A bench inscribed simply “Dr. Elsie Quarterman, Plant Ecologist” sits
under cedar trees in the herb garden at Cheekwood Botanical Garden;
appropriately for a scientist whose specialty was cedar glades.
She was involved with Cheekwood for many years, and was its Acting Director from 1967 to 1968.
She helped establish the herb garden in which the bench sits.
Continue reading →
Elsie Quarterman was born in 1910 in Georgia. She completed her
undergraduate work at Georgia State Woman’s College in 1932.
Post-graduate studies were done at Duke Univ. where she obtained her
Ph.D. in 1949 under Henry J. Osting. She accepted a faculty position
at Vanderbilt Univ. and later became the University’s first female
department chair, heading the Biology Department in 1964.
Dr. Quarterman is best known for her work on the ecology and plant
communities of the cedar glades of the Central Basin. She is widely
recognized for the re-discovery of the Tennessee Coneflower
(Echinacea tennesseensis) in 1969, a plant once thought to be
extinct and subsequently the first plant endemic to Tennessee to be
protected by the Endangered Species Act. She has received many
honors including our very own TNPS Conservation Award. The Elsie
Quarterman Cedar Glade State Natural Area was named in her honor in
Dr. Quarterman was a longtime member of the Natural Areas Association, the professional organization representing the interests of natural area professionals in the US. She received the NAA George Fell Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 at the 35th Annual Natural Areas Conference in Nashville. In receiving the award, she humbly said that there “is no greater honor than to be recognized by my peers.” Her most significant legacy will be the thousands of acres of natural areas she helped to protect in Tennessee including the cedar glades and the once endangered Tennessee Coneflower.
(Tennessee Natural Areas Program Administrator Brian Bowen works in
the Department of Environment and Conservation in Nashville.)
a video about Elsie,
A Crusader for Conservation,
19 September 2014,
by Tennessee’s Wild Side, “The Emmy Award winning show produced through the generosity of the Jackson
Foundation, Tennessee State Parks, and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.”
Lots of good pictures, some video snippets of Elsie, and some narration by her nephew Patrick and by Biologist Tom Hemmerly, who reminds us of Elsie’s work at Radner Lake, in addition to her cedar glades work.
Ranger Buddy Ingram explains her biggest contribution may have been
in getting numerous different segments of society to cooperate
in saving whole ecologies.
Botanist Kim Sadler and others explain how inspiring all that is to generations
As Elsie said in 2006:
The general public needs to know what’s around them.
They need to be learning that there’s a world that is not paved.
There are lots of things that have life and function in the whole scheme,
people as well as plants and animals.
Not just dogs you’ve got on a leash, but animals that live out there,
are part of the whole ecosystem.
Dr. Elsie Quarterman known fondly to her students as EQ passed away
on 9 June 2014 at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of
103 years. She was born on 28 November 1910 in Valdosta, Georgia.
Dr. Quarterman obtained her B. A. degree from Georgia State Women’s
College (now Valdosta State University) in 1932, Continue reading →
Remembering Elsie Quarterman
by Paul Somers, Ph.D.
Retired State Botanist, Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
and former botanist, Tennessee Natural Heritage Program
Not wanting to miss a chance to pay tribute to my friend, the 103+
year old Dr. Elsie Quarterman, I’m sitting down to reflect on my
remembrances of this wonderful woman who befriended me and many
other botanical and conservation colleagues. It was the summer of
1976 when I moved to Nashville to join the young staff of the
Tennessee Heritage Program as its first botanist. The program, now
well established with the State Department of Environment and
Conservation, benefited greatly from the prior work of Dr.
Quarterman (Elsie) and many of her graduate students at Vanderbilt
University who had done vegetation and rare plant studies in the
Central Basin of Tennessee.
For help with understanding and
conserving the best examples of cedar glades and their many endemic,
nearly endemic, or otherwise rare Tennessee plant species, I and
other colleagues frequently turned to Elsie and her Continue reading →
Received 13 June 2014 and permission to publish granted today. -jsq
From: J Richard Carter
To: Patrick Quarterman
I am very sorry to hear about Dr. Quarterman. She was a remarkable
person. I started graduate school at Vanderbilt in 1978, a few
years after Dr. Quarterman retired, so I didn’t have the privilege
of taking her courses. However, she was still very much a presence
in the department, attending seminars and interacting with faculty
and students informally in the departmental conference room.
A memorial service will be held
10AM this Saturday 21 June 2014 at Westminster Presbyterian Church,
3900 West End Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee,
with a reception at the church following the service.
Elsie blog page for many more stories and pictures of Aunt Elsie.
Here is video of the 11 April 2008 dedication of the Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival at Cedars of Lebanon State Park,
posted on YouTube 29 January 2009 by the MTSU Center for Cedar Glade Studies.