In Memorium: Frank Alexander Lang


May 14, 1937 - June 26, 2019

Frank was born in Olympia, Washington, and spent his childhood roaming the surrounding woods and fields, as well as the shores of Puget Sound. From these experiences, he decided that his life’s ambition was to be a biologist. He was fortunate that his Boy Scout merit badge counselor was naturalist Margaret McKenny, author of The Savory Wild Mushroom. He spent a good part of his high school years on field trips with Margaret and her friends, a highlight of which was meeting Roger Tory Peterson.

He majored in botany at Oregon State College and there met his wife, Suzanne. He worked filing specimens and drawing plants for his systematic botany instructor, Dr. Albert N. Steward, director of the herbarium. Frank planned to pursue his interest in ferns in graduate school at the University of Washington, but was diverted by Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg whose project was to determine why Douglas-fir was invading the gravelly prairies of western Washington. After concluding that the cause was lack of regular fires since European settlement, Frank decided it was time to seek a PhD. He met T.M.C. Taylor at the University of British Columbia, who suggested a taxonomic treatment of the Polypodium vulgare complex. Frank’s thesis, completed in 1965, worked out the evolutionary relationship and taxonomy of three taxa using comparative morphology, cytology, and geographical-ecological criteria. This work was later confirmed by DNA and isozyme analyses.

Frank taught botany, ecology, and botanical illustration at Southern Oregon College for 31 years, from 1966 to 1996. He also served as department chair and chairman of the Faculty Senate. He taught biological illustration at the Malheur Field Station for eight summers. After he retired from teaching, he worked for the Medford District of the BLM, concentrating on the Ashland Resource Area. One of his passions was the Cascade/Siskiyou Ecological Emphasis Area, which later became the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Starting in 1989 he became Mr. Nature Notes. With his signature wit and humor, he commented on topics related to the flora and fauna of Southern Oregon and Northern California. He produced over 300 radio scripts broadcast weekly on Jefferson Public Radio, and a selected script published in each issue of the Jefferson Monthly. Many of these pieces are in his books, A Nature Notes Sampler Vols. 1 & 2.

Frank served three terms as president of NPSO (1985-1986, 1979-1981), was a “Founding Father” of the Siskiyou Chapter (1977), co-edited the Bulletin from 1979-1981. He was the first editor of the annual journal, Kalmiopsis (1991- 1994), and served on the journal’s editorial board from 2004 through 2015. He was author or co-author of four articles in Kalmiopsis, including John Jeffrey in the Wild West: Speculations on His Life and Times (1828-1854?), Green-flowered Wild Ginger (Asarum wagneri), and Botanizers in the Land of Conifers, and numerous book reviews.

Frank was honored as NPSO Fellow in 2000. He has also won many awards for his research, publications and volunteer work, including 1990 “Volunteer of the Year” for The Nature Conservancy of Oregon His interests included history of botanical exploration of the Pacific Northwest, fern evolution, threatened and endangered plants, Charles Darwin in the Southern Hemisphere, Patagonia and Tasmania. He also contributed a large number of online entries for the Oregon Encyclopedia; as he said, he is computer literate (and he has a sense of humor). In his role as teacher and advocate for the natural world, Frank touched many lives. He will be remembered for his dry wit, irreverent sense of humor, and terribly wonderful puns.

Frank is survived by his wife Suzanne, son Thomas Lang (Shawn Barrett), daughter Amy Lang (Kerry Knestis), grandson Milo Knestis, and older sister Mary Lou York, and a host of former students he inspired to become botanists. The memorial service and Committal to Sacred Ground was held on July 27th at Trinity Episcopal Church, Ashland. Frank’s family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, to please donate to the Native Plant Society of Oregon or Trinity Episcopal Church.


Ways to donate to the Native Plant Society of Oregon:
1. Online - Select 'General NPSO Gift'
Please also send an email to treasurer@npsoregon.org to ascribe the online donation 'In Memory Of Frank Lang'.

2. Check: Please note in memo field 'IMO Frank Lang' and mail to

NPSO
c/o Cyndi Dion
PO BOX 1361
Talent, OR 97540