2018 Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Intern
I’m pleased to announce the selection of our 2018 Louise Wrinkle Native Plant Intern at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This is the fifth year the Little Garden Club of Birmingham has funded this wonderful opportunity. The candidate we selected is Dylan Neuhaus, who is graduating from Mississippi State University this spring with a degree in biology/horticulture.
While in school he has gained experience as an assistant in the herbarium at the Institute of Botanical Exploration, and as the greenhouse manager at MSU. One of his research projects is examining how invasive herbivores affects spatiotemporal variation in members of the genus Opuntia.
Dylan tells us that since most of his studies have focused on ornamental horticulture, he’s eager to learn more about the native flora of the southeast. He has a strong interest in plant anatomy and physiology. Dylan’s advisor wrote, “Rarely do I get students so passionate about a particular aspect of science, especially botany. I have found Dylan to be exemplary in maturity, dedication to his studies, and most importantly - his search for knowledge.”
We welcome Dylan and look forward to providing him a wonderful internship experience.
2017 Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Intern
My time at the gardens this past summer has been incredibly beneficial to my personal and professional growth. I come from a little, rural, area in the northeast corner of Georgia, right where the Piedmont and the Blue Ridge meet each other, and I think that this delightful little ecotone helped grow my love of native plants and biodiversity. During the spring and fall I am a full-time student enrolled at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville, Georgia and I am grateful to be able to look to Dr. Tom Diggs for guidance on classes, research, and all things plant related. It was Dr. Diggs who initially suggested that I apply for the Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Internship, and I am so glad that I did.
When my internship began in May I was immediately swept into a professional environment and surrounded by so many people passionate about plants. I have worked as a groundskeeper before but have never been exposed to a similar level of knowledge and zeal. This set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the summer, and I was not disappointed.
In addition to spending most of my days out in the Kaul Wildflower Garden working with plants in their native settings, I was also involved in off-site work days. As an example, I had the opportunity to participate in a clean-up at the site of an endangered native clematis. As an intern on this trip I was responsible for helping to coordinate volunteers and tools as well as identifying plants. The site had been visited for maintenance before but was completely grown over by the time we got there over the summer. I imagine future interns will also visit to learn about rare plant propagation and habitat maintenance. For me, it was surreal to see the clematis in the wild because rare plants don’t know that they’re rare; they just do their best every year.
I was also able to take a step back from the physical work that goes hand-in-hand with maintaining a garden to co-teach some classes with my knowledgeable supervisor, John Manion. John encouraged me to do some research on my favorite plants and find interesting things about them or their names to share with others. To reinforce what I was learning, he would frequently quiz me on this information while we were out teaching a class, hiking, or otherwise strolling through the woods.
I have John to thank for making me feel at home at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and for taking me on wonderful field trips. He introduced me to professors from other universities and interesting people from different fields that all shared an interest in botany. John encouraged me to apply for a scholarship to the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference where I met even more enthusiastic people and came home with my pockets full of notes and native plants.
John permitted me to leave a permanent mark on the Kaul Wildflower Garden in the form of a small marshy area. He allowed me to pick out the plants on my own and to put them all in the ground. I certainly cannot wait to journey back next summer and see how it has grown and to put some hours in as a volunteer. I owe him at least that much, as without this internship, it would have taken much longer to gain equivalent experience in so many different areas, namely rare plant propagation, coordination of volunteers, and even irrigation system maintenance.
As my first internship experience, my time with the Gardens will stick with me forever. I will unquestionably be reminded of this experience every time I encounter St. John’s Wort or Spicebush and especially any time Tutwiler’s Spleenwort is mentioned! I hope that word about this internship spreads and that other students may also have the same opportunity that I did to spread their wings in such an amazing community.
Louise A. Wrinkle 2016 Intern
S. Mason Webber (Mason)
I am excited to announce the selection of Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ 2016 Native Plant Intern (full title is The Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Internship), which is generously supported for the third year by The Little Garden Club of Birmingham – in honor of Louise Wrinkle, an important figure in Birmingham’s world of horticulture.
This year’s intern is S. Mason Webber (Mason), an outstanding senior at Montevallo University studying biology with Professor Mike Harding; he has some solid hands-on experience with the study of our native flora. Mason is already exploring opportunities for a graduate degree in botany.
We had 11 applicants for the internship, representing six states, as well as one from Canada.
Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
2015 Louise Agee Wrinkle Intern Selected
I am excited to share the news that we have selected our second Louise Agee Wrinkle - Native Plant Intern! Her name is Jennifer Davidson and she's a recent graduate of the University of Alabama, where she earned her degree in Environmental Decision-Making. The focus of her studies were environmental policy and ecology.
Jennifer says: "In college I studied ecology and environmental policy, but my hobby was always gardening. As an environmentalist, I value all life on earth, but my passion is plants. Thanks to my plant biology class and others like it, I realized that plants were the most fascinating living things on the planet."
And: "When I ponder my dream job, only three things are clear: I want to work outdoors, I want to work with plants, and I need to contribute to the conservation of nature."
Jennifer has a rich background of work and volunteerism, including being a gardener at Huntsville Botanical Garden and spending time as a volunteer on a cocoa plantation in Ecuador.
Dr. John Clark, one of Jennifer's professors said, when speaking of her enrollment in his classes held in Costa Rica and Ecuador, that: "Jennifer acquired skills in plant identification and collections-based research on biodiversity. In particular, Jennifer was outstanding relative to her peers for recognizing plants to family because of her enthusiasm for learning plant morphology and family characters."
The first day of Jennifer's internship will be Monday, May 11; we have a very stimulating and meaningful summer planned for her. She, like our intern last year, has applied for a scholarship to attend the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference.
