THE MICHIGAN BOTANICAL CLUB: AN EARLY HISTORY
Herbert E. Conant, 1984
© 1999 Michigan Botanical Club, All Rights Reserved
The Michigan Botanical Club, known originally as The Michigan Wildflower Association, has its roots in the upper peninsula of Michigan at Trout Lake. It was formed on May 31, 1941, at the first Hiawathaland Wildflower Festival, which was held at Phil DeGraff's Birchwood Lodge. The Festival was jointly sponsored by the Trout Lake Civic Club and the Michigan Conservation Department. About 50 people interested in wildflowers and other aspects of conservation gathered there and, during the meeting, decided to form a permanent organization dedicated to the preservation of wildflowers and other plants that were in danger of becoming extinct due to commercial exploitation.
Among the people attending the festival were Ruth Mosher Place, garden editor, and Kendrick Kimball, conservation writer, of The Detroit News. Officers elected were: President, Marjorie T. Bingham, botanist at Cranbrook Institute of Science; Vice President, C.A. Paquin, chief of the education division, Michigan Department of Conservation; and Secretary-Treasurer, Bessie B. Kanouse, assistant curator of the University of Michigan Herbarium. Bessie Kanouse soon resigned and was replaced by Phil DeGraff, director of Birchwood Lodge, president of the Trout Lake Civic Club, and sponsor of the festival.
It was determined at this first meeting that the organization's goals would be to seek legislation to protect wildflowers, to educate the public to recognize and appreciate wild plants, and to encourage the publication of literature on Michigan's wild plants. These objectives were later incorporated in the organization's first constitution. It was agreed also that the organization would meet four times a year. Membership would be open to all interested persons. Local chapters of the organization were to be encouraged throughout the state. No organization of this type had ever before been attempted in Michigan.
Field trips and lectures also took place during the festival, as well as Indian dances inspired by the trailing arbutus. A woodland chapel on Phil DeGraff's estate was dedicated by the Reverend Seward H. Bean, rector of Saint Andrews Memorial Church of Detroit. The first meeting of The Michigan Wildflower Association was publicized by Ken Kimball's well-illustrated article in the June 22, 1941, rotogravure section of The Detroit News. Ruth Mosher Place and Grace V. Sharrit, garden editor of The Detroit Free Press, also provided publicity.
In all likelihood, not everyone who attended the first meeting wished to become or became members of the organization. It has been reported, oddly enough, that a bowl was placed on a table and that people present were asked to contribute a dollar or more toward the organization.
The second meeting of the Michigan Wildflower Association was held August 11 and 12, 1941, in a joint session with the Plant Science Seminar at Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills. An all-day field trip was conducted under the leadership of Marjorie T. Bingham, president of the association. The habitats visited were oak-hickory clay upland, mixed hardwood, beech-maple climax, flood-plain forest, tamarack bog, a different oak forest, and a virgin timber beech-maple climax forest. Altogether, this was a remarkable achievement for a single day! At this meeting, two new classes of membership were added: Junior Membership and Honorary Membership. Honorary Membership was created to honor those "who make outstanding contributions to the work of the Association either by their services or donations of money."
On October 9, 1941, President Bingham presented a paper, "The New Michigan Wildflower Association," at the two-day Conservation Institute held at the University of Michigan. A considerable number of newspaper articles were written, which called statewide attention to the association at that time.
The 1941 Fall General Meeting was held at the Conservation Department Training School at Higgins Lake on October 25 and 26. Here, the Michigan Wildflower Association voted to become a member of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, planned a winter meeting, and adopted the association's first constitution. Other features of the meeting included motion pictures of the Wildflower Festival where the organization was formed, a trip to Hartwick Pines State Park, a second evening program with lectures by Walter Nickell, Ernst A. Bessey and William Messinger, and a Sunday morning bird hike by Walter Nickell.
The first winter meeting of the Michigan Wildflower Association was held at the Downtown Y.W.C.A. on Witherell Street in Detroit on Feb. 7, 1942. It was an all-day meeting and included talks and illustrated lectures in the morning by the president, Marjorie T. Bingham; Mrs. Neil T. Kelley, who spoke on "Nature Study Programs for Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls;" and Dr. Alexander H. Smith on "Common Mushrooms and How to Identify Them." After lunch and a business meeting, there were addresses by Dr. William C. Steere on "Botanical Explorations in Puerto Rico, "Dr. Florence H. Billig on "What Can the Michigan Wildflower Association Do for the Nature Study Teacher." Ruth Mosher Place gave a talk on "The Michigan Plans of the National Victory Garden Program," and Marjorie T. Bingham on "the Role for the Natural History Museum in Nature Study Education." The evening program consisted of a banquet followed by an illustrated address on Michigan Wildflowers by Walter Hastings, of the Michigan Department of Conservation. It was quite a program! I wonder how they could absorb so much in just one day?
Plans had been made at a September 12, 1941, Board Meeting at Trout Lake to take part in the Detroit Flower Show in March of 1942. The Michigan Wildflower Exhibit featured natural plant materials used by birds in making their nests. Abby Beecher Roberts of Marquette shipped a box of red osier dogwood, willow, poplar, birch bark, and cone-laden branches of jack pine and balsam together with some interesting fungi for the exhibit. This exhibit was the first of what became an annual project carried on by the Southeastern Chapter for many years. It began again in 1978.
For their second annual meeting, May 29-31, 1942, the Michigan Wildflower Association returned to the Wildflower Festival at Trout Lake. (This is probably the origin of the Memorial Day weekend outing, which has been carried on each year at that time, with two exceptions when, for more southerly trips, the outings were a month earlier--in Ohio in 1966, and in southwestern Michigan in 1978). Election of officers resulted in the reelection of the original slate. The membership had now grown to 126. As a contribution to the war effort (World War II), medicinal plants were featured, some 20 species being found in the vicinity of Trout Lake. Another event at this meeting was a dish garden contest. Mrs. T.A. Kinny of Birmingham won first place. Fred Case, Jr., of Saginaw, placed second, and Abby Beecher Roberts of Marquette was third. (This is the same Fred Case, Jr., then 15, who is now well known for his scholarly treatise, Orchids of the Western Great Lakes Region, which he dedicated to "Marjorie T. Bingham, botanist, teacher, friend." It was a worthy successor to Mrs. Bingham's own book, "Orchids of Michigan," which was published just two years before she founded the Association.) A field trip was taken to the Fibbon Quarry near Trout Lake where some rare and unusual plants, believed to thrive only in the dark and semi-dark caves of this particular limestone formation, were found.
The 1942 summer meeting of the Association was held at the University of Michigan Biological Station at Douglas Lake, August 23 to 26, at the invitation of Dr. William C. Steere, bryologist of the University of Michigan, who was also on staff at the station. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Sullivant Moss Society meeting. Daily field trips and evening discussions emphasizing mosses, lichens, and liverworts were held. Some 150 specimens of mosses were collected and a Marquette, Michigan newspaper reported that Abby Beecher Roberts said "members of the Wildflower Association were amazed and delighted and an entirely new world of nature was opened to the majority of the members present." A dish garden containing a seedling pitcher plant, a one-inch tall cedar, 25 or 30 mosses and other woodland plants and some red-striped salamanders was made up and sent to Fred Case, Jr., who had just been stricken with infantile paralysis.
In accordance with the primary purpose of the Michigan Wildflower Association, which was to seek legislation to protect Michigan's rare and endangered species of wildflowers and other plants, President Bingham, in her December 1, 1942, letter to members, announced that a bill would be introduced in the 1943 legislative session"for the protection of certain native Michigan plants. This bill, if passed, will make it illegal to pick and offer for sale arbutus, gentians, trilliums, all species of native orchids, North American lotus, clubmosses, flowering dogwood, pipsissewa, and climbing bittersweet." She stated further that "we sincerely appreciate your cooperation in filling out the questionnaire mailed last week. This is the evidence we need to support our contention that native Michigan plants should be protected from commercial exploitation."
The bill had the support of the Michigan Department of Conservation and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. In her January 15, 1943, letter to members, President Bingham stated that they also had the support of the Isaak Walton League, the Michigan Horticultural Society, the Michigan Horticultural Council, the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan, and the Detroit Academy of Natural Sciences. It was not without some opposition, however, even from conservationists, for Ben East, conservation writer for the Grand Rapids Press, on February 10, 1943, wrote:
The Wildflower Association is well-intentioned but greatly overzealous. No more absurd proposal has been presented to the Michigan legislature in the name of conservation in recent years. A sensible law to restrict and regulate the commercial sale of certain rare wildflowers and native plants would be welcome, but the present bill falls far short of being that kind of measure. Neither need nor excuse exists for the Wildflower Association's proposal, nor can it be enforced if the legislature should be unwise enough to enact it. Michigan is badly overtaxed now with senseless and dead laws. Emphatically this one should not be added to the list.
This bill, known as The Christmas Tree Act (the wildflower protection was a rider on the bill), was introduced by Representative Arnell Engstrom and John C. Guggisberg in the regular session of the 62nd Legislature on March 4, 1943. The bill passed by 80 to 1 in the House and was unanimously accepted by the Senate. It was signed by Governor Kelly and took effect July 30, 1943.
No history of the early days of the Michigan Wildflower Association would be complete without some reference to the effects of World War II on the organization and its members. Members went to war. Phil DeGraff, the secretary-treasurer of the association, received a commission as a senior lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was replaced by Ann M. Boyes. The members of the junior chapter in Saginaw, organized by Fred Case, Jr., all entered the armed services of the United States.
