Passion for the prairie

Volunteer photographer on a quest

People find their passions at Jepson Prairie Preserve. One of these people is Doug Wirtz who has taken tens of thousands of  flower photos on Solano Land Trust properties, mostly at Jepson Prairie Preserve.

It all started when Doug came to Jepson Prairie with his son in 2002. While his son was videotaping the prairie for a school project, Doug spotted a delicate mariposa lily and was hooked.

When Doug retired from the Fairfield Fire Department, he purchased a Cannon DSLR digital camera and returned to Jepson Prairie. He kept one foot on the trail while photographing flowers. He didn’t know the names of the flowers that he trained his lens on, so he turned to Cal Flora and his newly purchased botanical dictionary to identify them.

Flower power

“I’m enthralled with what I’m seeing, and I’d love to photograph the whole thing,” Doug told Solano Land Trust fifteen years ago when he asked for permission to extend the range of his access. Solano Land Trust said yes, if he was willing to attend the docent training program. At the training, he met others passionate about the prairie including Carol Witham, Kate Mawdsley, and Robbin Thorp, a native bee expert and dedicated volunteer (1933-2019).

Doug established two goals for his passion project: to photograph every flower, and to contribute his color photographs to the revision of the Jepson Prairie field guide. The Jepson Prairie Preserve Handbook, 3rd Edition, is edited by Carol W. Witham and Kate Mawdsley, and is illustrated with color photos, many of which were taken by Doug Wirtz. After all these years, he knows more of the flowers by their Latin names, and Downingia remains his favorite. “There are six or seven types out here,” Doug says.

Doug continues to visit the prairie two or three times a week. “It clears my mind. It’s how I recharge my batteries,” he says. “I also go to the docent training every year because I always learn something.” His intimate knowledge of the place makes him feel a sense of ownership, and gives him a keen interest in Jepson Prairie’s health and well-being. “I want things to flourish,” he says.

Jepson Prairie Preserve, and all our properties, provide living landscapes for Doug and others to live their passions. Your support of Solano Land Trust makes that possible.

Explore or discover your passion at the upcoming Jepson Prairie Preserve docent-training program. The seven-session series begins in February.

A pollen-dusted bee visits downingia bella.

The diminutive dwarf downingia.

Photos courtesy of Aleta George and Doug Wirtz.