Have you ever wondered what that little white flower is along the side of the trail? Have you tried to look it up and gotten overwhelmed by all the possibilities in your wildflower book? Help is here! Camp Wesley Woods now has a field guide to just the wildflowers located on our property, making identification much easier and enhancing the experience of those hoping to delve further into the natural wonders around us.
Matt Rung brought years of environmental teaching experience when he joined the Outdoor Education team at Camp Wesley Woods in early 2014. He has now spent three Outdoor Education seasons inspiring area students to love the ecosystems of the Smoky Mountains. Matt also spent free time pursuing his passion of identifying, logging, and photographing wildflowers. While our students have benefitted from Matt’s wildflower stories for years, Matt has now shared his vast botanical knowledge with the rest of us in the form of a very local field guide. The Flora of Camp Wesley Woods: spring ephemerals to autumn composites includes not only pictures organized in a user-friendly, color-coded arrangement but also information about bloom dates and plant locations. His intriguing introduction explains why the Smoky Mountains harbor the plant diversity that allows nearly 200 species to be found within the camp’s 700 acres.
In addition to serving as a wonderful resource to those exploring the natural world at camp, the field guide has implications that reach far further. The Smoky Mountains are known internationally as a location of great biodiversity, designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve. Those of us fortunate enough to live in this area have a great resource for recreation and learning in our backyard. As Christians, this also means that we carry a great responsibility to care for this resource. Scripture tells us in Psalm 24:1 that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and those that dwell therein.” We are but stewards of God’s earth, called to manage and care for His creation, including the plants “that dwell therein”. We can’t understand changes in our environment if we don’t notice those changes; monitoring the occurrence of plant and animal species is a vital component of any conservation effort. Matt’s wildflower field guide also serves as a fantastic baseline survey of the botanic resources on our camp property. Over time, new species might be discovered and need to be added to the book, but this list of species offers us the chance to raise an alarm and re-evaluate our actions if species currently included can no longer be found.
According to a recent Associated Press article, fewer students are choosing to study botany today than in previous years; there are only about half as many universities even offering degrees in botany today than twenty-five years ago. (Lauer, C. May 25, 2015. Fewer Students Study Botany, More Plant Collections Closing. The Associated Press.) This is a cause for concern in conservation circles as fewer people in the future will be able to identify and monitor plant populations. Thankfully, Matt Rung is one of the young professionals still passionate about botany and we have been fortunate to have him with us at Camp Wesley Woods. We have been richly blessed by Matt, not only with his impact on our area schools’ students, but with a fantastic environmental resource as part of his legacy with us. Our responsibility with Matt’s field guide now truly begins – enjoy the beauty of the wildflowers around us and work to conserve the ecosystems that nurture them.