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Message from American Herbal Products Association
Credited for helping to popularize echinacea as we know it, Steven and his expertise on the herbaceous flowering plants were essential to the success of AHPA’s Echinacea Symposium in Lawrence, Kansas in 1999.
Message from Loren Israelsen, President UNPA
He spoke and wrote in a very deliberate and precise manner. It was easy to recognize his writing style in just the first few sentences of anything he wrote. He was self-taught. An autodidact of the first order.
Message from Tina Marie Wilcox, Herbalist Ozark Folk Center Heritage Herb Garden
Steven’s intellect would have been too intimidating had he not been such a patient and kindred spirit. He explained Latin plant classifications in a way I could understand.
Message from Francis Brinker, ND
Yesterday, I read Steven’s latest contribution to HerbalGram, the piece on saw palmetto, and was amazed at the penetrating depth of his scholarship.
Message from Kenn Israel, Founder and Manager at Innovation Consulting Nutrition, Inc.
I share your sadness, and my heart hurts with you. Our tradition is to say one’s memory is a blessing. In the case of Steven, his writing and photography is, in no small way, part of our collective memory and indeed a profound blessing that will continue to educate and inspire for generations. I only knew Steven through HerbalGram first, then an introduction at an ABC reception, then a few conversations.
Message from Susan Belsinger, Author and Photographer
He had a brilliant mind and such an artistic eye — I have never seen such exquisite botanical photographs as his.
Message from Kathi Keville, Herbalist, Aromatherapist and Author
I met Steven Foster when he started working for Well-Being Magazine in Santa Cruz, California in 1978.
Message from Bill Donovan, Sr. Vice President, US Nutraceuticals, Inc.
I was saddened to hear the news of Steven Foster. Just last week we were talking about reaching out to him after seeing the wonderful paper he published on Saw Palmetto. His contributions were nothing short of brilliant.
Message from Mark J. Plotkin, PhD, Co-Founder and President, Amazon Conservation Team
What a gentle giant! He was kind, generous, brilliant, good-humored, and simply irreplaceable. People are mourning the passing of biodiversity heroes like Thomas Lovejoy and Edward O. Wilson but Steven will be equally missed.
Message from Linnea and Larry Wardwell, Founders, Herbal Education Services
We met Steven at the dinner ABC hosted in Anaheim after the Botanical Excellence Awards Ceremony, and we hit it off right away because of our shared love of the Maine coast. He had such a wry and wonderfully lighthearted sense of humor.
Message from Michael Smith, ND, Consultant & Pharmacist
I am so sad to hear of the sudden passing of Steven Foster. Though I had only gotten to know Steven quite recently on a personal level, I have greatly appreciated and admired his work throughout my career. He was blessed to be able to weave the science and practice of herbal medicine through the art and beauty of his photography. This is a great loss.
Message from Abby Artemisia, Founder, The Wander School; Author, The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders
What a glorious botanical blessing to not only have known this man, but to spend a whole weekend wandering the woodlands of Appalachian Ohio with him and learning from him.
Message from Nancy J. Turner, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria
Steven was, for decades, a guiding light for ethnobotanists, economic botanists, botanical photographers, and plant lovers of all kinds. Even those of us who never had a chance to meet him in person held him in the highest esteem and deeply mourn his passing. His books and articles on medicinal and aromatic plants, and his spectacular botanical photographs, will live on for decades to come.
Message from Matthew Magruder, Art Director, HerbalGram & the American Botanical Council
His generosity knew no bounds and my experience of him was just a sliver of what he contributed to this world, the herbal community, and his family.
Message from Michael Levin, Founder, Health Business Strategies LLC
Steven Foster accomplished so much but died too soon. His contributions will live forever. And when I think of my conversations with him, I smile. May his memory be a blessing.
Message from Steve Mister, President & CEO, Council for Responsible Nutrition
A picture is worth a thousand words and Steven Foster gave us both. His exquisite photographs communicated the fragility and vibrancy of the botanical world, reminding us of the power and potential of plants all around us. His books and articles spoke of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science. The botanical community was blessed with his commitment and his contributions. He had a prolific life and an indelible legacy.
Message from Mindy Green, MS, RA, RH
[A] botanical library has been lost with the passing of Steven.
Message from Emily Ruff, Director, Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary
I often thought of Steven as a shapeshifter: a human who walked between worlds, befriending the spirits of the green in the most spiritual and intimate of ways, while speaking on their behalf in the stuffy board rooms of big industry with equal skill and grace.
Message from Cathy Sears
He was always gracious to us science and health reporters, with his photographs providing the needed gravitas for so many news article by me and others.