I look forward to introducing Jennifer to all of you!
Curator Kaul Wildflower Garden
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Internship
During the summer of 2014 I served as the first Louise Agee Wrinkle Native Plant Intern at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, under the tutelage of Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion. Not only was I the first person to hold this position, but also the first Auburn University student to hold an internship position at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. My internship began Monday, May 12th and concluded twelve weeks later on Friday, August 1st. In the early days, I spent time familiarizing myself with The Gardens and meeting my coworkers. I was already familiar with the gardens from numerous visits in the past, so after introductions I was ready to begin work.
The majority of my day-to-day responsibilities consisted of care and upkeep of the Kaul Wildflower Garden. This entailed much planting of new plants, and the removal of one undesirable. Throughout the three-month internship, many plants would grow, flower and fade. Many species needed pruning or staking in order to keep the garden looking attractive, and to maintain the interest of visitors. Plants were added for other reasons as well, such as filling in bare spots left by the removal of weeds, or for erosion control on the garden’s many slopes and banks. Weeds represented a constant challenge in maintaining the integrity of the Kaul Wildflower Garden, and were an ever-present force threatening to take over if left unchecked. Some species, though native, were so opportunistic that their ongoing removal was necessary to prevent their spread, Plants such as Smilax spp. (green-briar) and Frangula caroliniana (Carolina buckthorn) were so pervasive that they needed constant monitoring. In addition to plants, there was a multitude of other wildlife forms present in the garden at any given time, including hawks, a tortoise, and (regrettably) a number of snakes. My great fear of all things serpentine was somewhat tempered by the proximity to them during my work this summer, as I knew they were around and just forced myself to put them out of mind and dive right into the denser portions of the garden.
Most Tuesdays and Thursdays I was assisted in this work by a dedicated group of volunteers, with whom it was a pleasure to meet and work throughout the summer. As John says, the Kaul Wildflower Garden would be impossible to maintain without their help. Of particular importance in my maintenance work was watering. During my internship I was placed in charge of monitoring the irrigation system throughout the Kaul Wildflower Garden, which required learning about its operation. Once I understood the system, I was able to adjust the angle and duration and spray pattern of irrigation heads, redirecting them away from paths and increasing the length of watering time to coincide with weather conditions. This was a particularly hot summer, and so vigilance in watering was a necessity (for the plants and for myself). I was also responsible for watering plants destined for the Kaul Wildflower Garden which were being grown in the greenhouse and lath house. This proved a more difficult task than one might imagine, as watering is a deceptively nuanced art.
The work wasn’t all physical. One area in which I was instructed throughout the summer was in plant identification and taxonomy, an area of knowledge which many horticulturists lack. John often emphasized the importance of developing these skills, and to that end I was frequently quizzed on scientific names of numerous species throughout the gardens and further afield. Through this repetition I was able to grasp the names and families of a number of our native species, but my skills paled in comparison to those of my two mentors on this topic, John Manion and Fred Spicer. In any case, I feel this new knowledge has given me an edge over most of my peers.
I was also tasked with keeping a list of to-do items for the gardens, which helped me develop organizational and time-management skills. Over the course of my internship I was able to improve my social skills; I’ve always found myself to be comfortable with public speaking, yet somewhat awkward and rigid in more personal interactions. I was made aware of this issue early on in the summer, and for the three months of my internship I made a conscious effort, whenever I carried on conversation, to be more relaxed and personable.
I was fortunate to be invited to participate in several field trips to various locations around the state, including Bibb County Glades, Ebenezer Swamp in Montevallo and Havana Glen in Hale County. It was good to be a part field work, which included identifying plants (some very rare), removal of invasive species and gathering materials for propagation, such as cuttings and seeds. I was involved with the conservation of a particularly rare species of fern native only to Alabama, Aspelenium tutwilerae, Tutwiler’s spleenwort. This fern was the subject of a presentation I delivered on a particularly notable trip I took during the summer to Cullowhee, North Carolina to attend the 2014 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. Before I began the internship, but after I had been offered it and had accepted, I was encouraged by John Manion to apply for a scholarship to attend the conference. It was a thrill and a privilege to have been selected as the only recipient from Alabama, and to be able to represent our state and The Gardens.
Another aspect of my internship was the writing of blog entries about topics of my choosing to summarize various aspects of my internship, and to develop my writing skills.
A significant project over the summer was the renovation and reorganization of the Kaul Wildflower Garden lath house. This renovation entailed moving every plant out of the lath house, replacing the gravel floor with a finer grade of stone, and then moving the plants back in and organizing them. This work entailed a lot of heavy lifting and hard work, with which I was assisted by my two fellow interns, Alex Dumont and Sanitra Lawrence. Teamwork has always come easily to me, but this was one of the rare instances I found myself in a leadership role, as much of the supervisorial aspects of this work defaulted to me. Some of the plants had lost their labels, so first had to be identified before they could be placed. My leadership, plant identification and goal-completion skills were all put to the test.
I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Little Garden Club of Birmingham, without whose generosity and forethought I would not have had this amazing opportunity. Special thanks to Mrs. Louise Wrinkle, whose grace, virtue and generosity are matched only by the veritable paradise that is her garden.
In closing, I will say my internship this summer was a wholly positive, valuable and gratifying experience. Each day offered something new, be it propagating with one of the many volunteer groups affiliated with The Gardens, mixing substrate for a class on carnivorous plants or supervising volunteers in the Kaul Wildflower Garden. Through all of this, I learned and developed a number of new skills which I’m sure will help me throughout my schooling and in my professional career. I met many people with whom I’ll want to remain in contact. More than anything, I had the opportunity to be an integral part of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which I’ve known and loved since I was a child.