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The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

Native Plants Conference 2016


Mark your calendars now for the 2023 conference July 18-22, 2023.
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC

2022 Costs & Accommodations
Conference registration: $145.00 (In-person or Virtual)
On-Campus accommodations and meal options are now closed.

VIRTUAL CONFERENCE (Live stream begins Wed. July 20 @ 7:30PM EST)
Registered participants including in-person attendees should check their email for the password. Virtual Session & Conference Site. Separate Password required.



IMPORTANT: All Wednesday Field Trips will depart at 8:30 am from Norton Residence Hall’s Parking Lot (Not the Ramsey Center). This is a change from previous years.

NOTE - As of 5-23-22 - ALL Wednesday Fieldtrips are now FULL / CLOSED. 

7:00 AM - Breakfast for those staying on campus will be served at 7:00am in the lobby of Norton Residence Hall. 

FT. 1 - Black Balsam Knob with Randy Burroughs  (Full)
Black Balsam Knob & High Elevation Meadows – Grassy balds are a disappearing plant community. We’ll look at several sites around Black Balsam and along the Blue Ridge Parkway where meadows are in various stages of stability and transition. We’ll also survey the unique plants that thrive in the surrounding boreal hardwood and spruce-fir forests. The Ericaceous family is very rich: rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurel, mountain pieris, Minnie-bush, blueberries (often in fruit), cranberries (usually in flower), and others. Carpets of sedge and ferns, wildflower accents, light catching grasses: these communities provide good models for design and landscape management practices. The air is light and the scenery is grand, however weather can turn cool and stormy quickly, so layer and be prepared to enjoy the spectacle. Rain gear is recommended. Some trails are rocky with short steep sections. We’ll adjust the trail selection to suit the group.

FT. 2 - Sams Knob Valley / Flat Laurel Creek with Lauri Lawson & Owen Carson - FULL
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.  

FT. 3 - Panthertown Valley – Ethnobotanical Tour with David Cozzo & Adam Bigelow - FULL
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.

FT. 4 - Canoeing Little TN with Peter Loos, George Morris, Dawn Sherry & Brent Martin - FULL
This field trip will explore the rich natural and cultural history of the upper Little Tennessee river valley, including the travels of the 18th century naturalist William Bartram, who wrote a detailed account of the flora in the valley, Cherokee Indian history, and the current botanical communities found along the river. Participants will visit the historical capital of the middle town Cherokees in the Cowee community, discuss the plant world described by Bartram in 1775, observe the federally listed Virginia spireae, along with other interesting riparian species, such as pawpaw, shingle oak, and more.  Participants are encouraged to read the North Carolina sections from Bartram’s 1791 publication Travels (available in various editions). The trip is a canoe trip of easy to moderate difficulty, seven miles in length, and requiring little or no canoeing experience.  Basic instruction will be provided. Water shoes, clothing suitable for water 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.

FT. 5 - Blue Ridge Grassland Communities with Gary Kauffman & Nancy Adamson - FULL
Grasses are a vital part of Appalachian plant communities--in open balds, wetlands, areas periodically disturbed with tree fall, mowing, or fire, and in shady understories. We hope to visit a variety of grassland communities concentrating on Buck Creek serpentine barrens in Clay County, maybe visiting a bog and a high elevation rock outcrop. 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. Buck Creek is special, with at least 25 different grasses, including the more common little and big bluestems, as well as various rare species. The trip may be moderately strenuous due to the rocky uneven terrain and several miles in length. If you have a hand lens, it would be great to include since we will look at some of the grass parts.

FT. 6 - Whiteside Mountain with Jeff Zahner - FULL

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 = 12.  Hike difficulty rating = 3, moderately strenuous.

FT. 7 - Highlands Botanical Garden with Larry Mellichamp - FULL

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! Bring a 10x hand lens, a camera, and a notebook. Limit = 20.  Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy

FT. 8 - Mosses of Blue Ridge Parkway with Robert Wyatt & Ann Stoneburner - FULL

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.

FT. 9 - Southern Highlands Reserve with Kelly Holbrooks & Eric Kimbrel - FULL

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.

