Evelyn Wood Moyle knew her wildflowers

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2010 - 8:12 PM

Her book, "Northland Wildflowers," is a bible for anybody interested in Minnesota's natural landscape.

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Evelyn Wood Moyle

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Evelyn Wood Moyle's rock garden was a favorite stop for bicyclists, in-line skaters and walkers along the Southwest Regional LRT Trail that runs from Hopkins to Victoria. She was a fixture in the garden overlooking Lake William, tending to its tulips, wild indigo and other wildflowers.

Her passion for plants gave rise to "Northland Wildflowers: The Comprehensive Guide to the Minnesota Region," a publication that she teamed up with her husband, John, to produce in 1977. He supplied the text and she took the photographs for the guide, which quickly became a bible for anybody interested in wildflowers that grow in the Upper Midwest, said Tom Orjala, senior editor for regional studies and contemporary affairs for the University of Minnesota Press.

"It was the book that any enthusiast had in their backpack, on the kitchen table," he said.

Moyle died of a heart attack Jan. 3 at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. She was 95.

The onetime bestselling book, which has sold more than 50,000 copies, was so successful that in 2001 she paired with photographer John Gregor to create a revised edition. She added text and flowers to the second edition, available at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Victoria, a place she had high regard for, said her daughter Susan Studlar of Morgantown, W.Va.

"She was extremely knowledgeable about flowers and the environment," Gregor said. "She was full of energy and wonder."

Her keen eye for detail is seen in her essay "Battle for the Cottonwood," included in Daniel J. Philippon's book of essays "Our Neck of the Woods: Exploring Minnesota's Wild Places." Moyle's prose captures the observations she made over an eight-year period as starlings and woodpeckers attempted to claim a dead cottonwood tree in her yard as their home.

Born in Lancaster, Calif., she moved to Minnesota when she was young, and for the past 85 years had lived in her childhood home overlooking Lake William and Lake Minnetonka, where she planted her beloved rock garden and grew her prized hibiscus in a greenhouse, her daughter said.

She graduated from the former Northrup High (now part of Blake School) and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology from the University of Minnesota. She also taught sections of general biology and oversaw graduate teaching assistants at the university. Moyle shared her love for plants and bugs in programs she taught for community groups in the Lake Minnetonka area.

She also led programs on ice formations on Lake Minnetonka, and as recently as five years ago, at age 90, was still leading wildflower walks at Big Island Regional Park, Studlar said.

She was an original board member of the Freshwater Society and an expert on the history of wild rice in Lake Minnetonka, an organization spokesman said.

She enjoyed photography and going on birding tours to such places as Iceland, the British Isles and Texas, Studlar said.

In addition to her daughter Susan, Moyle is survived by another daughter, Virginia Pezalla of Oak Park, Ill.; two sons, Peter of Davis, Calif., and Joseph of Eugene, Ore.; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her husband, John, preceded her in death.

The family will hold a private service later this year.

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