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The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

Native Plant Conference Collage from 2023 year conference and previous t-shirt designs. 40th year icon in middle


July 17-20, 2024
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC

2024 Schedule and Registration information coming in 2024

2023 Schedule-AT-A-Glance
Lean More About Our 2023 Speakers & Trip Leaders
2023 Conference Costs and On-Campus Accommodations

2023 Schedule:

IMPORTANT: All Wednesday Field Trips are Currently Full.
Field Trips will depart at 8:30AM from Norton Residence Hall’s Parking Lot (Not the Ramsey Center). Field Trips are $85 ($99 for Kayaking FT. 3). Wednesday workshops are $45.00.

CLOSED - FT. 1    Blue Ridge Grassland Communities w/ Gary Kauffman
Over 100 grass species occur within the Southern Appalachians. They are more concentrated in habitats ranging from open balds, wetlands, and recently disturbed areas.   The field trip will visit a variety of grassland communities concentrating on Buck Creek serpentine barrens in Clay County, the edge of a Southern Appalachian bog and a rich cove forest contrasting the diversity of grasses. We will discuss common and rare grass species, the role of fire in plant community health, plus enjoy other magnificent flora, fauna, and geology of the Southern Appalachians.  Twenty-five grass species are present within the serpentine site, perhaps the rarest plant community within western NC.  These include the more common little and big bluestems, as well as various rare species.  If you have a hand lens, it would be great to include since the field trip will examine different grass parts, which are typically small. Difficulty: The trip is (3) moderately strenuous due to the rocky, uneven terrain and several mile traverse.  

CLOSED - FT. 2    Black Balsam Knob Cloud Community w/ Randy Burroughs
Black Balsam Knob Cloud Community Field Trip - In a series of easy to moderate hikes we’ll ascend through these sky-island plant communities: high elevation red oak, beech gap & spruce-fir forests to heath shrub and grassy balds, in various stages of transition. We’ll discuss the plants, their ecology and compare the relative stability of these complex systems. At lunch, we’ll climb Black Balsam Knob (6,214’) for 360 views and some observations about mountain building. Weather is changeable. Rain/wind gear and good shoes are recommended. Be prepared to enjoy an intense day outdoors in Maine. Field Trip Difficulty: 3

CLOSED - FT. 3    Kayaking the Little TN River w/ Peter Loos, Dawn Sherry & Brent Martin
This eight mile kayak trip takes participants down the Little Tennessee River through a rural and forested landscape, ending at Tellico Creek on the Needmore tract. We will see a wide diversity of riparian species, as well as experience the conservation success story of the 5,000 acre Needmore tract acquisition. It's a gorgeous section of river with significant cultural and natural history. Some basic kayaking experience is necessary, and good knee mobility and physical condition is essential for getting in and out of boats, exposure, a journal, botanical field guides, sunscreen, hand lens, are essential and recommended for a quality experience. Limit = 36.  Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

CLOSED - FT. 4    Green with Envy: Moss Landscaping w/ Mossin' Annie
Year-round green appeal can be yours with the incorporation of native mosses (bryophytes) as preferred horticultural choices in your landscape. Annie Martin (aka Mossin’ Annie) will lead your journey into the magical world of moss gardening. We’ll spend the day in nearby Cashiers in a serene retreat which features appropriate shade and sun moss species intentionally planted over a decade ago. Of particular interest are the Zen moss garden, moss and stone paths, fairy garden and a huge labyrinth. Mossin’ Annie will identify moss species; review design considerations; demonstrate maintenance methods and discuss troubleshooting issues pertinent to long-term success. NEW this year, participants will have the “hands-on” opportunity to create an enticing moss feature together. Dress in work clothes. Mosses love the rain so we’ll keep working rain or shine. Flat-soled shoes or boots (even flip flops) are preferred rather than hiking boots, athletic shoes, Crocs or sandals. Gloves are optional. We’re going to have a mossin’ good time!

CLOSED - FT. 5    Whiteside Mountain – w/ Jeff Zahner
With sheer bluffs shining like a beacon over the upper Piedmont, Whiteside Mountain is a regional landmark with dramatic geology, a rich flora, and ancient history. On this three-mile loop hike, Jeff will discuss the many unique high-elevation plants found along the trail and interpret the natural history of the mountain. The views on top are some of the best in the Southeast and one might even see a Peregrine Falcon on the hunt. The hike requires sturdy shoes, rain gear, and a small pack to carry lunch and water. After the hike the group will visit the Zahner homestead, gardens, and nursery to see many examples of native plants in a garden setting. Uses, growth, and management of many types of native plants will be discussed and the slightly over-grown “wild formal” garden of Jeff’s grandmother will be explored.  Limit = 10.  Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous

CLOSED - FT. 6    Design Inspiration in Panthertown Valley w/ Preston Montague
Join landscape architect, Preston Montague, for a hike through Panthertown Valley discussing natural precedents he uses for inspiration in his landscape designs. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss landscape design with Preston as well as practice seeing design solutions in wild(er) environments. Difficulty =strenuous= hiking, uneven trails, steep terrain, up to four miles.

