Caroline Coroneos Dormon (1888-1971) by Amy Graham of Longue Vue Gardens
“I could no more have stopped studying birds, flowers, and trees and drawing them than I could have stopped breathing!”
“Our swamp debutante (the iris) has become a horticultural queen, reigning in gardens around the world”, 1951
Considered Louisiana’s first conservationist and one of the most influential American naturalists of the early 20th century, Caroline Dormon was an accomplished horticulturist, botanist, archeologist, ornithologist, teacher, Louisiana Iris hybridizer and author. As a child in Saline LA, Dormon developed a keen interest in nature and spent most of her life collecting, cataloging and preserving native plants. As the first woman employed by the U.S. Forestry Service in 1921, Caroline worked to establish Kisatchie National Forest by writing an enabling act that would allow the government to purchase old growth forest land.
Affectionately known as “Miss Carrie”, Dormon’s expertise was uncontested which conveyed into years of lecturing and consultation work through the 1940’s. Projects included highway beautification with the Louisiana Department of Transportation, nature-scaping of the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital and the establishment of the Louisiana State Arboretum in 1961. She also developed forestry education materials for schools, promoted forestry conservation support among civic leaders, and advocated for education and support for the Choctaw and Chitimacha tribes of Louisiana.
Dormon’s letters attest to professional correspondence with notable national figures including Lady Bird Johnson, Thomas Edison, garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, famed botanist Dr. J.K. Small and landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman.
Published works include: Wild Flowers of Louisiana (1934), the first published work devoted entirely to describing Louisiana wildflowers, Forest Trees of Louisiana (1941), Flowers Native to the Deep South (1958), Natives Preferred (1965), Southern Indian Boy (1967), and Bird Talk (1969).
Dormon’s lifelong project was her 121-acre home Briarwood. On Dormon’s passing in 1971, her beloved Briarwood was willed to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, Inc, and became the Briarwood Nature Preserve, now designated as a National Historic Place.
The Dormon archives are located at the library of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA.
Awards and appointments:
Member of the DeSoto Commission
Eloise Paine Luquer Medal by the Garden Club of America
Louisiana’s Board of Public Welfare and the State’s Highway Department
Honorary Doctorate of Science from Louisiana State University for Distinguished Scientific Achievement
To read more about Caroline Dormon, click here.