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IC orchid expert promotes conservation at national event


IC’s Hitchcock Professor of Biology Lawrence Zettler spoke during the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s new stamp series at a Miami-area event in February.

The new Wild Orchids Forever stamps feature nine native orchid species, including one studied at Illinois College for more than two decades — the eastern prairie fringed orchid. Zettler was invited to speak at the event alongside photographer Jim Fowler, American Orchid Society President Susan Wedegaertner and Jakki Krage Strako, U.S Postal Service chief customer and marketing officer and executive vice president.

The dedication was held at the American Orchid Society Library at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. Zettler praised the American Orchid Society’s continued support for the conservation of orchids. A grant from the organization during his doctoral research served as a springboard to the research he does today.

“My personal mission in life, as a professional teacher and researcher, is to ensure that these beautiful and unique plants survive in this age of extinction,” Zettler said. “I want every child here today, and those born tomorrow, to be able to see, smell and appreciate the orchids that are part of our ecosystem and our nation. But orchids need our help.”

Zettler heads the Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College, where he has worked with more than 100 undergraduate students on orchid research over the course of nearly 25 years. The research he conducts with IC students and partners from other institutions contributes to orchid conservation efforts in the Midwest and around the world. In Florida, Zettler has led orchid research in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and IC students have received support from the Naples Orchid Society for their life-changing research experiences. 

“It is my sincere hope that 100 years from now, when a stamp collector comes across these lovely images immortalized by Jim Fowler’s photographs, that these plants will remain alive in our natural world,” he said. “As the father of a daughter who is now entering adulthood, there is a heightened sense of urgency to halt extinctions in her lifetime.”

Following the unveiling, Zettler and IC alumni gathered for a lunch in the Miami area and for an event hosted at the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida. Zettler said the botanical garden, which was also hosting the Naples Orchid Society Annual Show that weekend, was very accommodating and provided the group of alumni with a tour of the gardens.

For more information about the Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College and a link to Zettler's lab website, visit

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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