CLOSED - FT. 7     High Elevation Grass Bald Ecology Hike w/ Geoffrey Neal
Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is one of two grassy balds maintained by the park service. Our hike will begin at Clingmans Dome and proceed along the Forney Ridge Trail for 1.8 miles to the bald. There is an elevation change of 900 feet on this out-and-back hike and portions of the trail are rocky. We will move through a declining spruce-fir forest before coming out to the bald itself. Native azaleas, serviceberry, hawthorn, blackberries will be abundant. We will lunch on the bald itself, carrying in and out what we need. Time will be given to explore the area and discuss ideas concerning the origin, maintenance and future of these enigmatic hilltops. The views (weather allowing) should be amazing! We will take our time on the hike back to explore the surrounding plant communities. Time permitting, those with the energy may (briskly) walk the half-mile ramp up to the Clingmans Dome observation point (100-mile views on a clear day!) before our return. Hike difficulty rating = 3 Moderately strenuous (not a long hike, 3.6 miles total, but significant elevation change).

CLOSED - FT. 8    Mosses of the Blue Ridge Parkway w/ Robert Wyatt & Anne Stoneburner
Come with us to explore the magical world of mosses, miniature nonvascular plants that are often overlooked even by avid botanists.  Learn about the varied microhabitats in which they thrive and the great diversity of species in the Southern Appalachians.  Learn too about their structure and function, as well as their taxonomy and ecology.  We will appreciate their beauty in places where they are abundant, including boreal spruce-fir forest, seepage cliffs and bogs, and red oak-beech-sedge forest.  Expect to see dramatic stands of “feather mosses” such as Ptilium crista-castrensis, Hylocomium splendens, and Pleurozium schreberi, as well as peat mosses and epiphytes.  Higher elevations on the Parkway can be surprisingly cool, so dress appropriately, including rain gear.  A good field guide is Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians by McKnight et al. (2013) in the Princeton Field Guide series (cost about $20).  Limit = 10.  Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

CLOSED - FT 9    Panthertown Valley Ethnobotanical Tour w/ David Cozzo & Adam Bigelow
Panthertown Valley is a 6,300-acre Forest Service tract that is often referred to as the “Yosemite of the East” due to the granite domes and stunning setting. At an elevation of 3,600 feet, the flat valley floor is traversed by slow-moving, tannin-stained streams and dotted with rare Southern Appalachian bog communities. On this trip we will enjoy the varied plant communities and view the region from an ethnobotanical perspective, especially the Cherokee relationship to selected species. This is a very strenuous hike of more than six miles with several steep, half-hour climbs and descents. You will want to be in good shape and bring a pack, extra water, and rain gear. Limit = 20.  Hike difficulty rating = 5, very strenuous. Participants are invited to bring a swimsuit for a dip in Schoolhouse Falls (optional).

CLOSED - FT. 10    Big Ridge Preserve and Amazing Grace Properties, LLC w/ Ron Lance
Big Ridge Preserve is a private tract of land covering 2700 acres of forested, mountainous terrain in the Big Ridge Community of Jackson County. It is not open to the general public. The group will be led by Ron Lance, Land Manager of the property. Three interpretive stops and 3 walks are planned as an introduction to this diverse property.  One stroll is easy, one moderate (about 0.5 mile) and one moderately strenuous (near 1 mile).  Natural habitats to be visited include rock cliffs, mountain oak-hickory forests, cove hardwood forests, native grass and Ceanothus meadows, and an orchard.  This property’s vascular plant inventory includes 641 species, to date.  A few interesting native species along the proposed tours include Populus grandidentata, Amelanchier sanguinea, Lonicera flava, Primula meadia, Scutellaria incana, Sabatia angularis, Mimulus ringens, Crataegus schuettei, Carya pallida and white-flowered Rubus odoratus.

