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Midwest Native Plant Conference: A pictorial recap

Last weekend marked the third annual Midwest Native Plant Conference, and it was a hoot. A team of dedicated volunteers came together almost four years ago, hatched plans for this event, and brought it to fruition in 2009. The conference has gotten better every year, and we look forward to Midwest Native Plant Conference 2012, which will be held on the weekend of July 27-29, at the same place it was this year.

A special think you to Nina Harfmann, who agreed to put her vast photography skills to work as official event photographer. Each and every photo used in this post was snapped by Nina.

Bergamo Center, hub of conference activities. It's a one stop shop: rooms for our speakers, dining hall, vendor space, a wonderful inner courtyard for displaying plants for sale, and even 61 inexpensive but topnotch rooms for overnighters.

This conference is all about native plants, and we bring scads of 'em right to you. Or at least our vendors do. Some of the biggest and best sellers of native flora in the region are part of the conference, and bring their prime stuff. A big thanks, once again, to Ohio Prairie Nursery for their major sponsorship.

This is the scene in the inner courtyard at Bergamo Center - scores of botanical goodies, all for sale. Dozens of species were available this year, including some interesting oddities that can be tough to find. It's worth attending just to grab some plants.

Two famous native plant advocates walk out with their hands full: Cheryl Harner, and Jim Davidson.

A prime reason we have this conference at Bergamo Center is for the ambience - it sits in the middle of Mount St. John and its 150 acres of diverse habitats. One need only walk out the doors to be immersed in woodlands and meadows, populated with lots of native plant species. Thanks in large measure to the vision and hard work of Dr. Donald Geiger, the grounds feature extensive prairie plantings that sport species such as these purple coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea. The diversity of flora and fauna that we find on our forays around the grounds is astonishing.

The conference features a number of field excursions; this was one of our 6:30 am birding trips. We are scarcely more than a football field from Bergamo's front doors in this photo, and had already seen or heard a few dozen species.

This year, we were fortunate to have Brian Jorg on hand. Here, he teaches a photography workshop, and later he delivered one of our keynote programs, on native orchids. Brian is not only an amazing photographer, he is also an outstanding biologist and field man who possesses an enormous bank of knowledge about flora and fauna.

This is Ann Geise, an  artist from Cincinnati whose work has been featured far and wide. It was a great stroke of luck for us when she agreed to create our conference logo, which you can see at the Midwest Native Plant Conference website. Scroll to the bottom of the website's home page and view her rendering of rattlesnake-master with a coral hairstreak butterfly. We gave a few of those away this year as awards.

Saturday featured two sessions of breakout lectures, and that's Dr. David Brandenburg teaching one of them. David works at Dawes Arboretum, and is author of the new benchmark in plant field guides, the Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America. CLICK HERE for a review I wrote about this book for the Columbus Dispatch.

In addition to the morning and afternoon breakout sessions, there are also several keynote speakers. This is the main room at Bergamo, and this photo was snapped during my program on hummingbirds. We try to get speakers who can make the linkages between native flora and the animals that use them.

Conference organizers scored a home run by bringing in Guy Denny, who is probably the greatest expert on establishing prairies in this region. Guy has created a 22-acre prairie - and growing! - on his Knox County property, and groups come from all over to tour this prairie and learn about how Guy did it.

Steve McKee delivered Saturday evening's keynote address: Botanical Detectives at Work. It was a pictorial story of Steve's ongoing efforts to track down "missing" plants in his home county of Richland. Some species, most notably the rose pogonia orchid, Pogonia ophioglossoides, were known from historical records but no one had been able to relocate the orchid and some others that Steve included. His talk charted his efforts, some successful, some not, to rediscover these plants.

As in the past two years, the final day of the conference, Sunday, is all about field trips. Here, our scholarship recipient Derek Hennen photodocuments something at Cedar Bog. We feel it is important to have excursions into the wild to actually see and feel native plants in their natural haunts, so our Sunday trips visit the best natural areas in the Dayton region.

Proceeds from this year's conference went to support the following organizations: The Nature Conservancy (specifically their Sunshine Ridge project, an effort to link the Edge of Appalachia Preserve with Shawnee State Forest); Dawes Arboretum; MEEC (Marianist Environmental Education Center); and the Cedar Bog Association.

Thanks to all who came, and please put the Midwest Native Plant Conference on your calendar for next year.


Randy Lakes said…
Jim, Yes, I agree it was another great conference. A quick comment about the conference print of the Rattlesnake Master. I believe that the butterfly is a Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly not a Coral Hairstreak. At least that is what it looks like to me. :-)

Thanks again for leading and teaching all of us amateur naturalists.
becky said…
Thank you so much for including Cedar Bog as one of your field trips! And many, many thanks for the generous donation!!!!! We really appreciate it!!!

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