FT. 10 - Andrews Bald with Matt Gocke & Geoffrey Neal - FULL
Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is actively managed by the park Service. Our hike will 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 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. If time and weather permit, those with the energy may walk the half-mile ramp up to the Clingmans Dome observation point before our return. Note: the weather up that way can be much cooler than mid-July would promise. Prepare for a chilly hike and the very real possibility of a sudden shower. This is a strenuous hike in places due to elevation changes and a rocky trail. Hike difficulty rating = 3 - 4 Moderately strenuous, uneven terrain, rocky paths and steps, significant elevation change, 3.8-mile round trip, variable weather.

FT. 11 - Big Ridge Preserve with Ron Lance - FULL
Big Ridge Preserve is a private tract of land covering 2800 acres of forested, mountainous terrain in the Big Ridge area of Jackson County, near the community of Glenville. It is not open to the general public. Drive time from Cullowhee entails 45 minutes, leaving at least 6 to 6.5 hours of hiking and interpretive time available for participants.  The group will be led by Ron Lance, Caretaker of the property. 
At least 4 interpretive stops and 3 hikes are planned as an introduction to this diverse property.  Each hike will be approximately 2 hours duration, two being easy (less than 1 mile) and one slightly strenuous (1 mile).  Natural habitats to be visited include rock cliffs, mountain oak-hickory forests, cove hardwood forests, native grass meadows and wetlands.  This property’s vascular plant inventory includes 631 species, to date.  Some interesting native species along the proposed tours include Populus grandidentata, Amelanchier sanguinea, Lonicera flava, Carya pallida and white-flowered Rubus odoratus

Wednesday Full-Day Workshop(s)

W1:  Working with Cast Stone and Botanical Imprints with Jeff Jackson (On-Campus Classroom-Only Workshop)
You've seen his work in our silent auctions for years, now Jeff will be sharing his 2+ decades of experiences with this fascinating and useful material to show you all the tricks and shortcuts so that you too will be able to create beautiful botanical imprints in cast stone. We will be looking at its history and science, how different mixes serve different purposes, mold making, choosing foliage, pigments, and much more! Prepare to get your hands dirty. We will be mixing materials (Jeff puts the 'work' in workshop!) and you will use it to create your very own garden and home treasures! Limit= 24. 

Wednesday Evening:

5:30 – 6:45 pm  Dinner at Ramsey Center
7:30 – 7:40 pm Welcome 
7:40 - 9:00 pm –  Joy and Abundance- Gardening for Biodiversity with Chris Liolia
This session will go beyond gardening with natives and get into some creative maintenance solutions that promote life of all kinds. It has arisen from my own experience in working through the push and pull of desire for order and tidiness and a sensitivity to ecological processes that a garden can and should support. Find joy and abundance in choosing great local plants that support pollinators and all the other critters, artful solutions to the ecological disaster that is winter cleanup, and artisanal brush piles. You’ll be sure to come away with some ideas to use in your own landscapes.

7:30 -8:30 am  Breakfast at Ramsey Center

8:30 – 9:30 am Vendor Walk

9:30-9:45 am Welcome and Announcements/Introductions

9:45 – 10:30 am The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening with Kim Eierman 
Countless pollinator species have suffered dramatic declines in recent years. It’s a serious problem for all of us since animal pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of 80% of all flowering plants, and at least 30% of the food that we eat.  Most managed landscapes offer little in the way of appropriate habitat and forage for these essential animals. With simple design strategies and an informed selection of native plants, you can create landscapes that attract and support not just bees, but an array of pollinators that have very different requirements. Learn how to create a Pollinator Victory Garden to help win the war on pollinator decline.

10:30 am – 12:00 pm Beauty of the Wild with Darrell Morrison
This talk will center on Darrel’s recently-published book, “Beauty of the Wild”, in which he tells stories about people and places that have influenced both his teaching and his designing of landscapes inspired by nature for more than a half-century.  He will show naturally-evolving landscapes, including some of his favorite ones in the Southeast.  He will show designed landscapes based on natural (wild) landscapes in Wisconsin, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, and Montana, along with design lessons he has learned along the way. Interweaving with this, he will emphasize the importance of protecting and preserving natural areas both for their intrinsic value and as models for designing and restoring landscapes.

