Posts Tagged ‘Kaul Wildflower Garden’

Spring Donor Tour of the Kaul Wildflower Garden

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Spring Donor Tour of the Kaul Wildflower Garden

On Wednesday, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led donors on a tour of his native collection. The group was honored to be joined by trustee and former Board of Directors President Mary Carolyn Cleveland. Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens hopes to host another tour soon, with a date to be announced.

Kaul Wildflower Garden Spring 2014 donor tour

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Kaul Wildflower Garden Spring 2014 donor tour

Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a group of Birmingham Botanical Gardens donors on an exclusive tour on Wednesday. Executive Director & CEO Fred Spicer joined the group as they explored the unique blooms in one of the most unique gardens at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

New interns join The Gardens for the Summer of 2013

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

New interns join The Gardens for the Summer of 2013

Three new interns join The Gardens for the summer of 2013: Caroline Rowan, Ian Hazelhoff and Reid Pearlman. The group joined Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion on Tuesday for some work in The Gardens, and The Gardens Blog had its first opportunity for introductions.

Caroline Rowan (above) is entering her Junior year at Birmingham-Southern College and is a graduate of Mountain Brook High School. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Urban Environmental Studies and Psychology. After graduation she plans on perusing a career in field biology. Caroline’s passion for nature and learning makes Birmingham Botanical Gardens a great environment for her summer internship. She credits The Gardens as one of the first places to spark her interest in the natural world. Caroline has grown up with The Gardens as a part of her life and is excited to now be working here. As she experiences life at The Gardens she hopes to uncover more of her interests and pursuits. Caroline will be focusing on the George Ward Park replanting project and will be evaluating the reforested area. She will also be exploring other aspects of the Gardens. Her internship is a 10-week program funded by Little Garden Club and Red Mountain Garden Club.

Ian Hazelhoff (above) is the 2013 Shades Valley Rotary Club intern at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. As a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, he is eager to implement ideas in the landscape of Birmingham. A Birmingham native, he attended The Altamont School.  During his time at Sewanee,  he studied plant physiology, water policy, ecology and forestry. Forest dynamics and ecology training have led him to fascination with how natural systems interact with the urban landscape. He believes that effective landscape design and use brings the inherant value of the land to the forefront. He believes that sound environments and green space can increase economic value of their surroundings while providing ecosystem services for communities.  He hopes to be progressive in his approach to design in projects this summer.  
Reid Pearlman has been interested in plants since he was a child. He enjoys spending time outdoors, especially if he is fishing, hiking or botanizing. Reid will be entering his senior year at Vestavia Hills High School this fall. Reid plans to attend college and graduate school and work in the field of botany or medicine.  

Rite of Spring

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Rite of Spring

By: Betsy Fleenor, volunteer 

It happens every spring. The new year dawns, and the new seeds are sown. Always with this goal: grow plants that will be large enough and interesting enough to catch your eye at the spring plant sale. No tender seedlings will do come April. We are looking for robust, healthy plants with a good root system, lots of leaves and we wouldn’t argue about a flower bud or two.

For the volunteers who work with the volunteer propagation groups at The Gardens, work goes on year round preparing the plants for your buying pleasure. But things really start to heat up once the new year arrives. For those growing native plants, it’s time to delve into the rich storehouse of seeds collected from the Kaul Wildflower Garden and pre-treated in various ways. Some are sprinkled, others carefully placed in their soil-filled trays topped with a thin layer of granite chicken grit to improve their chances.

Weeks spent on the mist tables located in the plant sale greenhouse eventually provide the perfect environment for the green miracle. The lifeless, brown seeds are touched with the vital moisture, warmth and light that cause them to germinate.

 At first the specks of green are nearly microscopic. Was that a dot of green I saw or not? Soon eyes adjust to the microenvironment and indeed, that dot was just one of hundreds of barely perceptible green dots. They’re off and running!

As the weeks wear on, first leaves give way to true leaves, and roots start to explore the soil. Soon it’s time to rudely tease them from their seed trays into their first individual pots. Volunteers carefully prick out the most tender, pull apart the more robust, and take them to the next step on their journey from seed to sale.

A Study of the Tutwiler spleenwort

Friday, August 17th, 2012

(Asplenium tutwilerae growing in the Kaul Wildflower Garden at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens)

A Study of the Tutwiler spleenwort

(by: Hunter McBrayer)

I have had many opportunities throughout my internship to visit many special places located in and around the state of Alabama.  I have been able to study, in situ, many different plants and the ecosystems they are in. Being primarily focused in conservation of the native plants of the southeastern United States, I have met many of Alabama’s best and most influential experts and studied some of the most imperiled plants in the area.  There is one plant however that has had my unbroken attention since the first day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  This plant is Asplenium tutwilerae, Tutwiler’s spleenwort (syn. Asplenium ebenoides). 

Tutwiler’s spleenwort is a diminutive fern that only grows in Hale County, Alabama in an area called Havana Glen.  There are many reasons that this plant has captivated me, but the main reason is that there are approximately 120 plants that grow naturally in the wild, making it one of the rarest plants in the world. 

