Advocate for Native Plants to Direct Botanical Garden

Damon Waitt.

Damon Waitt
(Photo from N.C. Botanical Garden.)

Damon Waitt, the senior director and botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, and one of the country’s most effective advocates for native plants, has been chosen to be the next director of the N.C. Botanical Garden.

Waitt will succeed Peter White, who plans to return full time to academics after 27 years as the garden’s director. Waitt will start work April 13.

Waitt will supervise the gardens and natural areas in addition to spearheading invasive species initiatives, education programs and conservation efforts.

“Damon brings with him extensive knowledge and experience in leading and managing a conservation-focused botanical garden that is very similar in values and mission to the North Carolina Botanical Garden,” said Carol Tresolini ’76 (MEd, ’92 PhD), UNC’s vice provost for academic initiatives.

Waitt said he was attracted to the garden’s focus on conservation. “I would not have any interest in a botanic garden that was strictly for show,” he said. “I am also drawn to the way UNC has always embraced the garden and values its contribution to teaching, research and public service.”

Waitt holds a doctorate in botany from the University of Texas in Austin, a master’s in botany from Louisiana State University Baton Rouge and a bachelor’s in biology from Tulane University. He serves on the Invasive Species Advisory Committee for the National Invasive Species Council, is founder of the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council and is a past chair of the National Association of Exotic Pest Plant Councils.

Waitt will be the garden’s third director. The garden, a 1,000-acre assemblage of display gardens and natural areas, is nationally known as a center for the study, display, interpretation and conservation of plants.

The garden originally was an offshoot of the Arboretum, begun in 1903 by William Coker, the University’s first botany professor. It started with 70 dedicated acres east of the main campus, and a donor later added 103 acres. It is adjacent to another UNC acquisition, the 367-acre Mason Farm Biological Reserve.

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