12:00 - 1:30 Lunch 

1:30 - 2:30   Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycorrhizae: The Amazing Applications of Fungi in Native Plant Ecosystems with Tradd Cotter

The second largest Kingdom on the planet holds some amazing applications in nature such as soil creation, disease resistance for plants, nutrient cycling and bioavailability, and insect control. Understanding how these fungi operate in these systems is key to maximizing their effectiveness in plant communities and soil building.  Partnering with mushrooms, molds, and mycorrhizae is critical in human civilization as the world struggles to find solutions and the damage to the environment continues. Come and be a part of the solution and add the skill-set of mushrooms to your life!

2:45 – 3:45 pm Concurrent Session 1

1A. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians- The original stewards of the land with David Anderson and Tommy Cabe

Mr. Tommy Cabe and Mr. David Anderson will be discussing the EBCI Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources projects, initiatives, and goals to help restore native plants, tribal gathering rights, traditional farming, and traditional ecological knowledge to the landscape

1B.  Symbiosis in the Garden: Maintaining a Garden for Beauty and Diversity with Sonya Carpenter Using native plant species in designed landscapes creates an environment replete with symbiotic relationships. Native plants support native insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals. Humans too benefit from gardens rich in species diversity, but how can we, as gardeners, maintain our gardens to be ecologically functional, while still creating an aesthetically pleasing landscape?  Sonya Carpenter will share her experiences with the installation and continued maintenance of the new pollinator garden at the Highlands Biological Station, and other public and private native plant gardens.  This talk will explore reciprocity in the garden and the role garden managers play in cultivating a garden that is both a habitat and beautiful.

1C. River cane: environmental workhorse and cultural icon with Adam Griffith
River cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is one of three bamboos native to the U.S., provides vital wildlife habitat, and has a range of historical and current uses by indigenous people in the Southeast.  Once covering vast floodplains, large patches of cane (called canebrakes) are now few and far between.  This talk will discuss plant uses by various Tribes and the tremendous environmental benefits.  I will highlight factors making restoration difficult and argue these obstacles must be overcome and include river cane to fully restore our regions floodplains.  I will also talk about historical events influencing the extent of the plant and summarize current restoration efforts.

1D. The Race to Save an Iconic Species w/ Jamie Van Clief

The tragedy and recovery of the American chestnut species is a compelling story now more than 100 years old.  At the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 4 billion American chestnut trees once thrived in the eastern forests of the U.S.  Remarkably fast-growing and often reaching more than 100 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, this tree was a prolific food source for humans, wildlife and livestock.  Its timber was light, straight-grained, and rot-resistant, making it an indispensable building material. Then the chestnut blight struck.  By 1950, the American chestnut was functionally extinct and ceased to exist as a canopy species. Once an economic engine and legendary in its grandeur, its loss was considered one of the most catastrophic ecological events in recent history.  Decades of prior attempts to bring back the species by government and researchers ultimately failed, until a group of scientists and caring citizens established The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in 1983.  This non-profit, membership-based organization has one mission:  to restore the American chestnut to its native range. Learn from TACF’s Southern Regional Science Coordinator Jamie Van Clief, about the progress this organization has made, along with their private network of citizen scientists, landowners, academic partners and government collaborators, over the last 36 years.  

1E.  Connecting Ecosystems for Wildlife and Plantlife Biodiversity Conservation with Johnny Randall
Preserving and/or creating wildlife corridors between and among core natural areas is essential for biological diversity conservation. Emphasis is often placed on wildlife, but we all know that animals depend on plantlife for food, shelter, and general habitat. Plants, like animals, must migrate across the geographic landscape, interbreed to maintain genetic diversity, respond to environmental change, and adapt to new environments. In this presentation I will discuss the importance of wildlife corridors for all species, but with an emphasis on plants. I will also provide information on the national, regional, and local efforts to ensure conservation connectivity.

4:00 – 5:00 pm Concurrent Session 2

2A. Woody Ethnobotany with Marc Williams
Spend a class learning more about the food, medicine and craft uses of trees and shrubs. We will start with a presentation about major tree and shrub families and will then go systematically through the process of identifying woody plants by the leaves, bark, flowers, fruit and growing conditions. Common and obscure non-timber 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 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. 

2B. Seasonal Maintenance of Naturalistic Native Gardens w/ Emily Driskill & Joseph Smith
Hear from Joseph Smith and Emily Driskill of Blackbird Landscapes on strategies and techniques for native garden maintenance. The presentation will cover seasonally-appropriate techniques for management including pruning and cutback, propagation of in-ground specimens, fertility management, and Integrated Pest Management. We will also cover proper horticultural practices, pest identification, and cultural practices to avoid aesthetic problems. We like to cultivate a naturalistic look that creates habitat and supports populations of native birds and beneficial insects.

