Sharing the loss of Dr. Larry Mellichamp

Categories: News
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of our Director Emeritus of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, Dr. Thomas Lawrence Mellichamp, or, more affectionately, “Dr. M”.

Anyone influenced by Dr. M and/or his many works are encouraged to leave a tribute to him on the memorial website: Dr. M’s obituary, lovingly penned by Audrey Mellichamp and Paula Gross, can be found here.

A public memorial service will take place in the Gardens on the afternoon of October 30. Details of this service are available here.

I was honored to accept the Directorship of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens soon after Dr. M’s retirement. I was privileged to know him well and would like to share just a few of my thoughts about what Dr. M meant to the green heart of UNC Charlotte:

Between the beginning of his Freshman year at UNC Charlotte in 1966 and the day he passed, Dr. M spent a total of six years away from the Gardens, only separating himself from this campus to earn his Master’s and Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Michigan. He was unfailingly loyal to the Gardens where, as an undergraduate, he was involved in some of the Garden’s first plantings under the direction of his mentor and our first Director, Herbert Hechenbleikner. After over 39 years leading these Gardens, he retired in 2015. After retirement he continued to be involved in the Gardens and regularly taught classes, mentored staff, students, and the community and continued to install numerous plants in the Gardens. Dr. M was a fixture at every plant sale offering valuable information and selling excessive plant materials to people who had no idea they needed such a large collection of flora.

To me, Dr. M was the perfect predecessor. He knew when to give advice, when to allow me to make my own mistakes, and when to encourage. He pushed all of us here at the Gardens to make it a better place for everyone. He was a true botanist’s botanist and teacher’s teacher. Even after 40 years of teaching, he would still spend hours preparing for a class, collecting samples, and even experimenting with jokes. He cared about his subject and his students and it showed.  I have many memories of Dr. M from the last 8 years, but I thought I’d share the last walk that we had together because it so exemplifies the kind of person he was. In the Glen there is an area in the Southeastern corner where I don’t spend much time. I had asked Dr. M if he would walk with Ed (Ed Davis, our horticulturist) and me through this area of the Gardens to identify the more notable plant materials so they aren’t overlooked when we develop the area in the future. On July 5, 2022, about 2 months before his passing, we had planned to spend about an hour walking through the area, but that hour soon grew to two, and then three, as we traipsed through old trails, mud pits, and underbrush which exemplifies the ecosystem of the coastal plain. We tasted horse sugar, picked chinkapin, and pulled some weeds. Then we observed a rattan vine strangling another tree, observed some small but exquisite examples of devil’s bit, American hazelnut, and fairy bells – and then we really started botanizing! He was a sight to behold. It was as if the plants themselves were radiating energy at some wavelength that only he could absorb and use to glorify the Gardens. After our hike Dr. M joined our greenhouse manager, Tammy Blume, Ed, and me for a lunch at one of his favorite places, R and R barbeque. A love of good (and bad) barbeque was something that Dr. M and I shared, and our deep and passionate conversations about barbeque, appropriate sides for said barbeque, and sweet tea will be sorely missed.

Dr. M devoted his life to bringing the world of plants to people and, as these Gardens move forward, we are devoted to sustaining his rich legacy.
Jeff Gillman, Ph.D. | Director, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Congratulations Spring 2022 CNPS Graduates

Categories: News

On June 5, 2022, we celebrated the Spring 2022 graduates of our Certificate in Native Plant Studies program.

This year’s graduates were:

Nancy Devries
Mary Duke
Sarah Dumser
Doreen Francois
April Faucette
Catherine (Cathe) Hawley
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin
Rosemary Kinch
Melanie Myers
Roger Pelz
Shelley Williams

Director Emeritus Dr. Larry Mellichamp officiated the graduation ceremony.

See more photos from the ceremony here:

A list of all CNPS graduates can be found here


New Garden Trail Opened May 21, 2022

Categories: News

The UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, Center for the Study of the New South, Urban Institute and UrbanCORE were proud to officially open the Carolina Garden Trail on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Special thanks to the following people and organizations who came together to make this project happen: 

Allison Tietz, Akin Ogundiran, Ashli Stokes, Botanical Gardens Staff and Advisory Board, Byron White, Center for the Study of the New South, Charlotte Teachers Institute, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Ed Davis, Janaka Lewis, Jeff Michael, Joanne Joy, North Carolina Humanities, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Shardee Williams, urbanCORE and Urban Institute Staff

This project was made possible by funding from the following organizations: 

Twilight Garden Tours

Categories: News

Join Amy Tipton, Assistant Director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens for an early evening tour of the Gardens.

