James B. Ebert Wildflower Garden

Butterfly milkweed, littlebrownjug, mayapple, and bloodroot are among the nearly two dozen species of native wildflowers in the Dr. James B. Ebert Native Wildflower Garden. Most of the wildflowers in the garden bloom in early spring, an adaptation that may permit a “head start” on reproduction while sunlight is still plentiful and temperatures are rising. Little sunlight reaches the forest floor, late in spring, after the canopy in their forested habitat is in full leaf.  Many of the wildflowers not only emerge in early spring, but they die back soon thereafter, only to reappear the next spring.

Mayapple Blossom
Mayapple Blossom

One of the earliest flowering plants is bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). This delicate species produces solitary, creamy white blossoms, 3-6 centimeters (1-2.5 inches) in diameter. Its common name derives from an orange-red juice inside its underground stem (or “rhizome”).

Mayapple Berry
Mayapple Berry

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is another early flowering plant. It is easily recognized by its twin, umbrella-shaped leaves, between which appears a single, drooping white blossom. The blossom soon gives way to a yellow berry. By July the plants have turned a pale, yellow green and have begun to decay.


Gingerly pull back the leaf stalks and probe the ground to uncover the strange, stiff blossoms, or “littlebrownjugs,” of Hexastylis arifolia. Triangular leaves of this species are the inspiration for another common name --- heartleaf.

Tiger Lily
Tiger Lily

One of the garden’s showiest inhabitants, tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium), blooms in the summertime.  A striking beauty, it is little wonder this non-native species is a garden favorite. By mid-summer, the tiger lily has leafy stalks 0.5-1.5 meters (3-4 feet) tall, topped by exquisite, black-speckled orange blossoms.

Butterfly Milkweed
Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is the last species in the garden to flower. Its dainty orange blossoms occur in dense flat-topped clusters, creating a brilliant display that attracts wasps and butterflies. The blossoms may linger late into fall, only to be replaced by pointed green follicles containing silky seeds. Like other members of the milkweed family, this stout perennial produces toxic cardiac glycosides. Monarch butterfly caterpillars readily feast on the leaves with no ill effect. Not only are they resistant to the toxins, but they sequester the toxic substances into their own tissues, rendering both caterpillars and adult butterflies poisonous to many species of birds.

The wildflowers are the generous donation of Dr. James B. Ebert, Professor Emeritus and long-time member of the Biology faculty.  The garden was established in 2005 when Dr. Ebert transplanted the wildflowers from his home garden, on the west edge of the UNCP campus, to their present location on the northwest corner of the Oxendine Science Building. Each species in the garden is labeled with a metal stake and name plate, indicating its common and scientific names.

The Wildflowers of Ebert Garden

Scientific Name Common Name
Arisaema triphyllum (L.) Schott Jack in the pulpit
Asclepias tuberosa L. butterfly milkweed
Asplenium platyneuron (L.) B.S.P. ebony spleenwort
Cardamine concatenata (Michx.) Sw. cutleaf toothwort
Erythronium americanum Ker-Gawl. dogtooth violet
Gelsemium sempervirens (L.) Ait. f. yellow jessamine
Hexastylis arifolia (Michx.) Small littlebrownjug
Hexastylis virginica (L.) Small Virginia heartleaf
Lilium lancifolium Thunb. tiger lily*
Maianthemum canadense Desf. Canada mayflower
Maianthemum racemosum (L.) Link false Soloman’s-seal
Mitchella repens L. partridgeberry
Podophyllum peltatum L. mayapple
Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn western brackenfern
Sanguinaria canadensis L. bloodroot
Trillium cernuum L. whip-poor-will flower
Uvularia perfoliata L. perfoliate bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia L. sessileleaf bellwort
Viola sp. violet
Vinca minor L. common periwinkle*

*Introduced, or non-native, species

James B. Ebert, ScD
Photograph of Dr. Ebert is courtesy of Dr. David Zeigler.

James B. Ebert, ScD (Hon.)

After receiving a B.S. degree in forestry from Louisiana State University in 1949, practicing forestry for seven years, and receiving an M.A. degree in botany at Duke University, Dr. Ebert was appointed Assistant Professor (1956) in the Department of Biology at Pembroke State College, now UNCP. During his tenure at UNCP, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University. 

Serving as a practicing forester introduced him to the major plant communities of eastern North Carolina and the Southeast. Further study at Duke University expanded his knowledge of plant and animal communities found in the region. With this background, he was prepared to teach a broad range of courses in the biological sciences. While teaching a variety of botanical and zoological courses over some 47 years, ecology was a primary interest.

As a field ecologist, he conducted numerous field courses where he collected many kinds of plants and animals native to North Carolina and the Southeast. In his course, Principles of Ecology, he required every student to accompany him on a field trip to the estuaries of coastal North Carolina. Here students learned firsthand how plants and animals have adapted to their environments.

While studying native, upland plant and animal communities, such as pine forests, hardwood forests and open fields, he collected many endemic flowering plants that, because of commercial and residential development, were increasingly difficult to find. The purpose of the collections was to preserve live plants in natural, maintained habitats.

At retirement, Dr. Ebert transferred these plants from his home garden to the site honoring him, and bearing his name, located on the UNCP campus at the northwest corner of the Oxendine Science Building. The garden is maintained by interested faculty, students, and grounds staff. Dr. Ebert passed in 2021  while residing in the Wesley Pines Retirement Community in Lumberton, North Carolina, and is survived by his wife Eleanor.