“Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it.”
~ E.O. Wilson, Biodiversity
To recognize outstanding efforts to conserve prairie and to use and promote native plants, the Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! program bestowed 18 awards in 2015.
Tallgrass prairie once covered 15 million acres of Missouri, but today, there are fewer than an estimated 70,000 acres remaining. The hard work of prairie professionals, prairie landowners, and volunteers is critical to conserving and promoting what remains. Plants native to our prairies and other natural communities are now gaining increased acceptance for use in landscaping, stormwater control, water quality, forage, and other uses because of their beauty, resilience, nutrition, and crucial importance for supporting pollinator and wildlife.
In 2015, the Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) recognized three individuals for their excellence in prairie conservation at its annual awards presentation, held this year on October 10 in Cole Camp, MO. Additionally, in recognition of the 15th anniversary of MPF’s Grow Native! program, 15 awards were bestowed to native plant pioneers at MPF’s Annual Dinner in Unity Village, MO on November 6, 2015.
The 2015 awardees are:
• Missouri Prairie Foundation Bill T. Crawford Prairie Professional of the Year: Randy Haas, of Joplin, MO, for his outstanding work to promote and conserve prairies through his long career with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
• Missouri Prairie Foundation Donald M. Christisen Prairie Volunteer of the Year: Lance Jessee of Kansas City, MO, for his volunteer efforts on behalf of prairie, which include seed collection, native plant sale assistance, and Mead’s milkweed research.
• Missouri Prairie Foundation Clair M. Kucera Landowner of the Year: Glen D. Wilson of Joplin, MO for the continued protection of the hundreds of acres of prairie he and his family own in Newton County.
• Grow Native! Native Plant Pioneers recognized for their decades of work to educate about, promote, and cultivate native plants are: Steve Clubine of Windsor, MO; Bill and Joyce Davit of Washington, MO; the late Edgar Denison of Kirkwood, MO; Henry Eilers of Litchfield, IL; the late Cindy Gilberg of St. Louis, MO; Rex and Amy Hamilton of Elk Creek, MO; Greg Hoss of Rolla, MO; Wayne Lovelace of Elsberry, MO; Frank Oberle of Novinger, MO; the late Carl Settergren of Columbia, MO; Tom Toney of Piedmont, MO; Dave Tylka of St. Louis, MO; Mervin Wallace of Brazito, MO; the late John Wylie, of Jefferson City, MO; Dr. George Yatskievych, of Austin, TX.
The Bill T. Crawford Award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding professional contribution to the cause of prairies.
Randy Haas has had a long career with MDC, having worked in the Wildlife Division, on southwest Missouri prairies about 17 years ago, prior to his current position where he Randy assists private landowners, including prairie landowners, with conservation strategies. He was instrumental in advocating for the protection of original prairie on the campus of Missouri Southern University in Joplin. In the past several years, Randy has been extremely helpful to MPF (a private prairie landowner) in identifying potential prairie land acquisition in southwestern Missouri, and with management assistance and advice for MPF’s Joplin Urban Prairie Project, most notably with invasive species control.
MPF Technical Advisor Jeff Cantrell writes, “Randy has helped with every Prairie Jubilee at Prairie State Park that I have known these past 20 years. He almost always works all day giving prairie interpretive tours on hayrides across the landscape. The visitors get on the wagon usually most interested in bison, but Randy gives them an in-depth prairie ecology expedition. The families love it and they learn a lot. Also, between tours at that special event, he helps me at the Natural History booth to promote MPF as well as TNC and MDC with prairie ecology information and sometimes games for youth. In addition, Randy is instrumental in many Missouri Master Naturalists training classes. He provides outstanding instruction on prairie, edge habitat and fire management to the new classes.”
The Donald M. Christisen Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the cause of prairies through volunteer service.
Lance Jessee, a long time member of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, has worked hard with plant identiﬁcation, crawling around in all weather conditions, helping the Missouri Prairie Foundation and private landowners. Ongoing over several years, Lance collects prairie seeds at different KC WildLand sites for restoration of Jerry Smith Park and other Kansas City area prairie remnants. He regularly volunteers to assist with MPF annual native plant sale in Kansas City, educates people on plant identification, organizes and leads tours to prairie sites.
As Vice President of the Missouri Native Plant Society for the last 4 years, Lance has attended meetings, arranged outings and helped lead the group in surveying, identifying and classifying native plants. Lance has attended meetings for Missouri Meads milkweed recovery with the head of the Federal Forestry with the Federal Government, and has helped survey for the Eastern and Western Prairie Fringe Orchid and worked with Ken O’Dell of the Kansas Native Plant Society (KNPS) to locate Mead’s milkweed and collect seed.
