International Master Gardener Conference 2011

Bill Cullina William-Cullina-pub-photo-7-2007-reduc

Presentation Titles

  • Sugar, Sex and Poison: Shocking Plant Secrets Caught on Camera (Feature Presentation)
  • Why You Can’t Buy a Forest in a Can (Breakout Session)

Presentation Descriptions:

Why You Can’t Buy a Forest in a Can
Eastern North America is blessed with some remarkable forests; forests that have suffered from 400 years of logging, plowing, pollution, and invasive pests. As our human population grows, so does pressure on our remaining forested lands, and we as individuals, communities, and nations need to act now curb their continuing degradation, for the sake of the trees and all that depend on them, including ourselves. It would be nice to think that you could just scatter a handful of seeds around in a degraded forest and come back a few years later to find the understory teeming with wildflowers, birds, and insects. Of course, nothing is that simple, but in this talk Bill Cullina will look at what makes our eastern forests special and what we can do in our own backyards and communities to restore the diversity of our woodlands.

Sugar, Sex, and Poison
As we all know, plants are at the base of both the human and non-human food chain. Everything eats them directly or indirectly, which may or may not be a good thing as far as plants are concerned. Because they do not move around, it is easy to forget that plants are not helpless. They have evolved an incredible arsenal of chemicals, camouflage, spines, hairs, and waxes to discourage herbivores. On the other hand, they spend a huge amount of their energy on pollen, nectar, edible fruits, and sugary root exudates designed to attract and nourish animals, insects, fungi and bacteria so they can perform services such as pollination, seed dispersal, defense, and nutrient acquisition. It is a carefully balanced natural economy and community based on the products of photosynthesis that is amazing in its complexity and efficiency. Strengthening this natural economy through sound horticultural and agricultural practices is in essence what the organic movement is all about. In this talk, Bill Cullina will show how this world of pollen, poisons, pigments, pheromones, sugars and sex translates to sound organic practices we all can benefit from.


William Cullina is currently the Director of Horticulture/Plan Curator for one of North America’s newest and most exciting public gardens, The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine. A well known author and recognized authority on North American native plants, Cullina lectures on a variety of subjects to garden and professional groups and writes for popular and technical journals. His books include: Wildflowers, Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines, Understanding Orchids, Native Ferns, Mosses, and Grasses, and most recently, Understanding Perennials, published in 2009. He and his wife, Melissa live with their three young children on Southport Island along the Maine Coast.