MUST Register! Click a date below to register.

Upcoming Dates:

Wednesday, June 22, 7-8 p.m.

Wednesday, July 20, 7-8 p.m.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:30-7:30 pm

Wednesday, September 21, 6:30-7:30 pm

*NOTE earlier times in August and September.

Cost: $5 per person per walk, free for members and UNC Charlotte faculty/staff/students

Location: Meet at McMillan Greenhouse

Participant Limit: 15.

Note: In case of heavy rain or storms, walks will be cancelled.

Memorial Sculpture

Categories: News

This story was originally posted on April 28, 2022 by Meg Whalen, director of communications for the College of Arts + Architecture at this link:


close up of sculpture - stones inside steel structure

THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2022A sculpture designed by art professors Marek Ranis and Tom Schmidt stands in the Botanical Gardens.

It’s quiet in the garden where the new memorial stands tall among the trees. Sometimes sunlight filters through the leaves to illuminate a message of hope.

You are strong enough. Always believe. We have each other.

“It’s such an environment of peace, of seeking silence,” says senior art major Vannah Mobley. “It invites you into the space.”

Mobley is one of 42 students who have worked over the past semester to create a sculpture in the Botanical Gardens that commemorates the way Niner Nation came together in the aftermath of April 30, 2019. Designed by Associate Professors of Art Marek Ranis and Thomas Schmidt, the sculpture is itself a product of community, of many hands and hearts.

Here is the story of its creation. 

stones and flyer on table top

Almost immediately after the shooting on April 30, 2019 that ended the lives of Riley Howell and Reed Parlier, the Botanical Gardens staff “kicked into high gear,” says Assistant Director Amy Tipton. “We asked, what can we do to provide something?” After quick deliberation, they decided to invite people to write their thoughts and feelings onto small smooth river rocks and leave them in the garden. A table with stones and markers was set up in the Susie Harwood Gardens.

stones in the garden, with messages for Niner Nation

“It was really fascinating how right away we saw the stones popping up,” Tipton says. “They were just beautiful sentiments.”

drawings of sculpture

Hundreds of people came to the gardens to choose, inscribe, and place stones. Tipton, who has degrees in art as well as botany, and Botanical Gardens Director Jeff Gillman felt that the profound response deserved some kind of permanent artistic manifestation. They contacted Schmidt, who had frequently brought his art students to the garden, and Schmidt engaged his colleague Ranis. The two produced concept drawings.

students engraving stones

The 12-foot tall sculpture called for large river rocks to replace the smaller stones. To preserve the exact handwriting and drawings on the originals, Ranis and Schmidt and students in four different classes took photographs of the small stones, printed the images, and laid them on top of the large stones.

students engraving and painting stones

They then engraved the stones through the photographs, cutting the words and designs into the stones’ surfaces so that they cannot wash away. Finally they painted the engravings black so that they would appear just as they had originally. “I feel like the project did a great job of helping us remember,” says Mobley (above left), who was a freshman in April 2019. “It helped everyone remember that we were all in this thing together.”

faculty and students loading stones into the steel frame

The art professors (above left and center) donated their time, and engineering alumnus Garret Overcash, Project Engineer at SKA Consulting Engineers, prepared the structural drawings pro-bono. But materials and fabrication aren’t free. Funding for the project came from the Student Activity Fee Commission based on a request from the Student Government Association. Peachland Design and Fabrication and Heartland Construction did the physical fabrication and installation of the steel frame. Caroline Hill of Facilities Management served as project manager. “It’s built like a tank,” Ranis says. “It’s very sturdy.”

sculpture in the garden, complete

Ed Davis, horticultural supervisor and landscape architect for the Botanical Gardens, suggested the site for the sculpture: an elevated landing near the gazebo and Asian garden, encircled by benches and tulip poplars. “We call this place ‘Little Stonehenge,’” Tipton says.

“We are so thankful to the Botanical Gardens for donating this beautiful site for the memorial,” says Schmidt. “You couldn’t ask for a more serene location.”

students putting rocks in memorial sculpture

“Ultimately, every contribution to this memorial – those made back then and those made recently in our class – reflects the legacy of Niner Nation Remembers and forms connections with the school, with Riley and Reed, and with each other,” says art student and Levine Scholar Danielle Walden, who, like Mobley, was a freshman in 2019 and will graduate in May. “The sculpture becomes a beacon of hope, one that transcends the bounds of time and the circumstances of what happened, and instead applies itself to brightening negative situations.”

live selflessly, written on stone

“I hope future students can visit this site and take the time to move around the sculpture,” Walden continues. “I hope they reflect deeply on past events and it encourages them to take better care of each other and themselves in the here and now.”