Lance is retired but continues to be CEO of Posty Cards a LEED Platinum certiﬁed family business in Kansas City that features native plants in the landscaping to address stormwater runoff and serves as a model for others to adopt. Lance provided MPF the use of the Posty Cards facility for a fundraising event
The Clair M. Kucera Prairie Landowner of the Year Award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the cause of prairie through ownership/stewardship.
Glen D. Wilson and his family have owned and protected hundreds of acres of remnant native prairie in Newton County Missouri for many decades. Glen’s prairies contain many mima mounds and are not and have not been grazed because Glen feels that grazing is not good for the prairies. His prairie acres are located in an area where there is great demand for cropland and suburban development.
Preserving his prairie acres has been very important to Glen, and he is working with his niece to continue their protection after he is gone. Glenn provided for long-term protection of some of his prairie land many years ago by selling it to the Missouri Department of Conservation to become part of the Diamond Grove Conservation Area.
Glen’s care of his prairies over the years and his plans for continued care after he is gone should serve as a model and motivation for other owners of native prairie remnants to recognize their value and care for and provide for their protection into the future.
As part of the 15th Anniversary celebration of Grow Native!, the program honored individuals who were instrumental in promoting native plants before there was a Grow Native! program. Awards were announced and bestowed at the Missouri Prairie Foundation Annual Dinner at Unity Village, Kansas City, on November 6, 2015.
The following individuals were honored for their work that was foundational to the knowledge and use of native plants in natural and developed landscapes.
STEVE CLUBINE served as the Missouri Department of Conservation’s grassland biologist for 32 years before retiring in 2010. Clubine preached the use of native prairie grasses and forbs as viable alternatives to the use of exotic species, ingrained in the thinking and practice of forage professionals in grassland landscape management in Missouri. As a prodigious reader and networker, Clubine gathered, interpreted, and shared the results of grassland, livestock, and forage research from myriad sources. For decades, he published the quarterly statewide Native Warm Season Grass Newsletter that dispensed the lessons he gleaned, and which, at its peak, reached more than 4,000 landowners and staff in conservation agencies across the state and country. During the 1980s Clubine helped the U.S. Department of the Army establish a comprehensive grassland management plan for Fort Leonard Wood. His work with the Missouri Department of Transportation resulted
in the expanded use of native grasses and wildflowers along Missouri roadsides. Clubine had tremendous influence on state and federal grassland program policy, including the development of many technical practice standards. He helped develop and implement the Partners for Wildlife and Native Prairie Restoration Incentive Programs, Missouri’s first cost-share practices aimed at improving privately owned native prairie for grassland wildlife. Clubine believed that a clearer understanding and better practices of grassland wildlife and land management derived not from tradition or habit, but through scientific research. His efforts gained him the respect of his associates and the public, earned him a wide range of honors, and ushered in sweeping expansion and improvements to knowledge about and management of native grasslands.
BILL AND JOYCE DAVIT began promoting and planting natives in the 1970s— collecting seed along remnant strips of prairie along railroad tracks, germinating native trees, one seed at a time, and promoting natives, to one person at a time. In their quiet, steadfast way, the couple contributed to changing attitudes and, along with others, launching a movement. At Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, MO, where they lived and worked, they contributed to the restoration and reconstruction of numerous native landscapes. These native habitats and gardens at Shaw have introduced and taught hundreds of thousands of visitors about the value of native plants. Their work included conducting prairie tours and wildflower walks to win over more people to natives, and decades in the greenhouse, growing natives, and in the field, managing prairie plantings—learning as they went. In addition, Bill was a knowledgeable resource in choosing plants for inclusion in the native plant collection at the University of Missouri–Columbia’s Woodland and Floral Gardens, constructed in the late 1970s. Bill also established native prairie and woodland plantings at the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center in St. Louis in the 1990s. Joyce’s contributions also include the germination and cultivation of thousands of natives for Heartland Prairie at Gordon Moore Park and rare species for the Center for Plant Conservation.