CLOSED - FT. 11    Southern Highlands Reserve w/ Kelly Holbrooks & Eric Kimbrel
Please join Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks and Director of Horticulture Eric Kimbrel for a tour of Southern Highlands Reserve. On this walk through the Core Park we will explore 20 acres of garden rooms including Azalea Walk, Maple Entrance, Woodland Glade, the Wildflower Labyrinth, Vaseyi Pond and the Viewsite, all designed with high elevation native plant species. Along the way, Eric and Kelly will share stories about the conception and manifestation of the Reserve as well as knowledge about best management practices learned through their direct experience of adaptive land management. The tour will end at the Nursery Complex where we will discuss our propagation techniques and role in restoration projects for public lands such as the red spruce project. Following the tour, please enjoy a sack lunch on the Rooftop Terrace or at the Chestnut Lodge picnic table. According to Dick Bir, SHR may be the largest naturally existing stand of Vaseyi azlaeas anywhere in the world.

CLOSED - FT. 12    Highlands Botanical Garden w/ Sonya Carpenter
We will visit Highlands, NC, to visit the remarkable Highlands Biological Station Botanical Gardens plus three private gardens to see an unbelievable array of famous, interesting, and attractive native plants in a variety of naturalistic settings. We will see such great natives as Shortia, ginseng, gentians, Hexastylis, pirate bush, Florida Torreya, mountain sweet pitcher plant, mountain sweet pepperbush, mountain mint, silverleaf hydrangea, grass-of-parnassus, prostrate juniper, bottle-brush buckeye, sand-myrtle, pawpaw, turk's-cap lilies, hercules'-club, Spiraea virginiana, many more wildflowers and shrubs, and many different ferns. We will discuss identification, culture, pruning, propagation, landscape use, cultivar selections, interactions with birds and insects, and conservation. Be prepared to say wow! Limit = 15.  Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy.

CLOSED - FT. 13 - Botanizing on the Blue Ridge Parkway w/ Adam Black & George Morris
We will explore the botanical treasures along the roadsides of the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We will have stops along the Parkway from mountain cove to scree slopes and bog gardens and explore multiple ecotones within these areas and discover the unique plants that inhabit these ecotones. We will likely see sundews, orchids, and multiple hypericums.  This is an easy trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

CLOSED - FT. 14    Sam's Knob Valley & Flat Laurel Creek w/ Laurie Lawson & Owen Carson
The Sam Knob Valley / Flat Laurel Creek loop hike takes participants on a wild journey through some of WNC’s most amazing and diverse ecosystems! Beginning in the upper valley with Sam Knob looming in the distance, the rugged trail descends southward towards Flat Laurel Creek in the bottom of the valley, skirting beautiful spruce-fir forests to the east and steep, shrub-dominated balds to the west. On our way along the loop, we’ll pass through many different ecotones, including shrub balds, meadows, high-elevation bogs and seeps, northern hardwood forests, acidic coves, and more, and in transit we’ll discuss their defining characteristics, dynamics, and the interesting and uncommon plants they contain. We’ll also explore the natural and anthropogenic history of the valley and why it looks the way it does today. Hikers will take lunch beside Flat Laurel Creek and its beautiful cascades before ascending northward toward Sam Knob then back eastward to the trailhead. Participants should be prepared with plenty of water (a filter will suffice as there are many stream crossings), snacks and lunch, and gear for inclement weather; additional useful gear could include hiking poles, a hand lens, binoculars, and identification guidebooks. Potential hazards include slips/trips/falls, submerged crossings (wet boots), open, exposed terrain, and encounters with venomous snakes, stinging insects, and black bears.  

Wednesday Full -Day Workshops

W 1: Working with Cast Stone and Botanical Imprints with Jeff Jackson
In this workshop you will learn multiple techniques for making plant imprints in cast stone. Drawing on Jeff's 25+ years working in this medium, you will learn what goes into cast stone, different mixes, design, mold-making, pigments - the works. Speaking of, Jeff puts the "work" in workshop, so bring your gloves! You'll go home with a few things of your own making and enough ideas to last a lifetime.

W 2: Wild Herb Tea & Herbal Syrup Workshop w/ April Punsalan
Join April Punsalan to learn how to make herbal teas and syrups from local wild herbs. We will focus on wild herbs that you can forage to stimulate your immune system. The workshop will begin with a forage stroll along WCU Nature Trail System, followed by herbal tea and syrup demonstrations. Bring a mug!

W 3: Botanical Illustration Workshop w/ Amy Tipton
Botanists must learn to develop a keen eye.  Skills of “seeing” developed for using keys and discerning species are similar to an artist’s approach of understanding and representing their subject.  Plants offer an unending supply of interesting shapes, textures, and details to challenge botanists and artists alike.  Amy will help introduce participants to critical exploration of plant forms through dissection and investigation of several species.  A review of basic plant parts and floral arrangement will be presented as a refresher. Once the participants choose a plant/flower to draw, they will be guided in the creation of several detailed drawings and thumbnail sketches in preparation for developing a full plant portrait in graphite pencil.  Themes of composition, proportion, line quality, and value will be included in this in-depth workshop.  Each participant should be able to complete a plant portrait with details, similar to a classic scientific illustration.