Due to wartime rationing of fuel and tires for automobiles, field trips and other meetings of the organization were restricted both in number and the distances traveled. When possible, they were held where public transportation was available. Notices included directions as to which street car and/or bus lines to take and where to transfer. Some state meetings and elections were conducted by mail and telephone, and activities were held to a minimum for the duration of the war. This, in part, may have accelerated the interest in local chapters and the dominant position of the Southeastern Chapter, based in Detroit.
In a clipping from the Marquette Mining Journal, dated June 1, 1942, it is noted that President Bingham, at a meeting held on the above date, informed the club that it had been invited to affiliate with the Victory Garden campaign. Those attending this meeting decided to stress medicinal plants in the activities of the association, which agreed to foster the protection, growing, gathering, packaging, and marketing of native medicinal plants.
In a clipping form the Menominee Herald, dated October 29, 1942, we also find that "Abby Beecher Roberts, naturalist of Marquette, lectured at the fall meeting of the Michigan Wildflower Association held at Higgins Lake October 12, 1942, on Noxious Weeds Beneficial to Mankind." She exhibited about 40 species of common roadside weeds and mentioned common plantain (Plantago major) as good for sore or blistered feet and recommended placing the leaves in one's shoes. She listed dandelions, burdock, yarrow, and horsetail fleabane as useful plants. Plans were also made for continuing research for other culinary and medicinal herbs. The members from Marquette who attended the meeting stopped at Petoskey on the way home to observe the milkweed industry, which had started in response to the Navy's request for a million pounds of floss for life-jackets. Incidental to this effort, it was found that milkweed seeds were useful as cattle feed, because they are more nutritious than soy beans.
The Michigan Botanical Club, the present name of the organization, has had three different names during its existence. The first president, Marjorie Bingham, brought up the question of a change in the name of the Michigan Wildflower Association at a board of directors meeting held on May 31, 1946. She had received several requests that a name more representative of the work being done by the association be adopted. Margaret Haigh then moved "that the name of the Michigan Wildflower Association be changed to Michigan Association for Native Plant Protection." The motion, seconded by C.A. Paquin was passed unanimously, and was effective immediately. President Bingham reported the name change to the membership at the state meeting held on June 2, 1946. This name was used by the organization until February 27, 1949. The present name, Michigan Botanical Club, was not agreed upon very easily. In fact, it caused quite a controversy. A name change was discussed at the annual meeting of June 12, 1948, when the results of a postcard survey were announced. The matter was tabled at this meeting and brought up again at a meeting of the board of directors and the executive committee held on February 27, 1949. After much discussion, Alex Smith moved and Paul VanBuskirk seconded, that the group present vote, in order of preference, on four names that had been suggested. After two ballots, the choice was narrowed down from "Michigan Association for Native Plant Protection," "Michigan Botanical Club," "Michigan Wildflower Association," and "Michigan Native Plant Society" to "Michigan Botanical Club." John Jackson moved that the name "Michigan Botanical Club" be adopted unanimously. The motion was seconded by Clarence Messner, and carried without dissent. This was not the end of the controversy, however, since the Southeastern Chapter had take a poll that favored the name "Michigan Wildflower Association." As a compromise, ballots were sent to the general membership with the four suggested names, and the name "Michigan Botanical Club" was finally chosen over some opposition from the general membership, especially in the Southeastern Chapter.
One might wonder why, in each case, the constitution was not followed. The name of the organization was stated in Article I, and Article IX stated how it could be amended. A two- week notice, in writing, of the proposed amendment to all members of the board of directors, and a previous recommendation by the executive committee were required, followed by the favorable vote of the board of directors. The result may have been the same, but at least it would have been legal. (This controversy is probably what led to and caused the constitution to be extensively revised and amended.)
As noted at its first meeting, the Michigan Wildflower Association agreed that regional chapters were to be encouraged. This was reiterated by the passing of a motion to that effect at a board of directors meeting held on October 24, 1941. Soon thereafter four regional chapters were formed, two of which were junior chapters. The latter were chapters with members less than 18 years of age. Later the policy was changed so that junior members had to be sponsored by an adult. The very first was the Bay County Wildflower Association, which already existed. It became affiliated with the state organization and made its first report at a state meeting on August 12, 1942. Mrs. Robert Joiner, its first president, reported a membership of 15 as of February 10, 1942. The chapter remained active for about 10 years, and became inactive at the March 15, 1952, state board meeting.
The first junior chapter was the Saginaw Wildflower Society, which was announced at the August 24, 1942, state meeting. Fred Case, Jr., was its first president. The chapter consisted of a boy scout troop that started a wildflower sanctuary on the property of Fred's father. As already noted, all of its members entered the armed services during World War II. The chapter was never reactivated because the members became scattered after returning from the war. The third local chapter to be affiliated with the wildflower association was in Marquette. Its first officers, elected in October 1942, were: president, F.P. Burrall; vice president, Mrs. Abby Beecher Roberts; and secretary-treasurer, Mrs. Carroll Paul, who first kept the scrapbook of the association from which much of the material for this history was obtained.