2D. Networking, Mentoring, and Leadership in the Native Plant Community: How these opportunities cultivate professional development w/ Katie Ellis
For many of us horticulture and botany are more of a hobby than professional vocation.  I have been fortunate to be able to take advantage of experiences with the community of native plant enthusiasts that have made a positive impact on my ability to succeed in my job as an engineer.  This talk will center on opportunities that I’ve received through my involvement with the SC Native Plant Society, such as obtaining a scholarship to attend Cullowhee in 2013, and how I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned in my job.  Examples include projects integrating recommendations for native plants in low impact development guidance and stormwater projects for water quality improvement, habitat creation, and climate resiliency.  In addition to building technical expertise, Native Plant Societies are also wonderful incubators for building leadership and other soft skills through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

2E. Riparian Hydrologic Drought: how soil and stream erosion changed everything as we know it w/ Rebecca Fanning
The shallow roots of herbaceous plants and woody shrubs are critical components of the structural integrity of Piedmont stream beds and banks. Historic gullying has diminished shallow groundwater/surface water interactions and minimized floodplain inundation frequency and duration, leading to a condition called Riparian Hydrologic Drought evinced by nothing but trees within adjacent riparian zones. Without shallow-rooted plants, Piedmont streams remain susceptible to bed and bank erosion, further diminishing biodiversity within the critical ecotone of riparian corridors.


Special Evening Presentation at Norton Hall
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm - 
Moths and our Native Flora with Lenny Lampel

Over the past ten years, Natural Resources staff and local naturalists have spent many late nights in Mecklenburg County’s nature preserves, parks and greenways in a coordinated effort to document the diversity of moth species that are found within the 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 at 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 moths is all about. After the presentation, we’ll step outside for a mothing demonstration that should allow for an up-close look at some of these incredible insects.   


8:30 – 10:30 pm - Bluegrass at Norton Hall

Friday 1/2 Day FIELD TRIPS

IMPORTANT: Friday Field Trips will depart from backside of Ramsey Center (Concourse Level). Walks will gather on Ramsey Area Floor in front of the Bookstore.


7:00 - 8:00 am  Breakfast Served on Ramsey Center Concourse

8:00 am FT. 12 - Birding Cullowhee with Dawn Sherry & 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.

8:00 am FT. 13 - Blue Ridge Parkway Bogs, Seeps Rare Plants with Larry Mellichamp 
The Blue Ridge Parkway provides fairly easy access to a number of unique high elevation habitats and many rare and endemic plants. Just being up there is a treat – cool, moist air, blue sky (we hope) and communities of plants found nowhere else. We will visit three classic sites: (1) the southernmost (and very tiny) Cranberry Bog at Black Balsam. It is a short hike on a flat dirt road with seeps, springs, and lots of plants. We should see 4 small orchids and numerous shrubs and wildflowers. (2) Three rare or endemic shrubs along the BRP: Pink-shell azalea, Mountain fetterbush, Buckley’s St. Johns-wort. (3) Seeps at Wolf Mountain overlook. Remarkable vertical cliffs drip water and create mossy-boggy sites for sundews, grass-of-parnassus, orchids, gentians, St. John’s-worts, goldendrods, and much more. Easy.

8:00 am FT. 14 - Pittillo Family Preserve and Pinnacle Park with Dan Pitillo  (CLOSED / FULL)

The narrow Cane Creek valley of north Cullowhee is the rustic home and Nodding Trillium Garden of the Pittillo Family Preserve. The site is situated beside Cane Creek and the Addie-Webster Dome, an unusual uplifted portion of olivine and basophile soils that support unusual regional vegetation. Fifty species will be labeled for visitors to observe in the narrow hillside ravine. A moderate footpath of 300 yards comprises the wild plant garden with introduced trillium, sedges, ferns, Shortia, Flowering raspberry, Silverleaf, Monardas, Doghobble, etc. intergraded into the native Rich Cove Hardwoods. Visitors may spend time on their own, join the 0.8 mile hike up Henson Ridge, and conclude with a hike in Pinnacle Park.

