Reading the Land: Wilhelm FQA Symposium


WHAT:  The Mad Botanist (aka Bill McKnight) has organized and is hosting a symposium focusing on landscape/vegetation assessment AND to honor the remarkable Gerould Wilhelm (Conservation Research Institute).  Dr. Wilhelm introduced the Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) methodology in the late 1970s and co-authored the award-winning Flora of the Chicago Region.

This special gathering will consist of presentations (including a special tribute to aid our all-important land trusts) as well as field trips, featuring a who’s who of field botanists. The event is being partially underwritten by the Indiana Academy of Science and The Sam Shine Foundation, with additional support from CILTI, the Illinois Native Plant Society, Paul Rothrock, and Christy and Jim Jacobi.  If interested and able to provide additional support, contact Bill McKnight at as soon as possible.

WHERE:  The multiday event will take place in Steuben Co. (IN) at the Potawatomi Inn & Conference Center, Pokagon State Park


COST:  Registration Fee $450, includes all food and drink – M dinner thru Th breakfast ; DOES NOT include lodging!

Lodging is separate thru the Potawatomi Inn (877-LODGES-1) A block of rooms, all capable of double occupancy, have been reserved at a special rate (reference Wilhelm Symposium), unused rooms will be released to the public on June 6.

REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. Please contact Bill McKnight ( with late registration questions.

Event Agenda

Monday, August 5

6-10 PM – Ice Breaker and Dinner

Tuesday, August 6

Morning sessions

Gerry & FQA: History and WhyDoug Ladd, Director Emeritus Missouri TNC, author and lichenologist

Misuse of FQA & Certification – Justin Thomas, Director, Institute of Botanical Training; Scott Namestnik, State Botanist, Indiana Nature Preserves

Five Things Research Has Taught Us About FQA and Five Things it Hasn’t – Greg Spyreas, Illinois Natural History Survey ecologist

Charlie Deam & the Gerould – Paul Rothrock, Author Sedges of Indiana and Adjacent States; Gerould Wilhelm, FQA, co-Author of Flora of the Chicago Region

Afternoon Field Trips

***Some field trips are full. Please check before registering so you do not select trips that are already at capacity!***

Participants select first and second choice field trips from the options below. To see field trip attendee lists, click here.

Group Dinner

Wednesday, August 7

Morning Sessions

Climate Change: Floristic Assessment in a Changing Landscape – Anton Reznicek, co-author Flora of Michigan, University of Michigan curator emeritus

Pollination Ecology in a Changing Landscape – Laura Rericha, co-author Flora of the Chicago Region, entomologist

Floristic Integrity Curve: Predicting the Direction of Outcomes – Justin Thomas

What now? Wisdom: Lessons from the Past & Guidance for the Future – Gerould Wilhelm

Afternoon Field Trips

***Some field trips are full. Please check before registering so you do not select trips that are already at capacity!***

Participants select first and second choice field trips from the options below. To see field trip attendee lists, click here.

Group Dinner

Thursday, August 8

Group Breakfast

Optional field trips may be available following breakfast.

Field Trip Descriptions: (Participants will select first and second choice trips for August 6 and 7)

The region’s glacial heritage has created a unique mix of rolling hills, kames, eskers, kettle lakes and wetlands of various types.  Some of the more spectacular sites (e.g., Mongoquinong Nature Preserve and Nasby Fen) are too fragile for our large groups.  All the sites are reasonably close and we will be carpooling. 

MIKE METZ FEN (AKA DUFF LAKE FEN) – Located in LaGrange County’s Pine Knob Park, 23 miles west of Pokagon State Park.  The 254-acre property features dry-mesic oak-hickory woodland, marsh, restored prairie, two natural lakes, and the Mike Metz Fen.  In the past ten years, restoration work in the fen, including plugging and filling of drainage ditches, removal of subsurface drainage tiles, recreation of stream meanders and treatment of invasive species, has led to the spread of native prairie fen and marsh species and remnant wetland communities.  The highlight of the nearly 3-mile Mike Metz Trail is a boardwalk through the prairie fen, where species such as shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa), grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia glauca) and lesser fringed gentian (Gentianopsis virgata) can be easily viewed without trampling the fragile fen habitat.  In addition, American mannagrass (Glyceria grandis), which was considered extirpated from Indiana when it was discovered at the site prior to restoration efforts, has rebounded impressively and can be seen from the trail.

GRASS LAKE NATURE PRESERVE – ACRES Land Trust owns and manages the 102-acre LaGrange County Preserve, 22 miles west of Pokagon State Park.  The property is closed to the public, but we have special permission to visit during the symposium.  Grass Lake was once a much larger natural lake with a fringe of marl beach, but after artificial drainage the lake receded, allowing the marl beach natural community to expand, becoming likely the largest of its type in Indiana.  Prairie fen is present where a deeper layer of muck is present over marl.  There are no trails, but the ground through the marl beach should be mostly dry, and we should see a number of interesting plant species including beaked spikerush (Eleocharis rostellata), smooth sawgrass (Cladium mariscoides), shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa), purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), lesser fringed gentian (Gentianopsis virgata), tamarack (Larix laricina) and northern bog aster (Symphyotrichum boreale).  Eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) and spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) are also present on the property.  

GENTIAN LAKE – AKA Failing Lake, is a beautiful 23-acre glacial kettle lake and is part of Trine State Recreation Area 1 mile east of Pokagon State Park.  The average depth of the lake is 15 feet, with a maximum depth of 50 feet.  Gentian Lake is the westernmost and largest of the Seven Sisters Lakes chain.  This event offers a unique on-the-water experience.  We will explore the submerged aquatic vegetation within the lake, the marshy emergent wetland vegetation as the lake transitions to drier ground around its perimeter, and the surrounding land.  We have arranged for the use of boats so participants can study the aquatic vegetation from the water.  The leaders will be maneuvering via kayak.  We can expect to see aquatic plants such as lesser pondweed (Potamogeton pusillus) and white water lily (Nymphaea tuberosa), sedge meadow plants such as tussock sedge (Carex stricta), and fen plants such as shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa), poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) and tamarack (Larix laricina).

TRINE STATE RECREATION AREA – A 186-acre DNR property located 1 mile east of Pokagon State Park.  Ben and Helen Swenson were the innkeepers of Pokagon State Park when they purchased this nearby property in 1948 and christened it Wing Haven. The area features a variety of habitats including oak woodland, a portion of Seven Sisters Lakes, and wetlands including fen, sedge meadow and marsh bordering Failing Lake.  On a short walk, the plant species we will encounter include poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), tamarack (Larix laricina), American common reed (Phragmites americanus), white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), spotted Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), shining aster (Symphyotrichum firmum), swamp aster (Symphyotrichum puniceum), flat-topped aster (Doellingeria umbellata) and swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum).

Published: April 2, 2024 in 2:39 pm


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