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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Past Exhibitions

Native Pennsylvania, A Wildflower Walk

2 March – 29 June 2012

Native wildflowers of Pennsylvania were featured in a collaborative exhibition between the Hunt Institute and the Botany department at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Thirty-six wildflower watercolors by Richard Crist (1909–1985) from the Institute's collection illustrated the simplicity and beauty of our native species. Coupled with Carnegie's significant herbarium specimens, these pieces combined to create a visual wildflower walk through Pennsylvania's blooming seasons with a focus on endangered, rare and threatened species within our state. Additional watercolors by artists Lyn Hayden and Andrey Avinoff (1884–1949) also underscored the exhibition's emphasis on the importance of herbaria and their contributions toward research, education and conservation.

A walk in the woods, along a trail or in an open field places us in an ever-changing world, removed from the everyday experience of information bombarding us from a click of the mouse to a glance at a smartphone screen. Through focused observation and careful study, the kingdom of plants slowly reveals itself. We find a world teeming with activity and a complex network of supportive relationships—a butterfly, bee or fly finding nourishment from a flower and, dusted with pollen, fertilizing that plant, and then a bird or mammal finding its own nourishment from the insects, the plant's leaves or its ripening seeds. In our modern environs it is easy to lose track of the cycles of nature. In which month does a flower appear, when does it fade or go to seed, and which animals does it attract or repel? A wildflower may appear for only a day, a week or a month, but looking forward to that ephemeral miracle of nature is exhilarating. By late February in Pennsylvania we all yearn for a sign that spring is near with its resurgence of the plant life that lay dormant over the cold winter months. In moist habitats, such as bogs, ponds or streams, in that month, you may encounter the emergence of the skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus (Linnaeus) Salisbury ex Nuttall, a plant that generates its own heat to warm the surrounding soil so that it may flower and release an odor that attracts the first small flies of spring.

Native Pennsylvania, A Wildflower Walk allowed visitors to take a virtual walk through a southwestern Pennsylvania growing season and become more familiar with some of the native wildflowers that are integral to so many relationships. Information on our region's many parks, woodlands and wetlands provided throughout the exhibition encouraged visitors to follow their visual walk with a physical one in any of our area's wildflower habitats.

Additional talks and tours

To encourage everyone to learn more about Pennsylvania's native plants, the Hunt Institute offered a series of free talks that were open to the public on Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. throughout the spring and early summer of 2012.

18 March, Steve Grund, "Why do plants bloom when they do? Spring ephemerals and other seasonal flowering patterns"

Spring is a wonderful time of year in western Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Prominent among those reasons is the magnificent profusion of beautiful and intriguing wildflowers in our forests and in other habitats. Why do so many plants bloom early in the spring? Why do others bloom in the fall or at other times? We will illustrate some of our native plants with the paintings of Richard Crist as we focus on the diversity of flowering strategies exhibited by our native plants, emphasizing species that will be coming into bloom locally during the next few months.

Grund studied botany at the University of Michigan and since 1995 has been botanist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. His work is focused on the conservation of the flora of Pennsylvania with emphasis on rare species. He is a research associate with the Botany department at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and a member of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, for which he previously chaired the Pennsylvania Rare Plant Forum.

25 March, Jeanne Poremski, "Pressing and mounting specimens for a personal herbarium"

Jeanne Poremski will demonstrate the process of pressing plants for preservation in a personal herbarium. From the selection of the plant to its pressing, arrangement and gluing, Poremski will cover all aspects of plant preservation for both simple and complex specimens.

Poremski is owner of Jeanne Poremski Gardens in Uniontown, Ohio, a landscape firm that uses appropriate native plants in its designs. She also does volunteer fieldwork and plant identification for the herbarium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. A member of the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, Ohio Native Plant Society and the Northeast Ohio Naturalists, Poremski has also taught classes for the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' Sustainable Horticulture and Landscape and Garden Design certificate programs.