8:00 am FT. 15 - When I am Among the Trees – A Guided Forest Therapy Experience with Nadine Phillips   (CLOSED/FULL)

Come along and relax during a guided Forest Therapy session. This guided walk is about slowing down in nature, nurturing your well-being, and enhancing your connection to the natural world. The activities offered will enable you to unwind and calm your busy mind so you can best receive the medicine of the forest. Forest therapy arose from a practice developed in Japan called Shinrin-yoku, which roughly translates as “forest immersion”.  It is an easeful, de-stressing practice that offers many health benefits to mind, body, and spirit. This inviting way of immersing our senses in the atmosphere of the forest is backed by significant medical and scientific research – and the plethora of health benefits are wide reaching. Forest Therapy is emerging worldwide as a publicly accessible means to reduce stress and a pathway to a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. This walk is rated Easy and limited to 12 people.

Friday 1/2 Day CAMPUS WALKS    

8:30 am – 11:00 am  All walks will depart from the Ramsey Center Arena Floor in front of the Book Vendor.

8:30 am Walk #1 – The WCU Herbarium with Dr. Kathy Mathews and Campus Tree ID Walk lead by Peter Loos and Geoffrey Neal

This walk will begin with a visit to the WCU Herbarium housed on the 5th floor of the newly constructed Apodaca Science Building. The ca. 32,000 pressed plant specimens (mostly from the Southern Appalachian Blue Ridge region) reside in new, metal cabinets, on a mobile compactor system. The herbarium also features a prep room for pressing, drying and freezing specimens, a workroom for mounting specimens, an imaging station for digitizing specimens, and dissecting microscopes and tables for research. On the tour, you will view the facilities and plant specimens in the collection. You will also be able to tour the Apodaca building, including the greenhouse, rooftop terrace, research labs, classrooms and auditorium. 

After the Herbarium tour, we will take a 1-2 mile loop walk around campus to identify native tree species and discuss key identification features, uses by wildlife, roles in the forest ecosystem, and landscape value. this will be a leisurely walk, keeping in mind the campus is hilly and the weather will be summery. Please prepare with hat, sunscreen and water. Surfaces will be both paved walks and dirt trails. A plant list will be provided. You may certainly bring your favorite tree ID field guide as well as a hand lens and note taking gear. Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy.

8:30 am Walk #2 – Cullowhee Creek Restoration with 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.

8:30 am Walk #3 – Native Mushroom Walk and Identification with Tradd Cotter - (easy hike - trailhead starts near ballfield) 3 hours
Looking for an interesting walk that ties together native plants and fungi? Mycologist Tradd Cotter leads this unique opportunity to forage and identify many of the native fungal species right on campus.  Past years have been productive and discussions on their role in ecosystems are discussed along with basic mushroom identification skills.  Bring a small basket, a small knife, water/snacks, and bug spray just in case! 

Friday 1/2 Day Workshops

8:30 am Workshop #2 – The Alchemy of Aroma: Distilling Essential Oils from Native Plants with Erika Galentin

The aromatic molecules of native plants such as Monarda or Pinus serve a variety of functions within the plants themselves but also provide incredible extracts in the form of essential oils and hydrosols that can be used in perfumery, cosmetics, and medicine. Join clinical herbalist Erika Galentin for this hands-on workshop which will take you on the alchemical journey from harvest to bottle. Using a traditional copper alembic still, Erika will walk participants through the loading of the still with plant material all the way through to bottling the final aromatic essence. Participants will even get to take a sample home! Erika will also cover an introduction to aromatic medicine and how she uses essential oils and hydrosols from plants in clinical practice.

8:30 am Workshop #3 Woody & Herbaceous Plant Propagation with Emily Driskill  (CLOSED/ FULL)
Join horticulture professional Emily Driskill to learn about propagation methods for native plant species, both woody and herbaceous. 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. All materials will be provided. Limited to 20 participants.

8:30 am Workshop #4 - The Design and Management of Habitat for Birds with Preston Montague and Lauri Lawson  (CLOSED/FULL)

Birds can be an indicator of the health and biodiveristy of the landscapes around us. Our landscape design and management practices can make a big difference in whether birds decide to ignore or explore our built environments. Join landscape professionals, Lauri Lawson and Preston Montague for a workshop designed to provide you with tools you can use to increase the resources available to birds in landscapes under your care.