Amy Tipton at memorial sculpture

A simple dedication of the memorial sculpture took place Friday, April 29, at 12:15 pm at the site. Pictured above, Amy Tipton.

For information about other remembrance activities, visit

Photos are by Lynn Roberson, Amy Tipton, Marek Ranis, Tom Schmidt, Andrew Brooks, and Wade Bruton.

Hear more from the sculpture’s creators in this WBTV News special broadcast.

Dr. Larry Mellichamp honored with Flora Caroliniana Award

Categories: News
Dr. Mellichamp is pictured here holding the award, with his wife Audrey and daughter Suzanne. (Photo credit: Lynn Roberson)

On Saturday, April 23, 2022, Dr. Larry Mellichamp, Director Emeritus of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, was honored with the prestigious Flora Caroliniana Award by the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Dr. Mellichamp is the seventh person to receive this honor, given for enthusiasm and service to the preservation, restoration, and appreciation of the natural world around us.

Previous Flora Caroliniana Award recipients include:

Lady Bird Johnson for advocating for native plants and helping the North Carolina Botanical Garden launch its first fundraising campaign, “Celebrating Wildflowers.” (1988)
John Terres, naturalist and author best known for his work, From Laurel Hill to Siler’s Bog: The Walking Adventures of a Naturalist. (1991)
William Lanier Hunt to honor him as the Founder of the Botanical Garden Foundation. (1996)
Ritchie Bell the North Carolina Botanical Garden’s first director from 1961 to 1986. (2000)
Thomas Wright Earnhardt in recognition of his lifelong contributions to conservation. (2016)
Charlotte Jones Roe in honor of 44 years of service, tirelessly advocating for the North Carolina Botanical Garden. (2018)

Dr. Mellichamp with Johnny Randall, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Alan Weakley, UNC Herbarium. (Photo credit: Lynn Roberson)

The award was presented by Johnny Randall, NCBG director of conservation programs, and Alan Weakley, director of the UNC Herbarium, at a ceremony at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden’s Mellichamp Native Terrace.

Dr. Mellichamp was recognized by several colleagues and contemporaries in the botanical field from all over the country.

Attendees honored Dr. Mellichamp at the Native Terrace that bears his name. (Photo credit: Lynn Roberson)

Paula Gross, retired Associate Director of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens wrote an especially poignant speech, which can be read in its entirety below.

Paula Gross speaking at the ceremony. (Photo credit: Lynn Roberson)

“Many of you know me, but for those who do not, I had the honor and adventure of working with Larry for 18 years here at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, and co-authoring two books together. I’m so pleased to be standing here in a garden co-created with Larry, Ed Davis, Johnny Massengale, and the entire staff, donors, and volunteer community of the Botanical Gardens. A place nourishing to body, mind, and spirit, bearing a very special name – Mellichamp.

I know Larry well and yet in preparing to say a few words I did go back and read his CV. If you’re interested in reading it yourself, I suggest packing a lunch. The word prolific comes to mind, not invasive, but prolific! He has written about – whether in books, scientific papers, treatises, or newsletters – nearly 1000 different species. Seriously – , it took HOURS to count them all!

This award, this honor, is well placed on his mantle. And yet, doubt may still surface – even in someone as accomplished as Larry Mellichamp. When you think about it, Perhaps he’s done too much! I mean, what might he have accomplished as a taxonomist had he not consulted on art projects, created garden brochures, gotten the giant image of a Venus Fly-trap plastered on U-haul trucks, and transformed historic home landscapes with his bare hands! Think of all he could have done had he not traveled to Sydney, Wuhan, Cape Town, and even Belmont to present at Botanical conferences? Writing 7 books, directing a Botanical Garden, and teaching thousands of students. Yeah, that can get in the way of field work. What if he hadn’t shared so much knowledge and passion with Fern, Orchid, and Rock Garden Societies- Homeowners, Nurserymen, and Beekeepers. Perennial Plant, Rhododendron, and Carnivorous Plant Societies. County and State parks, Foresters, Arborists, Botanical Gardens (of course!), Horticultural symposia, and let’s not forget Native Plant and Wildflower Societies!

