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
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
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
Obituary written by Holly Crenshaw of The Atlanta Constitution-Journal:
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
There are no immediate survivors.
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):
Mellinger, Marie. 1975. Out of old fields: Eating out of fence corners. [incomplete
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
Mellinger, E. O and Marie B. Mellinger.
1961. Plants of the Savannah
National Wildlife Refuge. [incomplete
1. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index,
1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo,
UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.
2. Crenshaw, Holly. 7 January, 2007. Obituary: The
3. “Marie Barlow Mellinger.” Rabun County Historical Society. Accessed on 1 March 2018.