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A field of white orchids at the Big Savannah Depot.
ca. 1925

Bertram Whittier Wells arrived in North Carolina in 1919 to head the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology (known today as the Department of Plant Biology) at North Carolina State College. Inspired by a glimpse of the colorful mosaic of flowering plants at the Big Savannah in Pender County, he set out on a mission to understand and document the native plants of North Carolina and how they interact with and are influenced by their environment. By immersing himself in the relatively new science of ecology and spending countless hours in the field, B. W. Wells devoted his life to fulfilling that mission.

Bertram Whittier Wells
ca. 1930

Wells taught at NC State until 1954, leading generations of students on field trips, publishing regularly, and giving numerous presentations about the ecology of North Carolina. Throughout his career, he sought to enlighten everyone he encountered on the importance of appreciating nature.

Though he was ultimately unable to save his most beloved site-the ecologically unique Big Savannah-from the plow, his memory inspired the discovery and preservation of a similar site, dedicated as the B. W. Wells Savannah in 2002.

Branched fly poison
Stenanthium leimanthoides (A. Gray) Zomlefer and Jud

Pink laurel
Rhododendron catawbiense Michx.

Dr. Wells took hundreds of photographs, converting them to lantern slides to accompany his lectures. By presenting Wells' work, including the first public showing of his hand-tinted images in over 30 years, along with modern photographs from the Wells Savannah, the NCSU Libraries hopes to inspire each of you to see North Carolina as Wells did-as a beautiful and majestic natural garden.

Throughout the exhibition, plants are identified by the common name used by Wells and the current scientific name according to Alan S. Weakley's Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, and Surrounding Areas.

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