Plant Conference Schedule

Photo: Linda B. Franklin, Monarda punctata—Spotted Beebalm

Schedule at a Glance

Thursday, May 30: Pre-Conference Workshops

Full-Day Workshops

  • All About Pawpaws: America's Legendary Fruit (Sheri Crabtree and Jeremy Lowe)
  • From Lifeless Lawns to Living Landscapes: A Day of Design (Caleb Melchior)

Half-Day Workshops

  • Longleaf Pine Needle Basketry (Brittney Hughes)
  • Folios for Foraging: Bookbinding Plant Identification Journals (Lindsey Schmittle)
  • Home Cultivation of Mushrooms (Mark Hainds)
  • Eating Between the Rows (Jeff Ross)
  • Pollinators in Action: Catch and Release (Heather Holm)

Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1: Plenary Presentations

  • Nature’s Pharmacy: The Medicinal Potential of Native Plants of the Southeastern USA (Cassandra Quave)
  • Romancing the Lily: The Natural History of Hymenocallis coronaria (Larry Davenport)
  • Restoring Ecosystem Functionality and Biodiversity (Heather Holm)
  • Hip Hop and the Environmental Sciences—Strange Bedfellows ... or Not? (Thomas Easley)
  • Native Annuals: An Underutilized Resource (Ethan Dropkin)
  • Listen to the Land ... and Embrace the Natives (Louise Wrinkle)

Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1: Concurrents

  • Peppertree: Hated Weed or Promising Medicine? (Cassandra Quave)
  • Glade Ecosystems: Islands of Biodiversity (Owen Carson)
  • Controlling Invasive Plants for Habitat Restoration (Nancy Loewenstein)
  • Alabama’s Variety of Oaks (Nancy Loewenstein)
  • The Fascinating Black Belt Prairie of Mississippi and Alabama (Jovonn Hill)
  • Grasshoppers of our Southeastern Grasslands (Jovonn Hill)
  • 12 Excellent Herbs (Phyllis Light)
  • American Ginseng: Create, Care, and Conserve (Phyllis Light)
  • Ancient Forests of Alabama (Brian Axsmith)
  • Carolina Allspice: Ecology, History, and Cultivation (Katie Horton)
  • New Pests and Pathogens: Threats to Natural Landscapes and Forests in Alabama (Jim Jacobi)
  • Mushroom Cultivation: From Back Yard to Laboratory (Allen Carroll)
  • The Shady Crowd: Choosing Plant Communities for Woodland and Shade Gardens (Caleb Melchior)

Sunday, June 2: Post-Conference Field Trips

  • Moss Rock Preserve (Patrick Thompson)
  • The Botanical Lost World and Cahaba Lilies (Tom Diggs)
  • Turkey Creek Preserve (Charles Yeager)
  • Kaul Wildflower Garden (John Manion)

Pre-Conference Workshops | Thursday, May 30

Full-Day Workshop

All About Pawpaws: America's Legendary Fruit

Sheri Crabtree and Jeremy Lowe

The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a unique native American fruit. Learn about the history of pawpaws in the U.S., cultivar selection, orchard management, pest and disease control, harvest and postharvest handling of fruit, processing and value-added products, and updates on the latest research from Kentucky State University. The workshop will include a hands-on grafting session and tasting of pawpaw products. Participants will be given some pawpaw seedlings and will take home two plants they have grafted.

A grafting knife like this   or this  is what we use and recommend.

Full-Day Workshop

From Lifeless Lawns to Living Landscapes: A Day of Design

Caleb Melchior

Fallen out of love with lawns? Come for this day-long workshop to learn how to replace that stretch of zoysia with dynamic plant communities. At this workshop you’ll learn how to look at the structure of regional plant communities and adapt them to your own garden. When you leave this workshop, you’ll have a strategy for developing a lawn replacement strategy that will integrate your garden, both ecologically and aesthetically, into the larger landscape. This workshop will be based in an intent to create landscapes that celebrate Alabama’s unique landscapes and plant communities, while providing ecological function and a homeowner’s practical requirements.

