Click of the camera
Since Moyer lived 700 miles away
from North Carolina, one of the greatest
challenges in producing Paul Green’s
Plant Book was finding time to
photograph the plants here. Moore also
supplied the energy for that endeavor.
“We would no sooner finish one
photographic excursion to the Sandhills
or Cape Fear River, when Ken would
inquire when the next would take place,”
says Moyer. “I made 10 photographic
trips to North Carolina, and every time
Ken would have prepared a list of the
plants in bloom and where we would be
able to find them. The main caveat:
The plants we pursued had to be
among the several hundred mentioned
in the Wordbook, since that was my
text. Ken’s contribution to this book
cannot be overstated.”
One of Moyer’s favorite adventures
with Moore was hanging on to a tree
while photographing trailing arbutus on
a steep hillside below Barbecue Church
near Sanford where her father and
mother once discovered a patch of the
delicate flowers. According to Paul
Green’s Plant Book, “A tincture of the
plant was once used for kidney trouble,
so the herb artist says.”
“Barbecue Church had been attended
by Flora Macdonald back in the 18th
century, and my parents were thrilled to
think they were walking in the footsteps
of this legendary woman,” says Moyer.
Macdonald was a famous Scot who
immigrated to North Carolina in
1750 and supported the Hanovarians
at the start of the American War of
Independence. “I had the thrill, too, of
following along two-and-a-half centuries
later and capturing a shot of the arbutus
- without catapulting camera, tripod,
and all down the steep hill.”
But before the photographic trips to
North Carolina, before Ken Moore’s
influence, and before Moyer’s original
inkling of inspiration in her dad’s work
cabin, there was her childhood.
Moyer grew up on 200 acres in the
country on what was then the outskirts
of Chapel Hill at the end of a dirt road
named Greenwood. During this time,
her father pursued his writing and
taught on and off at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the
departments of English, philosophy, and
dramatic arts. “My dad was ever a
teacher and, in that capacity, knew that
most significant learning takes place in
an atmosphere of fun,” says Moyer.
“Walks in the woods were frequent and
were opportunities for learning and for
friendly competition among us four kids.
“Dad taught us how to identify trees
and plants, how to know which direction
we were walking in - he always knew
because it was a matter of great
importance to him in his childhood days
- and all manner of things to do with
nature and her ways. The child who
could identify the most trees, for
example, would win the prize of his
approbation. But,” she adds, “we were
Moyer also learned by observing. She
says she recalls her parents’ wildflower
garden, which was one of their passions.
“I can remember trips during which my
mother would ask to stop the car and
would get out to collect the seed pods of
some flower growing beside the road.
Next year, you’d see the flower blooming
in their wildflower garden.”
Above: Botanist Ken Moore
joined Moyer to track plants,
prepare notes, and, eventually,
to co-edit the plant book.
Left: Paul Green noted
the root of Solomon’s
seal, when chewed and
swallowed, is a treatment
Moyer’s cherished childhood encounters with nature, learning, and her love of family is evident, not only in her recollections, but in the book itself. Several family members contributed to the work: There are photographic offerings from Moyer’s sister, Byrd Green Cornwell; another sister, Janet M.Green, wrote their dad’s profile; niece Dorrit Green designed the book; and Moyer’s great-niece appears in a few photos. Brother Paul Green and his wife, Dorritt, made a generous monetary donation to the book - as did her cousin, the late Betty Cheek, and husband, Charles - through the Community Foundation of Greensboro’s Prickett Fund. Even an attorney nephew contributed by suggesting that Moyer include a disclaimer about the medicinal properties of the plants described in the book.
When asked what her father would think about the book, Moyer says, “He would be pleased.”
When asked how her father might feel about the praise the book has received - from notables like composer and lyricist Richard Adler; North Carolina writer and activist John Ehle; Dr. C. Ritchie Bell, professor emeritus of botany at UNC and founder of the North Carolina Botanical Garden; and William Friday, president emeritus, University of North Carolina - Moyer laughs. “I can see him,” she says. “He had a gesture, a shy gesture, where he would push back his hat and sort of half-mutter, ‘Oh gosh, you shouldn’t do that.’ ” The praise, however, is well deserved.
Amy Jo Wood, marketing director for Our State, lives in High Point.
Paul Green’s Plant Book: An Alphabet of Flowers & Folklore is available at bookstores or through the North Carolina Botanical Garden at www.ncbg.unc.edu. A portion of the proceeds will go to the North Carolina Botanical Garden Education Fund and the Paul Green Cabin.
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© Betsy G. Moyer