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Date: March 21, 2002

Virginia's first flora since 1739 is underway

(Richmond)-- John Clayton, whom Thomas Jefferson considered America's finest botanist, developed Virginia's first and only systematic account of Virginia's flora in 1739. More than 250 years later, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has signed an agreement with the Foundation of the Flora of Virginia Project Inc. supporting the foundation's development of the first comprehensive Virginia flora since Clayton's work.

A flora is an identification manual of plants that grow naturally in an area. The manual will be used in the field, classroom and library as a key reference to Virginia's plants.
DCR will provide office space, equipment and staff support to the flora project. The foundation has lead responsibility for developing the manual and privately raising the more than $1 million dollars in production costs.

Anyone now interested in Virginia's plant life has to work with out-of-date floras developed for neighboring regions or states. These floras lack critical components to make them accessible to Virginians. The format and text of this new work will be designed for use by Virginia educators to introduce the state's plants to its citizens while greatly enriching the knowledge of our more advanced botanists.

According to DCR Acting Director Leon E. App, a modern flora will help citizens, educators, conservationists, scientists and natural resource professionals provide reliable information about Virginia's plant life. "This resource tool will be useful to citizens, land planners, and local and state political leaders in making more informed land use decisions," said App.

"A well informed public is key to confronting environmental challenges," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. "Helping Virginians better understand the natural world is critical to conservation of the natural treasures that sustain us."

A nine-member board leads the foundation. Board members are Dr. Donna Ware, former curator of the College of William and Mary herbarium and a coauthor of the Atlas of the Virginia Flora; Michael Lipford, vice president and Virginia executive director of the Nature Conservancy; Nicky Staunton, president of the Virginia Native Plant Society; Dr. Chip Morgan, representative of the Wintergreen Nature Foundation; Marion Lobstein, vice president of the Virginia Academy of Science; Tom Smith, DCR director of natural heritage; Mike Garson, a Virginia attorney, Joslin Gallatin, formerly with the Foundation of the State Arboretum, and Chris Ludwig, DCR's chief biologist and executive director and board president of the Flora of Virginia Project Foundation Inc.

The flora's primary authors, Ludwig and Alan Weakley, also head a 50-member advisory team of technical experts from across Virginia. Developing a comprehensive statewide flora is expected to take five years. The guide will contain as many as 4,000 illustrations. Ludwig is looking for illustrators interested in working on the flora.

For more information on the Flora of Virginia project contact Chris Ludwig at or visit the DCR website at


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