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William Whitney Ballard: 1906-1998.
Professor William W. Ballard, Ph.D., the Sidney E. Junkins Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Dartmouth, died in September at his home in Norwich, Connecticut. Dr. Ballard was well known in the Upper Valley area of Connecticut for his passion in exploring and conserving the flora and fauna of the region. When he retired in 1971, he found a new enthusiasm: research into propagation of lady slippers (Cyprepedium spp.). In an effort to improve on natural seed production rates, he hand-pollinated wild stands of the plant with a toothpick, then spread the seeds after they had ripened. After years of sowing and waiting, it became clear that the seed broadcasting method wasn't working, so he learned to germinate the seeds -- a process that required use of a cultivated fungus that helps the seeds survive for the three years necessary before they are ready to begin photosynthesis and food making.

Ballard, nicknamed "Lady slipper Man," raised his seedlings in test tubes, then transplanted them to the woodlands and into the gardens of friends. After solving the propagation problem, he began a project to produce hybrids by cross-pollinating natural varieties, realizing that he probably wouldn't see the results of his work. "If they're like their parent plants in taking 15 years to get to the blossoming stage, I won't be around to see them," he said in 1990. In 199l he received an award from the New England Wildflower Society for this research.

Dr. Ballard explored the Norwich Grand Canyon and blazed a series of trails that became known as the Bill Ballard Trail. He distributed the assets of his creative estate, finding homes for the rare plants he had cultivated and finding someone to take over his lady slipper work. He bequeathed more than 40 acres to the town of Norwich where he was born, to be linked to the existing trails. "He was a wonderful person with an incredible diversity of interests," said Carol Folt, Dartmouth biology professor who shared lab space with Ballard.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Barbara A. Johnston