Components of the workshop will include:

  • analyzing site conditions
  • looking at regional plant communities
  • understanding edge and cultural conditions
  • developing novel plant communities
  • planning an establishment strategy
  • maintaining a naturalistic landscape and increasing biodiversity over time

Half-Day Workshop

Longleaf Pine Needle Basketry

Brittney Hughes

Learn the basics of pine needle basket coiling, an old craft with a long history. The art of coiling baskets is universally common to indigenous peoples. Coiling is the technique of creating baskets and art from pine needles and was a part of pre-Columbian Native American crafts. Today, pine needle baskets and art are made primarily for decorative purposes. Join artist Brittney Hughes to learn the basic steps to making a coiled basket from longleaf pine needles. Each participant will learn the basic skills of pine needle basketry: how to start a coiled basket, basic stitching, how to shape your basket, and how to finish your basket. Participants will be able to start on a basket and continue it at home or make a small creation and finish it off. All materials (pine needles, thread, and small center for basket) will be furnished.

Half-Day Workshop

Folios for Foraging: Bookbinding Plant Identification Journals

Lindsey Schmittle

Ever find yourself out on the trail, trying to identify a plant, but you left your giant identification book at home? You need a way to record your findings with a small pocket journal designed for plant identification note-taking! In this workshop, each participant will learn a five-hole pamphlet stitch to bind three mini journals designed for recording your findings from your outdoor adventures. Participants will be able to design their notebook pages as they please, choosing from various page layouts including spreads for note-taking and sketching, plant identification charts, spreads for pressing plant parts, and pocket-pages. Notebook covers will be provided with the quote, "One who does not know the plants he sees, misses half the pleasure of life."—Roland McMillan Harper letterpress-printed on the front. Not only will this be a lesson in book-binding, but participants will also learn the process for identifying plants in the wild!

Half-Day Workshop

Home Cultivation of Mushrooms

Mark Hainds

Participants in this workshop will learn various methods for cultivating mushrooms at home including: 

  • Drill & Fill using Sawdust
  • Drill & Fill using Dowells
  • The Totem Method
  • The Wood Chip/Bed Method 

Participants will gain the knowledge necessary to produce their own: shiitake, oysters, nameko, lion's mane, olive oysterling, giant stropharia/winecap, and wood ear mushrooms.  The workshop will cover variables such as selecting and matching woods or substrates with the appropriate mycelia or mushroom spawn, as well as sanitation, run time, harvesting methods, log and totem placement, and competing fungi.  For participants who are interested in bettering the environment, the class will provide specific recommendations for cutting invasive species, and which mushrooms can be produced on problematic invasive species such as parasol tree, tallow tree, tree of heaven, and sawtooth oak.  

Half-Day Workshop

Eating Between the Rows
Jeff Ross

Artisan Chef Jeff Ross likes to say “good gardeners cook and good cooks garden.” He understands the too-frequent disconnect between the planted fields and a talented kitchen, and seeks to erase that distance. With an education in American history, more than two decades of professional experience with plants, and a profound passion for food, he has combined his talents to forage and cook in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. During this workshop participants will discover different uses of familiar wild and cultivated plants (and even weeds) to create a uniquely toothsome and nutritious menu.

Half-Day Workshop

Pollinators in Action: Catch and Release 

Heather Holm

This interactive pollinator walk will teach participants how to look for, gently capture (and release) and identify insects. Participants get an up-close look at each insect captured and learn about its biology, its contribution to the pollination of flowers, or its role as a beneficial insect.

Plenary Presentations | Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1


Nature’s Pharmacy: The Medicinal Potential of Native Plants of the Southeastern USA

Cassandra Quave, Ph.D.

Of the nearly 400,000 plants on Earth, approximately 28,000 of them are used in traditional medicine. Each plant tissue is rich in secondary metabolites—or a chemical language—that allows plants to communicate with other organisms in their ecosystem, defend themselves from harm, and entice pollinators and seed dispersers. The southeastern United States is unique in both its rich biodiversity and historic uses of wild native plants as food and medicine. Through investigation of historic records of wild plant knowledge among native peoples of this region—including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, and Muscogee (Creek) Nations—we identified over 150 plant species with notable food or medicinal uses. In this talk, I will discuss the process of going from evaluation of historic literature, to field collections and laboratory analyses of these unique plants. Species with interesting biological activity in the treatment of wounds and infected sores will be discussed, and the strategic potential between ethnobotany and drug discovery will be explored.

