• Bruce Sorrie – botanist and Kendra and John Abbott – Nature Photographers, entomologist and Dir of Research & Collections at U of AL Museums.

Bruce Sorrie, great botanist from North Carolina,  is one of Bill’s oldest friends. You add our two newest friends, Kendra and John Abbott and it was a once in a life time experience. See some of Kendra and Johns Nature Photography.

Guarding the tree of paradise


If you visit Paint Rock in deep summer, these are the people you want to have with you.


John and Kendra Abbott are anxious to see the University of Alabama Museum of Natural History take a step up to join the world’s top tier of research facilities and museums. Don’t underestimate them. They are a powerhouse, a dynamic duo, expert entomologists, natural historians, researchers, teachers, photographers. And one of them is a really good cook.


They’ll go anywhere with their cameras, even down a steep and treacherous limestone bluff, to the yawning mouth of Saltpeter Cave, rising out of the stone cliff like an airplane hanger. And they never hesitated when the great cathedral of the opening turned down a narrow black hall carved by an invisible stream. Their cameras  helped us see a sightless world, teeming with giant cave crickets, translucent cave crawfish and (crawling on my shirt) a cave endemic millipede.


Bruce Sorrie is my mentor in the plant world. Bruce is legendary in the Carolinas for cataloguing that state’s natural diversity, and describing many new species in the process. He’s still naming. Bruce came down to Alabama decades ago, looking for plants in the Red Hills and pinewoods and prairies. He steered Beth and I around North Carolina’s longleaf country while we were working on our longleaf book. I could happily spend the rest of my days running around the woods and prairies and savannas with Bruce, arguing about plants.


With this group, you know you’re going to find really good stuff, even if you’re stopping to take a rest propped up against a tree. All of us had walked round the tree a dozen times before John shouted. And then we all saw it, Paint Rock’s most insouciant inhabitant, the timber rattler. It never rattled, never struck, never moved, in spite of our constant traffic. It tolerated only with great disgust our lingering to take its photo over and over. And of course, snakes always stand guard at the tree of paradise. Above our heads stood a persimmon tree with the biggest wild persimmons I’ve ever seen. We took the fruit thereof, and did eat.


Bruce has seen plenty of the Southeast, and you’d think there’s nothing new for him to see. But Bruce says he’s never ever seen anything like this place. It’s not right, Bruce said, that all these plants are so close together here. It’s going to make the community ecologists really angry, he says.


And that’s why Bruce is coming back.