The life and legacy of the woman who established Wilmington’s birding community
EDNA LANIER APPLEBERRY
N AT U R E A DVO CAT E
SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN WITH A SPECIAL KIND OF MAGIC, AN INNATE SPARK THAT
SPREADS LIKE WILDFIRE TO EVERYONE THEY MEET. EDNA APPLEBERRY WAS ONE OF
THOSE INFECTIOUS PEOPLE.
She is not a household name, but she ought to be. Her
efforts as a naturalist and a birder helped bring
Wilmington fame as a natural paradise and a land-mark
for scientific discovery and research.
Most people never called her Edna. Instead, they
opted for her melodic married name, Mrs. Cecil
Appleberry — or “Mrs. A” for short. The name
sounds like something from a storybook, which
rings true to her fantastic and vivacious legacy.
She was born in 1894, and her affinity and
obsession with the natural world soon
became obvious. When she was about 4,
she spotted a large worm while walking through the country.
She was so taken with its beauty that she decided to rush over
to the barn to show her mother, who was learning how to
milk a cow.
She burst in, triumphantly displaying her treasure, but
didn’t get the reaction she had expected. Her mother, the
barn worker and the cow all ran out in a panic. What the
fearless 4-year-old believed to be a worm was in fact a scarlet
From then on, Appleberry’s love for nature only grew.
She went on to become a prominent member of the Cape
Fear Garden Club.
BY GIOVAN J . MICHAEL
WBM september 2020
SCENE MAGAZINE, MAY 1977/COURTESY CAPE FEAR MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND SCIENCE