Romancing the Lily: The Natural History of Hymenocallis coronaria
Larry Davenport

The Cahaba Lily is Alabama’s most iconic wildflower, growing only in rocky shoal habitats at or below the Fall Line. After 30 years of study, our speaker will present his findings on its distribution, habitat demands, natural history (pollination and seed set), genetics, and threats to its continued existence, as well as the many recent efforts to enhance its chances of survival.


Restoring Ecosystem Functionality and Biodiversity

Heather Holm

How can humans benefit from green infrastructure and ecological landscape restorations? Heather will discuss ways we can achieve a sustainable coexistence with the rest of life on earth. Models of restorative landscaping, including residential and community opportunities, will be highlighted. With thoughtful plant selection, ecosystem functionality and diversity can be maximized. A focus on pollinator habitat and outcomes, troubleshooting and monitoring of restorations, and technological resources will be included in the presentation.


Hip Hop and the Environmental Sciences—Strange Bedfellows ... or Not?

Thomas Easley, Ph.D.

Living life aware of  intersectionality provides the impetus to  engage diversity creatively  in a space where personal  identities influence how people view one another. To successfully navigate the nuances within this kind of complex environment requires developing relationships across many identities and an appreciation of everyone's  experiences. Through his personal and professional history, Dr. Thomas Easley integrates hip hop, ministry, and forestry in his pedagogy. The scholarship of adult education and the experiences from activism contribute to his practice at Yale. Using his lens like a prism, he works to see the many layers of each individual to guide his decision making  in his day-to-day duties.  


Native Annuals: An Underutilized Resource

Ethan Dropkin

When the word "annuals" is mentioned, many people envision tropicals like begonias, impatiens, and coleus but struggle to come up with many examples of native annual plants. This talk focuses on the definition and life-cycles of true annuals, biennials, and short-lived native plants, their growing conditions, and their use in the landscape, exploring selected species. The goal is to provide a greater understanding of these short-lived native species and how they can be used in design.


Listen to the Land ... and Embrace the Natives

Louise Wrinkle 

Louise Wrinkle, founding board member of the Garden Conservancy and past board member of the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, will discuss how her 2017 book Listen to the Land, Creating a Southern Woodland Garden—about the evolution of the garden at her childhood home on Beechwood Road in Mountain Brook, Ala.—came to be. As a child, she called the property The Jungle because it was so overgrown. Today, that land features her nationally known woodland garden. Passionate about natives and inspired by Thoreau's dictum "Simplify, simplify," Louise will share images and experiences of her second 30 years at Beechwood Road.  

Concurrents | Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1
Peppertree: Hated Weed or Promising Medicine?

Cassandra Quave, Ph.D.

Plants rely on complex biosynthetic pathways to generate secondary metabolites that serve as chemical tools for communication with other species in their environment; this is important for means of defense against pathogens and attraction of pollinators and seed dispersers, among other key functions. Bacteria also leverage chemical communication systems to coordinate group behaviors that are crucial to virulence, pathogenesis, and survival in different ecosystems, including plant and human hosts. We have identified plant secondary metabolites that interfere with the bacterial communication to inhibit biofilm formation and virulence factor production without impacting growth. Here, we will present data on inhibitors discovered in the Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia, Anacardiaceae), collected in Florida, where it is considered a noxious invasive weed. On the other hand, in South America, it is highly valued as a medicine and used for the traditional treatment of skin and soft tissue infection. In this talk, I will discuss the potential utility of these unique secondary metabolites from peppertree as adjuvant therapies for bacterial infection.