Another chapter, formed early in the club's history, was the East Grand Rapids Junior Chapter, organized in February 1943. It was sponsored by the East Grand Rapids Congregational Church. Miss Patricia Edwards served as its first president. The chapter had an active program, which included planting a biblical herb garden on the church lawn and assisting in the restoration of Hodenpyl Wood, a neglected and vandalized nature park, which had been donated to the city. The club took field trips and had regular indoor programs. It first reported at the state meeting at Waldenwoods on May 15, 1943, and continued to report at state meetings for several years. The chapter was reported disbanded in a note from Francis M. Taylor on December 17, 1948.
There was also a Copper Country Chapter based around Houghton, Michigan, known as the Wildlife Chapter, which was organized in June 1949. Its first president was Arthur Boggs, a professor at Michigan College of Mining and Technology. He reported on March 15, 1952, at the state board meeting held at Cranbrook Institute of Science, although the chapter had been reported inactive at the January 28, 1951 meeting. Robert Joiner, of the Bay County Chapter, had moved to Houghton and was responsible for starting this chapter.
A local chapter of the association in the southeastern part of the state was first suggested by Arlene Hadley at the Douglas Lake meeting in August 1942. Clarence Messner was then appointed to call together a group to discuss the matter. Nothing more was accomplished until the camp out at Waldenwoods on May 15, 1943, when George Thomson raised the question. Through his and Messner's efforts, a chapter in the Detroit area was finally formed. Several field trips were held during the summer of 1943, but the organizational meeting did not occur until June 4, 1944, at Belle Isle. Clyde Smith was elected President and Margaret Haigh was elected Vice President.
Margaret Haigh was elected president the following year, and the membership rose rapidly, with a full program throughout the year. Field trips were scheduled monthly (more often during the spring, summer, and fall), and color slide programs relating to wild plants or conservation were held at the WWJ Radio auditorium during the colder months. The chapter was invited to make a wildflower exhibit at the Detroit Flower Show in the spring of 1946. Wild plants in the dormant stage were collected and forced in a greenhouse to flower at the correct time for the show. A natural looking woodland scene was constructed to display the flower. This annual Flower Show exhibit was contributed for several years, but was finally dropped from the show for lack of an invitation to participate. However it was revived again, with great success, in the spring of 1978. The chapter acquired many new members at these flower shows, and the shows helped greatly in keeping membership at well over 300. At one time, membership reached 385.
In 1947, an international wildflower photographic salon was added to the wildflower garden exhibit, under the dedicated leadership of Florence and Roger Richards. The first place photograph was won by Stacey Clingersmith. The salon received many favorable comments but was not a financial success and was discontinued the following year. In addition to the regularly scheduled field trips, the chapter members were, for several years, invited by Thelma and George Thomson to join them on outings in the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. Many remember the climb up the talus slope, the orchids and other bog plants at Oliphant Beach, and the hart's-tongue ferns in the woods at Keppel. Dale Hagenah was the first member to discover hart's-tongue ferns here.
It was suggested that the chapter have a fall camp out to supplement the spring camp out of the state organization. The first one was held in September 1945 at Cedar Lake group camp in the Waterloo Recreation Area. The camp out was held on a weekend with evening slide programs and field trips Saturday morning and afternoon and Sunday forenoon. The food was provided, cooked, and served by members present, and the first evening included Cornish miner-style pasties. The second fall camp out was held at Island Lake group camp, and for several years following that, at Walker House in Kensington Park. The fall camp outs became and still are annual events.
Another popular activity of the Southeastern Chapter is their annual gourmet pot luck. This was first started as a Christmas party and was held December 28, 1946, at Elizabeth Park's, Trenton, Michigan. Some of the early ones were held at Belle Isle and at Rouge Park. Due to the demand for recreation centers at this season, this activity is now usually held in late January or early February. Everyone brings food prepared according to one of their favorite recipes, and an international variety results.
The Michigan Natural Areas Council and the Big Trees Project began as activities of the Southeastern Chapter. The Chapter has also sponsored classes for adults on a variety of botanical subjects, the first one being a class on wildflower identification taught by Paul Thompson in April 1946. Later classes were on mushrooms by Alex Smith, ferns by Dale Hagenah, and trees and other woody plants by Paul Thompson.
The chapter encouraged junior memberships (those less than 18 years of age) and has had as many as 50 juniors on its membership list. Special programs and, at times, prizes were awarded.
