An Arkansas Florilegium is a late-flowering extension of the work initiated sixty years ago with University of Arkansas botanist Edwin B. Smith’s first entries in his pioneering Atlas and Annotated List of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas. Soon after this seminal survey of the state’s flora was published in 1978, Kent Bonar, a Missouri-born Thoreau acolyte employed as a naturalist by the Arkansas Park Service, began lugging the volume along on hikes through the woods surrounding his Newton County home, entering hundreds upon hundreds of meticulous illustrations into Smith’s work.
Thirty-five years later, with Smith retired and Bonar long gone from the park service but still drawing, Bonar’s weathered and battered copy of the atlas was seized by a diverse cadre of amateur admirers motivated by fears of its damage or loss. Their fears were certainly justified; after all, the pages were now jammed to the margins with some 3,500 drawings, and the volume had already survived one accidental dunking in an Ozark stream.
An Arkansas Florilegium brings Smith’s and Bonar’s knowledge and lifelong diligence to the world in this unique mix of art, science, and Arkansas saga.
Edwin Smith was a professor of botany and curator of the Arkansas Herbarium at the University of Arkansas for thirty-two years. He was the author of, in addition to An Atlas and Annotated List of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas, Keys to the Flora of Arkansas.
Kent Bonar is a lifelong Missouri and Arkansas naturalist. He worked previously at Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas Ecology Center and now lives in Newton County, Arkansas, where he continues to observe, document, and protect the Ozark National Forest.
Robert Cochran is a professor of English at the University of Arkansas and the series editor of The Arkansas Character.
“In An Arkansas Florilegium: The Atlas of Botanist Edwin Smith, Illustrated by Naturalist Kent Bonar, an unplanned collaboration spanning forty years between the University of Arkansas’s pioneering authority on Arkansas flora and an ‘Ozark Thoreau’ from Newton County comes to a beautiful and sublime conclusion. Shortly after the 1978 publication of Smith’s Atlas and Annotated List of the Vascular Plants of Arkansas, Bonar, a transplant from Missouri then employed with Arkansas State Parks, launched his own decades-long enterprise to produce thousands of detailed illustrations of the plant life chronicled in Smith’s magnum opus. He carried his own copy of the book into the field, drawing the plants alongside and sometimes over Smith’s descriptions of them. The result was an illuminated manuscript that further enriches our understanding of the botanical landscape of the Natural State. Smith’s and Bonar’s respective work has been carefully preserved, thoughtfully arranged, and handsomely presented in an ‘augmented reissue of a groundbreaking botanical study.’ Robert Cochran introduces the volume, the second in the University of Arkansas Press’s Arkansas Character series, a joint project of Fulbright College’s Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies and the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History.”
—Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Book and Media Notes, Spring 2018
“Open this book to any page and you will step into the shoes of an itinerant naturalist, accomplished artist, and environmental activist who took up the most quixotic of tasks—to annotate and illustrate professor Edwin B. Smith’s pioneering 580-page survey of his state’s flora. Imagine spending decades traipsing across mountains and fields to observe and make inquiries of every leaf, flower, and seed found within your state’s borders. This is work that no one asked him to do, and that had never been done before, anywhere in the world, in precisely this way. To call it a work of genius is not an exaggeration. The fact that this book exists at all is a miracle. Kent Bonar’s unflagging sense of wonder, his sharp powers of observation, and his down-to-earth humor are documented in this one-of-a-kind botanical treasure—a breathtaking work of art, science, and spirit that has been decades in the making.”
—Amy Stewart, New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist
The Arkansas Character
A central focus on a single state, combined with openness to the widest imaginable range of topics—these are hallmarks of The Arkansas Character series from the University of Arkansas Press, produced jointly by Fulbright College’s Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies and the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History. We seek in-depth portrayals of insufficiently celebrated accomplishment (and insufficiently rebuked foul behavior) in all arenas of human endeavor. Equally welcome are accounts of big-screen events and famous players (office holders, rock stars, movers and shakers) and adventures of local legends, unheralded artisans, stars of unlit stages. “The classic is the local fully realized,” wrote William Carlos Williams, “words marked by a place.” But not only words. Every form of excellence (and outrageousness) rooted in this place.
Robert Cochran, Series Editor