Message from Ed Fletcher, President, Native Botanicals, Inc.
Collaborating with Steven was always a learning and rewarding experience which I will always remember and cherish.
Message from Deb Soule, Founder, Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary
On Tuesday, I opened a book and found a note I had written myself to ask Steven a question about the shelf-life of powdered herbs.
Message from Holly Shimizu, Consultant, Writer, and Lecturer
I was amazed at Steven’s intelligence, loved his witty sense of humor, and we both shared a passion for plants. I turned to Steven for his opinions, thoughts, and support because I recognized his intuitive wisdom.
Message from Jerry Cott, PhD, Pharmacologist
I had the bounty of two trips to Peru with Steven. The second one we bunked together and I got to observe and try to learn from his photographic skills as well. He meant a lot to us. I'll bet he wishes he had his camera to show us what he sees now.
Message from Juliet Blankenspoor, Founder and Creative Director, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine
Steven, you left a trail of beauty in your wake. What a legacy! Nineteen books authored or co-authored, detailed monographs, and arguably the most extensive library of medicinal plant photography in the world.
Message from Wendy Applequist, PhD, Missouri Botanical Garden, William L. Brown Center
Steven visited the Missouri Botanical Garden almost twenty years ago and gave a talk on herbal medicine that had the audience of botanists enthralled, even without the effect of his gorgeous photos. His remarks on the use of echinacea for brown recluse bites were memorable, and a pearl of wisdom to be treasured. I was then a naive young person working on a book about medicinal plants, and Steven took the time to look at a sample and give advice—thoughtful, valuable advice, for which I'm not sure I ever thanked him fervently enough. I hope he knew how many people appreciated his knowledge and insight, and his willingness to share them.
Message from Lon Ball (Johnson), Founder of Trout Lake Farms
One fall day in 1975, Steven Foster walked up the drive to my house. We sat on the porch in kindred conversation three hours that morning at the foot of Mt. Adams in Trout Lake, Washington. He introduced himself as 17 years of age, the manager of the Sabbathday Shaker Herb Farm in Maine. Organic farming was unofficial in those days. He was mature beyond his years, deferential to my advanced age of 30. My sense of awe was equal to his. Steven returned many times with his camera over the years and he began to write; hit his stride with Echinacea, the Renaissance man for the Renaissance herb.
Message from Teresa Boardwine, Founder of Green Comfort Scnool of Herbal Medicine
Steven's sweet demeanor was as genuine as his exuberance for the plants. His gentle spirit reminds me of Jim's [Duke] and I so hope they get to sing the Ginseng song in the heavenly ethers. I am so grateful for his work and for the interactions we had during the UPS gathering to dedicate the Jim & Peggy Duke Botanical Sanctuary building. Thanks, Steven, for your contributions to the botanical community that we will cherish.
Message from Thomas Brendler, Founder and CEO of Plantaphile
I struggle to come to terms with Steven no longer being with us. I cherish the multiple opportunities I had to "talk shop" with him and will never stop admiring his keen eye and finesse with showing plants in the best light.
Steven's immense passion and meticulous love of plants will continue to grow and plant new seeds to be sown.
Bernadette Marriott, PhD
Steven always had a mischievous smile. Even when the conversation was on a serious topic, Steven would look around the room and give his smile and a comment - that would exactly "nail" the issue... then he would elaborate with a significant point for the discussion. He was a kind, warm, and delightful human being - who also happened to be a pretty good photographer. He is so missed!
Bevin Clare, Professor and Program Director of the Masters of Science in Clinical Herbal Medicine Maryland University of Integrative Health
There are rare people on this earth who discover and realize their passion in such a devoted way as Steven did. Convention and formalities never stood in his way of achieving tremendous knowledge, skill, and achievement in the area he deeply loved. And in turn, he was deeply loved by the community and (most likely!) by the plants themselves, always seen with exceptional beauty through his eyes and lens. He will be missed and remembered.
Steven Foster (1957–2022)
Steven Foster was a best-selling author in the field of medicinal plants and herbal medicine, a world-renowned photographer of medicinal plants, a consultant to nonprofit organizations and herb industry members. He had over 47 years of comprehensive experience in the herbal field.
A Maine native, Steven started his career in 1974 at the Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Shaker’s Herb Department—America’s oldest herb business dating to 1799. During his four years at the Shaker Herb Department, he managed three acres of production herb gardens and produced more than 50 herbal products. Steven said “Everything I do now—writing, lectures, consulting, and photography—began during that time from age 17-21. Part of my job was to shadow visiting photographers working on assignment for various publications. I learned photography by watching great photographers at work.”