8:30 am Workshop #5 - Moss Magic in Your Landscape with Annie Martin

Have you ever desired the year-round green appeal of mosses in your garden? Are you tired of mowing grass? Have you got a shady location where nothing else will grow?  Do you have problems with erosion control or rainwater run-off? Native mosses are an excellent horticultural alternative. Annie Martin (aka Mossin’ Annie), owner of Mountain Moss and author of The Magical World of Moss Gardening, will share her passion and expertise. This half-day workshop will offer valuable insights about how to garden successfully with mosses, our planet’s oldest living land plants. Inspirational photographs, moss specimens for ID and essential how-to tips will help you get started on your own moss gardening projects. Mossin’ Annie will provide pertinent information on the selection of appropriate moss species to use in the transformation of your outdoor living space into a serene retreat and eco-friendly landscape.

12:00 – 1:00 pm  Lunch
12:30 – 1:00 pm  Lunch & Learn 
1:00 – 1:40 pm  Book and Plant Sales
1:00 – 1:40 pm  Poster Session
1:40 – 1:45 pm  Announcements
1:45 – 2:00 pm  Tom Dodd Jr. Award

2:00 – 3:00 pm - New Updates from an Old Forest with Matt Johnson
The Beidler Forest Audubon Center & Sanctuary is home to the largest stand of original-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp in the world. Join Center Director Matt Johnson for this presentation as he provides updates from Beidler Forest on bird migration, ongoing research projects on the sanctuary (including native plants), cultural history, and more!

3:15 – 4:15 pm  - Project Pando - A Community-Driven Model for Helping Heal Local Ecology with Basil Camu

Every two seconds we lose a football field of trees. Yet trees are essential to the health of our planet. That's why we at Leaf & Limb started Project Pando. It is a volunteer-driven effort where we collect seeds from wild, native trees and then we raise those seeds into saplings that we give away to the public for free. We also experiment with various methodologies related to growing, such as rainwater capture, recycling carbon from municipalities, and high-density planting - thus Project Pando is also a hub for innovation. As we work, we are building an open-source blueprint that can be replicated by anybody nearly anywhere for minimal costs (goal: zero cost) using only volunteer labor. This open-source plan will be available to the world for free. Some of our goals are:

  • Increase the genetic diversity of trees being planted in urban spaces.
  • Expand the supply and variety of native species commonly available to the public.
  • Create access to an endless supply of free trees and to share the knowledge required for those trees to thrive. This could be especially beneficial to planting and reforestation non-profits.
  • Generate a fun way for folks to re-connect with soil and trees, thereby developing a closer relationship with Nature.
  • Health trees, happy people!


4:30 – 5:30 pm  Book and Plant Sales
6:00 – 7:00 pm  Picnic at WCU Picnic Area
7:00 – 8:30 pm  Talent Show

8:30 pm – Midnight Music / Dancing

7:30 - 8:30 am  Breakfast on Ramsey Concourse
8:30 – 9:00 am Plant Auction Pick Up

9:00 - 9:30 am Plants of Promise w/ Katie Davis

9:45 – 10:45 am Let’s Talk Pollinator Gardening: Plan, Plant & Maintain Successful and Beautiful Pollinator Gardens with Danesha Seth Carley & Anne Spafford

We will go into detail about what elements are necessary to create beautiful and functional pollinator-friendly gardens designed to welcome beneficial pollinators across the South. Combining up-to-date scientific information with artful design strategies, our information is accessible to gardeners and pollinator enthusiasts of all levels. You will be confident that your garden, no matter how small, can play a huge role in providing the habitat, nourishment, and nesting places so needed by pollinators. We will cover everything you need to know plant and maintain a successful and beautifully designed garden so you too can be a pollinator champion
11:00 – 11:45 am Great Native Plants for the Home Garden with Shelby Jackson
Horticulturist Shelby Jackson will highlight her favorite pollinator-friendly shrubs and perennials for the home garden. Whether your yard is a shaded woodland or a hot and sunny landscape, there are beautiful native shrubs that will do wonderfully for you and your garden. Shelby will go through her favorites highlighting their beautiful flowers, textures, and benefits to our natural ecosystem.
11:30 am – 1:00 pm Final Plant and Book Sales

11:45 am  Final Announcements / Conference Ends

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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