When Appalachian State University biology professor Annkatrin Rose moved to Boone from Germany in 2002 for a job teaching botany, she knew little about the area other than its scenery and hiking trails.
Rose began hiking near Boone to take pictures of the land and plants she encountered for her own enjoyment, but soon realized she could transform her hobby into something more.
One of her photos made it to the final round of last year’s Appalachian Mountain Photography Contest, and around that same time she began to lead guided wildflower walks through campus and surrounding areas a few times a week.
“That’s kind of how it all started, me going out with my camera to take pictures of plants,” Rose said. “Then I started buying books to try and identify those plants and I learned a lot.”
Now, she is regarded as a local expert in native plants and has begun a program called Boone in Bloom, which includes a series of campus walks through the Department of Biology’s nature preserve behind Greenwood Parking Lot.
Last year, these walks attracted about 12 students and community members on a sunny day, but she anticipates many more participants this year as she has expanded her program to include the Daniel Boone Native Gardens and sections of Grandfather Mountain.
The trips usually last two hours, and primarily attract locals interested in gardening or medicinal and Native American uses of plants in addition to biology majors.
Rebecca Kaenzig, chair of the board of directors for the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, said that walks like this call attention to the often-overlooked diversity of nature that exists in this region.
“Our mission is to preserve and become educated about native plants, which is just what [Rose is] trying to do,” Kaenzig said.
Sue McBean, the superintendent of Grandfather State Park, helped Rose expand her program to off-campus sites this year. McBean said that Rose’s inclusion of Grandfather, which has 16 distinct ecological zones due to various elevations and climates, will help students see a much wider range of wildflowers.
Rose said she does not try to force a love of hard sciences such as botany on participants, but prefers to simply call their attention to the beauty surrounding them.
“I hope they get some interaction with nature and just knowing what’s flowering out there,” Rose said.
Boone in Bloom’s 2014 nature walks began April 4 and are scheduled through June. For more information, visit Boone In Bloom on Facebook or check the Wildflower Report at biology.appstate.edu.
Story by Laney Cooper, Senior A&E Reporter
Photo courtesy of Annkatrin Rose