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Green Medicine > Spotlight on Members > Beth Judy

Beth Judy at work.
Beth Judy in the radio studio recording an episode of Flora Delaterre's adventures as "The Plant Detective."

Meet Beth Judy: Producer of “The Plant Detective” Radio Show

Q: Describe your basic biographic information (where you live, where you grew up, what you do for a living, anything about you that helps people understand where you're "coming from").

A: For the past 10 years, I've produced a radio show about medicinal plants in conjunction with Montana Public Radio (Missoula). For the majority of those years, the School of Pharmacy at the University of Montana has also helped with the show. The show is called "The Plant Detective."

"The Plant Detective" is short. It started at 5 minutes. Then, because we became interested in making the show available nationwide, we cut it down to 2 minutes, and more recently, to a minute and a half. We focus on one plant per show – e.g., recently we've done tea, ephedra, kava, devils club, and hoodia. To visit our audio archives, listen to past programs and view the plants we’ve covered click here. The information is delivered by "Flora Delaterre, plant detective," with strict concern for accuracy but also a touch of humor. Flora is meant to call up images of film noir gumshoes, but she's also a super plant nerd who knows a lot about and is passionate about medicinal plants. In other words, she's inspired by many of the professionals associated with MPWG---who work with, study, care about, and fight for medicinal plants.

Here in Montana, "The Plant Detective" airs once a week in a great spot between National Public Radio and Prairie Home Companion. A few years ago, we took a shot at making it available more widely, and are gearing up to do that again in the spring of 2007, this time with professional marketing support (if we can find a sponsor). The show is free to public and community radio stations. Dr. Rustem Medora was the founding content expert for the show. After he retired, Mark Blumenthal and Robyn Klein reviewed scripts, and recently the Botanical Medicine Department at Bastyr University, headed by Robin DiPasquale, has taken over content guidance and review.

Personally, I'm an English-major-type, not a medicinal plant expert. My expertise is writing, voicing, and producing the show. But from doing this for so long now, I've become a devotee of medicinal plants. Who can fail to be impressed with them, the more you know about them? I grew up in the Chicago area, went to Harvard for college, worked in Atlanta for 9 years in publication services in science and art, then went back to school at the University of Montana in 1992 and got my MFA in Creative Writing. I've been in Missoula ever since, and in addition to doing the radio show, earn my living as a book editor at a small publishing company that publishes the "Roadside Geology" series.

Q: How did you become interested in medicinal plants?

A: Working on "The Plant Detective" has been a neat journey for me personally. When I started, I didn't know what a medicinal plant was. Doing a show geared toward the average Joe – well, the average public & community radio listener – I learned about medicinal plants at the same speed my audience did. A fascinating world has opened up for me that I care very much about. I'm fortunate to be healthy most of the time, but the few times I've used phytomedicinals, I've been impressed not just by their strength and efficacy, but also by the cognizance of a healing relationship with living medicine. That feeling, it seems to me, can contribute to one's healing.

People who hear "The Plant Detective" seem to like Flora Delaterre. Things about her make them smile. I was very gratified a few years ago to hear that someone showed up at a Halloween party dressed as the Plant Detective. They wore a trench coat and duct-taped a small tree to their leg so that, no matter how they moved, they were always peeking out from behind it. When I heard that, I felt Flora had "arrived."

Q: Please choose the MPWG strategy element you are most aligned with and describe how you help fulfill this part of the MPWGs mission.

Elements of MPWG Strategy:

a. Generate and share information regarding species of medicinal and economic importance and conservation concern
b. Promote appropriate conservation measures for native medicinal plants
c. Promote sustainable production of native medicinal plant products
d. Increase participation in native medicinal plant conservation
e. Encourage active participation by Tribes and other holders of traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to native medicinal plants
f. Generate financial support for native medicinal plant conservation projects

A: My work is certainly most aligned with the first strategy listed above, and also with increasing participation in medicinal plant conservation. If people become educated and interested in medicinal plants, they'll look at the plants around them with new eyes, realize their current or potential importance and how great they are, and care more about preserving them. I know this because it happened to me.

Q: What are your future aspirations or concerns with regard to medicinal plants?

A: I look forward to getting Flora out into the wider world as an accessible spokesperson for medicinal plants and the environment. Plants don't draw people's interest as much as animals do, and I'd like Flora to help change that. I'm working hard on this next launch of "The Plant Detective" in the spring, and then I dream about producing books about medicinal plants for kids (and possibly adults), with Flora at the helm. In particular, I'd love to do a series of phytomedicinal adventures in graphic-novel (comic book) form.

However it comes to pass, my hope is that, through the stories we tell on the show, and also through the person of Flora herself, people will become aware of other paradigms of medicine and health care as well as alternative relationships with the world around us.

Contact Information:

Address: PO Box 8474
Missoula, Montana 59807
Email: OR
Phone/Fax: 406-728-2977

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Last Updated: 12-Sep-2006