Jim Locklear, director of conservation at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, visited the Claude A. Barr Memorial Collection archives at Chadron State College Friday conducting research for a revised version of Barr's book "Jewels of the Plains: Wild Flowers of the Great Plains Grasslands and Hills."
Locklear is no stranger to CSC. He has served on the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society board and is the former director of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, of which Chadron State College has long been an affiliate site.
Barr 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. “Jewels of the Plains” records his nearly half-century of experience with the plants of the region.
Locklear said the late Dr. Ron Weedon, a CSC biology professor, was instrumental in the original publication of “Jewels of the Plains” in 1983. Barr had been working on the book for years but was in failing health and died in 1982.
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.
“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,” Locklear said.
Locklear pointed out he will not be editing Barr’s prose, but since 194 of the 566 scientific names in the book are no longer valid, he will be making updates to reflect current scientific knowledge. The revised edition should be available from the University of Minnesota Press in the fall of 2015.
“Claude didn’t have any children, so it really is admirable that Ron preserved Claude’s work in such an organized manner at CSC. 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,” Locklear said.
During his visit, Locklear toured the Claude Barr Garden near the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center with horticulturist Lucinda Mays. Herbarium director Steve Rolfsmeier assisted Locklear with his research in the Great Plains Herbarium.
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.
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