About Me

Me at Wilson County Wildflower Tour. Photo by Donna Gallon

Background in Native Plants & Gardening

I grew up on a farm in South Dakota. This was when I first started learning about indigenous prairie plants. With a book on plants of South Dakota grasslands in hand, I'd explore our native river hills and learn the various plants. I also grew up with a vegetable garden, always interested in growing different vegetables.

Introduction to Native Plants

In the past I had purchased typical perennials and watched them die in our hot summers. It made sense to me to use plants native to a region instead of exotic plants that were not adapted to the rigorous climate of Kansas. I started researching the topic, bought a few field guides for identifying Kansas wildflowers.

I began searching for seed in road sides and public areas that fall. After a few years of experimenting, I learned how to grow wildflowers and grasses from seed; and incorporate them into my naturally landscaped yard. I learned what plants work well in the landscape and which ones were too aggressive. I also learned that some plants don't do well in cultivation and do not persist.

As I became more interested in native wildflowers, I began to learn about our woody plants: trees, shrubs and vines. I expanded my yard to include many of these species - especially our native shrubs.

This was the beginning to my passion for native plants.

Plant Identification

When I first started searching for various species to collect seed for propagation, I sometimes encountered a plant I didn't recognize. I would consult all of my field guides and usually determine what the plant's identity. When I couldn't identify a plant, I would take a pressed specimen to the herbarium at KU. The herbarium staff would help me to determine their identity. Over the years I kept increasing my knowledge and have become good at identifying unknown plant species.

I also began taking pictures of plants I would encounter, mostly flowers. This lead to me cataloging my images. I put them on a website and am continuing to add to that. Use my Plant Identification Guide to see my images of plants found in northeast Kansas.

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Experience

Plant Discoveries

  • Earleaf False Foxglove (Agalinis auriculata), This species of plant was last collected in Shawnee County, Kansas in 1886. I found a population of it in 2002 in a park in Topeka. It is a globally rare plant, known from about 60 populations worldwide.
  • Loesel's Twayblade Orchid (Liparis loeselii), This orchid species was last collected in Kansas in 1899 from one location near St George, Kansas. It was presumed to be extinct in the state. I found a population of it in Shawnee County, Kansas in 2006.
  • Hairy Sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus), This sunflower species was never collected in South Dakota until I discovered a population of it in Lincoln County, South Dakota in 2012.

Papermaking from Plants

My first experience with papermaking was in the late 1990's using recycled junk mail. After reading a description of making paper from plant fiber, I tried iris leaves from my garden. Years later I was re-introduced to making paper from various native plants by artist Betsy Roe. I began experimenting with various native plants. The results of his experimentation are some incredible plant fiber papers. The natural colors and textures make for an interesting variety of papers.

My Plant Fiber Paper site explains more about this past time.