EDGAR DENISON (deceased) was a conservationist, amateur botanist, and naturalist, and an early proponent of using native plants in cultivated landscapes. He advocated for preserving and restoring biodiversity in natural and disturbed habitats. He wrote the text and provided many illustrations and photographs for the popular field guide, Missouri Wildflowers, published in 1972 by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Now in its 6th edition, the book has sold more than 100,000 copies and has introduced thousands of people to the beauty and wonder of Missouri’s native plants. Denison was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1904, and acquired an early interest in nature on frequent trips to Switzerland with his father. He immigrated to St. Louis in 1927. In America, he continued to study nature and share his knowledge with others. He planted more than 1,000 species in his personal garden in Kirkwood. Denison was a founding member of the Missouri Native Plant Society and wrote many articles for its publication, Missouriensis. He was also active in the Missouri Prairie Foundation, which named one of its prairies in Barton County the Edgar and Ruth Denison Prairie in honor of him and his wife.
HENRY EILERS started the H.E. Nursery in Litchfield, Illinois in 1965, where he could apply his passion for horticulture and native plants as a profession. He was born in East Friesland, Germany in 1934, where his parents were dairy farmers. He credits his mother for giving him a love of wildflowers and nature. After high school he attended a horticultural trade school and then found work as a greenhouse manager. In 1955, Eilers immigrated to the United States and had various jobs in Litchfield, Illinois, until he decided to start his own business. As a nurseryman, he discovered and cultivated a selection of native sweet coneflower, which has become popular in horticulture: Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’. He is an ardent advocate for protecting native plants in their natural settings, as well as for their use in horticulture. He spent 25 years convincing the City of Litchfield to preserve a tract of woodland and prairie. His success in that endeavor led to what is now the 266-acre Henry Eilers Shoal Creek Conservation Area, which provides habitat for 700 species of plants.
CINDY GILBERG (deceased) pursued a passion for horticulture and received a degree in ornamental horticulture from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She fine-tuned the art of gardening as co-owner of Gilberg Perennial Farms, a garden center that offered a wide array of unusual, hard-to-find perennials. Starting in 1993,Gilberg began working with and for Shaw Nature Reserve on a variety of plant education endeavors, and also worked there designing, installing, and maintaining native plantings. In recent years, Gilberg was a native landscaping consultant, assisting people with landscape design, stormwater management, native plant landscaping, and the creation of habitat gardens. She was a past-president of the Greater St. Louis Horticulture Co-op, Midwest Director for the Perennial Plant Association, and a Grow Native! professional member. Gilberg’s ideas on native plants and landscaping were chronicled over the past decade through regular contributions to the Native Plant School Newsletter, Gateway Gardener, Healthy Planet, the Kansas City Gardener, Missouri Ruralist, and Ozark Living. She taught many horticulture classes, both residential and commercial, over the past 30 years. Gilberg worked hard, using her abundant talents, to teach people about the use of native plants, and to help professionals and amateurs work confidently with them.
REX AND AMY HAMILTON began harvesting, cleaning, and selling native warm-season grass seed in 1981. When the Conservation Reserve Program, in the mid 1980s, created more demand for native grasses in an effort to reduce soil erosion, the Hamiltons spent more time harvesting in the fields and took greater note of the wildflowers. They began harvesting forb seeds by hand in 1987. Soon, the Hamiltons began selling seeds and bare-root plants through a mail-order operation, numbering among the few sources in Missouri for consumers to purchase reliably good, pure native plants and seed. Throughout the years, the Hamiltons have promoted the restoration of prairie landscapes, and have lent their voices to agencies and committees working to improve the quality of Missouri’s native plant materials. They encourage the expanse of grasslands to restore degraded landscapes and benefit wildlife, and educate livestock producers about the benefits of native grasses as forage. Their business has expanded into a family operation that now includes their grown children. The Hamiltons increasingly reach out to the public, through their website, e-newsletters, field days and more, to help others successfully plant and manage natives in landscapes large and small.
GREG HOSS was a forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation (now retired) who had a deep interest in native plants, especially their propagation and management. During the last ten years of his career, Hoss supervised the George White State Nursery. Under his leadership, the nursery phased out the production of exotic and non-native plants in favor of natives, and expanded the inventory to include many additional species of natives, shrubs as well as trees, such as spicebush, pawpaw, corkwood, and Carolina buckthorn. Where possible, Hoss obtained seed from Missouri sources. He cooperated on special projects with Missouri Department of Conservation area managers and other professionals at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Shaw Nature Reserve, to raise plants, such as native cane and prairie cordgrass, for special projects. He promoted special, low-cost plant bundles of several native species that made it practical for small landowners and suburban dwellers to plant native trees and shrubs on their property. Every year, the nursery provided a native tree to every fourth-grader in Missouri. Over his career, Hoss oversaw the production of millions of native trees, shrubs, and many grasses and forbs, which have enhanced Missouri’s landscape and benefitted wildlife and the public.