Glade Ecosystems: Islands of Biodiversity 

Owen Carson

Glades are "pocket" habitats in which bedrock outcrops break the earth’s surface, restricting most woody plant growth and allowing lower plants—subshrubs, herbs, grasses, mosses, and lichens—to thrive. The flora of a glade depends upon the type of rock that creates it: Glades of sandstone, granite, and limestone will each support a different and unique suite of plants and animals. Glades represent a tiny yet incredibly important community amidst the broader natural landscape of our region; sadly, they are under constant threat by human encroachment, and relatively few have permanent protections. This workshop offers participants a tour of southeastern glades, from ultramafic grasslands in the high mountains of North Carolina, to the Cedar Glades of Tennessee, to the world-famous ketona limestone glades of Bibb County, Alabama. We’ll discuss the defining components of these ecosystems; explore their physiologic and floristic structure; learn about the rare, threatened, and endangered species that call these special places home; and discuss the future of conservation of southeastern glades. 


Controlling Invasive Plants for Habitat Restoration

Nancy Loewenstein

The importance of native plants for supporting ecosystem health is well known, with growing understanding of the contribution of native plants in our landscaping. But what do you do if your back yard or back forty is full of Chinese privet, kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle and the like?  This talk will provide some practical options for controlling invasive plants so that native plants can be restored in their place. In addition to non-chemical options, herbicide application techniques (foliar, cut stump and basal bark) and which herbicides are safest for use in a home landscape situation will be discussed. Control considerations for specific species will also be addressed.


Alabama’s Variety of Oaks

Nancy Loewenstein

Oaks comprise the largest taxon of woody plants in North America, with the highest diversity of oak species occurring in Alabama. Oaks occur across a wide range of soil moisture and nutrient conditions, climates, and community types. With the wide variety of oaks and their propensity to hybridize, they can be a challenge to identify. This talk will review the differences between white and red oaks, focusing on how to identify the major and some less common species of oaks, where they typically grow, and any special uses.   


The Fascinating Black Belt Prairie of Mississippi and Alabama

Jovonn Hill, Ph.D.

As recently as the 19th century, the southeastern United States featured large areas of grassland or prairies. In one such region, called the “Black Belt," prairies covered about 355,000 acres in an arc of chalky soil that stretches from northeastern Mississippi to central Alabama. Since that time, more than 99 percent of these areas has been plowed for agriculture and urban development. Remaining prairies are threatened by erosion and the encroachment of eastern red cedar. Today, small remnants of these prairies may be found on marginal lands. These prairie fragments support an incredibly diverse and distinct flora and fauna, including plants in excess of 200 species, 1,000 species of moths, many of which are disjunct and endemic species. In addition, there are 36 species of grasshoppers and over 50 species of ants.


Grasshoppers of our Southeastern Grasslands

Jovonn Hill, Ph.D.

Grasshoppers are an important ecological and aesthetic component of global grassland systems. This introductory synthesis of the grasshopper fauna of the various types of grasslands in the southeastern United States will demonstrate that these ecosystems are rich in endemic species that contribute significantly to the biodiversity of the region and that of North America as well as providing further corroborating evidence that these systems are of natural origin. Thus, the continued conservation of these systems along with the study of their biota are important as they represent an important part of our regional natural heritage.


12 Excellent Herbs

Phyllis Light

Growing or foraging plants for food and medicine is an age-old practice that has sustained humans since the dawn of time. Using plants that have been grown or foraged provides more than just benefits for the body, it also connects us to the land—the soil, the air, and the water of our local environment. Join Phyllis as she discusses the food and medicinal uses of common plants that can either be grown or foraged such as black walnut, goldenseal, blue vervain, sumac, skullcap, passionflower, chickweed, black cohosh, mimosa, cayenne, echinacea, and pine.


American Ginseng: Create, Care, and Conserve

Phyllis Light

About 90 percent of grown or harvested American ginseng is sold overseas to Hong Kong. By some estimates, about 90 percent of the wild ginseng that’s being exported was harvested illegally. In 2012, the United States legally exported about 45,351 dried pounds of wild and wild-simulated ginseng roots to Hong Kong where it was sorted, graded, and shipped to Korea, China, and other areas of Asia. To export this amount of roots, about 13 million ginseng plants were harvested. Ethical harvesting is imperative for the longevity of this herb. In addition, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate, reducing native habitat. One answer to this issue is for forest-owners to grow wild-simulated American ginseng on private land as a specialty or values-added crop. Join Phyllis in a discussion of ways to support our native herbal heritage including issues facing wild ginseng, how best to source ethically harvested ginseng, and how to steward your own woodland botanical sanctuary. The class will also include common uses of the plant for health benefits.


