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Seminar: “Native Ferns” with John Manion

February 20 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Even without the ancient and fascinating history of ferns, and their formidable role in plant evolution – they are so very valuable in the garden/landscape setting. The first land plants were the spore-forming and non-flowering mosses, hornworts and liverworts – collectively called the bryophytes, all of which lacked vascular systems. This prevented them from growing large, as there was no way for them to transport water.

The next significant step in plant evolution was the appearance of the pteridophytes, including horsetails, clubmosses…and ferns! What made this step so different was the fact that these plants were the first to have vascular systems – allowing them to grow taller than a few inches – some over 100 feet tall! The appearance of these pteridophytes predated the dinosaurs – about 300 million years ago. Throughout history, ferns have been…and continue to be the topic of many aspects of our cultural history, as food, medicine, religion, folklore and in horticulture.

This seminar will offer an overview of these topics and will focus on the ferns here in the southeast, especially the many that are landscape worthy. They come in all sizes and textures to add charisma to any planting, whether the setting is wet, dry, shady or sunny. Because their “roots” are shallow, they are easy to plant.

John Manion, though born in Georgia, spent his youth growing up in rural upstate NY where he was one of five children raised by his father, a forester – and his mother, and avid gardener. He has lived in many places in the U.S. and abroad, and after working in several careers (the longest as an emergency/trauma nurse) he realized his true passion was for plants. After earning an undergraduate degree in plant science at State University of New York at Cobleskill, he was awarded a fellowship to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Garden Leadership at Cornell University. He has interned and worked at several botanical gardens and arboreta, including the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland. After working as Historic Gardens Curator at the Atlanta History Center, he became the Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator at Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Alabama, where he spent 11 years developing and refining a seven-acre collection of native plants – the most comprehensive in the state. Since early in 2022, John has been the Education/Outreach Coordinator at Overhill Gardens in Vonore, TN. John is passionate about sharing his love for, and knowledge about – our native flora and all its related topics; his position at Overhill allows him to engage in all of this.

Seminars are held via Zoom on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Central Time (7:30 p.m. Eastern Time) and last about one hour. All members and potential members are welcome to join the meeting. The link to join this seminar is:


February 20
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category: