University City

UNCC botanist Mellichamp honored on retirement

Larry Mellichamp, director of UNC Charlotte’s Botanical Garden and a professor of botany, will retire at the end of 2014 after almost four decades on the UNCC faculty.

English professor Mark West said Mellichamp should really be known as a professor of herbology, the term preferred at fictional Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s magical school.

West, chairman of UNCC’s English department, credits Mellichamp with a “magical power to spark a curiosity about plants in the minds of all who come into contact with him.”

Mellichamp is a recognized authority on native trees and shrubs, and is noted for his studies of carnivorous plants, especially Sarracenia pitcher plants. He has traveled the Untied States and the world in search of unusual plant species.

An accomplished writer, Mellichamp’s most recent book is “Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden.”

Mellichamp grew up in Charlotte, then earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from UNCC. After completing a doctorate at the University of Michigan, he returned home to join the UNCC faculty in 1976.

Through years of hectic development on campus, Mellichamp quietly tended and expanded the school’s botanical garden, creating an tranquil island of natural beauty in a turbulent sea of urban sprawl.

Today there is no better place to get to know plants that thrive in Charlotte’s landscapes, or a better spot to while away an afternoon.

Mellichamp also organized a dedicated cadre of community and student volunteers to help care for the botanical garden and greenhouse, and to work on popular spring and fall plant sales. His welcoming approach helped build bridges between the university and the larger community.

More than 100 people gathered Nov. 19 in Robinson Hall on the UNCC campus for a reception in Mellichamp’s honor. Chancellor Phillip Dubois spoke, along with other dignitaries.

When Mellichamp took the podium, he fondly recalled an earlier time, when the university was much smaller and when teaching and mentoring students was unquestionably the top priority.

It was announced that UNCC will create a new garden in his honor, the Mellichamp Native Terrace Garden.