Ancient Forests of Alabama

Brian Axsmith, Ph.D.

Alabama is a major center of North American plant diversity and yet the fossil record of this region is relative poorly understood. Our laboratory at the University of South Alabama has been working to fill this gap. Some highlights of our research include an Araucarian conifer from the Cretaceous Period in Russel County, and numerous records of plant groups present today from the Pliocene Epoch (about 3 million years ago). Some of these include the only fossil ever found of a begonia, the floating aquatic plant Trapa, Pterocarya (wing-nut), white pine, and many others. I will discuss the evolutionary, biogeographic, and paleoclimatic implications of this research.


Carolina Allspice: Ecology, History, and Cultivation

Katie Horton

Calycanthus floridus, commonly called Carolina allspice, sweetshrub, sweet bubby bush, or strawberry bush, is a woody shrub that is native to and widespread within the East Coast of the United States. Many will recognize this plant as one that their grandmother or aunt had planted by their porch and know it, if not by name, then by the characteristic scent that fills the late spring air at dusk. Carolina allspice has been a staple of Southern gardens for generations, and in this talk we will discuss the reasons for this and how you can add it to your own garden. 


New Pests and Pathogens: Threats to Natural Landscapes and Forests in Alabama

Jim Jacobi

There are several emerging threats to Alabama’s forests and landscapes. Some of these pests and diseases that will be discussed include emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid, thousand cankers disease, and laurel wilt. Looking ahead, problems such as spotted lanternfly and beech leaf disease (which are currently impacting the Northeastern United States) may impact Alabama in the future.


Mushroom Cultivation: From Back Yard to Laboratory

Allen Carroll

Mushrooms are everywhere, yet they remain underutilized, especially as a food source. Cultivating mushrooms is simple. In this talk participants will learn what “spawn” is, as well as the basic steps and principles needed to cultivate mushrooms on any scale, from home to commercial ventures. Allen will also explain how individuals may support mushroom agriculture by sending wild specimens to laboratories such as at Fungi Farm, an Alabama-based mushroom company that specializes in producing spawn from local mushroom varieties.


The Shady Crowd: Choosing Plant Communities for Woodland and Shade Gardens

Caleb Melchior

Seldom can you open a gardening magazine or read a trendy lifestyle blog without encountering glamorous photos of sunny meadows. But what if you have shade? You don’t need sun to have a beautiful garden in the South. Learn how to transform shady spots into tranquil oases in the landscape. This talk will focus on techniques for composing native plant palettes that will bring interest and beauty throughout the year.

Post-Conference Field Trips | Sunday, June 2 

Field Trip

Moss Rock Preserve

Patrick Thompson

Patrick Thompson will lead a half-day trip to the diverse landscapes of Hoover’s Moss Rock Preserve.  Our approximately three-mile hike will be moderately difficult as we descend through mountain longleaf pines to a mixed pine-oak-hickory forest that gives way to house-size boulders and expansive sandstone rock outcrops into the valley of Hurricane Branch. This forested stream occasionally breaks into small waterfalls and hardwood cove forests before the trail lifts into an open prairie restoration site at the northeastern end of the property. The Preserve is home to a fantastic variety of plant species within just a few hundred acres.  Participants will engage in identification of the full range of botanical wonders in the park.  Our focus will be on distinguishing features of more than 100 species of woody plants. At the generic level we will recognize dozens of trees: beech, sycamore, willow, mulberries, ash, and silver bells, just to name a few. We will visit multiple species of maples, hickories, pines, cherries, and elms.  A standout at this location are the 15 species of oaks we will search out and identify.  Included in this number are two of the rarest oaks in the United States, Quercus georgiana and Q. boyntonii. We will see laurel, hydrangea, sweetshrub, and blueberries, hollies, sumacs, and paw paws. Further, we will see multiple species of native azaleas. 

Field Trip

Alabama’s Botanical Lost World and Cahaba Lilies

Tom Diggs, Ph.D.

Field Trip

Turkey Creek Preserve

Charles Yeager

Field Trip

Kaul Wildflower Garden, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

John Manion