History of ANPS by Don Culwell

How The  Arkansas Native Plant Society Began
A talk given by Don Culwell at the Spring ANPS meeting, April 27, 2013

Don Culwell

Don Culwell
Photo by Jeanette Vogelpohl

I should not look around the room like I’m assessing age…I’m older than dirt myself my kids tell me!  But, there’s a hormone floating around…BOTANINE: a hormone of older persons; it comes from the heart.  And it’s been around a long time…I found a note about it in the ANPS minutes of some 25 years ago.

            History is always interesting…and the ANPS is no different.  Some of us have chosen botanical endeavors professionally and others of us just love the out-of-doors with its cool flora…that’s where the ANPS has its roots.

            Well, it happened this way:

November, 1979, the ABCD Conference (Arkansas Biological Curriculum Development) met in Conway at the University of Central Arkansas.  One of the “breakout sessions” that day was for botanists who wanted to discuss floristics.  During that session the statement was made that we had on previous occasions noted the need for a native plant society in Arkansas…many other states had done just that.  With all of us in agreement, we set up a steering committee that would make plans for the birth of the organization:  Gary Tucker from AR Tech University in Russellville; Gwen Barber, a botany student from Fayetteville; Richard Davis, a botanist from the Natural Heritage Commission; and Don Culwell, botanist from UCA; these agreed to meet as a committee with Don Culwell as its chair.  (Also present at this meeting were Leon Richards, botanist from AR State University in Jonesboro, and Ron Doran, botanist from Harding University in Searcy.)    Over the next 12 months this group met a number of times eventually forming a constitution which the new organization could adopt:

December 1, 1979, the steering committee met in Little Rock discussing our goals and organization.  It was at this time that our mission statement became “To promote the preservation, conservation, and study of the wild plants and vegetation of Arkansas, the education of the public to the values of native flora and its habitat, and the publication of related information.”

March 1, 1980, the steering committee met at UCA.  Present were the original committee members and Tom Clark (Hendrix), Art Johnson (Hendrix), Jewel Moore (UCA), Dan Marsh (Henderson State U.), Bill Shepherd (AR Nat. Heritage Com.), Robert Wright (UCA).  A constitution committee was set up:  Robert Wright, Jewel Moore, Art Johnson, and Tom Clark.

March 28, 1980, the steering committee met during the AR Academy of Science gathering and planned for the first big outing at Big Creek Natural Area near Heber Springs.

May 30, 31, 1980, the Big Creek weekend with hiking the new natural area and holding a meeting with all persons that came for the weekend.  The program for the evening meeting was:  Gary Tucker speaking on “What ANPS Can Become,” Bill Shepherd giving a background on the Big Creek area, and Don Culwell giving an update on the ANPS formation.

September 20, 1980 at Mena, the Arkansas Native Plant Society was officially organized with about 90 members present from AR and neighboring states. By-Laws were adopted and officers were elected: Don Culwell, president; Randy Johnson (naturalist at Pinnacle Mountain State Park), vice president; Debbie Qualls (AR Tech University student), secretary; Don Peach (past president of Natl. Rock Garden Society), treasurer; Robert Wright (UCA ), newsletter editor; Freeman Thomas (Jacksonville High School biology teacher), historian. Dues $5 annually. Ultimately there were 110 charter members for the year 1980.

Over the past 33 years many activities have taken place where members of the ANPS were on hand to enjoy field trips, work to further research and understanding of the flora, and be involved in legislative watch, both local and national, involving natural areas and our flora.  These include (among many others):

  1. TV mini-program on wildflowers for 60-90 second spots on AETN ($500 in 1986).
  2. Work with AR Hwy and Transportation Dept. on saving wildflowers along major corridors like Hwy 7 and 9…no herbicide and delay mowing until seeds have formed (1983+).
  3. Scholarship and Research Grants were set up (Aileen McWilliam  and Delzie Demaree funds); Carl Amason Conservation award was instituted.
  4. Establishment of regional chapters within the ANPS (like the Ozark Chapter).
  5. Workshops to further understanding of native plants (like sessions on ferns, trees, wildflowers and the keying or identification of these).
  6. Placing in all high school libraries across the state the “Wildflowers of Arkansas” book by Carl Hunter (an ANPS member).
  7. In 2003 when the Vascular Plant Herbarium at U. of A. was in danger of being closed to the public, many ANPS members wrote letters in support of this valuable facility for the study of native flora.
  8. Joined with the Arkansas  Natural Heritage Commission in seeking major donations to greatly extend the area of the Warren Prairie…ANPS donated $5000.
  9. ANPS partnered with the Faulkner County Master Gardeners in 2011 to sponsor weekend presentations by noted author and native plant authority, Douglas Tallemy (Bringing Nature Home).
  10. In 2011 ANPS made a $7500 grant (plus individual member donations) toward the construction of a botanical research building on the U. of A. at Monticello campus, the building to include the Arkansas Native Plant Society Library and Conference Room as well as the Sundell Herbarium in honor of Eric Sundell,  longtime plant taxonomist (and ANPS member/officer) at UAM.
  11. ANPS makes an annual contribution of $500 to the AR Audubon Halberg Ecology Camp that funds several students annually.
  12. ANPS assisted in the funding of the major state publication, “Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas” (2006).
  13. Development and maintenance of an excellent web site that informs members as well as educates the public about native plants, notes plant walks and activities, and interests the public about ANPS.


  • 1980    110 charter members
  • 1981    116 members; financial worth $595
  • 1983    191 members; financial worth $1291
  • 1994    300 members
  • 2013    430 members; financial worth $20,000

In closing I repeat a little ditty:

Roses are red (Rosa carolina is pink),
Violets are blue (or purple, white or yellow)
ANPS hunts species of flowers, searches habitats anew,
You have promoted floral fun and knowledge…GOOD FOR YOU!!

Congratulations to you who appreciate the plant world, live in it gloriously, and make it known!!   ANPS, you have come a long way!      THANK YOU!

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1 Response to History of ANPS by Don Culwell

  1. Pingback: A Local Focus: The Native Plant Societies of the U.S. – Biodiversity Heritage Library

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