Jerry began volunteering with Loudoun Wildlife in 2022 at the Spring Native Plant Sale as a “Knowledgeable Plant Person” at one of the nursery booths, using his knowledge in native plants stemming from his interest and background in the medicinal, therapeutic and traditional uses of native plants of the region. We discovered his creative skills while making our award-winning July 4th parade float.
Jerry has lifelong experience with plants beginning with growing up on a farm in Indiana where they “grew corn, wheat, and soybeans, [and] we had a large family garden that provided enough that we home-canned produce throughout the summer.” Jerry’s extensive knowledge about wild plants and nature came from his mother and grandmother’s “tradition of using plants both as food and as medicines,” and he learned a great deal about the natural world working alongside them. Jerry says, “Nature became my constant companion, schoolhouse, grocery store, craft shop, therapist and temple.”
Jerry’s degree in biochemistry led him to professional jobs with ADM soy-based food products, progressing to pharmaceuticals and vaccine development where he currently works. Along the way he “continued to study plants both for their esthetics but also on a biochemical level and how those unique properties provide us with components to help keep us well.”
Jerry tells us:
Over 40% of the current medicines on the market originated from chemical compounds isolated from plants, and we continue to discover thousands of new compounds every year that hold the potential to provide breakthroughs in the treatments of hard-to-treat health conditions. There was a time when plants were our only sources of medicines around the world, in fact, it is only within the last 100 years or so that we have become more reliant on manufactured pharmaceutical medicines. And it is actually native species that provide us with historical data on how plants have been used to treat health conditions, so native plants (here and everywhere around the globe) are the plants researchers always look to when developing plant-based therapies.
Jerry stresses that it’s important to:
. . . find some ways to bring that aspect of native plants as medicines into focus, with an emphasis to further highlight the value of having these plants in your environment, not just for beauty, or as pollinators, but also because they have wonderful properties that can help keep us all well. If we lose our natives, we lose the plants as a source of research material for tomorrow’s treatments. We lose the continuity and traditions that come with how these plants have been used for centuries by native Americans and settlers. We lose a vast amount of knowledge along with all the other benefits as pollinators, food sources, and esthetic beauty.