By Sarah Flores
To know Lynda Waldrep and even on first meeting her, you know she’s a person who can make a difference. After retiring from her career as a high school Spanish teacher in the Guilford County school system, Lynda focused her time and energy into becoming an active participant and volunteer for the North Carolina Native Plant Society, which recently honored her with its highest award, the President’s Award.
The award was presented at the NCNPS 71st annual meeting at Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer to recognize Lynda’s contributions to furthering the mission of the organization. Look at almost anything to do with native plants in North Carolina, and you’ll find Lynda’s impact in areas of education, protection, cultivation, and advocacy. If ever a person exemplifies the enjoyment and conservation of North Carolina’s native plants and their habitats, it’s Lynda Waldrep.
As a child, she loved observing mountain plants in the wild
Lynda attributes her passion to her summers in the mountains of North Carolina. Growing up in Greenville, SC, her family would escape the oppressive heat by heading north to the cool of the mountain where Lynda would observe the wildflower blooms every year. It was at that early age that her appreciation for wild plants began. She noticed those plants flourishing every summer with no help from a gardener or landscaping crew.
As an adult, she began to learn about wild plants
Fast forward to when she retired from her teaching career and in 2000 obtained a Master Gardener certification at the Guilford County NC State Extension. While she learned much about the fashionable landscaping plants of the time, pruning methods, and soil treatment, Lynda realized she wanted to identify the wild plants she had always loved and learn how to establish them in her yard. She discovered what was then known as the North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society. Lynda has been an active member of the society ever since.
As she became more active with the NC Wild Flower Preservation Society, Lynda became involved in organizing numerous events. One such activity – plant rescues – jump started the organization’s revitalization. In April of 2002 Lynda was one of those instrumental in planning one of the most significant rescues to date to preserve and relocate species of plants. It involved hundreds of participants and thousands of very desirable plants on hundreds of acres at the Randleman Dam site that were about to become a lake.
In 2004, the group formally became the North Carolina Native Plant Society. Early in the 2000s as the society was expanding its activities, Lynda helped reactivate the Shinn Grants, initiated the BW Wells Stewardship Fund, helped start, along with Tom Harville, the Native Plant Habitat program, and developed chapters across the state. In the years to come, Lynda would hold the roles of secretary and vice president, planner of the spring and fall trips, and find ways to attract new members to the NCNPS.
On a more local level, Lynda has been instrumental in organizing NCNPS Triad Chapter events, hikes, and programs. As a Society speaker she has given presentations on topics such as winter sowing and short-lived native perennials.
She networks with other organizations
For Lynda, it’s all about making connections and emphasizing the importance of native plants. With her involvement in numerous environmentally-focused organizations, she spreads the word about the North Carolina Native Plant Society and the importance and appeal of native species. Always interested in continuing her personal education, in 2018 she earned a Certificate of Native Plant Studies at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill.
Active in many other groups, she shares information about speakers, places of interest, and issues of relevance to the Society. The groups she has been active with include the Master Gardeners in Guilford County, the Guilford Horticultural Society, the North American Rock Garden Society, North Carolina Botanical Garden Chapel Hill, The Cullowhee Native Plant Conference of Western Carolina University, the JC Raulston Arboretum of NC State University Raleigh, and the Paul J. Ciener Arboretum of Kernersville.
This very widespread networking is valuable and enriching to the community as a whole.
Because of her continuing contributions to the NCNPS Triad Chapter and her major efforts in the revitalization and ongoing growth of the North Carolina Native Plant Society, Lynda Waldrep is the epitome of a member deserving the highest award the Society bestows.
What’s next for Lynda?
As Lynda prepares to step down from her role as chair of the Triad Chapter, she is in no way slowing down or stepping away from active involvement. This past month, I was able to chat with her to learn more about her years of service to the NCNPS.
I first saw Lynda in action at one of the monthly chapter meetings held at the Kathleen Clay Library in Greensboro. I recently had moved to the area and was overwhelmed deciding what to plant in my large wooded yard that was overgrown with invasive species. After a bit of research, I stumbled on the North Carolina Native Plant Society and attended my first meeting. Lynda was obviously the person in charge, introducing the speaker and reminding members of the many upcoming activities that were planned at the time. This was in the spring of 2019, before planning events became wrought with Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines due to the covid pandemic.
In the years to come, I would learn so much from Lynda and the programs she planned. Coming to this knowledgeable group with little gardening experience, I had a lot of questions. Lynda was ever patient and helpful as she pointed me to resources I needed. Lynda is a great plant photographer, and shares her photos of plants blooming in her yard and in the wild on the Triad Chapter Facebook page, enabling members to identify what may also be blooming near them.
Lynda shows us how
At the annual chapter seed swap in December Lynda put on a winter sowing workshop to ensure that the seeds so patiently prepared by members had the best chance of survival. I brought home my milk container and put it in a sunny spot for the winter.
I was thrilled to come back to it in the spring to find a jug full of seedlings ready to be transplanted into their own little pot. I had successfully grown my first native plants from seed with Lynda’s guidance. I now look forward to the seed swap every year in December to acquire new seeds to winter sow, and am proud to say I now have these plants growing in my yard.
One of the reasons Lynda turned to seed sowing was to provide a way to continue to garden within the physical limitations of aging. She recognized the needs of many longtime members to continue with the activities they were interested in, and provided a meaningful way to stay engaged.
Another less strenuous activity that she has found an interest in is growing ferns in her basement under grow lights from spores that she collects. “It is not difficult, but takes time. This season my spores yielded many starts of Dryoperteris goldiana. It is a fun and easy activity if you have patience.”
As times change, Lynda helps us pivot
I watched as Lynda helped our group pivot to meet the challenges of the pandemic in 2020. Under her leadership, our chapter began to meet monthly using Zoom. During a difficult time for all, we were able to continue to learn about native plants, and find a sense of companionship in isolation.
This year, Lynda will be stepping back from her role as chairperson of the Triad Chapter. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean she is ending her work with the Triad Chapter, only handing off some of the many duties she has collected over the years. Looking back at her time involved with NCNPS, Lynda has seen the group wax and wane, members come and go, and the suggestions of experts evolve with new scientific discoveries. Through the changes, she has given freely of her time and talents in an effort to make more gardeners aware of the important role native plants play in reestablishing biodiversity and balance in our environments.
She makes vision a reality
One of the opportunities for growth she has identified is the need for collaboration among environmentally minded organizations that have similar goals and missions. By joining forces and sharing our resources, we can further our reach and increase involvement. I look to Lynda as an example of how to make a valuable impact, and am proud to call her a mentor, and my favorite “plant friend.” Congratulations Lynda on this well deserved honor.
Sarah Flores lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband, two daughters, and golden retriever. With a degree in hospitality management from the University of South Carolina, she worked in the food and beverage industry and as an event planner. More recently, a passion for farm to table food and foraging led her to advocate for native plants. She is a member of the Triad Chapter, NC Native Plant Society.
Editor’s Note: Next year’s NC Native Plant Society awards are being accepted until January 1, 2023. Learn how to nominate your favorite candidate or your favorite project. Awards recognize individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the Society and to the cause of native plant and habitat conservation.
Copyright © 2022 North Carolina Native Plant Society. All rights reserved.