The Missouri Native Plant Society
and advocated a state bill prohibiting plant digging from roadsides. This legislation, signed into law in 1993, helped guard against the theft of wildflowers and other native plants from Missouri's roadsides.
Plant poachers are not the only threats to our native flora. Habitat degradation, pollution and development also threaten native plant communities, Harris said.
"In the case of native plants," Harris said. "The human population explosion and the natural resource consumption habits of our culture continue to reduce space for plants to merely exist."
Habitat that does remain for native plants is, in many cases, degraded by pollution and the spread of non-native plants, also referred to as exotic or alien plants, into natural communities, he added.
Bill Summers, a MONPS member since the society's formation in 1979, also is concerned about the decline of native plant habitat, but he finds solace in belonging to the group.
"When I'm out by myself and I find something unusual, I want to share it with other people, and also encourage them to protect it," Summers said. "It just gives me peace of mind when I find a rare plant and know that it is still there despite all the destruction of plant habitats. I think many people in MONPS have the same feeling I have."
Summers became interested in native plants in 1975 through his interest in photography. He worked in the printing industry for 30 years and has no formal training in botany.
"I started taking pictures of flowers, then I wanted to know what they were," Summers said. "One time I had taken a photo of an interesting flower, and I asked two MONPS members-Art Christ and Father Sullivan-what it was. They told me it was an orchid-that was the first time I knew we had orchids in Missouri!"
Six years later, Summers wrote Orchids of Missouri, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Although hanging around plant enthusiasts may not turn you into a published author on plants like Bill Summers, socializing with MONPS members will give you the chance to see wonderful plants, guaranteed. And, you can eat your fair share of pie.
A MONPS Chapter near you
In addition to the statewide society, which plans field trips and annual meetings geared to all MONPS members, the Missouri Native Plant Society has chapters in St. Louis, Kansas City, Jefferson City, Columbia and Clinton. Each chapter organizes its own field trips, usually to nearby areas, as well as plant identification workshops, monthly meetings with guest speakers, plant sales and seed-collecting trips and other events.
In the mid-1990s, Carroll Eaglesfield, a retired minister, started the Clinton chapter. A trained plant taxonomist and noted photographer, Eaglesfield has generously shared his love and knowledge of plants in Clinton.
"We've had a wonderful opportunity to learn from Carroll," said Marlene Miller, a nurse and former president of the Clinton chapter. "In the winter months, when we didn't have living material to learn from, he would bring in his pressed plant specimens and show slides to teach us differences between plant families."
Eaglesfield, now 86, is still active with the Clinton chapter and gave a presentation to the group on plant families just last November. He also generously donated his collection of more than 300 pressed and mounted specimens of Missouri native plants to the Palmer-Dunn Herbarium at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
For more information on the statewide MONPS group, and/or one of its chapters, write to: Missouri Native Plant Society, P.O. Box 20073, St. Louis, MO 63144-0073. You can also contact MONPS president Jack Harris at <email@example.com>, or call him at (314) 894-9021.