Through the efforts of Mrs. Grace Votey, a very early member of the Michigan Wildflower Association, and her daughter, Marjorie Votey, The Northwestern Chapter, located in Traverse City, was developed. A formal application for chapter membership in the state organization was accepted on June 8, 1957. The 30 members were from Williamsburg, Elk Rapids, Benton Harbor, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, and Omena, as well as Traverse City. The first officers were: President, Preston M. Smith; Vice President, Marjorie Votey; Secretary, Mary E. Edwards; and Treasurer, Deborah M. Gibson.
The chapter had an interesting series of activities and projects, including a display at the Traverse County Fair, a pancake supper to raise money for the Haigh Memorial Scholarship fund for the Conservation School at Higgins Lake, a float trip down the Platte River, and a chartered boat trip to South Manitou Island. Other activities included helping make nature trails on Girl Scout property and establishment of the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary near White Cloud. The chapter became interested in the big trees project started by the Southeastern Chapter and discovered a number of state and national champion trees in their area. Arlo Moss, a later chapter president, reported at a state meeting a program of botany for the amateur. This program included lectures, microscopic slide demonstrations, Kodachrome slide presentations, models, and plant material of algae, fungi, bryophytes, ferns, and flowering plants.
Attendance at meetings was never large, and interest eventually fell off. This lack of interest was due in part to a duplication of membership within the local Audubon Society. Charles Barclay, Michigan Botanical Club state president (1963-1967), tried very hard to find a way to keep the chapter going, but on November 19, 1965, the members finally decided to deactivate the chapter and join with Audubon with the hope that the Northwestern chapter could be restarted later. Such a reactivation was suggested in 1980, but nothing definite has yet been done.
The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area was first suggested as a place for a local chapter of the Michigan Wildflower Association at a state board of directors meeting on June 15, 1945. Genevieve Gillette was asked to explore the possibilities, but no serious attempt was made to form such a chapter until the spring of 1960, even though Miss Gillette again brought up the proposal at a board of directors meeting on February 29, 1948.
Some people expressed the fear that the botanists of the University of Michigan would dominate the chapter. (Why this would be so or why it would be undesirable was not made clear, but it may explain the delay in starting the chapter).
Finally, at the Winter, 1960, state board of directors meeting of the Michigan Botanical Club, President Richard Giles "appointed Drs. Alex Smith, Elzada Clover, and Edward Voss to start the often discussed Ann Arbor - Ypsilanti chapter. Miss Gillette presented $5.60 to start the treasury of the new chapter and Rogers McVaugh contributed $2.00."
Elzada Clover and Edward Voss met with Helen and Alex Smith at their home soon after to discuss formation of the chapter. An organizational meeting was held on March 21, 1960, in the old Botanical Gardens. More than 60 potential members attended. Temporary officers were elected and a committee was appointed to draft a constitution. This was reported at the state board meeting held on April 3, 1960. A second chapter meeting followed, at which the newly drafted constitution was adopted. The name "Huron Valley Chapter" was selected and a nominating committee appointed to compose a slate of officers for the remainder of the club year and the following year. Another meeting was held, again at the old Botanical Gardens, on April 25, at which the following officers were elected unanimously: President, Charles Barclay; Vice President, Lyle Tiffany; Secretary, Barbara Bowen; Treasurer, Jennie Dieterle. One of the first projects of the new chapter was the improvement of the nature trail in the Waterloo Recreation Area. This improvement was badly needed and much appreciated by the management of the area. The Chapter also provided help for the Eberwhite Woods trail used by the Ann Arbor Schools. Field trips were planned by Don Makielski, field trip chairman. A request was sent to the Michigan Botanical Club secretary asking that the group officially be designated as the Huron Valley Chapter of the state organization. The request was accepted at the May 1960, state board meeting.
The Huron Valley Chapter held their meetings successively in the old Ann Arbor High School, the University of Michigan Natural Science Building, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and finally, in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens auditorium, where they continue to meet on the third Monday evening of each month, except for December and the summer months. The chapter has presented prizes at the science fairs of the local schools for botanical and conservation exhibits, and for best wildflower and forestry projects at the Washtenaw county 4- H Fair. Probably their most noteworthy accomplishment has been the assistance and encouragement given to the quarterly publication of the Michigan Botanical Club, The Michigan Botanist. The Huron Valley Chapter continues its activities and has a membership of well over 100.
Harriette V. Bartoo, on the faculty of Western Michigan University and, at that time, state membership chairman of the Michigan Botanical Club, became interested in starting a chapter in the Southwestern part of the state in 1966. As a goal, she decided to set up a chapter with at least 25 members by the 25th anniversary of the formation of the organization. The chapter area was to include a rough triangle, starting at Muskegon, running to the state line near Benton Harbor - St. Joseph, following the state line east to include Jackson and Albion, and northward to include Lansing and Grand Rapids, then on to Muskegon. State members within this triangle were asked to join the new chapter. She achieved her goal, and a constitution and bylaws were presented to the state board of directors at their meeting in August 1968. A charter was granted to the Southwestern Chapter at the December 1, 1968 meeting of the board. Richard Pippen was elected president, Paul Olexia (Kalamazoo College) Vice President, and Harriette Bartoo secretary-treasurer. Paul Olexia became president when Richard Pippen became state president.