Well, I, for one, am grateful that he followed his passions wherever they led. Because wherever they led, you can be sure that a depth of knowledge was mined, ored, and polished. And then, – and this is the important part – it was SHARED, widely and generously. You can’t spend an hour with Larry without learning something! And it’s not just that he holds a wealth of knowledge, It’s that a spirit of learning and of creating is in the air around him. And those of us who breathe it in
are eager to keep up – and to create exciting new things. Whether crouching down together to see the first sprouts of an “ungrowable” plant – or standing tall to shake the hands of native plant studies graduates – hearing Larry exclaim that something you have done is “Fabulous! Just Fabulous!” has boosted the minds and hearts of so many of us in this green tribe. And the world
needs this. It needs US, with our green hearts open, strong, growing, and more than ever – SHARING. For each and every one of us are deeply interconnected. And sharing is the very fiber of Dr. Mellichamp.

Larry, without a doubt, as a botanist you’ve been graced with a deeper knowing, endless curiosity, and an inner mandate to share. You were born an acorn, even if at times you may have longed to be an orchid seed. And the web of YOUR life – the community within and without you – helped to disperse, water, and only very occasionally prune you.

“Pick a flower from my garden, Larry, just for you.”
“Go outside and don’t come back until dinner – hmmm, think I’ll go see what’s in that pond across the street.” “I’ve got a board here in the garage, I’ll paint you a sign, and you may sell your plants to the neighbors”.
“Come along with me to the mountains, to the coast – you can carry the plant press” “I’ve got a few plants I’d like you to help me put in the ground, down here by the creek – I’d like to see if this rhododendron will grow.”
“Let’s hunt morels and pick the sweetest wild berries, she said with a smile” …. And the acorn sprouted. And grew. And never stopped growing.

And now we’re all gathered here for the mighty oak. As I look upon my friend the oak, I wonder, “Does it know its stature?”

Does it feel the tingle of thousands of fungal life-threads radiating from its roots? Does it hear the rustle of its own leaves as they fall and slowly, but surely feed the forest? Does it laugh as squirrels run rough-shod up its trunk? and does it blush when hawks create new life among its branches?

Today, we are tapping on your trunk Larry, and draping the highest of awards across your branches. It is a beautiful and well-deserved honor. May you bask in it! Your community is vast and varied, diverse and evolving. I am proud to stand with all these others and celebrate you.”

And my wish for you, in the afterglow of this morning, is to find time to close your eyes and feel the tingle and exchange of life through the threads of your being – to hear the rustle of so many falling leaves in the forest around you. To feel the gentle weight of birds on your branches and the reflexive spring as they open their wings and fly off, acorns in beaks.”

– Paula Gross, speaking at the Flora Caroliniana Award Ceremony, April 23, 2022

More information about the award be found here:

Exam Week Gratitude Walks

Categories: News

The Botanical Gardens offer free Gratitude in the Gardens meditative walks once a month. These walks are open to students, faculty, staff, and the general public.

For Exam Week 2022, we will have three drop in Gratitude Walks exclusively for the UNC Charlotte community. The schedule for this year is below. Drop in, no registration required!

Monday 5/2 12:30-1:15 p.m.
Gratitude Walk: Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Expressing gratitude is proven to help individuals experience more positive emotions, improve their mental health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Take time to complete this scavenger hunt; think about each object you find and the positive role it plays in your daily life.

Tuesday 5/3 12:00-12:45 p.m.
Gratitude Walk: Art in the Gardens – Painting Rocks

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can help individuals of all ages express oneself, explore emotions and instill hope and empowerment.

Rock painting – Rock painting is a rewarding wellness ritual that can help one heal and connect with others. The idea is to find a pebble or small rock within the space, leave an artistic mark or positive note on the surface and leave it in the same space for others to enjoy. The person who finds your surprise gift may experience a surge of mood-boosting emotions, since having a sense of community is foundational for feelings of safety and security.

Wednesday 5/4 12:30-1:15 p.m.
Gratitude Walk: Art in the Gardens – Mandalas

Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can help individuals of all ages express oneself, explore emotions and instill hope and empowerment.

Mandalas – Mandalas are a geometric design pattern that offer several mental and emotional benefits. Mandala, which means “circle” in Sanskrit, is a sacred symbol that is used for meditation, prayer, healing, relaxation, and art therapy for both adults and children. We will utilize elements available within the gardens to enjoy this activity.

This week only: Pop up BULB "sale" to benefit the Botanical Gardens

Categories: News

UPDATE!: WOW what a great turn out. We are “sold” out with just a few yellow tulips bulbs left. We will be closing the event and Greenhouse at 2 p.m. Thank you to all who attended for your support of the Gardens!

