Native Plant Society introduced at Lawn & Garden Show in Valley Falls
Story and photos by Clarke Davis
Fred and Nancy Coombs are working to establish a northeast Kansas chapter of the Kansas Native Plant Society.
The couple had a large display and greeted people at the Jefferson County Home, Lawn & Garden Show Saturday in Valley Falls.
The couple has moved to a farm north of Denison that has been in his family dating back to 1857, four years before statehood.
They believe that possibly one corner of the 80-acre tract is native prairie, but the rest of the farm was put back to grass in the 1960s. Mr. Coombs is the fourth generation in his family to live on the land.
The Native Plant Society is a statewide organization and the Coombses are working to develop a chapter for the counties of Jefferson, Jackson, Atchison, Brown, Nemaha, and Doniphan.
The society encourages awareness and appreciation of the native plants of Kansas and promotes education, stewardship, and scientific knowledge. The society conducts field trips and sponsors wildflower tours.
The Coombses have moved to their farm following retirement. He was a professor of politics at the University of Illinois at Champaign and she was an elementary teacher. They raised four children and have 10 grandchildren.
Joining them at Valley Falls Saturday was Jeff Hansen, a Topeka botanist and society board member and former president. He also serves as a consultant and provides a web site at kansasnativeplants where the public can learn about the society.
The society’s president is Craig Freeman, director of the herbarium at the University of Kansas.
Jeri Clark, president of the Valley Falls Recreation Commission, reports that some vendors expressed satisfaction with the turnout and she expects the commission will plan on continuing the show next year.
The society sponsored a plant identification contest at its booth and Oskaloosa resident Marilyn Sharkey’s entry form was drawn from those who correctly named all 12 of the native plants by looking at the photos of their blooms. She won a year’s membership to KNPS as well as a wildflower poster “Gems of the Plains.”
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