W 4: Gardening for the Planet: Native Pollinators, Native Plants, No Pesticides w/ Brannen Basham & Jill Jacobs
Discover the countless benefits of viewing your land as part of the ecosystem and mimicking the incredible power of natural spaces. Recreating that process is possible within your own garden, and it all starts with gaining a deeper understanding of the native beneficial creatures that are the cogs of our ecosystem. Learn how to foster pollinators and other wildlife through your plantings, so that they in turn can help your garden operate at maximum efficiency.Explore methods of creating a balance in your garden through native plantings and other key pieces of habitat to attract the pollinators, predators, prey, and microbes needed in a thriving and well-balanced ecosystem. The course will be held primarily inside, with explorative walks around campus in the morning and afternoon (difficulty level 1). Information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and a general IPM template will be provided as part of this course.


5:30pm – 6:45pm         Dinner at Ramsey Center
7:00pm – 7:30pm        First Timers Session
7:30pm – 7:45pm         Break
7:45pm - 8:00pm         Welcome (Main Stage)
8:00 – 9:00pm             Plenary #1 – Social Media’s Role in the Native Plant Movement (Panel)
The panel comprised of native plant oriented folks each present on multiple platforms of social media will share a brief introduction to themselves and their platforms after which the floor will be opened to participants for comments, questions, and suggestions that may require a response from anywhere from one to all of the panelists. The goal of this is to have an educational and enthusiastic, lively, and equal participation between the audience and the panelists.

7:00am – 8:00am        Breakfast
8:30am – 9:30am         Vendor Walk
9:30am- 9:45am           Welcome
9:45am – 10:45am       Plenary #2 - Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina - Three lifetimes of experience under one cover w/ Patrick McMillan and Richard Porcher
The newly released revised and expanded edition of A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina (Oct. 2022) provides a major advancement in the collected knowledge of the identification, ranges, and ecology of our wildflowers. Nearly 1000 species are treated, along with color photographs and county-level range maps. The book was the product of three lifetime’s work by noted botanists Richard D. Porcher, Doug Rayner, and Patrick McMillan. Join Patrick and Richard for a lively introduction to the book, the adventures involved in completing the tome as well as the scientific advancements included as we continue to document and understand the spectacular diversity of South Carolina.

10:45am – 11:00am    Break
11:00am – 12:00pm    Plenary #3 -  Why the Southern Forest’s Deep Past is North America’s Future w/ Bill Finch
You want to do something about climate change? Quit worrying about your gas stove and start worrying about how much the rest of North America is going to need the diversity of Southeastern forests, streams, and grasslands. Southern ecosystems are so rich because they’ve been climate survivors over millions of years, and they’ll be key to surviving the changes in climate and ecosystems the whole nation faces. At Paint Rock Forest Research Center in the Southern Cumberlands, we’re exploring how every gene will help determine the future of forests from the Gulf to Canada. And we’re discovering that Southern forests can contribute to recovery of species already lost from most of the country – American elms, butternuts, ash, for example – if we simply recognize and share the South’s ancient genetic inheritance.
12:00pm – 1:15pm      Lunch
1:30pm – 2:30pm         Plenary #4 – Beauty of the Wild w/ Darrel Morrison
In this talk, based on Darrel’s book, “Beauty of the Wild”, he will talk about people and places that have influenced/inspired him in his sixty-year career as a teacher and designer of ecology-based landscape designs.  We will look at naturally-evolving landscapes—including some of his favorite Southeastern ones— and discuss the processes and patterns occurring in them.  And we will look at a variety of landscapes he has designed during the last three decades: ranging from public gardens in Wisconsin, Georgia,  and New York, to private gardens in Connecticut and Montana.  Along the way, we will discuss the value of protecting prime natural areas both as reservoirs of biological diversity and as models for designed landscapes.
2:30pm – 2:45pm         Break

2:45 – 3:45  Concurrent Session 1

1A      Control of Invasive Vegetation Using Manual and Mechanical Techniques w/ Toby Obenauer
In this presentation we will discuss some of the main invasive plants in the south as well as new species and overlooked species and their impacts to the environment. Next we will talk about herbicides, safe application and label reading followed by detailed instructions on how to kill a plant and effective treatment options. Open discussion and questions are encouraged during the presentation.

