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Plant Focus

For this Species Spotlight we train our follow spot on an oak that is quite a star of the quercine scene: Quercus hypoleucoides (stage name...

IOS Service Awards Presented at the 8th IOS Conference

At the Gala Banquet held in the Gingko Restaurant of The Morton Arboretum on Tuesday, October 20, the International Oak Society presented its 2015 Service Awards. The ceremony was introduced by President Béatrice Chassé and the Awards were presented by herself, Vice-President Charles Snyers d’Attenhoven, and Secretary Gert Fortgens.


The International Oak Society Service Awards are attributed to individuals that we feel have devoted significant long-term efforts to the genus Quercus and/or the advancement of the goals of the IOS. The Lifetime Service Award is for individuals retired from professional life and the Special Service Award for those who are not.

We never seem to run out of individuals who have devoted themselves to oaks in one way or another and this year is no exception. We have eight awards to present, and I will start with the Lifetime Service Awards. 

The 2015 Award, created using wood from "Pathfinder," a sentinel oak that fell in 2008.
Photo: Guy Sternberg.

Lifetime Service Award

Diana Gardener (USA) - presented by Béatrice Chassé
The first Lifetime Service Award goes to a very special person indeed. She is an active conservationist, has been a staunch supporter of the International Oak Society since the very beginning for which we have been and continue to be ever so grateful. There is a passage in the preface that she wrote in the last issue of International Oaks that I would like to quote because I think it illustrates well what she stands for the most:

We are important, not like the state of Brazil could be, not like India and China could be, not like the mass of American consumers could be, but each of us by action and example makes changes to prospects for Earth’s future. Each seedling we plant, each piece of lumber we recycle, each land-use hearing and restoration work-party we attend, each of a thousand small steps we take, contributes to the total body of individual actions that makes a difference. 

Diana, please accept this award from us, for the enormous difference you have made.

Photo: Charles Snyers d'Attenhoven

Francisco Garin (Spain) - presented by Charles Snyers d’Attenhonven
Francisco has devoted most of his professional life to one garden that he created in 1986, the Jardín Botánico de Iturraran in Northern Spain.  He was its director until he retired in 2012 and built over those years one of the most comprehensive oak collections in Europe. The mild climate in that part of Spain and abundant rainfall provided him with the perfect setting to grow all of those tender oaks from Southern Mexico and Central America that those of us in colder climates wish we could grow! He has travelled extensively throughout Mexico and several times to different places in Central America looking for acorns that he has then been very successful in growing.

Photo: Béatrice Chassé

Michel Duhart (France) - presented by Gert Fortgens
The Award goes to an arboretum in the southwest of France. The garden was started in 1975 surrounding a house on a north-east facing slope. Since then it has become an arboretum specializing in the Fagaceae family as well as plants from Southern Chile. Over 150 species of oak are represented in the collection, most of them from North and Central America. The owner is 97 years old. Today it is considered one of the finest collections in France and has received the label of National Collection for Mexican Oaks. In 2012 the IOS visited the Arboretum. Up until just a few years ago the owner was still travelling around looking for acorns, and he continues planting to this very day.

The lifetime Service Award goes to Michel Duhart and l’Arboretum de Chocha that he created.

Photo: Béatrice Chassé

Special Service Award

Antoine Kremer (France) - presented by Béatrice Chassé
To present the first Special Service Award, I would like to read part of a newspaper article that appeared in Le Monde, the French national newspaper, in 2013.

“If he had been a musician, he would have been one of the pop stars of his generation, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison or Bob Dylan. If he had been a writer, he would have been Jean Giono for his novel, The Man Who Planted Trees or maybe La Fontaine for his fable The Oak and the Reed. A bird, he would have been the jay…and if he had been a tree, without a doubt he would have been an oak, the subject of the study, passion, indeed, of the life, of Antoine Kremer. In 2006 he received the Nobel Prize equivalent in forestry research, the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, and today is increasingly motivated by the belief that, and I quote, “the more I advance in my research the more I am convinced that diversity is not merely something we have inherited from the past. It plays an essential role in the sustainability of ecosystems and of social systems.” Antoine, we are honored by your presence here and would like to present this award to you for your enormous contribution to the understanding of the evolution of our favorite genus.

Photo: Lloyd Kenyon

Allen Coombes (UK) - presented by Béatrice Chassé
This next award goes to a man whose career and passion, at least since the first International Oak Society Conference at the Morton, if not before, have also been devoted to oaks, more specifically, their taxonomy and identification. Oak collectors tremble when he appears, from the pleasure at seeing him of course but also knowing that for sure, some of our labels will have to be changed! Allen Coombes, has been a member of the IOS Board since 1994 and unfortunately will be retiring from the Board this year, though he has assured me he will continue on in his editorial and taxonomic functions helping to ensure the quality of our publications and database… and of course our collections. I would like to add that he has been the most important influence in my developing interest in and knowledge about oaks and for this, as well as for his friendship, I would like to thank him as well.

Photo: Béatrice Chassé

Marcie Mayer (Greece) - presented by Gert Fortgens
For this award we go to Greece, to the island of KEA. The award goes to the person that for the past ten years or so has been the driving force behind the Hamada Acorn Initiative on this island. Her report was published in 2014 in our International Oaks Issue No. 25.  The aim of this initiative was to rehabilitate the age-old industry of processing the acorns of the Valonia Oak: Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis. The Kean Valonia Oak and Acorn Festival that was held on the Island in 2014 involved activities aimed at children. This in turn will probably result in a better and more responsible management of the oak forest. The caps are used in tanning and the nuts to make flour. This initiative has been and continues to be extremely successful and has become a major source of income for the farmers on this island. Between 2011 and 2014 nearly 50 tons of acorn caps have been exported and more than ten thousand acorn cookies sold.

This Special Service Award goes to Marcie Mayer.

Photo: Kostis Maroulis

Dirk Benoit (Belgium) - presented by Charles Snyers d’Attenhonven
Dirk started his professional life as a cabinet maker and decided later in life that he wanted to start a nursery.  And he became a master at it.  His interests focused on Aesculus, Tilia and Quercus, thanks to his connections with the IOS.  Dirk has propagated about every selection made by the many members of the Society and has probably the widest choice of oaks available anywhere in the world.  He is also a past Board Member of the IOS, in particular organizing Oak Open Days and Tours.

Photo: Charles Snyers d'Attenhoven

Bob McCartney (USA) - presented by Béatrice Chassé
This final Special Service Award goes to the absolutely inimitable Bob McCartney. Passionate about oaks, and plants in general, nurseryman extraordinaire, and the soul, spirit, and sweat of the unique Citywide Arboretum in the town of Aiken, South Carolina as well as other significant plantings there, all of which represent a unique legacy to trees in an urban environment, where oaks are definitely the stars. He has been a member of the IOS since the year 2000 and a supplier of trees the world round for longer than that. He is a good friend and I am very pleased to be presenting this award to him.

Photo: Dede Biles