Steven’s expertise provided him opportunities to work in many herb-producing areas of the world. As an international consultant in medicinal and aromatic plant technical, conservation, and marketing issues, Foster served on projects in Argentina, Armenia, Belize, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of Georgia, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam and elsewhere.
Steven was the author or co-author of 21 books. He was senior author of three Peterson Field Guides, including the third edition of the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Eastern and Central North America, (with James A. Duke, 2014; this book is one of the best-selling in the entire Peterson Field Guide series), A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs with Christopher Hobbs, (2002), and A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants of North America with Roger Caras, (1995). Other of Steven’s titles include Tyler’s Honest Herbal, 4th edition (with Varro Tyler) and the 1999 Independent Publisher's Association's Best Title in Health and Medicine—101 Medicinal Herbs.
Foster was the senior author of National Geographic’s A Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine (with Rebecca Johnson), a 2007 New York Public Library “Best of Reference.” He also authored over 800 articles for numerous trade, popular, and scientific periodicals. An acclaimed photographer with thousands of images in his stock photos files, Foster’s photographs appear in hundreds of publications.
Steven played a long and critically significant role in the development of ABC’s peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram for over 35 years. He was a Contributing Editor beginning in 1986 (Issue #8) and then an Associate Editor beginning in 1990 (Issue #22). In addition to his many articles in HerbalGram, Steven’s compelling photography was published in every issue of HerbalGram since Issue #24 for the past 32 years, and his photos have been used on the cover 59 times. He served for 22 years on the Board Trustees of ABC in Austin, Texas, since 1999, on which he served as President of the Board for 10 years.
Steven lived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with his wife Donna. He is survived by his wife, his children—Abbey, Ashley, Allison, Colin, Farar, and Andy—and eight grandchildren.
Steven's Artist Statement
My artistic goal as a photographer specializing in medicinal and aromatic plants is to capture the spirit and botanical beauty-in-form using natural ambient light. As a medicinal plant specialist and photographer, my work takes me around the world. Photo equipment is ever present. In my botanical photography, color, form and design offer themselves to the observant eye at the right time of day, in shade, in rain, or with clouds hiding harsh sunlight. These are the situations I strive to work in, which give me the best color saturation, the richest light, and the greatest challenge in exposure length, depth-of-field, and waiting for that still moment when a breath of air does not move the subject and offers up the detail values that I seek. I strive to know the plants that I photograph: their names, botany, history, and human connection (use). I feel this helps to give me a special relationship to the plant as it reveals its beauty.
Selection of Books by Steven Foster and Co-authors
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Eastern and Central North America. 3rd edition
By Steven Foster and James A. Duke
Houghton Mifflin Court, 2014
National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs
By Rebecca L. Johnson & Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, MD and David Kiefer, MD; Photography by Steven Foster
National Geographic Books, 2010
Herbal Pearls—Traditional Chinese Folk Wisdom
By Miao Wen-wei, Translated by Yue Chong-xi, Annotated by Steven Foster
Ozark Beneficial Plant Project and Boian Books LLC, 2008
A Desk References to Nature’s Medicine
By Steven Foster and Rebecca Johnson; Photography by Steven Foster
National Geographic Books, 2006.
A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs
By Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs
Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002
The Herbal Drugstore
By Linda White, MD and Steven Foster
Rodale Press, 2000
Tyler’s Honest Herbal. 4th Edition—A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies.
By Steven Foster and Dr. Varro E. Tyler
Haworth Herbal Press, 1999
101 Medicinal Herbs
By Steven Foster; Foreword by Mark Blumenthal
Interweave Press, 1998
Herbs for Your Health
By Steven Foster
Interweave Press, 1996
Forest Pharmacy—Medicinal Plants in American Forests
By Steven Foster
Forest History Society, Duke University, 1995
A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants of North America North of Mexico
By Steven Foster and Roger Caras
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994
Herbal Renaissance-Growing, Using & Understanding Herbs in the Modern World
By Steven Foster; Foreword by Richard Evans Schultes; Preface by Shiu Ying Hu
Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1993
Herbal Emissaries—Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West
By Steven Foster and Prof. Yue Chongxi
Healing Arts Press, 1992
Echinacea—Nature’s Immune Enhancer
By Steven Foster
Healing Arts Press, 1991
Herbal Bounty-The Gentle Art of Herb Culture
By Steven Foster; Foreword by Richard Evans Schultes; Preface by Shiu Ying Hu
Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1984