General Herbicide Training 2019

Herbicide Training 2020

Mixing Chart 2020

Treatment Recommendations 2020

1B       The Life-Giving Landscape: Native Plants in Regenerative Design w/ Kristen Haaf
How do we create landscapes where life thrives? This isn’t only a technical question but also a spiritual one. In this session, we’ll explore how framing landscapes as “life-giving” helps us sift through information overload and attune to our deeper role as keystone species in our ecosystems. We will walk through a design process for regenerating deadened landscapes and learn how this process of regeneration can enrich our lives.

1C          Gardening for Bats with Bat Conservation International w/ Erin Cord
We’ve all heard about gardening for pollinators, but did you know that incorporating native plants can also support our local bat?  Most of the bats in the United States are insectivorous, and native plants support the insect populations that our bats need to thrive.  Anyone can make their yard or space more bat-friendly!  In this talk we will focus on our Gardening for Bats recommendations, the science behind this program, and why bats need our help now more than ever.  We hope to inspire many bat gardens through this program and look forward to scaling nationwide!

1D         Preserving Germplasm through Living Plant Collections w/ Jess Goehler
Plant exploration programs like the one at the Chicago Botanic Garden have been instrumental in preserving germplasm for certain species that cannot be preserved through seed banking.  Due to habitat loss and climate change, many species are declining rapidly, and botanical institutions play an instrumental role to ensure their future where possible.  The Chicago Botanic Garden collaborates with governmental and educational entities to share resources on plant conservation and landscape performance.  Active participants in the plant expeditions have a genuine passion for plant preservation and love sharing their unique experiences in plant collecting with other passionate plants-people.  This presentation aims to share personal experiences on collecting that not only lead to great accomplishments but also making new friends and adventures

1E          Azaleas of the Deep South w/ Patrick Thompson
Patrick Thompson’s presentation “Azaleas of the Deep South” will be an exciting deep dive into the world of the azaleas native to the southeastern United States. Participants will learn about how our native azaleas fit into the genus Rhododendron, and how the genus stretches our understanding of the definition of a species. The deciduous azaleas provide us with a window on evolution going on around us as these exciting plants continue to reveal new chapters in understanding of the barriers to hybridization and the bridges that connect species in the wild. Thompson’s years building a research collection have provided a myriad of opportunities to observe and photograph a diversity of azalea forms and flowers in nature and in horticulture that will be on full display in this eye-pleasing exhibition.
3:45pm – 4:00pm         Break

4:00 – 5:00   Concurrent Session 2

2A         Native Plants for the Vegetable Garden w/ Adam Bigelow
Native plants benefit us, our gardens, and the landscapes and ecosystems we depend on. Learn about the benefits of native plants and the harm caused by invasive plants. We will discuss how native plants can attract beneficial insects, beautify vegetable and flower gardens, and provide nutrition to the dinner plate, and help fill all of the roles that plants provide to our vegetable gardens and landscapes.

2B        Foothills Land Conservancy:  Preservation with a Promise w/ Shelby Sanders
It's no secret that the beloved and biodiverse lands of the southeastern US are under constant threat from an array of anthropogenic impacts.  Far too many species of threatened birds, plants, insects, and other wildlife are losing ground as more and more crucial habitat is lost to development and land conversion.  But with over 85% of land in the southeast being privately owned, how can we connect landowners and resources to have a significant positive impact towards regional conservation goals? Shelby Lyn will provide an overview of conservation easements and how landowners and land trusts partner to protect land in perpetuity, and will highlight several FLC success stories featuring interesting species and their habitats across the region.  

2C         Restoring Longleaf Pine for a Sustainable Future w/ Lisa Lord
Longleaf pine forests once covered more than 90 million acres across the southern United States. Conversion to agriculture and other land uses, development, and fire suppression reduced the ecosystem to less than 3 million acres by the early 1900s. The longleaf pine ecosystem is a well-known biodiversity hotspot, rich in both plant and wildlife diversity. This talk will explore some of the other co-benefits of longleaf pine forests, including carbon and water benefits, and why longleaf pine forests are well-positioned for a more challenging future ahead.

2D       Restoration of Two Carolina Bays w/ Richard D. Porcher Jr.
Richard will discuss the restoration of two Carolina Bays, unusual coastal plain geological features known for hosting very diverse flora and fauna. One bay is on Porcher’s farm and the other on land owned by the South Carolina Native Plant Society. Porcher’s bay, on Pocotaligo Farm in Clarendon County, has been under restoration since 1990. Today, the bay supports a diverse wetland depression with a mix of fifty+ vascular plants. The SCNPS recently acquired Kingsburg Bay in Florence County, originally a wetland depression that had become overgrown through mismanagement. Today the bay is being restored, and we'll look at some of the processes and any early progress.

