Dr. Delena Norris-Tull: My inspirations
When I was a child, my mother introduced me to wild plants, camping, and hiking. She and I spent many hours of my childhood in the outdoors, studying nature, and creating art projects using natural objects.
In my 20s, I became an environmental interpreter and completed a master’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, with a specialty in Environmental Education. Over the next decade of my life, I engaged children and adults in learning about the natural environment, guiding them on field trips and camping expeditions. Eventually, I completed a Ph.D. in Science Education. And I spent my next 27 years as a university professor, helping to prepare future elementary and secondary teachers to teach science to children, and also teaching college biology courses.
During the Great Depression, my mother was a Public Health Nurse and the only person in a large extended family that had a job. Not only did she manage the local nursing directory from her home, but she fed her husband and five children partially by gathering wild dandelions to make salads.
Dandelions are believed to have been brought to the U.S. by the Pilgrims, as dandelions have long served as an important food, beverage, and medicine. One hundred years ago, the City of Denver promoted the growing of dandelions as part of the city’s beautification project. As an early spring bloomer, dandelions are an important early source of nectar for a wide variety of pollinators.
But today, in many locations, dandelions are considered weeds. Many individuals poison them with 2,4-D or RoundUp (glyphosate), in the hope of maintaining a pristine lawn.
These once revered plants now are treated as unwanted invasive species. But for me, they will always remain a welcome reminder of my mother. And a sign of hope for the future.
Dr. Delena Norris-Tull, Professor Emerita,
University of Montana Western, Dillon, MT, July, 2020.