15 April, Mary Joy Haywood, "Wildflowers of Pennsylvania"

As an educator, Haywood believes that learning and teaching about our wildflowers in Pennsylvania is critical today as so many of our plant communities are being destroyed by coal mining, Marcellus Shale drilling and other environmental issues. In her presentation, photographs of plants, such as the rare shrub Pyrularia pubera Michaux, buffalonut; the noxious, but beautiful, Rosa multiflora Thunberg; and the rare globeflower, Trollius laxus Salisbury, will be shown. She also will include many of her favorites, such as violets, gentians, lupines, loosestrifes and the prickly-pear cactus that can be found on the prairie at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Butler County. Many other plants will also be shown and discussed in relationship to the environmental areas where they are located, including bog plants, such as the pitcherplant, Sarracenia purpurea Linnaeus, and the many sundews, Drosera Linnaeus spp.

Haywood is a botanist and plant pathologist and professor emeritus of the Biology Department at Carlow University, where she also served as the chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She is the co-author of the book Wildflowers of Pennsylvania (2001), published by the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania, of which she served as president for twenty years.

22 April (Earth Day), John Totten, "Wildflowers in the home garden"

Native Pennsylvania, A Wildflower Walk is a wonderful combination of the painter's art and the science of botany. Your garden can be another place where art and science meet. Native plants and their wild haunts are powerfully evocative, and, with care, we can create home landscapes that celebrate this beauty and emotion. Creatively using these plants in the garden requires the painter's ability to compose a scene and the scientist's ability to handle plant selection and care. You will learn to evaluate your property with an eye towards selecting suitable plants, purchasing them responsibly and growing them successfully. Even if you are only a container gardener, you have the opportunity to let these plants and places surround you daily.

Totten is a partner in the garden management and development firm, Gardens! LLC. He is an adjunct faculty member at Chatham University's Landscape Architecture graduate program and Penn State University's Sustainable Landscape program. He also teaches classes in the Sustainable Horticulture and Landscape and Garden Design certificate programs through the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

20 May (Carnegie Mellon commencement), gallery tour of Native Pennsylvania, A Wildflower Walk with Hunt Institute curator

24 June (Hunt Institute Open House), Bonnie Isaac, "Rare plants of Pennsylvania"

Nearly one quarter of the native flora of Pennsylvania is considered rare or endangered. Plants are considered rare for a variety of reasons. Find out what some of our rare plants are, why we consider these plants to be rare and what factors we use to classify a plant as rare in Pennsylvania.

Isaac is the collection manager of the Botany department at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and co-curator of this exhibition. She focuses on the ecology of the phytogeography of rare plants, floristics and herbarium techniques. She also is the current president of the Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania, chair of the Pennsylvania Vascular Plant Technical Committee and recording secretary for the Pennsylvania Rare Plant Forum; serves on the steering committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey; and is an adjunct research scientist for the Hunt Institute.

Open House 2012

In conjunction with Native Pennsylvania, A Wildflower Walk, the Hunt Institute held its annual Open House on 24 and 25 June. We offered talks, tours and opportunities to meet one-on-one with our staff to ask questions and see items in the collections. On 24 June Bonnie Isaac, collection manager of the Botany department at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, presented "Rare plants of Pennsylvania." On 25 June Angela Todd (Hunt Institute Archivist, 2000–2013) presented "Early Pennsylvania in writing and images" about plant observations made by John Bartram (1699–1777), Per Kalm (1716–1779), William Baldwin (1779–1819) and Rachel Hunt (1882–1963).

About Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Carnegie Museum's Herbarium is the major botanical facility in the Upper Ohio Valley region and ranks among the top 25 herbaria in North America. In addition to large holdings from the region, the more than 500,000 vascular plant specimens include worldwide geographic and taxonomic representation.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country and is redefining what it means to be a 21st-century natural history museum. It maintains, preserves and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation and biodiversity. Through five new Centers, Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412-622-3131 or by visiting the Web site.

Habenaria fimbriata peramoena, Large purple fringed orchis [Platanthera peramoena (A. Gray) A. Gray, Orchidaceae], watercolor on paper by Richard Crist (1909–1985), 31.5 × 24 cm, HI Art accession no. 6615.309, reproduced by permission of the Richard Crist Estate.