Conference attendees getting ready to head out on a field trip during the 2015 conference.
With the opening of registration for the 2019 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference on April 2, this month’s blog is a welcome letter to the 36thannual conference from conference Director John C. Magee, an award-winning landscape designer who lives in Middleburg, Virginia.
Hello native plant lovers,
More than three-and-a-half decades ago, 36 years to be precise, something very special happened at a small university nestled into the mountains of Western North Carolina. A group of dedicated, passionate individuals started a native plant movement at Western Carolina University that continues to gain strength and recognition with each passing year. That first Steering Committee and those first attendees at the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference couldn’t have imagined what they were starting. I’m sure they would be pleased to know, though, that in 2019 the conference is alive and thriving! In fact, the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference has become the longest-running conference that Western Carolina University hosts.
As the director of the 2019 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference and on behalf of the 2019 Steering Committee, I’d like to invite you to attend what conference attendees affectionately call “Plant Camp.” Each year, as my batteries start to wane in the summer heat, the setting in and around Western Carolina University and this conference give me the space and time to re-charge and find the energy to carry me through to the end of the year. The speakers, the networking, the learning, the fun, the friendships and the surroundings combine to make the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference a truly unique event that has grown into one of the premiere native plant conferences in the country.
Beyond the conference plenaries and concurrent sessions in the Ramsey Center, the surrounding mountains offer some of the most beautiful scenery and diverse native flora not just in the Southeast but anywhere in this great land we call America. To help you enjoy and explore the regions peaks, valleys, river corridors and balds, the conference kicks off with amazing field trips. There are nearly 1,000 waterfalls in this area, numerous mountain vistas you must see to believe and, of course, unique plant communities. Expert plants people who know, love and respect the region’s history and its native flora lead the field trips. They can pretty much name every plant you see and explain the natural history of the area. How cool, is that?
The Steering Committee has listened to you, the attendees, and tried to incorporate as many of your suggested improvements as we could into what’s already an amazing event. One aspect of the conference that makes Whee so amazing is that full or partial scholarships are available annually to students, beginning professionals, K-12 environmental science teachers, and interns at botanical gardens, nature centers and parks. These scholarships cover the costs of conference registration, lodging, and meals. If you know someone who might qualify for one of these scholarships, please urge them to apply.
It’s my experience that there’s a little something for everyone at the conference. So, please join us if you can for this year’s talks and walks, which will be held July 17-20. Also, please invite a friend and help the Steering Committee reach even more native plant enthusiasts. We’d love to get to know you and your friends or colleagues better and share our passion for native plants and the environment in general with you and them. If you can’t make it, we’ll ask attendees to post as many pictures and comments from Plant Camp as they can to different social media platforms. Search for the hashtags #whee19, #plantcamp19 and #nativeplants to find us and follow along.
We look forward to seeing you in the mountains – preferably in person or, if that’s not possible, then virtually!
John C. Magee
Cullowhee Native Plant Conference
Western Carolina University
P.S. – Here’s a link to register for the conference. Please share it with other native plant lovers!