2E.  The Biocultural Promise of Native Plants in Homesteads, Farms and Public & Private Spaces w/ Chris Sermons.
What started off as a hunting retreat where fields were sown for game species has evolved into a farm preserve that focuses on promoting biodiversity and growing local food. Hear the story of land that inspires and transforms people who then reimagine and reprioritize what the land can be. This presentation is a case study of Bio Way Farm and will explore topics such as natural history, organic farming, permaculture, rewilding and more.

5:30pm – 6:45pm         Dinner on Ramsey Concourse

7:30pm – 8:30pm         Plenary #5 - Moths and our Native Flora w/ Lenny Lampel
For the last decade, Natural Resources staff and local naturalists have spent many late nights in the nature preserves located in and around Charlotte, NC as part of a coordinated effort to document the diversity of moth species in Mecklenburg County.  This presentation will provide an introduction into this diversity, as well as the connections between moths and our native plant species, and the important roles these insects play in our natural communities.  Also highlighted will be Mecklenburg County’s growing moth collection which is housed in the Dr. James F. Matthews Center for Biodiversity Studies.  Learn about some of the challenges to identification and the growing number of resources that make learning about these insects possible.  From “Moth Nights” to National Moth Week events, an increasing number of people are getting interested in “mothing”.  Now is your chance to discover what the fascination in these insects is all about.

9:00pm – 10:00pm      Networking at Norton Hall

7:00am – 8:00am        Breakfast on Ramsey Concourse
7:30am – 5:30am         Conference Check-in / Information Desk – Ramsey Tuck Tunnel
8:30am – 11:30am       Morning Walks, Workshops & Field Trips

Friday Morning Walks

All Walks will meet on the Ramsey Area Floor in front of the Bookstore.

Walk 1 – Campus Tree Walk with Geoffrey Neal
This walk is for folks with an interest in learning more about identifying common trees in the landscape. Together we will check out the many species of native (and nonnative) woody plants found on the WCU campus. We will discuss identification of trees in the landscape as well as general horticultural and arboricultural practices that are essential for a healthy plant community. Time will be given to talk about the ecology of the built environment where these trees now find themselves as well as a critical examination of this environment as it relates to overall tree health and function. Questions and comments will be encouraged throughout. Hike difficulty rating = 2 Moderate (about 2 miles total, slow pace, mostly paved surfaces, some steep slopes and grassy areas).

Walk 2 – Cullowhee Creek Stream Restoration w/ George Morris
We will have a short presentation about the pre-construction conditions, construction, and habitat improvements along Cullowhee Creek and then take a walk on the stream restoration project that dissects the WNC campus. The project was started during the summer of 2005 and construction was completed during the summer of 2006. We will discuss the structures and construction methods, and explore how vegetation plays a role in stream restoration.  Limit = 20. Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy.

CLOSED - Walk 3 – Woody Ethnobotny Walk w/ Marc Williams
Spend a class learning more about the food, medicine and craft uses of woody plants. We will take a walk around the WCU campus and practice ways to systematically identify trees, shrubs and vines by their bark, ecotypes, flowers, fruit and growing conditions. Common and obscure sustainable uses for woody plants that may support overall health, well-being and sustenance will also be discussed. The connection between woody plants and other lifeforms such as birds butterflies and fungal species will be an additional topic of conversation. The possible use of exotic invasive woodies as one potential means of control will round out our discussion.

Friday Morning Workshops

CLOSED - Friday Workshop 1 - Native Plant Propagation, Theory & Practice w/ Emily Driskill
Join horticulture professional Emily Driskill to learn about propagation methods fornative plant species. We will cover seed and vegetative methods, and how to decide which approach to take. The seed discussion will cover sustainable collecting practices, protocols for conserving genetic biodiversity, cleaning, stratification, and sowing. Vegetative methods will cover stem cuttings, layering, root cuttings, live stakes, and division. There will be demonstrations of most vegetative methods, and everyone will have a chance to make a woody stem cutting to take home. We will discuss ways to adapt methods to various production scales. You will leave with several stem cuttings, a list of supplies needed to start your own project, and a trusty compilation of references. Please bring clean & sharp pruners or scissors if you have them. Limited to 20 participants.

Friday Workshop 2: Cultivate Your Writing w/ Margot Lester
Get actionable feedback on your writing (articles, research papers, grants, marketing, fiction, reference, creative non-fiction) from a professional writing coach. As a group, we review the 6 traits of effective writing and the 9 revision strategies that instantly level up your work. Then we have work time to apply the strategies that resonated most and meet with Margot for one-to-one coaching and feedback. We end with a group session that includes time for sharing your work (optional) and an Ask Me Anything lightning round. After the workshop, you have a stronger piece with more impact and we have a writing community that continues after the Conference.

