Dr. Charles Allen instructing our LMNNe Plants workshop

I was so excited about attending the Louisiana Master Naturalists Northeast Plants Workshop 2019 that I woke up about three hours before dawn! No wonder, our expert botanist for the workshop, Dr. Charles Allen is the State’s leading botanist, and there’s simply no better guide to Louisiana’s wild plants. Last year the information hit me like a flood, I missed quite a lot by being at the back and/or taking pictures and being inattentive. This year my wife and I resolved to stick to the main man like glue and absorb as much botanical knowledge as we possibly could. She’d take notes and I’d photograph the plants.The Kisatchie National Forest near Georgetown in Louisiana, southeastern USA is about as rich in arboreal biodiversity as you can get in North America. This was our second visit to this particular area, we camped the first time and thrilled to the fireflies and night music of the forest, crickets, frogs, bats, Chuck-wills-widow and Barred owls. We used a bat detector to slow down the ultrasonic frequency of the bat’s sonar to render it audible.

Kisatchie National Forest after dawn in late April. Wonderful camping conditions.
Kisatchie National Forest after dawn in late April. Wonderful camping conditions.

Are plants sensitive?

The one pictured above certainly is. It is a sensitive Mimosa plant that will retract its leaves when touched.

The workshop began with an essential introduction to herbaceous and woody plants with the sort of insights that come from a life-time of studying them. Straight to the point, we were taught the defining characteristics that aid one in field identification, how to home in on the identity of a plant by using it’s defining characteristics. This year I got so much more out of the class, I think last year my base knowledge was nowhere near as good and the information came at me so thick and fast that it was hard for me to process in time.

I heartily recommend a repeat attendance, not just because you’ll consolidate your learning, but also because we encountered a whole new set of trees and herbaceous perennials this time. It was a fantastic day out and we learned a lot as well as walking in some of Louisiana’s most beautiful natural woodland. Alongside the the scientific knowledge, the professor is often joking and quipping about plants in a very jolly and memorable fashion, which I shan’t relate here, because I wouldn’t want to steal his thunder. All I’ll say is you won’t regret signing up for one of Dr. Allen’s various plant courses. Next year, be sure to sign up for the LMNE Plants Workshop because it really is a super day out. To learn your plants you simply cannot beat walking with an expert botanist like Doctor Allen.

NB The Allens also run a fantastic eco-lodge called Allen Acres, near Pitkin and you can stay there and have a great ecotourism B&B experience for less money than we’ve spent in non-descript chain motels.

Just in case any reader might think plants aren’t interesting, bear in mind that they have been on Earth for about a billion years and have thus had time to co-evolve into a huge variety of shapes, structures and life-styles. The plant Kingdom numbers the tallest, largest and the oldest living organisms. They have shaped the very world we live in, produced most of our atmospheric oxygen, contributed about 3/4 of our medicines, they moderate our climate and are the basis of the terrestrial food pyramid.

You can view some photographs of the plants that we encountered on iNaturalist here. I’ll add a few more over time and add the link to the LMNE BIOBLITZ HERE.

This beautiful female Swamp Darner dragonfly was drawn to Dr. Bette Kauffman, who so loves Odonates.