WAYNE LOVELACE pioneered the nursery production and wholesale/retail availability of an extensive list of Missouri native woody plants, particularly the Quercus (oak) genus, through his work at the Forrest Keeling Nursery in Elsberry, MO. In the aftermath of the massive tree death caused by the 1993 Midwest floods, Lovelace was spurred to develop something better than conventional bare root stock material—with its low survival rates and slow growth—for the massive replanting at hand. Lovelace developed a containerized growing system, which concentrated on enhancing root growth. Trees and shrubs propagated with this system, and planted according to Forrest Keeling’s recommendations, have a 95 percent survival rate and earlier maturation. Through the nursery’s specialization of the production of native tree and shrub seedlings, native woody plant materials are avail- able to everyone for large and small-scale landscape projects. Forrest Keeling has collaborated with other nurseries and with conservation and private organizations to facilitate wetland restoration, wildlife habitat development, degraded landscape renewal, and the regeneration of native hardwood trees in hostile environments.
FRANK OBERLE’S passion for the environment, particularly prairies, has been expressed through every facet of his life. His premier images of prairies and native plants illustrate magazines such as National Geographic and National Wildlife, and books including Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers—A Field Guide of Common Wildflowers and Plants of the Prairie Midwest. In 1993, Frank and his wife, Judy, purchased 300 acres of land in Adair County, and immediately began restoring the prairie landscape. Their efforts turned into a career calling, and Pure Air Seed was born, a business that provided native seed, plant materials, and consultations, all directed toward helping customers successfully establish and manage native grasslands. Frank worked with other Missouri native seed producers and collectors, and state and federal organizations, to establish the Missouri Native Seed Association in 2007. In 2011, Frank was the driving force in getting the Conservation Reserve Program Subcommittee established as part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s State Technical Committee. Oberle has given freely of his time and knowledge to improve the Grassland Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Habitat Incentives Program. All Frank’s endeavors have advanced the public’s understanding and appreciation of native prairie plants. He never tires of helping others appreciate nature and guides their efforts to successfully restore the native landscape and extend the use of natives in developed landscapes.
CARL SETTERGREN (deceased) was affiliated with the University of Missouri for more than 50 years. As a professor in the Department of Forestry in the School of Natural Resources, his career was marked with distinction and excellence. He received his bachelor’s degree in forestry in 1958 and master’s degree of forestry in 1960, and became a member of the MU faculty, teaching and conducting research in forest ecology and watershed management. He earned his Ph.D. in forest hydrology from Colorado State University in 1967. His research and scholarship made important contributions to the field, including the publication of Trees of Missouri, which he co-authored, an important early book on native trees in Missouri. It was an invaluable resource in researching plants for inclusion in the native plant collection at the MU Woodland and Floral Gardens, constructed in the 1970s, and undoubtedly, for many other projects throughout the state. In 2002, Settergren was awarded the Missouri Society of American Foresters’ highest honor, the Karkhagne Award. Both on the Columbia campus and at the University Forest summer camp, thousands of students knew him as a passionate teacher and a good friend.
TOM TONEY was a wildlife biologist (now retired) in the Wildlife Division of the Missouri Department of Conservation, with a love of native plants and natural com- munities, especially prairies. He was involved in some of the Department’s first plant inventories of its lands, one of which was the massive Ted Shanks Conservation Area on the Mississippi River. He was interested in the importance of native plants as wildlife food, and helped with food habits research. He was the Department’s first “Prairie Biologist” and was given management responsibility for Department prairies in southwestern Missouri. His management favored native species, conservative species enhancement, and diverse prairie natural communities. He experimented with different timing of prescribed burns and haying, to assure that rare and conservative native plant species persisted as well as the more aggressive natives. He was an accomplished botanist and one of the few employees at the Department with an in-depth knowledge of the vascular plants of the prairie. He was also active in the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Toney served as “eyes in the field” for the Department’s Natural History Chief John Wylie, reporting to John on high quality prairies and other botanically rich tracts that came available for purchase in his region of the state. He and Wylie schemed, often successfully, to convince Department administration of the merits of public ownership of these botanical gems. Paintbrush Prairie was one such tract.
