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Excursion: Back to the Future: Suther Prairie Nature Preserve, Cabarrus County

with Dennis Testerman, Conservationist, Preserve Steward at Suther Prairie; Jim Matthews, Ph.D., Retired, Department of Biology, UNC-Charlotte; Mike Baranski, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Biology, Herbarium Curator, Catawba College

The registration period has closed for this event.

Date: Sunday, May 9, 2021

Time: 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Fee: $45.00 ($41 members of either NCBG or FoPC)


After being cared for by generations of the Suther family going back to the 1700s, this relatively undisturbed remnant Piedmont wet prairie on the floodplain of Dutch Buffalo Creek became a “must see” destination over the last two decades for scientists, conservationists, researchers, and reporters/writers from across the country after being included in the natural heritage inventory of Cabarrus County. Hundreds of species have been catalogued on this 9-acre preserve, and the ecotypes of dozens of species are available commercially for conservation projects, including Suther Indiangrass and Suther big (and little) bluestem.  The iconic photograph that shows up in any internet search for this site was taken when the “meadow” (as the Suther family referred to this site) was a sea of color with Atamasco lilies and Indian paintbrush in full bloom. New species continue to be identified, including Carex pellita, a new state record discovered in 2019!


Transportation to the Suther Prairie Preserve is not included. Meeting location and directions provided with registration confirmation. 


What to bring: 

Insect repellant, sunscreen, snacks and water are suggested, in addition to a sense of wonder!


What to wear:

Access to site involves walking across a rocky creek ford, so appropriate footwear and walking stick are recommended. Suther Prairie is a spring-fed wet prairie that partially lies in a floodplain. Raingear suggested.




Lilium candense (Canada lily)                         Oenothera perennis (Small sundrops)  



Photo courtesy of John Suther


We're expanding our partnership with the Friends of Plant Conservation to offer several excursions and Lunchbox Talks that highlight some of our state's rarest plants and natural areas. Attend the March 25 Virtual Lunchbox Talk: Back to the Future: Suther Prairie Nature Preserve by registering here.


Want to spend the whole weekend in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area? Consider attending the Bigleaf Magnolia at Redlair Preserve excursion (click here for details) on Saturday, May 8. 


This event is a partnership between NCBG and Friends of Plant Conservation.







About the Program Leaders

Dennis Testerman is a conservationist and minister. He has an undergraduate forestry degree in environmental conservation and a graduate divinity degree in environmental ministry. Dennis has served as a conservationist, educator and minister in Nigeria, Pakistan and North Carolina. His roots run deep in a high elevation So. Appalachian mountain cove farm that has been in his family since 1789, a farm the features a registered old-growth forest natural area and a restored heirloom apple orchard. He currently serves as the volunteer preserve steward for the Suther Preserve.

Jim Matthews retired from the UNCC Department of Biology having served 56 years, retiring as Chairman.  His primary contributions in research involved E & T species, Helianthus schweinitzii,  Portulaca and Isoetes.  He and his students provided oversight for natural heritage site surveys for Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Gaston and Lincoln Counties. He was involved in land acquisition of botanically important sites in the Piedmont (Rocky River Bluff in Stanly Co, Suther Prairie in Cabarrus Co., Reedy Creek Park in Mecklenburg Co.).   He, along with hundreds of students developed a herbarium focusing on the Piedmont flora.  Currently, over 35,000 specimens have been partially entered into SERNEC.  The Piedmont collection includes Forty Acre Rock in Lancaster Co., SC, and other Piedmont granitic outcrops, bottomlands and isolated sites with unique floras.

Mike Baranski is Emeritus Professor of Biology at Catawba College and Curator of the Herbarium.  He is a botanist/ecologist whose teaching specialties included field botany, plant taxonomy, forest ecology, conservation biology, resource management, and many other subjects.  He taught Southern Appalachian Flora at the Highlands Biological Station for several years and has led Wildflower Pilgrimage walks in the Smokies for many decades.  His special interests are in woody plants and natural area studies.  He conducted biological inventories for the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for N.C., the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, and other agencies.  His natural areas inventory for Rowan County was among the first countywide inventories performed in N.C.  Mike is past president of the Association of Southeastern Biologists, the North Carolina Academy of Science, and the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.  He currently serves as Vice-President of the Friends of Plant Conservation in NC.

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Remaining Seats: 4

Registration open through 5/7/2021 12:00 PM EST | Refund Policy

UNC Community Standards

We are taking extensive precautions to make sure the Garden is a safe place to visit, and we need your help to keep it safe for everyone. When registering, you must agree to abide by the UNC Community Standards. Read the UNC Community Standards here.

In brief, please follow these practices:

  • Before leaving home for class, check for symptoms using the COVID-19 screening checklist. Do not attend class if you are experiencing any symptom(s) indicated on the screening checklist. If you are not able to attend class for this reason, we will offer you a full refund as course credit or to your credit card.

  • Watch your distance and remain 6 feet apart from others.

  • Bring a mask with you. Wear a mask at all times indoors and when you are unable to maintain a 6' distance outdoors.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Wipe off your work area before class with disinfecting wipes that will be available in the classroom.

By doing these things, you are doing your part to keep others safe both on campus and in our local communities.


Meeting location and directions provided with registration confirmation.