I'd like to share a project with you I've been working on. Earlier this year a wooded area that borders my daughter's school was bulldozed to make room for a large retention pond for a highway expansion project.
What once was a wooded area that attracted a variety of birds and butterflies to the school garden...
The loss of this vital habitat has become evident to Mrs.Wagner, the 4th grade science teacher at the school. After contacting the city and the construction company to see what their plans were for recreating the habitat area, it became clear that she would have to find a way for the school to restore this area. This led to a wonderful teaching moment for the 4th graders on the importance of habitat for wildlife, and the restoration efforts that can be done to recreate the habitat.
She was successful in acquiring a grant from The Mosaic Company and an invitation to the 4th graders to visit a couple of old phosphate mines that have been restored to their original status through their reclamation process. Lucky for me, I was able to take the field trip with them and was amazed at the enthusiasm of their two biologists and the job they had done restoring the old pits. The pits had been completely restored, along with native flora and more than 1,000 gopher tortoises (and the other animals that live in their holes, too) that needed to be relocated for a future phosphate pit. The children had a great time and learned a lot about the necessity of restoring damaged habitats.
The next step for the 4th graders was to begin the process of rebuilding the school's wildlife border. Soon they would be planting native plants, grasses and trees to the small amount of existing plants that survived the demolition which included some native grasses, morning glories, a few wildflowers, Carolina jasmine and wax mrytle (pictured below).
Mrs. Wagner solicited my help in determining what to plant. Armed with the school credit card and a $600 budget...I gleefully ;-) headed off to Cee Jay Nursery to place the order. Carolyn Wilson, owner of the nursery, has the most extensive variety of natives I could find in our area. She was also helpful in suggesting a few additional items, and she even hung around to help the kids plant and provided the class with a Fringe tree Chionanthus virginicus as a gift.
It was a beautiful spring day when 42 eager kids showed up with shovels-in-hand and quickly got to work planting 70 plus native plants, grasses and trees.
Scarlet Milkweed Asclepias curassavica, Scarlet sage Salvia coccinea, Firebush Hamelia patens, Muhly grass Muhlenbergia capillaris, Trumpet creeper Campsis radicans, Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens, Coontie Zamia pumila, Elderberry Sambucus canadensis, Simpson Stopper Myrcianthes fragrans, Needle palm Rhapidophyllum hystrix and American Beautyberry Callicarpa americana were scattered along the 200 foot border.
A variety of mid-level and canopy trees...some species for wet ground and some for dry: Live oak Quercus virginiana, Chapman oak Quercus chapmanii, Dahoon holly Ilex cassine, Southern red cedar Juniperus virginiana, Red bay Persea borbonia, Slash pine Pinus elliottii, Red mulberry Morus alba, Red maple Acer rubrum, Yellow haw Crataegus Flava, Yaupon holly Ilex vomitoria and Chickasaw plum Prunus angustifolia were spaced from end to end...either closer to the retention pond or higher on dry ground according to their needs.
As we were planting the final few bushes a black swallowtail butterfly landed on the Scarlet milkweed much to the excitement of the children. Confirmation that "if you plant it, they will come." Here's a look at the final result. We didn't get everything on our wish list...limited only by our budget and the species available to us...but the wildlife habitat restoration project is well on its way, and with the addition of future grants...more will be added.
On a positive note...even though the existing wildlife area was partially destroyed...the new retention pond will provide an additional source of food to the Osprey that nest on the school property. And, in due time the newly established plants, grasses and trees will slowly reclaim this area and more and more wildlife will return.