Cullowhee Conference

ncrescueJune 1, 2007

Just thought I would mention the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference that is once more scheduled in the (usually) cool mountains of NC. Optional hikes are on Wednesday, July 18, with other sessions continuing through Saturday at noon. I have been for the past six years, and I believe it is worth your time and money if you have a little of both. I also think there is a good conference at Millersburg, PA, but that always conflicts with a family beach trip, so I have not been. Would love to hear from folks who have been to native plants conferences and their comments about the activities/seminars held.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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Anyone go?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 6:19PM
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Where are you in NC? We just moved from Chicago to the Brevard area (Pisgah Forest). I know a fair amount about prairie/savannah natives but am trying to learn about the plants native to the mountains.


    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 10:03AM
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I live in the Piedmont near Greensboro, but we have property in the mts. near Boone. The conference is west of you, near Waynesville, and is held at Western Carolina U. Yes, I plan on going as are at least four more people from around here. It is very informal but has the opportunities to learn a great deal AND to buy plants that are not available at your local nursery. Price wise, it is a bargain as room, food (college style) and sessions are all covered.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 8:14PM
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I've gone to the Cullowhee Conference for the past 5 years, and it's a wonderful experience. The fieldtrips on Wednesday are great, whole day hikes led by experts in the beautiful NC mountains.

Jeanne; you will learn an incredible amount about your new local flora at this conference. Plus, many of the native plant vendors in the Southeast attend, so you can buy plants there.

My favorite part of the Whee experience is that is unique as plant conferences go: botanists, ecologists, horticulturists, landscape designers and avid gardeners are all present and on the same level. It's very informal, and everyone delights in a passion for native plants. You make solid friendships there with great people. It's a really fun conference. Several folks in that community always have a music get together one evening, so if you can play, bring your instrument. There's a picnic/ dance night as well, with some goofy skits by the legendary Cullowhee Players.

I'm looking forward to it, such a special oasis in harried times.And, as ncrescue says, a real deal, pricewise.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 10:06PM
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When is the native plant Conference in Cullowhee?
Did I miss it.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 9:39PM
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You didn't miss it. It is July 18-21. See the link in the first post.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 8:31AM
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Does anyone on this thread have any say in the agenda at the 2008 Culowhee Conference? Here is a suggestion. Plant collectors in the state of NC are notorous for selling wild-collected natives. Everything from trillium, orchids, lilies, ferns, to sourwood, Mt.laurel, etc. The largest broker sells under the name of Botanical Wonders. They re-package the plants and lable them as "nursery-grown from cultivated stock". They have been investigated many times and the NC Dept of Agriculture looks the other way.
This suff is shipped out of NC by the truckload and sold in big-box type stores all over the Eastern US. There can be no argument that this is fraudulent and deceptive.
What needs to happen is for a group within NC to make a big noise. Depts of Ag outside of NC have no jurisdiction. The USDA will not get involved unless there is overseas shipments involved.
This is a confusing and complex topic. The actual wild-collecting is done with permit, often on public land. This is perfectly legal.
This material is marketed as nursery-grown, this is fraudulent and that is the issue. If the Cullowhee Conference could address this is would be great. Until that time this remains a stain on the reputation of the Tarheel State.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 8:53AM
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Sam, your complaint is a good one, and exactly the issue that the Cullowhee Conference seeks to address. The participants are well aware of that problem, and work hard to educate people to garden with Native Plants via responsibly grown sources. They are the initial groundswell of that sensibility; botanists, horticulturists, ecologists, and passionate gardeners who have devoted the past two decades to that education.

The vendors that fill the hall with beautiful plants for sale are among the best the country has to offer in commited horticulturists who observe proper practice with native plant propagation, again, with decades of experience. If you saw the vendors set up, driving in with well-worn vehicles filled with carefully tended plants, and then listened to them give all advice toward growing their "babies" with success, you would smile to know those good folks, and your fears of the Kidnapped Wild would disappear.