The chapter reported a membership of 91 in September 1969, but about 25 members were lost to the Red Cedar Chapter when it was formed in January 1971. The membership is now sustained at 50-75 and is still active with field trips in the warmer months and indoor meetings during the colder months.
The formation of a local chapter in central Michigan was first suggested at a June 15, 1945, meeting of the state board of directors by Ernst A. Bessey, botanist at Michigan State College. He agreed to furnish a list of names of people who might be interested to President Bingham, and consented to be named as consultant. The idea of forming such a chapter was again considered at the annual meeting of the organization held on June 12, 1948. William B. Drew reported that two meetings had been held during the winter with Francis O'Rourke of the Horticulture Department at Michigan State as the "spark plug." It was hoped that in the Fall, new impetus would attract new members. However, it was not until December 7, 1970, that a permanent group to be known as the Red Cedar Chapter became a reality.
Preceding the organization of the chapter, a group of people interested in forming a chapter in central Michigan met during 1970. They collected dues, maintained a mailing list, mailed publications and notices, planned and conducted meetings, and undertook the steps necessary for the formation of such a chapter. Dues of $4.00 per person were collected and each received copies of The Michigan Botanist. Those who were already members of the state organization or other chapters could join this group by paying $1.00 annual dues. Mr. Jesse Saylor of Lansing acted as treasurer to receive the dues.
The first meeting of this group was held on December 7, 1970. Fifty-eight people attended. The meeting was called to order by then-president of the state organization, Warren H. Wagner, Jr. After summarizing the activities of the club and its chapters, temporary officers were elected. These officers were: John Beaman, chairman; William Drew, vice chairman; and Jesse Saylor, secretary-treasurer. John Beaman was very instrumental in the organization of the chapter. Participation in the 1971 Farmer's Week activities was discussed. The theme that year was "Outdoor Fun for Michigan Families." Three speakers from the chapter-to-be were chosen: Gilbert Starks, to speak on "Wildflowers of Michigan," Jesse Saylor, on "Poisonous Plants of Michigan," and John Beaman on "Activities of the Michigan Botanical Club." A room was reserved for the display of club literature and demonstrations. A committee consisting of Bob McIntosh, Darlene Valasek and Sue Blaisdell were to plan the activities. A chapter name was also discussed. Possibilities mentioned were: "Red Cedar," "William James Beal," "Grand River Valley," and "Central Michigan Chapter." The issue was tabled to be considered at the next meeting, to be held on January 5, 1971. At the second meeting, held as planned, about 70 people were present, and the name "Red Cedar Chapter" was chosen. A draft of the proposed constitution and bylaws was distributed. The speaker for the evening was Paul Risk, whose topic was "Roast it, Run with it, or Tub it in: Primitive Plant Uses and Wilderness Survival Skills."
The third meeting was held on Feb. 2, 1971. Fred Case, Jr., spoke on the topic "The North American Orchids: Their Distribution, Ecology, and Some Problems of Preservation." The constitution and bylaws were accepted unanimously.
At the April 6, 1971, meeting, Mr. Dee La Batt, state membership chairman, presented the charter, designed by Mrs. Duane Kalin, to the Red Cedar Chapter. Officers elected for a two- year term were: Harold Davidson, president; William Fields, vice president; Joey Hanover, secretary; and Jesse Saylor, treasurer. An illustrated lecture was given by Alexander H. Smith on "Spring Mushrooms: Edible and Otherwise."
In October 1972, it was suggested "that the Red Cedar Chapter undertake the establishment, development, and maintenance of a Michigan wildflower area in the Beal-Garfield Botanical Gardens at Michigan State University." In February 1973, Harold Davidson, chapter president, and Isobel Dickinson, wildflower garden committee chairman, met with Dr. George Parmalee, curator of campus plantings, to discuss the project. An appeal was made for members with special talents or with wildflowers on their property to volunteer to work with the committee. A beech-maple and a hardwood-hemlock area were planned near the library entrance to the gardens. Another recent project begun by this chapter is an inventory of natural areas owned by Michigan State University.
The Red Cedar Chapter gives a prize, consisting of memberships in the chapter and a $25 U.S. Savings bond to the first place winner for botanical and conservation-related projects in the Lansing Youth Talent Show and Science Fair. The chapter is continuing with an active program of winter lectures and field trips during the year.
