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Dr. Figdore showing preserved herbs during a presenation

On Saturday, July 8, Upper Iowa University (UIU) welcomed the Fontana Herb Society to Fayette Campus to learn more about the C. C. Parker Herbarium of Upper Iowa University. The Herbarium contains nearly 5,000 plant specimens, including samples from a series of plant collections spanning back to the 1860’s. The earliest samples in the Herbarium were donated by the Herbarium’s namesake, Dr. Charles Coleman (C. C.) Parker, who was the first physician to reside in the town of Fayette and the first professor of natural sciences to teach after UIU opened in 1857. The presentation was made by UIU Professor of Science, Robert L Fox Chair of Science and Herbarium Curator, Scott Figdore, with assistance from UIU Archivist, Janette Garcia.

“It was truly a pleasure for Janette and me to host the Fontana Herb Society and to lead them in a discussion about C. C. Parker, his herbarium and the historical artifacts donated to UIU by descendants of his family.,” said Figdore. “We were able to share stories that demonstrated C. C. Parker’s extraordinary dedication to his community, which included Upper Iowa University, its students, the town of Fayette and the surrounding area.”

The Parker family’s commitment to UIU is a tradition that carries on today. The generosity of Dr. James D. Parker, great-grandson of C. C. Parker, has made possible the delicate restoration, maintenance, documentation, and study of the original samples. The Parker descendant’s philanthropic support has also allowed Figdore to add his own collection of specimens from a current survey of the flora of Fayette County. This will allow useful comparisons to be made of the changes to plant species in Fayette County over the last 160 years.

Of special interest to the Fontana Herb Society was the discussion of the Pleggenkuhle Prairie, a remnant prairie, which was donated to UIU to preserve and maintain. This three-acre piece of land that has never been cultivated has proven to be an invaluable resource for plant survey research, as well as for teaching conservation management practices to UIU students.

“It was terrific to see the community spirit in the society members in attendance. They were enthusiastic, eager to learn and asked many excellent questions. They definitely appreciated the benefits of life-long learning,” continued Figdore.

As an additional treat, Garcia led the group on a tour of the C. C. Parker Display in the Henderson-Wilder Library. This display contains numerous artifacts associated with Dr. Parker’s medical practice and his service as a surgeon during the Civil War. These artifacts were donated to UIU by the descendants of C. C. Parker in 2017.

To learn more about the C. C. Parker Herbarium of Upper Iowa University, contact Professor Scott Figdore at [email protected]. For additional information, visit UIU’s conservation management and biology programs.