Kagawong couple donates one-of-a-kind collection of Manitoulin wildflower photos to Friends of Misery Bay

Marcel Beneteau and Sabine Huege have donated a one-and-only collection of about 800 photographs of flowers found on Manitoulin Island, to the Friends of Misery Bay.

KAGAWONG—A Kagawong couple has donated a large and unique collection of books that display photographs of flowers that can be found on Manitoulin Island.

“This is a one-and-only collection. There is nothing like it. It’s phenomenal, and I’m blown away by it. And Marcel (Beneteau) and Sabine (Huege) are giving it to us,” said John Diebolt of  Friends of Misery Bay (FOMB) about the enormous collection of photographs of flowers of Manitoulin Island that is being donated to FOMB to display in its visitors’ centre at Misery Bay Provincial Park. When Marcel and Sabine moved to the Island about 15 years ago from Sudbury, what had been a hobby for them has become more of a passion. They have taken photographs of all the flowers they have seen on Manitoulin and refer to the J.K. Morton and Joan M Venn book ‘Flora of Manitoulin.’

“Every year they have taken pictures of all the flowers they have seen on the Island. They have about 800 pictures of flowers with  more than one picture of each along with the name of each,” said Mr. Diebolt “The collection is extensive. There are about 15 binders filled with photographs that have been donated to FOMB and Ontario Parks and, to the Misery Bay Visitors’ Centre for display; and then at some point it will  be housed in the Sifferd Cottage when it is completed. It is a spectacular collection.”

Mr. Beneteau explained that he and his wife Sabine (Huege) are moving (this week) from their home in Kagawong to Owen Sound which will allow them to be closer to family and friends in that area, and to more services.

“We have lived on the Island for 16 years as of this summer,” Mr. Beneteau told The Expositor. “Our property in Kagawong is a big property and it takes a lot of upkeep. We decided to make the move now because we want to, not wait until we have to.”

“We are both originally from Windsor and we were living and working in Sudbury, and had always liked Manitoulin,” said Mr. Beneteau. “We kept our apartment in Sudbury for quite awhile and would come to the Island to live for the summer.” When they both retired, they made Kagawong their permanent  home.

“We have always been into nature, and Sabine was always more interested in flowers than birds and  the Island has an amazing amount of wildflowers,” continued Mr. Beneteau. “When I got my first digital camera, I began taking pictures of the flowers and plants of Manitoulin. We have collected photographs of about 800 special wildflowers of Manitoulin Island.”

“And every new year, we would put the new photographs we had taken into albums of all the wildlflowers  all the wildflowers we had seen on our travels around Manitoulin,” continued Mr. Beneteau. “And we also have all the photos on digital files.” However, he pointed out the extensive collection took  up a lot of room and the couple wondered what they would do with it.

“I took a couple of binders to John (Diebolt) to see if FOMB would be interested in having a couple of the binders and he said they would take all that we have,” said Mr. Beneteau. “I still hope some day to do a field guide to the flowers on Manitoulin. I guess this will be a project for my second retirement,” he quipped.

“Over the years, we have explored every square inch of trails, road allowance, wetlands and alvars that we could access on Manitoulin,” said Mr. Beneteau. “We enjoy spending a day in the field, hiking and looking at flowers.” He told The Expositor they used the Morton book on the Flora of Manitoulin which has maps showing where every species of flower and plant he found on the Island.

“Of course, every unit in his book of a different species covers an area of about five kilometres, but we used this to find a lot of flowers.”

However, “we probably took pictures of a couple of dozen flowers that the late professor (Morton) didn’t record,” said Mr. Beneteau.

“It started out as a hobby but became a passion,” said Mr. Beneteau who added, “I’ve been kind of a nature nerd all my life.”

“Definitely, we plan on visiting the Island quite a bit, from May to October when the Chi-Cheemaun is running,” said Mr. Beneteau. “We are still involved in the Wagg’s Wood project (in Mindemoya) as volunteers and will help out with work there and with other projects with groups we have been involved in over the years. And we are fortunate that a lot of local people have offered us a place to stay when we visit the Island.”

Mr. Beneteau will also stay on as president of the Manitoulin Nature Club until September, at which time the club will need to find a replacement. “We hope to take part in hikes with the nature club members as well this summer.