“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.” - Geronimo
Step by step, the newness evolved into an expansive fascination. The natural world was wide-open like the blue skies above and rich like the orange glow of butterfly weed sprinkled around us in a cosmic constellation. For some, we had never laid our eyes upon a real prairie, and maybe only fantasized about what it must have been like with the roaming buffalo, or decorated with the freedom of the people indigenous to the landscape. Before the frontier, before settlers, before railroads and cornfields.
United Plant Savers couldn’t have asked for a better venue to hold our Summer 2014 Planting the Future event. Hosted by the incredible efforts of the Kansas Biological Survey and the University of Kansas Field Station in Lawrence, Kansas, we were surrounded by innovation and dedication not only to preserving an ecosystem that is rapidly going extinct, but to a tradition of medicine that is also struggling to stay alive.
The University of Kansas Field Station, the biological field station of the University of Kansas, was established in 1947. The field station is composed broadly of 3400 acres in ten tracts that represent diverse habitats such as tallgrass prairie, forests, and wetlands. Laboratories, gardens, and large-scale field studies on field station lands provide the platform for research and educational programs. Large tracts of native tallgrass prairie are being managed by fire, grazing, and haying which provide an interesting contrast of cause and effect, a mosaic of management outcomes. These tallgrass prairies support many prairie obligate species that also have a long history of medicinal use, such as Asclepias tuberosa and many Echinacea spp. To learn more about the Kansas Biological Survey and the University of Kansas field station and how you can support their critical research, please visit: http://kufs.ku.edu
The impetus behind hosting our Planting the Future event in Lawrence, Kansas was indeed in celebration of the launching of the ‘At-Risk’ Assessment Tool and the work of Dr. Kelly Kindscher of the University of Kansas and Dr. Lisa Castle. Dr. Kelly Kindscher, specializes in Plant Community Ecology and Botany, and heads up the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program of the University of Kansas. Dr. Lisa Castle, Plant Ecologist, a professor of Biology at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and is United Plant Savers’ 2014 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award Recipient. Both of these individuals, along with our executive director Susan Leopold and Rachel Craft are the brains behind the United Plant Savers ‘At-Risk’ Assessment Tool, which has recently been published in the Journal of Ethnobiology. The ‘At-Risk’ Assessment Tool is an adaptable, transparent tool that can be used to quantify and compare vulnerability to overharvest for wild collected medicinal plants. Please visit the following link for an interactive version of the tool and a free download of the published paper: http://www.unitedplantsavers.org/species-at-risk-assessment-tool
We were fortunate to invoke the wisdom and whimsy of Steven Foster, whose talk on the Human Impact on Medicinal Plants was wonderful and inspiring as usual. It had been many years since Steven had taken part in a United Plant Savers event so we were more than thrilled to have him attend. In line with the topics of habitat and human impact, there were presentations on creating pollinator gardens (Jennifer Hopwood), prairie plant walks (Kelly Kindscher and Frank Norman), and a wonderful historical lecture on the pioneer gardens in Lawrence, Kansas (Laurel Sears).
Rosemary Gladstar’s keynote speech regarding honoring traditions and maintaining a voice for traditional herbalism, rang the bell of a common theme for the event. Herbal medicine is ‘the people’s medicine’, but it has also become ‘the people’s responsibility’. Where there is demand for medicinal plants, there will always be pressure on viable wild populations and as consumers we must always be mindful and vigilant. She also spoke of preserving habitat and United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network Program.
There was a splendid component of local knowledge from presenters who have endowed themselves to the greater Lawrence, Kansas community as leaders in traditional medicine. Frank Norman, Ocoee Miller, Kahla Wheeler-Rowan and Mehdi Khosh all presented on the medicinal use of prairie natives, and invasives. There was also a brilliant and thorough lecture on medicinal plants of the prairie by Bevin Clare of the Maryland University of Integrative Health.
With over 200 participants, miraculous yet windy weather, and the steadfast support for our sponsors, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Herb Pharm, The Merc Co-op, and Lawrence Integrative Health, we could not have asked for a more fun, engaging, and fulfilling event. Photos have been posted on our Facebook page, we encourage you to check them out.