Public Awareness -- December 1998

Red Letter Days of a Pennsylvania Botanist

Phil Sheridan

Keywords: conservation -- history: Tom Darling

On July 24, 1993 The Nature Conservancy dedicated the 1.6 km2 (400 acre) Thomas Darling Nature Preserve in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. This was in recognition of Tom Darling's lifelong efforts to preserve natural areas and his support of The Nature Conservancy. Mr. Darling's persistent efforts over ten years also helped result in the preservation of Lehigh Pond, one of the most pristine bog habitats in Pennsylvania. Since its dedication, the Thomas Darling Nature Preserve has been expanded to nine square kilometers (2200 acres) and includes glacial wetlands, peatlands, shrub swamps, acidic fens, marshes, wet meadows, and the state’s largest native spruce, tamarack, and balsam forest.

The dedication of the preserve occurred at Bear Lake Lodge two days before Mr. Darling’s 90th birthday. I drove up to Bear Lake early that day but was not able to find Mr. Darling at the house since he was walking around North Cove Bog looking at his botanical treasures. Fortunately, I located him and joined him in the survey. Many of Mr. Darling's plant rarities have survived since their introduction over sixty years ago (Sheridan, 1989).

Mr. Darling was the special guest of honor on July 23, 1994 at the Boy Scouts of America 75th Anniversary Celebration at Camp Acahela. He was the first Nature Director at Camp Acahela in 1924 and the first Eagle Scout in the Wyoming Valley in 1919. Mr. Darling says this is where his original enthusiasm for nature and botany began, leading to his numerous publications (Darling, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1964a & b, 1966; Darling and Shetler, 1972; Wagner and Darling, 1957).

Mr. Darling made an important collection of Sarracenia rubra Walt. from Georgia early in his career. He collected S. rubra when he was stationed at Camp Wheeler in the U.S. Army during World War II. The collection was made in Bibb County, Georgia "near Lakeside (NE of Macon) April 15, 1945" Darling (PENN). Mr. Darling botanized the Lakeside area on March 28, 1945 with Dr. Berkmans--designer of the Royal Gardens of Belgium (perhaps this refers to The National Botanic Gardens of Belgium at Meise--ed)--when the pitcher plants were still in bud, but returned again by himself on April 15. His field notes for the latter date read, "Drive to Winship Lake, very hot weather, clear sky, morning and afternoon off. Canoeing and swimming following formation and ceremony in honor of Roosevelt's funeral; called on Major Barber and wife in Macon, then to Lakeside in late afternoon. Pitcher plants in full bloom." The only other collection of S. rubra from this county was "wet thicket, Lakeside (near Macon) July 2, 1932" Wherry (GH).

According to Troup (pers. comm. to T. Darling, 1975) Dr. Harrold of Macon, Georgia (a noted botanist in his own right, the Charles Harrold Preserve between Macon and Savannah being named after him) may have provided Dr. Wherry with locality data on the S. rubra station. Mr. Darling was also a friend of Dr. Harrold who personally showed him many interesting botanical finds near Macon, and it is likely that the Lakeside bog was well known to local botanists. Investigations by Troup in 1974, Sheridan and Troup in 1990, and Sheridan in 1992 have all failed to relocate the Lakeside S. rubra colony. Examination of topographic maps indicates that this population probably occurred on a pond margin at Lakeside or on a sandhill seep.

The only other pitcher plant species collected in the Macon area was S. flava L. by S. M. Tracy (Drosera filiformis var. tracyi is named after him) on May 5, 1889 (US). Troup and McDaniel (1980) and Troup (pers. comm. 1995) state that Tracy's collection is actually S. oreophila (Kearney) Wherry. While the specimen lacks phyllodia which would clarify whether it is S. flava or S. oreophila, Troup (pers. comm. 1995) points out several important reasons that suggest it is S. oreophila. The specimen was found in the same geographic range as other S. oreophila populations along the Alabama and Georgia fall line sandhills. The overall size of the specimen is relatively smaller than a typical flowering S. flava and the scape is taller than the adult pitcher as is typical of S. oreophila. The scapes of S. flava are decidedly shorter than the average sized pitchers.

S. rubra also grew with S. oreophila in Taylor County, Georgia (Troup and McDaniel, 1980). Mr. Darling's collection of S. rubra in the same county as S. oreophila is an important one and helps to link these two species geographically. I hope that future work in Bibb County will rediscover S. rubra or the more elusive S. oreophila with Mr. Darling's work as a helpful foundation.

I congratulate Mr. Darling on his lifelong achievements and wish him many more years to come. Those interested in visiting the Thomas Darling Nature Preserve should contact The Nature Conservancy at (717) 643-7922.

(Conversations with the The Nature Conservancy staff in Pennsylvania revealed that they hope to enlarge the Thomas Darling Nature Preserve in the future. Those interested in supporting The Nature Conservancy’s work in Pennsylvania should call the number listed above, or write to The Nature Conservancy, Poconos Mountain Program, P.O. Box 55, Long Pond, PA 18334--ed)


Thanks to Tom Darling, Randy Troup, and Don Schnell for review of the manuscript.


Darling, T. 1957, In Search Of The Rock-fern Hybrid Asplenium gravesii, Am. Fern Jour. 47(2): 55-66.

Darling, T. 1961, Florida Rarities, Am. Fern Jour. 51(1): 1-15.

Darling, T. 1962, More Florida Rarities, Am. Fern Jour. 52(4):137-148.

Darling, T. 1964a, Southwest Vacation, Am. Fern Jour. 54(4): 197-205.

Darling, T. 1964b, Insectivorous Plants In The Poconos, Castanea 29: 126-128.

Darling, T. 1966, Northwest Vacations, Am. Fern Jour. 56(2): 49-55.

Darling, T., and Shetler, S.G. 1972, Sarracenia ¥ catesbaei Elliott (pro sp.) In The Pocono Mountains Of Pennsylvania, Castanea 37: 133-137.

Sheridan, P. 1989, The Story Of Tom Darling And Bear Lake, Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 18: 102-108.

Troup, R. and McDaniel, S. 1980, Current Status Report On Sarracenia oreophila, Office of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 60pp.

Wagner, W.H. and Darling, T. 1957, Synthetic And Wild Asplenium gravesii, Brittonia 9(1): 57-63.

©International Carnivorous Plant Society

Google Custom Search

This page is maintained by Robert Ziemer,