UPDATE OF BARR BOOK BRINGS BOTANIST TO CSC

Posted 3 months ago

By John Axtell

Steve Rolfsmeier, Jim Locklear

Steve Rolfsmeier, Jim Locklear

One of Nebraska’s top botanists visited the Claude A. Barr Memorial Collection archives at Chadron State College on Friday.

Jim Locklear, director of conservation at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha,  is preparing a revised version of Barr’s book “Jewels of the Plains: Wild Flowers of the Great Plains Grasslands and Hills.”

Claude BarrBarr spent most of his life on a ranch in Fall River County, South Dakota, and in the 1930s started a mail-order nursery specializing in the wildflowers of the Great Plains.

Barr became engrossed with the wildflowers of the Great Plains and made meticulous observations about how and where they grew. Although his degree from Drake University was in the liberal arts, Barr became a self-taught botanist.

He began writing articles about the plants of the region for gardening magazines, which prompted requests for seeds and led him to establish a mail order business from his home.

Jewel of the Plains“Jewels of the Plains” records his nearly half-century of experience with the plants of the region.  He worked on the book for years, but died in 1982 before it was published

The late Dr. Ron Weedon, a longtime CSC biology professor, was instrumental in getting “Jewels of the Plains”published the year after Barr’s death.

Weedon helped advance the book to publication and later established the Claude Barr Memorial Collection, which houses Barr’s papers and books in the High Plains Herbarium.

Locklear, who has served on the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society board and is the former director of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, is grateful for Weedon’s work because he’s a huge fan of Barr’s book.

“Claude didn’t have any children, so it really is admirable that Ron preserved Claude’s work in such an organized manner at CSC.”

Locklear feels privileged to be working on the update of Jewels of the Prairie. “Claude’s book has been a source of inspiration for much of my work. It’s a huge honor to be involved with this project,”

Jim Locklear, Lucinda Mays

Jim Locklear, Lucinda Mays

He emphasizes that his revision will update only the scientific side, changes needed since 194 of the 566 scientific names used in the book are no longer valid.

He will make no changes to Barr’s prose. “It’s a beautifully written book, a classic. It records Claude’s direct experience. It’s like reading the notes of an explorer. He was a tremendous observer and curious.”

The revised edition should be available from the University of Minnesota Press in the fall of 2015.

During his visit to CSC, Locklear toured the Claude Barr Garden near the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center with horticulturist Lucinda Mays  while Great Plains Herbarium director Steve Rolfsmeier assisted Locklear with his research there.