 The story of Tutwiler’s spleenwort is quite interesting to any plant enthusist and it started over 130 years ago.  Julia Strudwick Tutwiler, future Alabama prison and education reformer, had heard of an area near her home that had several plants that she was interested in seeing.  Tutwiler stumbled across the Havana Glen area and discovered the fern.  Being an amateur botanist, Tutwiler quickly realized that it was unlike any that she had ever seen.  She wrote about her find to Daniel Eaton, editor of the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Club.  Upon her examination of the plant,  she hypothesized that it was a hybrid species between Asplenium platyneuron, ebony spleenwort, and Asplenium rhizophyllum, walking fern.  This hypothesis seemed true and relatively unsurprising to the botanical community because species in the Asplenium genus readily hybridize, making a sterile hybrid. A similar hybrid, Asplenium ebenoides, had been discovered in Pennsylvania, and was thought to be the same product as what Tutwiler had found.  In 1896, Lucien Underwood, a botanist from Auburn University, traveled to the site and found that the fern was propagating profusely, which is uncommon in hybrids (much like a mule, which is the sterile hybrid of a donkey and a horse).  This apparent ease of proliferation brought many new questions about the plants origin to the table.  Then, in 1930, Edgar Wherry from the University of Pennsylvania found that the number of ferns continued to increase, even through one of the supposed parents had disappeared from the site.  Finally in 1954, University of Michigan cytologist Herb Wagner provided an explanation for the proliferation of the species; it had doubled the total number of chromosomes, making it a fertile plant in a process called reticulate evolution. 

Although his discovery took place in 1954, it was not until 2007 that the plant was renamed.  Alabama Botanists Larry Davenport and Brian Keener proposed a renaming of the plant from Asplenium ebenoides to Asplenium tutwilerae, giving credit to Julia Tutwiler.   

Being a place of plant conservation, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens harbors a large variety of rare and imperiled plants.  The Gardens retains and propagates many of these plants. We hope to continue the efforts and eventually be able to repatriate the ferns back to Havana Glen.

View a piece recently featured on Birmingham’s ABC 33/40 about the Tutwiler spleenwort

(Propagation of Asplenium tutwilerae at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens)

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

The Gardens Lunch and Learn series continues to grow! The second seminar in this FREE series welcomed even more people to the Hodges Room. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a discussion titled “Using native plants in your landscape garden design.” The free series will continue throughout the summer, continuing on July 11 with “Collecting rainwater for reuse in your landscape and inside your home” with Jefferson County Extension Agent Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Scott Kubiszyn of Nature’s Tap. All Lunch and Learn seminars are 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Drinks and dessert are provided. To learn about all of the Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn opportunities this summer, visit  Join us!

To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies Program, which has just completed its first full year, and how you can participate, visit

Bog Trotting in Alabama

Monday, June 18th, 2012


Bog Trotting in Alabama

Hunter McBrayer, Rotary Club of Shades Valley 2012 Intern 

Within a few days of beginning my Rotary Club of Shades Valley summer internship with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, I had the pleasure of being invited to accompany Fred Spicer, Executive Director, and John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, at the biannual meeting of Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance (APCA) in Spanish Fort, Alabama. This is an organization with whom The Gardens has been involved since APCA was formed in 2009. 

As a recent graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in Biology, and my primary interest being the conservation of Alabama’s native flora and its habitats, I was thrilled for the opportunity to attend this event and meet several people involved in plant conservation. Knowing that the trip would involve an exploration of one of our state’s unique treasures, Splinter Hill Bog, I was especially excited. 

Alabama, partly due to its varied physiography, is the fifth most biodiverse state in the US. We have a high rate of endemism, that is – the number of species that are found naturally occurring only in our state. There are 24 plants endemic to Alabama, several of which I’ve been able to observe and study. 

Splinter Hill Bog, a 2,100 acre tract of land near Perdido in Baldwin County, AL, is one of our states many distinct properties managed by The Nature Conservancy. 

In addition to is diverse habitats and populations of several fascinating plants, Splinter Hill Bog is perhaps most known as possibly the largest population globally of pitcher plants, the insectiverous (insect-eating) plants in the genus Sarracenia. In addition to wild orchids and other species of insectiverous plants growing there, the most abundant and visually striking of these is Sarracenia leuocophylla, the white-topped pitcher plant. (shown below)

Being predominantly a longleaf pine ecosystem, one of the important ways The Nature Conservancy manages this property is the use of prescribed burns to remove encroaching competitive plants…something that would have occurred naturally in times past.  

This outing was one of the most fascinating and eye-opening experiences in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate.

What’s in bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

Monday, April 9th, 2012

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

As Spring continues to bloom at The Gardens, the Kaul Wildflower Garden continues to be a gorgeous spot. Above, Kalmia latifolia blooms. Below are many more of the things that can be seen around The Gardens today.

Chionanthus virginicus

Erigeron sp.

Aquilegia sp.

Phlox divaricata

Rhododendron austrinum

Rudbeckia sp.

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 3.8.12

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 3.8.12

We’re already beginning to see beautiful signs of Spring at The Gardens. The above photo is Magnolia ‘Butterflies,’ taken just this week. Below are more of the gorgeous things you can see around the Kaul Wildflower Garden and beyond.

Aquilegia canadensis

Cardamine bulbosa

Cliftonia monophylla

Crowton alabamensis

Erythronium americanum

Osmunda regalis

Sanguinaria canadensis

Thalictrum thalictroides

Tradescantia sp.

Trillium sp.

Zizia Aurea

Volunteers in the Kaul Wildflower Gardens – 2.23.12

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

A group of more than a dozen volunteers joined John Manion in the Kaul Wilfdlower Garden this morning.