Most of the activities of The Michigan Botanical club are now carried on by the four regional chapters* currently formally recognized by the state board of directors and granted charters: The Southeastern Chapter, the Huron Valley Chapter, the Southwestern Chapter, and the Red Cedar Chapter. General membership meetings are, however, held twice each year as required by the constitution, and usually occur at a college or university campus. The general business of the organization is carried on at board of directors meetings, usually held every two months, and by an executive committee elected by the board of directors from its membership. This committee includes the president as an ex-officio member. The activities of the state organization also include a spring outing usually held on the Memorial Day Weekend. A few members are not affiliated with any regional chapter, usually because none is close enough to make attendance practical. These members, of course, have the same privileges as chapter members and may be elected as officers or members of the board of directors. They may serve on any committee to which they may be appointed.
*[Note added in 1998 by Dan Skean, State Vice President: The White Pine Chapter, founded April 15, 1989, now includes ca. 175 members. It holds monthly meetings at Grand Valley State University and numerous field trips. Dorothy Sibley (president) and Beatrice Sibley (membership chair) of Newaygo have been instrumental in its organization and growth.]
Honorary life memberships in the Michigan Wildflower Association, for people who have made outstanding contributions to conservation and plant science, were first suggested by its president, Marjorie T. Bingham, at an executive committee meeting on April 19, 1944. Mr. P. J. Hoffmaster, director, Michigan Department of Conservation, was suggested as the first to be so honored. The executive committee approved, and at the May 23, 1944, executive committee meeting, the following recommendation was read by President Bingham:
The executive committee of the Michigan Wildflower Association, believing the association to be firmly established, accredited, and with a worthy record of achievement in the state of Michigan, believes it is time to consider an election to Honorary Membership. Mr. Hoffmaster is proposed for honorary membership for his outstanding services to the people of Michigan in wisely managing the natural resources of the state and sagacity in bringing to successful culmination plans for preservation of a selected portion of the Porcupine Mountain area as a forest preserve, and for making possible the acquisition of 100,000 acres of land in the southeastern Michigan for recreation for the people in this congested section of the state.
Copies of the citation were sent to Mr. Hoffmaster, Governor Kelly, W.O. Asgood for the conservation committee, the Chairman of the House of Representatives, and the Lieutenant Governor.
At the general meeting held at Higgins Lake on June 1, 1947, it was announced that "an honorary life membership had been conferred upon retiring President Marjorie Bingham in recognition of her fine work as president of the association since its inception." The following year, at a board of directors meeting held February 29, 1948, the names of Professor H.H. Bartlett of the University of Michigan and Ernst A. Bessey of Michigan State College were added to the list of honorary life members.
Later it became customary to make a formal presentation of honorary life memberships at state membership meetings, with a certificate especially designed for them by an artist. These artists have included Gwen Frostic and Wolfgang Hauer. A complete list of life members awarded this honor by the Board of Directors is given in the Appendices.
Honorary life memberships may also be given by the regional chapters if they so desire. The first to be so honored was Margaret Haigh, by the Southeastern Chapter, in 1947. She was past president of that chapter and had been state membership chairman for several years. Others so honored by this chapter were Paul Thompson on Nov. 18, 1975; George and Thelma Thomson on Oct. 3, 1976; and John and Torino Drummond on Dec. 18, 1977.
Cash awards have been presented to some of the Botanical Club members who were not professional botanists but had rendered some special service to the chapter over the years. Charles Barclay and Laura Roberts were the first to be so honored. They received $100 each, presented at a state membership meeting. Charles Barclay had been state president during some of its most eventful years, and Laura Roberts had been business manager of The Michigan Botanist from its beginning until 1978. Charles Buswell was the next to receive this award from having served a long time as state treasurer.
Edward G. Voss, who served as the first editor of The Michigan Botanist for 15 years, was presented with a two-volume set of books on orchids of the eastern United States. The Michigan Botanical Club, in addition to giving awards, was named the MUCC Conservation Club of the Year 1967.
The sponsorship of research leading to publications on the plant life of the state has always been one of the aims of the Michigan Botanical Club. Attempts at this have been implemented at numerous times throughout the club's existence. One of its first publications was a series of nature bulletins given out by the Southeastern Chapter to members and other interested people under the editorship of Paul W. Thompson. The first was on "Beech-Maple Climax Forests." Others were "Flowers of Spring," "Autumn Colors," "Names of Plants," "Habitat and Plant Growth," "Animal Tracks and Plaster Casts," "The Value of Trees," "Know Your Christmas Trees," "The Prairies," and "The Bog." These bulletins could be duplicated without special permission provided credit was given to the Michigan Botanical Club. The club, in its early days, also helped sponsor the publications of the Asa Gray Bulletin at the University of Michigan.
