Remembering our Friend Jim Fowler

On Behalf of the South Carolina Native Plant Society

On June 26, members of the Upstate Chapter were traveling to a meet-up point for a roadside botany field trip, when I received a very regrettable call that Jim Fowler was gone. My first response after a period of speechlessness, was “That can’t be right, he can’t be a day over 60!” We heard similar responses from all over that day.

But it was true, he has been taken from us at a very young, vital 74. And so, social media has been peppered with sorrowful posts from around the country. This will be an attempt to express our sorrow and the fond memories we in the South Carolina Native Plant Society have of Jim Fowler.

Jim and Walter were early joiners with SCNPS and were active from day one. At that time, we were engaged in native grass seed collections in all four districts of the Francis Marion-Sumter National Forest. We gathered Society volunteers and collected seeds from USFS roadsides and other country roadsides in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. The Forest Service used these seeds to establish native plant plots in the various Districts. And, of course, Jim and Walter jumped on board!

On those expeditions, Jim would point out strange, beautiful plants on the roadside that he assured us were native orchid species. For many of us, orchids became much more than the flower you pinned to your prom date’s dress. We soon learned that Jim was very much an expert and avid pursuer of native orchid species. We saw beautiful photos in his PowerPoint presentations to our chapter groups and at our annual statewide Symposia. His field trips were well attended. We went out and bought numerous boxes of, and personal copies of, Wild Orchids Of South Carolina, A Popular Natural History, and also Orchids, Carnivorous Plants, and Other Wildflowers of the Green Swamp, North Carolina.

By then social media on the Internet was becoming very much a thing, and for better or worse (author comment), we joined up in droves. Here we learned that Jim, Walter, and friends were going out on many weekends hunting for, and photographing, native wildflowers, with emphasis on native orchids, apparently an obsession (smile) of Jim’s. Now, thanks to Jim’s passion for native orchids, there is a HUGE repository of beautiful photos and descriptive information on his blogs ( , and on Facebook and Flickr. And we were so proud when the US Postal Service issued postage stamps bearing his orchid photographs.

Jim had a huge role in dismissing the impression that “native plants are weeds”. He was a sweet, personable guy to be with, or in an audience at one of his presentations. I challenge each reader to come up with an occasion when Jim had anything other than a smile on his face. His warm, approachable presence will be sorely missed in our midst, but we have his huge body of imparted knowledge to show us the way forward. Thank you, James Alexander Fowler! We love you like a brother!

— Members of The South Carolina Native Plant Society