The Scholars Gild May

Plants underpin all aspects of our everyday life – from the food that we eat, to the clothes that we wear, the air we breathe, and the medicines we take. Plant-based herbal medicines have been in use long before modern medicine existed. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew estimates conservatively that 17,810 plant species have medicinal use. Aspirin from willow trees, heart medication from foxglove plants, antiseptics from thyme, malaria treatments from cinchona tree bark, and penicillin from a common mold (technically a fungus not a plant) are just a few of the better-known examples.*

The Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain bioregion has a flora that is rich ecologically, medically, and historically. This lecture will discuss the bioactive components of some of our common plants, their ecological and evolutionary significance, and the fascinating history of plant-derived medicines from colonial times through the Civil War and up to the present. The important contributions of indigenous and enslaved populations in our region will also be touched on.

Participants are also invited to join the speaker on May 17 at 9 AM for a nature walk at the Brandywine State Park Nature Center. While focused on the spring bird migration, it will include plant identification and a chance to reinforce some of the ecological concepts covered in the lecture (for more information contact

About our Speaker
A native Delawarean, our speaker Joe Francis, has degrees in Biology, from Johns Hopkins, Medicine from Washington University in St. Louis, and Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. He has been on the faculties of the University of Pittsburgh, University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

He currently is a Federal public health professional conducting health system monitoring and COVID bio-surveillance. An avid interest in nature has been his outlet for stress relief since medical school and has recently pursued formal training through the USDA Graduate School/Audubon Naturalist Society’s Natural History Field Studies Program and the Eagle Hill Institute in Steuben, Maine. Joe is a member of the Delaware Ornithological Society, the Philadelphia Botanical Club, the Natural History Society of Maryland, and the Delaware Nature Society.
*Note: the lecture will not offer advice on the diagnosis or treatment of specific health conditions or on foraging for or preparing herbal remedies

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The Scholars Gild, a part of the Arden Club, meets on the third Tuesday of the month, September through June. We usually use a hybrid live-Zoom model. There are sometimes technical glitches so your patience is appreciated.

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