After the formation of the Huron Valley Chapter in 1960, serious consideration was given to the publication of a botanical journal. The result was The Michigan Botanist, a quarterly journal. The first issue came out in March 1962, and the second in September. The first editorial board appointed by the Michigan Botanical Club board of directors included: Edward G. Voss (editor-in-chief), Rogers McVaugh, Alexander H. Smith, Richard Giles, Warren H. Wagner, Jr., and Warren Stoutamire. Laura Roberts served as business manager. The members of the editorial board changed from time to time, but Edward Voss served as editor for 15 years, and Laura Roberts as business manager for 17 years. They both deserve a lot of credit for the success of the Botanist, which has continued to grow in circulation and number of pages, and is highly regarded as a botanical journal. Howard Crum succeeded Edward Voss as editor-in-chief, and Anton Reznicek succeeded Laura Roberts as business manager. Crum was followed in 1984 by co-editors James and Nancy Weber.
In February 1963, the Botanical Club published the first of its Special Publications series. The booklet, entitled "Some Common Mushrooms of Michigan Parks and Recreation Areas," was written by Alexander H. Smith. All proceeds from its sale, as well as those of the later booklets, (after publication costs were met), were placed in a Special Publications Fund administered by the Editorial Board of The Michigan Botanist. These funds may be used only for other publications of Michigan botany and/or the purchase of plant sanctuaries in Michigan. The second booklet in this series is entitled "Winter Wildflowers" by Helen V. Smith and was published March 1, 1973. The third booklet in this series is "Vascular Plants of the Pictured Rocks National Seashore" by Robert H. Read.
The Botanical Club also publishes a newsletter several times each year, started in 1963, to be sent to its members to acquaint them with the club's activities and interests. Included at times are membership lists of the various chapters.
The Michigan Botanical Club Big Tree Project got its start at a board of directors meeting at the Cranbrook Institute of Science held on December 1, 1956. During a discussion about ways to interest more people in the organization, a motion made by George W. Thomson was approved "that in order to stimulate interest in our organization Paul Thompson start a search for the largest and oldest trees in Michigan through the medium of James Pooler's column in The Detroit Free Press." This project has persisted up to the present time under the able and dedicated leadership of Paul Thompson. He has been assisted over the years by Harold Nett and Julia Hunter, with Ms. Hunter serving as record-keeper. It has been a project, primarily, of the Southeastern Chapter, and of the Northwestern Chapter during its existence.
Mr. Thompson has coordinated his records with the American Forestry Association and has conformed to their rules for listing national champion trees. Michigan has had over 90 national champions and has led all states at various times. Florida and, more recently, California have been close rivals at times, but both have the advantage of having many tropical species. From time to time, revised lists of state and national champion trees in Michigan are issued to members of the club and other interested people.
The Michigan Botanical club has, from its very beginning, been interested in preserving natural areas, as evidenced by its efforts in preserving the Porcupine Mountains as a state park. Later, George Thomson and Paul Thompson initiated the Ecology Trail at Haven Hill, the former Edsel Ford Estate, which is now a state park. A tracts and trails committee of the Southeastern Chapter was formed to complete this trail.
The committee soon realized there was a need to preserve other areas throughout the state, and they recommended that the Michigan Botanical Club select a natural areas committee to carry out this work. Walter P. Nickell, then state president, appointed a steering committee consisting of Margaret Haigh, Paul Thompson and Genevieve Gillette to start this program. Education, conservation, and related organizations were asked to appoint representatives, and these, together with interested individuals, formed a working group. As the program got under way, it seemed that an independent organization could best carry on this work. Thus, the Michigan Natural Areas Council, under the guidance of the Michigan Botanical Club, was formed on October 27, 1951.
The council set up the following categories of natural areas to be preserved: Natural Area Preserve, Nature Study Area, Scenic Site, and Nature Reservation. Managed Tract was later added to the list.
Reconnaissance committees are appointed for each tract to be studied. They make a report to the organization, which is evaluated by a screening committee and may be approved. If the report is approved, a site committee is then appointed to complete the report and recommend dedication as a natural area to be preserved. Most areas dedicated are in public ownership, but private land may also be dedicated. For further information on the Natural Areas Council, see "The Michigan Natural Areas Council and Its Early History," by Paul W. Thompson, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1976; The Michigan Botanist, Vol. 5, No. 2, March 1976, and "Natural Area Preservation in the Age of the Megalopolis," by Ronald Kapp, The Michigan Botanist Vol. 8, No. 1, January 1969.
The writer wishes to thank members of the archives committee: Ruth Alford, for encouragement in starting this history and for critical reading and typing of the first draft; George W. Thomson, for information on the early history of the club, and especially that of the Southeastern Chapter; Donna Schumann for typing the final draft and assistance with Southwestern Chapter. The writer also wishes to thank Helen Smith, Edward Voss, and Helena Rabinowitz for information about the Huron Valley Chapter; Harriette Bartoo for that of the Southwestern Chapter, and Isobel Dickinson for the Red Cedar Chapter.