Friday Workshop 3:   Sustainable Landscaping w/ Laura Lee Rose
This presentation will cover the basic steps in creating a beautiful and functional landscape. By using low maintenance native plants participants can discover techniques to determine site conditions, climate, and microclimates while conserving and protecting delicate ecosystems and plant communities. It will also include the importance of best landscaping practices: buffers, rain gardens, and local sourcing of materials.

CLOSED - Friday Workshop 4: Make More Plants in Your Own Backyard! w/ Gail Barton
This interactive hands-on workshop will focus on basic propagation techniques for herbaceous wildflowers. Since biodiversity is such an important part of native plant gardening, we will concentrate mostly on seed propagation.  We will handle samples of many types of seed and discuss harvesting techniques and timing.  Participants will process fruit to get clean plant-able seed. We will review seed treatment options and techniques for storing or planting seed and discuss where and how to successfully grow young seedlings.  We will then take cuttings, divide plants and discuss timing and follow up care.  The instructor will recommend pots, soil, plant labels, irrigation & winter protection that would be useful in a small commercial or backyard nursery. Participants should wear comfortable clothes that can handle some dirt.  Please bring a pair of sharp scissors and lots of questions.

Friday Workshop 5 - Introduction to Graminoid Identification w/ Scott Ward
This workshop is designed to give students a broad introduction to graminoid identification. Graminoids include grasses, sedges, and rushes, and account for a large level of diversity in the southeastern United States. This half-day workshop will be lab-based for a good proportion of the time, but we will go for a short walk around campus to implement concepts learned in lab. Students can wear casual clothing as walking will be easy (1).

Friday Morning Field Trips

IMPORTANT: Friday Field Trips will depart from the backside of the Ramsey Center (Concourse Level) immediately following breakfast at 8:30am. These trips are $45.00 each. 

CLOSED -  Friday Field Trip 1 –  Pitillo Family Preserve w/ Dan Pitillo 
The narrow Cane Creek valley of north Cullowhee is a rustic home and adjacent Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. The trust includes Nodding Trillium Garden 20-acre Pittillo Family Preserve. PFP is situated beside Cane Creek. NTG has a 350-yard trail and includes 50 labeled & selected species listed to observe in the narrow hillside ravine. The NTG footpath follows the small stream with 53 yr. Shortia and ~ 10 yr. Rubacer odoratus introductions. This trail crosses over a narrow east-south ridge for introduced trillium, sedges, ferns, Doghobble, etc. intergraded into the native Rich Cove Hardwoods. Visitors may spend time on their own or join the 0.8 mile hike up Henson Ridge 260 feet elevation and move from basic Rich Cove to more acidic Oak Hickory Forest.

CLOSED - Friday Field Trip 2 - Slow Sauntering at Pinnacle Park w/ Nadine Phillips
Nurture your well-being with a Forest Therapy experience as we return to the Pinnacle Park Forest Therapy Trail. This inviting woodland space is nestled by two streams with abundant wildflowers, and lush understory, as well as ample rocks and openings to view the sky. The atmosphere is ideal for sinking into harmony with nature. After a brief opening, your certified Forest Therapy guide will offer subtle means to help reorient the senses and activate the body’s natural relaxation response. You will then be free to seek out a spot to engage your own solo connection for a time before rejoining the group. The circle will be open for sharing before closing remarks. Registrants will receive an orientation email beforehand to help prepare for this outing. Pinnacle Park Certified Forest Therapy Trail is .45 miles with 153 feet in elevation gain. This walk is rated Moderate and limited to 12 participants.

CLOSED - Friday Field Trip 3 – Vertical Bog w/ Adam Bigelow
One of the most special and iconic spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Vertical Bog is roadside seepage area unlike any other, filled with special, rare and endemic plants that exist right along the parkway across from an overlook. Carnivorous Sundews, Grass-of-Parnassus, Sticky Tofieldia, and five different species of st John's wort can all be seen at this short and easy walk. 

CLOSED - Friday Field Trip 4 - Birding Cullowhee with Dawn Sherry and Tom Tribble
Western North Carolina is an excellent place for people who enjoy bird watching!  Over 200 birds make their home here year-round, and another 80 species migrate through the Southern Appalachian mountains.  Join us a fun walk, learning to identify birds by sight and sound.  Location to be determined.  Tips and tricks for bird identification will be covered as well as planting ideas for native plants to attract them.  Handouts will be provided. We recommend you wear good walking shoes and bring a bird identification guide, binoculars and a water bottle for the best experience.  Limit = 20 Hike difficulty rating = moderate