It just ain't so there. If there is a stain on NC with regard to your important observation, the Cullowhee Conference is the specific antidote to that bad practice.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 10:08PM
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Sam, I am also concerned about wild collecting but know that, under the current law in NC, not much is really protected. (See link below.) Agriculture, forestry, and development are exempted, and with the permission of the owner, ANY plant may be removed, killed, etc., no matter where it falls on the endangered, threatened list. In the last five years I have tried to work with developers here in the Piedmont to relocate plants before the bulldozer comes, and only a few developers will agree. It breaks my heart to see these wonderful plants destroyed in wholesale fashion. As for selling plants, as you stated, it is perfectly legal here if permits are obtained. The laws really need to be changed, but that is a slow process around here. What I would like to see is more enforcement of trespassing, i.e., poaching, laws so that you don't see plants dug from the wild showing up at local farmers' markets or alongside the road. (Saw a ton of pink lady slippers potted up for Mothers' Day last year...another heart breaker.) I realize that you are talking about big busines as opposed to local poachers, but the idea of private land and the owners' rights to do whatever is pretty pervasive in NC. Our only recourse is to donate what we can to conservancies to protect large tracts and keep them out of developer-harm's way. I have become somewhat bitter and often disappointed at how little the average person, many of them gardeners, care about native plants but get quite excited about some new "find" over in China. Until we can get more people on the native plant bandwagon, we will never change the laws and be able to protect plants and stop the practices you described.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 8:46AM
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I have been given the contact info for the 2008 Steering Committee at Cullwhee and will send a msg.
Here is a little more background on the issue. The link below pertains to Ted Allan Minton of Thurman NC. He pled guilty to trafficing in wild-collected plants in NC in 1999.
As far as I know, the Mintons are still in business. They sell as CIP Nursery or Botanical Wonders. They repackage wild-collected plants and sell them for cheap to the Big Boxes. One such home improvement store is headquartered in N. Wilkesboro NC. "Nursery-Grown" or "Grown from cultivated stock" is clearly printed on the packaging. By holding the plants at the facility in Thurman for a period of time they take advantage of a loophole in NC law. That is why I maintain that a group within NC must change the law. I want to see these plants clearly marked "Wild-Collected" Consider for a moment how many of these home improvement stores there are in eastern US. If each one receives 1,000 packages of wildflowers (Spring & Fall) you soon realize the kind of quantities we are talking about.
This post has no relevance whatsoever to the vendors at Cullowhee, its the conference agenda for next year that I want to address.

Here is a link that might be useful: North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 3:48PM
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Thanks for a most interesting link/article. I had to look Thurmond up...had never heard of it before.The event in the article took place before I retired and really "got into" natives. However, registering complaints to said big box store may be something I can encourage our local NP group to get involved in. I guess, since they are not shipping these plants abroad, the law that caught him for the flytraps would not apply to trilliums, etc. As we have both stated, the laws need changing. Your input and concern are appreciated. I will forward the article to friends, and I hope GW readers will do the same. I am sure there are more states than NC in which poaching and collecting from the wild are problems.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 5:14PM
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Sam, thanks for that link. Thousands of wild-collected venus fly traps is truly a horrid act. From your original post, I wasn't clear that you knew that the nurseries at Cullowhee weren't in that type of business.

It's an excellent topic for next year's conference, and with people who will care about addressing the issue and trying to get better legislation passed.. I am not on the Steering Committee, but will talk about this as a topic for 08 with the folks I know. Are you interested in doing the presentation?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 9:04PM
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Phylla, Are you going again this year? I would love to meet someone fairly local from GW. I'll know about a doz. of the folks from around here, but it is always fun to meet new people. I am doing the fern hike...again. I really have trouble trying to key those green things. And, even if someone gives me great clues, I forget which fern those clues match. Guess it is old age. Email me your answer if you can. Anybody else going this season?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 5:22PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

Where is Cullowhee?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 7:03PM
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Cullowhee is in the extreme western corner of NC. Western NC U is the school there and the host for this conference. From Greensboro it takes about four hours to get there. Some of the hikes are even in the northern part of SC and touching TN, so this should give you an idea of where to look on a map. I am sure you can Mapquest it. People come from many states to this conference, so you should consider it. There may even be spaces at this late date. A great conference for a great price, in my opinion. You can register on-line at the address in the first posting.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 7:13PM
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