At 100, Elsie Quarterman attends her Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival

Dr. Elsie Quarterman pioneered the ecology of cedar glades. Yesterday she attended the annual festival named in her honor, the Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Lebanon, Tennessee. Aunt Elsie is 100 years and five months old, and isn’t getting around as fast as she once did, so she met with her students and grand-students at a local restaurant. Only a few of them are pictured here:

Kim Cleary Sadler, Assistant Professor of Biology at Middle Tennessee State University and co-Director of the Center for Cedar Glade Studies. (Student of Thomas “Tom” Ellsworth Hemmerly, who was teaching and couldn’t come.)
Dr. Elsie Quarterman, Professor Emerita of Plant Ecology, Vanderbilt University
Carol C. Baskin, Professor of Biology, University of Kentucky

There were classes, botany walks, owl hoots, and musicians. Here’s the schedule. It was sunny this year, unlike last year’s great flood. Next year, you should come! Get out of town, take a walk in the glades.

Elsie got a guided tour, with Tennessee State Naturalist Emeritus Mack Pritchard and his successor Randy Hedgepath. Here they are with Elsie’s nephew Patrick Quarterman, while Gretchen Quarterman photographs a glade.

Here State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath consults with Dr. Quarterman about identification of a cedar glade plant.

Elsie got out of the car to look at this one with Randy and Ann Quarterman:

Aunt Elsie lives in her own house, and her nephew Patrick and his wife Ann take care of her.

Elsie looks at a cedar glade. The rocky part in the middle is the actual cedar glade. The interesting ecological part involves how the plants change from the center to the woods. Dr. Quarterman pioneered the investigation of how some plants excrete chemicals that inhibit growth of other plants in ecological interaction.

Here Patrick and Gretchen photograph plants at the edge of a cedar glade.

You can see how the flora change as you go from the rocks at the center to the woods at the edge.

What grows in the glades? Many plants, mostly about shoe-high. Quite a few of them grow only in cedar glades.

Here’s a pictorial guide to cedar glade plants.

Who is Dr. Elsie Quarterman? Ken Beck wrote 27 April 2011 in the Wilson Post Wildflower festival honors 100-year-old ecology pioneer

“If she is having one of her Energizer bunny days, there’s no telling what she will do,” said Patrick Quarterman, Elsie’s nephew. Patrick and wife Ann live with the renowned plant ecologist and Vanderbilt University professor emerita in Nashville and are her caregivers.

“Elsie Quarterman was a frontrunner in getting the knowledge about the cedar glades started. She was instrumental in getting some of the areas in the Cedar Forest designated on the National Register and was one of the few leaders that brought attention to the glades and their uniqueness,” said Cedars of Lebanon State Park Interpretive Specialist Buddy Ingram.

As for the wildflower weekend, Ingram said, “It’s time for people to come out and enjoy the flowers and endemics, the special animals and plants that have adapted to the glade environment, and time to gain knowledge about the whole ecosystem, the cedar glade.”

Besides the Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival, the Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade, a 185-acre natural area in Rutherford County that protects a globally rare cedar glade and is a recovery site for the federally endangered Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis), has also been named for the centenarian whose love for plants began as a child on a Georgia farm.

“It goes back to when her dad left his job in waterworks in Valdosta and decided to buy a farm and moved the family there,” Patrick said. “Her mother and a family friend (Edna Winn Small) used to take Elsie with them when they went walking out in the woods. They were interested in finding and identifying flowers and plants.”

The article has much more information about Aunt Elsie. Here’s some more biography from this blog. Gretchen and I live on the land she grew up on in Lowndes County, Georgia, near Hahira.

There are more pictures of this year’s festivities in the flickr set.