By Brenda L. Holmes
BROWNSBURG — Plant ecologist Michael A. Homoya is living his dream and recently released his second book, Wildflowers and Ferns of Indiana Forests.
He will be speaking on the same topic at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Toby Room at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The even is free and open to the public. There will be copies of the book available for purchase and signing.
Homoya is a botanist and plant ecologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. His book was printed by Indiana University Press.
He and his wife, Barbara, reside in Brownsburg. They have two adult sons - Aaron, an electrical engineer, and Wesley, a student at Purdue University. Their sons grew up in Brownsburg and attended Covenant Christian School.
Homoya said his career was influenced by his family, particularly his mother.
"She would use me as a laborer to dig her flower beds and I became very interested," he said. "I enjoyed seeing the plants and watching them grow. So I got my start gardening and being outdoors."
He grew up in Carterville, Ill., which is in the southern tip of the state.
"I learned about a plant that grew in a national forest in southern Illinois," he said. "I tracked it down and was amazed at the scenery. The cliffs, the big trees - it was all amazing to me."
Homoya said he found wild orchids growing there as well.
"I didn't know that orchids grew wild in our part of the world," he said. "I just became more and more interested."
The first book he wrote was entitled, Orchids of Indiana, in 1993.
"There are 43 different orchids in Indiana, and they are truly orchids," he said.
Wildflowers and Ferns of Indiana Forests (Indiana University Press, 2012, paperback, $22.95) covers nearly 300 native species, their attributes, habitats, and snippets of natural history.
"I wanted to share my interest in plants and also write something that I would enjoy reading," he said.
He said he added facts about native Indiana plants that many people do not know.
"I talk about the pawpaw tree for instance," Homoya said. "It's from the custard-apple family. There are over a thousand species in that family. Most of them are tropical or subtropical - except for our pawpaw. It grows here in Indiana."
The fruit of the pawpaw tree is often referred to the "Indiana banana."
"I added those kind of fun facts," he said. "Did you know there is a plant called the 'touch me not?' If you barely touch them, they explode and send seeds all different directions. They're fun for kids and adults too."
He has a section of the book about using native plants in landscaping and land restoration.
"I also have a section on invasive plants," he said. "There are those non-desirable species out there in our native forests."
Homoya will also be participating in the Holiday Author Fair on Dec. 1, hosted by the Indiana Historical Society.
His books may be found at bookstores and online.