8:30am - 12:00pm       Exploring, Networking on your own, Plant Sales
12:00pm – 1:00pm      Lunch 
12:00pm - 1:00pm      Lunch-And-Learn Presentation: Investigating Cultural Management of Rivercane in Riparian Restoration with Alyssa Quan
1:00pm – 1:40pm        Book and Plant Sales
1:00pm – 1:40pm        Poster Session
1:40pm – 1:45pm         Announcements
1:45pm – 2:00pm        Tom Dodd Jr. Award

2:00 – 3:00pm   Plenary Session 6 – “Venus Flytrap Champions” – Engaging Landowners to Protect Rare Species on their Land w/ Julie Moore
Although the Venus flytrap is known worldwide, its total range is limited to within 80 miles of Wilmington, NC. In 2015 it was petitioned for listing as an endangered species. Status surveys in 2019 and 2020 confirmed extant populations and population numbers. Although populations occur on federal lands, for example Camp Lejeune Marine Base, the Croatan National Forest, and conservation lands like The Nature Conservancy's Green Swamp Preserve, many populations persist on private property. "Venus Flytrap Champions" was created to encourage landowners to recognize and commit to managing and preserving Venus flytraps and other rare species on their property. By contacting the Venus Flytrap Champions program (, landowners will be provided information on habitat management needs and agencies to contact for assistance. For their efforts, landowners will be recognized as “Champions.” If enough populations are appropriately managed and conserved, protection under the Endangered Act may not be needed.

3:00pm – 3:30pm         Break

3:30pm – 4:30pm         Plenary #7 - How Louisiana Created an Inspirational Certified Habitat Program w/ Tammany Baumgarten & Phyllis Griffard
Created in 2019, the Louisiana Certified Habitat program has over 230 participants statewide and has helped amass an amazingly rich catalog of native habitats under stewardship in that state.  The program has been a media-magnet that is bringing all important attention to the ecological deficiencies of the average landscape and the vast benefits and beauties of native gardens.  The development of this Louisiana-specific certification program helps connect LNPS and its regional affiliates to the native plant base in their regions and incentivizes future and budding native plant gardeners and growers while giving them practical tools to get there. LCH is a warming success story with inspiration and lessons for any organization looking to make similar strides in their area.

4:30pm – 5:30pm         Book and Plan Sales
5:00pm                         Silent Auction Closes
6:00pm – 7:00pm        Picnic at WCU Picnic Area
7:00pm – 8:30pm        Talent Show
9:00pm – 11:00pm       Moth Watch with Lenny Lampel at Picnic Area
8:30pm – Midnight       Music / Dancing

  7:00am – 8:00am        Breakfast on Ramsey Concourse
8:30am – 9:00am        Plants of Promise (Main Stage)
9:00am – 10:30am       Plant and book Sales
10:30am – 11:30am    Plenary 8 - Restoring a Historic Wetland: Bowyer farm w/ Brian Jorg
When 630 acres of agricultural land was donated to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, we discovered that it was originally a wetland. This presentation will look at the restoration work that has increased the value of the habitat, and the wildlife diversity. We will discuss the measures taken to accomplish this, both the successes and challenges. In addition, we will look at some of the methods to measure the success of the overall project.  With the focus on birds, reptiles, amphibians, pollinators, and other species, we have tried for an all-encompassing management plan to make this property not just a green space but aim to protect it as an ecosystem.

11:30am – 11:45am    Break
11:45am – 12:45pm    Plenary #9 - Common and Not So Common Natives for the Home Landscape w/ Mike Berkley 
Join Mike as he discusses plants that are available from native plant nurseries, like the ones in our vendor hall, and how to use them in your own landscape.  Many of these plants may not be available in your local garden centers, but nurseries specializing in native plants do grow them.  So let's support our local growers, and after his talk, head on down to the vendor booths to see what's available for your landscape. 

11:30am – 1:00pm     Final Announcements / Final Plant and Book Sales
1:00pm                         Conference Closes

What is the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference?

Native Plant Conference


The purpose of the Cullowhee Conference is to increase interest in and knowledge of propagating and preserving native southeastern plant species in the landscape. Past participants of the conference have included landscape architects, commercial nursery operators, garden club members, botanists, and horticulturists from state highway departments, universities, native plant societies, botanical gardens, and arboretums. Both professionals and laypersons will gain valuable knowledge from the informative field trips, lectures, and workshops.

The program schedule allows for informal sessions where participants can exchange ideas. We encourage you to make good use of this opportunity. Information and materials can be displayed and exchanged in each residence hall lobby. Please bring materials you wish to share.

The conference is held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Cullowhee is located between the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, approximately fifty miles west of Asheville. Close to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cullowhee is in an ideal location for anyone with an interest in nature.

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