Fall is the best time to plant, but what do you do when you get a HUGE donation of bulbs in February? You put them in the ground! Our gardeners have planted over 7,000 bulbs in the past 2 weeks, and now we are offering the excess to our community, with a suggested donation that is MUCH less than retail value.

Join us this Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and spread the colorful Spring love!

Where: McMillan Greenhouse, 9090 Craver Road, Charlotte, NC 28262

When: Fri.-Sat., Feb. 25-26, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!

How much: SUGGESTED donation is $12 per bag OR 3 bags for $30. Large bulbs (tulips, narcissus, and standard hyacinths) average 50 bulbs per bag, Small bulbs (grape hyacinths, crocus, etc.) average 100 per bag.

How: Cash or check accepted on site, or credit cards accepted through our online donation site.

Why: Plant these bulbs right away for gorgeous Spring color, and support a good cause all at once! All donations support the operations of the Greenhouse and Gardens, where admission is always FREE!

Thank you to our $55 for 55 donors!

Categories: News

You did it!! Thanks to you, we raised $5,179 for our 55 for 55 campaign, shooting way past our $3,000 goal and receiving the full $3,000 matching gift for a grand total of $8,179! Thank you so much for your support. Although this campaign is now over, you can donate any time at 

Thank you for allowing us to continue to share the world of plants with our community!

For more information about how you can support the Botanical Gardens and our mission, visit

See our upcoming events and programs here

$55 for 55 Donors:

Undisclosed Amount

Kevin McCorkle
In Honor of Dr. Cone, Dr. Hechenbleikner, Ralph VanLandingham Jr. & Dr. Mellichamp

Katherine (Merry) Chambers

Undisclosed Amount

George Koraly
In Honor of All your great garden volunteers
Undisclosed Amount

Cynthia Beane


Yvette Huet

Polly Brockway

Albert Benshoff
In Memory of Zella K. Benshoff
Undisclosed Amount

Gary & Elizabeth Broome
Undisclosed Amount

Undisclosed Amount

Lib and Tom Jones-Nunnenkamp
In Honor of Dr. Larry Mellichamp
Undisclosed Amount


Julie Smith
In Memory of Rusty Page

In Honor of North Carolina Native Plants
Undisclosed Amount

Richard Lejk

Judy Walker
Undisclosed Amount

Patrick Ambrose

Carla Vitez
In Honor of UNCC BG staff
Undisclosed Amount

Glenda Steel

Roger Callaway

Patrick Reinbold
In Memory of Ellie

Theresa Morr
In Honor of The wonderful and dedicated staff and volunteers at the Botanical Garden

Undisclosed Amount


Dave Frantzreb

Bronwyn Jarsocrak
Undisclosed Amount

Christina Wright
In Memory of Betty Wright

Debra Smith
Undisclosed Amount

In Memory of Elizabeth Jacobs
Undisclosed Amount

Tim Rogers
Undisclosed Amount

Moira Klein

Richard Hechenbleikner
In memory of my late father, Herbert, and in honor of Larry Mellichamp

Trevor and Mary Duke

Annette Dean

Heike Biller

Beth Boaz

Debarati Dutta
In Honor of Our farmer and gardener friends who nurture our bodies and souls

Undisclosed Amount

Benjamin Leder

Christen Hoover
In Honor of Meredith Hebden

Lee Ann Parker


Cathy Nechin
In Memory of John Applegit and Anne Close

William Donaldson

Curt Walton

Shawn Villalpando
In Honor of TLM

Nancy Gutierrez
Undisclosed Amount


Larry and Audrey Mellichamp


Undisclosed Amount

Charles Pinkston
In Honor of Central Lake Norman Golden Boys

Louis Eubanks

Kathryn Jones
Undisclosed Amount


John Denti

Richard Lejk

Tatia Prieto

Trina Rumfelt
In Memory of Nikkie Seabolt, for always showing the beauty of a garden

What's In Bloom in the Gardens - November 2021

Categories: News
From left to right: Chinsoy azalea (Azalea x satzuki ‘Chinsoy’), Nandina (Nandina domestica), Camellia ‘Bert Jones’ (Camellia sasanqua ‘Bert Jones’), Camellia ‘Mine-No-Yuki’ (Camellia sasanqua ‘Mine-No-Yuki’), Sweetheart Tree (Euscaphis japonica), Camellia ‘Shishi Gashira’ (Camellia sasanqua ‘Shishi Gashira’), Camellia ‘Pink Icicle’ (Camellia japonica ‘Pink Icicle’), Fatsia (Fatsia japonica)