DAVID TYLKA was the first St. Louis urban biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and he has taught ecology and field courses in zoology and botany at St. Louis Community College at Meramec full-time for more than 20 years. In the mid-1980s, Tylka was already putting together the first naturescaping workshops and symposia in the region and urging the use of native plants in the urban landscape. Tylka also encouraged retail plant nurseries to grow and sell natives, and was instrumental in suggesting species and helping growers acquire seeds. George Yatskievych credits Tylka with very early impressing upon him the need to keep horticultural information in the revised edition of Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri. Tylka was an outspoken advocate of changing weed ordinances in local municipalities to make them friendlier to non-traditional landscaping, and brought in experts to help plead his case. At Meramec College, Tylka had substantial influence on the broad and dynamic horticulture program by including native plant materials and philosophy in its associate’s degree curriculum, and through incorporating natives into the campus landscaping. Most Missourians know Tylka as the author of a groundbreaking book—Native Landscaping for Wildlife and People—which has been a great contribution to the native movement. Early on, Tylka advocated planting for pollinators and migratory birds, and for the beauty and advantages of native species for environmentally friendly, low-maintenance gardens.
MERVIN WALLACE is the owner of Missouri Wildflowers Nursery, which he started on his property south of Jefferson City in 1984. One of the pioneers in the native plant business, Wallace’s mission has been not only to grow and sell native plants, but also to teach Missourians about their value. He demonstrates the many ways natives can be used in home landscapes by creating gardens at the nursery, and helps people get started with natives by including a wealth of information in his catalog. About the same time Wallace started the nursery, the Missouri Department of Transportation began exploring ways to use native plants on roadsides. Many people, both in and outside MODOT, were less than enthusiastic about deliberately planting “weeds” along rights-of-way. Wallace knew that glade and dry prairie species would flourish on many roadsides and, using his own resources, started seeding areas on Highway 54, near the nursery in the mid-1980s. He gradually added miles south toward the Lake of the Ozarks and north toward Jefferson City. He also planted seeds on new construction in mid-Missouri along Highway 179 and Highway 50. These plantings have flourished, and each spring motorists are treated to swaths of tickseed coreopsis, yellow and pale purple coneflower, purple beardtongue, and Missouri evening primrose. In his quiet way, Wallace has had a profound impact on Missouri’s native plants. To many, he is considered the Johnny Appleseed of Missouri’s native flora.
JOHN WYLIE (deceased) was the first Natural History Chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation, and believed that part of his new unit’s mission was to promote native plants. He used his prodigious influence and creativity to make this happen. Wylie wanted amateur and professional botanists of the state to interact and advocate for the protection of native plants and their habitats. To promote this, he proposed the formation of the Missouri Native Plant Society and called people together for a statewide meeting, which he hosted, to explore the concept. An organizational meeting for the society followed. Wylie assigned Department staff to support the new group in many ways during its formative years. He recognized the importance of Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri and worked with Dr. Peter Raven from the Missouri Botanical Garden to begin the research and publication of an update of that book, hiring George Yatskievych to assume leadership of the project. Yatskievych’s work was funded through the Department. Wylie created a new botanist position within the Department. He promoted the acquisition by the Department of important areas based primarily on their botanical significance including Holly Ridge, Pickle Spring, Allred Lake, Hornersville Swamp, Star School Hill Prairie, Buford Mountain, Sand Ponds Natural Area, Corkwood Natural History Area, and many public prairies. John supported the establishment of the Missouri Natural Features Inventory and the Natural Heritage Database. He strongly advocated for the Missouri Natural Areas Program and hired the first natural areas coordinator to strengthen that program. Wylie was a popular public speaker and loved to talk about the significance of Missouri’s native flora. He was also a prolific popular writer, authoring dozens of article for the Missouri Conservationist magazine. Wylie’s legacy resides in scores of floristically rich public lands that would not have been protected without his direction, the Missouri Native Plant Society, the revised and expanded Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri, and the dozens of Department foresters and natural history staff that he hired and influenced during their careers.
GEORGE YATSKIEVYCH received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in Plant Sciences from the University of Indiana, Bloomington. In 1987, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Botanical Garden collaborated on a monumental undertaking—research and publication of an update of Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri. Yatskievych was hired as project leader. The many changes in plant diversity and distribution since the 1963 publication of Steyermark’s original Flora resulted in an expansion of the original publication into three volumes. The final volume of the opus was published in 2013. The completed revision—Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri—was hailed as a landmark achievement that would be used for decades, if not centuries, to come. In total, the volumes’ 3,600 pages list nearly 3,000 plants, including 750 species previously undocumented in Missouri, and some of which were entirely new to science. George has gone on record, advising, “This is not a field guide. It’s not just a book of pretty pictures. It may even be too much for some people.” Yet the revised Flora is an essential tool for botanists, conservationists, scientists, land planners, and gardeners, and it is impossible to overestimate the value of Yatskievych’s work in providing access to information about Missouri’s native plants, to both professional and amateur botanists.