Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Information compiled by Carol Ann McCormick, September 2007

Marie Barlow Mellinger
(15 November 1914 – 28 December 2006)1

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates about 25 specimens collected by Marie Barlow Mellinger.  It is likely that more will be found as we continue to catalog our collection.  The herbaria of Georgia Southern University (GAS) and University of Georgia (GA) have hundreds of Ms. Mellinger’s specimens in their collections.

Marie Barlow Mellinger
Photo courtesy of the Rabun County Historical Society3

Tribute to Marie Barlow Mellinger from the Rabun County Historical Society3:
“Marie Barlow Mellinger was a self-taught naturalist and environmental crusader who spent her life educating others about nature and the need to protect it for future generations. Born and raised on the edge of a forest in Wisconsin, Ms. Mellinger’s interest in nature was evident throughout her life. At various times during her young adulthood she helped her father run a plant nursery, worked in a fire tower during World War II, and did publicity work for the Wisconsin Department of Conservation.  In 1957, Ms. Mellinger moved south with her husband [E.O. Mellinger], a U.S Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, who had accepted a position with the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.  Unfortunately, Ms. Mellinger had a difficult time adjusting to the coastal summers and the couple looked to Rabun County for a solution. They initially bought a summer home here and, upon Mr. Mellinger’s retirement in 1967, moved permanently to the county. It was at this point that Ms. Mellinger’s environmental work took on the significance for which she is remembered.
     Local residents probably recall Ms. Mellinger’s weekly columns in The Clayton Tribune called “Under the North Georgia Grapevine.”    Notably, her advocacy work took on a multifaceted and hands-on approach. She was well known for her bird and botany hikes, field surveys, inventory of rare plants, as well as her nature workshops at state parks, Firefox and Elderhostels… In 2001, the Georgia Botanical Society honored Ms. Mellinger’s work by establishing the Marie Mellinger Field Botany Research Grant. In keeping with the spirit of her leadership, anyone engaged in field study of Georgia’s native flora is eligible for consideration…
     While best known for her work with the Georgia Botanical Society, Ms. Mellinger also served as president of the Georgia Ornithological Society.  In addition, she was a member of the Georgia Conservancy, a statewide organization devoted to protecting Georgia’s natural resources, and the Chattooga Conservancy, collecting and selling seeds of native plants as a fundraiser for the organization.  In 1973, she was appointed to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Advisory Commission.
     Numerous tributes stand as testament to Ms. Mellinger’s stature as one of George’s most important naturalists. Her collection of flowering and non-flowering illustrations, photographs, plant cuttings and slides are housed at the University of Georgia Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library… Other fitting tributes include the Marie Mellinger center at Blackrock Mountain State Park and Marie Mellinger cottage at the Hambridge Center.  The former is designed to accommodate a range of entertainment in nature programs. The latter is used to house writers and artists while they are in residence at the Hambridge Center.”


Obituary written by Holly Crenshaw of The Atlanta Constitution-Journal:

Marie Mellinger, 92, naturalist, scholar
   Half-blind from old age but still madly in love with the outdoors, Marie Mellinger jumped at lunch invitations that offered her a taste of freedom.  “She would only go to restaurants that served wine or beer, and then we’d take her out for a ride,” said her friend Patty Lowe of Clarkesville.  “We’d ride along identifying plants and laughing and having a good time, and even with her one eye, she could see things I could never see.”
     The self-taught naturalist preached her passion for forests and wildflowers in everything from scholarly tomes such as her 1984 book, “Atlas of the Vascular Flora of Georgia,” to folksy lectures on Cherokee Indian lore. She contributed to the famed Firefox books, spoke at Elderhostel gatherings and encouraged a generation of budding environmentalists to guard the glorious world around them.
     Mrs. Lowe recalled a time when she was with Mrs. Mellinger at the Hambridge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences in Dillard. “She was sitting on the steps… looking out on the yard, and she could name 20 weeds just from where she was sitting -- not only name them, but tell you what their medicinal and edible uses were,” Mrs. Lowe said. “She loved to take people along on what she called her roadside rambles, and she would tell us what all these different plants were used for. People could ask is the same stupid question over and over again, and she never got snappy or tired of answering it.”
     Marie Barlow Mellinger, 92, died of complications from pneumonia on December 28 at her Clayton [Rabun County, Georgia] residence. The body was cremated. The memorial service is 1 pm January 27 at the Chattooga Conservancy. Hunter Funeral Home of Clayton is in charge of the arrangements.
     Asked in a 1995 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article to define a naturalist, Mrs. Mellinger said that it is “someone whose main thrust is the out-of-doors, who teaches it, writes about it, loves it, feels it. I don’t think you could be a good naturalist unless you feel it.”  Feel it she did, from her girlhood on the edge of a Wisconsin forest to her dying days in Rabun County, where she settled with her late husband, E. O. Mellinger, in 1958.  She wrote for the Georgia Botanical Society, developed nature trails and organized the Incredible Edibles, who dined on chestnut sup, persimmon bread, and dandelion wine and other earthy recipes, some of which she contributed to cookbooks.
     Mrs. Mellinger built a scholarly level reputation through exhaustive botanical surveys, then encouraged more laypeople to join the field.  “She was the first non-Atlanta president of the Georgia Botanical Society, and she very actively worked on promoting the society as a statewide organization and opening the membership to anyone who wanted to join,” said her friend Steve Bowling of Doraville.  “I think at least some of the Atlanta old guard found it somewhat shocking that she did that.” 
     “When Marie would lead field trips, 40 people would show up and when I did them, maybe half a dozen people would show up,” said her friend Jim Sullivan of Toccoa.  “I think that’s a tribute to her popularity as a teacher.”
     “She was really a star,” Mrs. Lowe said.
     There are no immediate survivors.

DANDELION WINE:  this dandelion wine recipe from naturalist Marie Mellinger makes a thick, sweet wine that’s perfect for cold winter nights.
-- 1 gallon dandelion flowers with all the green parts removed
-- 1 gallon boiling water
-- 4 lemons
-- 4 oranges
-- 4 pounds of sugar
-- 1 cake of yeast
Pour boiling water over blossoms, let stand until the flowers rice the surface (24-48 hours). Strain into a class or stone jug or jar. Add lemons, oranges, sugar and yeast. Stir 4-5 times a day until it stops fermenting. Keep well covered in a cool place, in two weeks, strain, bottle and cork tightly. Let sit at least two months before drinking.


Mellinger, Marie B. and Anne Heath.  1988.  Gun-Lun-La-Ti:  The High Place of the Cherokee.  [incomplete citation]
Mellinger, Marie.  1980.  The trees upon the mountain.  [incomplete citation]
Mellinger, M. B. and H. L. Whipple.  1984.  Atlas of the vascular flora of Georgia. [incomplete citation]
Mellinger, Marie.  1980.  Roadside Rambles. [incomplete citation]
Mellinger, Marie B.  1977.  The spirit is strong in the root.  Appalachian Journal 4(3/4):  242-254.
Mellinger, Marie.  1975.  Out of old fields:  Eating out of fence corners. [incomplete citation]
Mellinger, M. B.  1969.  Looking for the lost Franklinia.  American Horticultural Magazine 48(1):  40-41.   
Mellinger, M. B.  1967.  Medicine of the Cherokees.  Foxfire 1(3):  13-20.
Mellinger, Marie B.  1966.  Some plant associations of Pinckneya pubens.  Castanea 31(4):  310-313. 
Mellinger, E. O and Marie B. Mellinger.  1961.  Plants of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.  [incomplete citation]


1.  U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011.
2.  Crenshaw, Holly.  7 January, 2007.  Obituary:  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
3.  “Marie Barlow Mellinger.”  Rabun County Historical Society.  Accessed on 1 March 2018.


University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931


Last Updated: 1 March 2018