Skip to main content
Join Member Login
Home2021 GARNESS: Juliet Kirby Orchid Grant


Kathleen Marie Garness


The Juliet Kirby award was sponsored by several of Juliet’s students, in Juliet’s honor, for her many years’ dedication in teaching botanical art. Juliet especially loved orchids! The grant requirements involved botanical art, outreach to new audiences, and orchids.


Researching the orchids of the Illinois beach plain has long been an interest of mine, and this grant gave the sort of gravitas I needed to further my studies. In March of 2021 I had given a talk about native orchids of Illinois for the Friends of Hackamatack National Wildlife Refuge. This talk was an update on research I had done fourteen years earlier, exploring the conservation status of orchids of Illinois, and presenting those findings at the Native Orchid Conference at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. Part of my early research involved updating the vascular plant species list for the Chiwaukee-Waukegan lake plain; my extensive literature research added over 230 species to the list of 650 that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had identified.



Dunesland Platantheras

As a scientific affiliate of the Field Museum and Morton Arboretum, I had access to their herbarium collections. When I exhausted all the online collections at the Field Museum (over 4000 orchid specimens) and the Consortium of Midwest Herbaria from the target area – the Ramsar-dedicated Chiwaukee-Waukegan lake plain – I sought admission to smaller local herbariums hosting older specimens: The Chicago Academy of Science, Lake Forest College, and the Chicago Botanic Garden.


Twenty-one species of orchids were found to be vouchered from the region. Several others were likely suspects, but were not included in the initial project because no local vouchers, literature records, or plausible first-hand accounts were located. Another reason this research area was chosen was that the human communities of the Chiwaukee-Waukegan lake plain are very diverse, with nearly 50% Spanish speaking. Any written materials I would produce needed to be available to them in that language! 



Life-sized illustrations were based on color notations, drawings, and measurements from historic herbarium specimens. Preliminary line drawings were then done of each of the species in question. Those were sent to a team of botanists who are acknowledged in the scientific community as experts on our native orchids: Dr. Melissa McCormick from the Smithsonian Institution (Corallorhiza); Dr. Kenneth Cameron, from University of Wisconsin Madison; Dr. Paul Catling, whose name is on hundreds of academic orchid studies; and Michael Homoya, author of Orchids of Indiana. In addition, Dr. Robbin Moran, botany curator emeritus from the New York Botanical Garden, and Dr. Gerould Wilhelm, Conservation Research Institute, graciously reviewed images as they were produced. All the scientists provided invaluable feedback. Each scientist saw different details to feature or minimize, contributing to a more accurate rendering in each case. I am deeply grateful to all my advisors for their time, expertise, and patience!



Once the line drawings were rendered, reviewed, and approved by the botanists on the team, I completed watercolor renderings of each plant at full scale. All the artwork was scanned by early July, giving us time to assemble the images, get the content written, edited, reviewed and approved by the botanists, translated into Spanish, and then sent on to the web developer by the first week of September for our hard deadline of October 1, 2022.


During the project year, fifteen outreach events were completed, including demos, talks, colored pencil and watercolor classes for children, teens, and adults. And a two-county, two-day lake plain botany blitz!


The day before I left for my grant presentation in New York, I received an email from Dr. Tony Reznicek of the University of Michigan, saying that he had just located an herbarium voucher for Platanthera huronensis from my region, so that brings our species list up to 22! (That species will eventually be incorporated into the website as well.)



Two of the most exciting events were the opportunity to draw and learn about hand-pollination of the federally-threatened Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid in its sedge meadow habitat, and instigating the two-county foray in June 2022 to hopefully relocate orchid stations in the Chiwaukee-Waukegan Beach Ridge Plain. We enlisted the help of about 35 botanists – both professional and avocational – spread out over the 4000 acres of the lake plain to do a bioblitz of the plant species. In addition to finding two new subpopulations of orchid species already tracked by Plants of Concern and/or site stewards, and a new sedge (Carex) county record, the team recorded 332 species of vascular plants and 112 taxa of animals. (This represents about 40% of the plant species already recorded historically from the area, in just a two-day window of time.) This data will help inform land management efforts. Since the lake plain restoration work has recently been awarded funding, it is now especially important to target the management dollars wisely. It is my fervent hope that this project will have impact well ‘beyond the studio.’


Thank you for this amazing opportunity.



2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

Powered by ClubExpress