flower photographs I have seen. This book, entitled "Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States" (includes southern Wisconsin), has a five star Amazon rating. Trip participant Carol Gracie was the flower photographer, and we were interested to see her photographic skills in action. At the end of the trip, she generously gave us a copy of her book. What a prize!


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