Southeast Missouri gardeners learn about native plants at Nature Center

Sunday, March 11, 2007
Helen Rodriguez of Fredericktown, Mo., inspected a soft rush plant native to Missouri at a Missouri Wildflowers Nursery display during the spring native plant seminar held at the Cape Girardeau County Park's Nature Center on Saturday. (Kit Doyle)

Southeast Missouri residents learned about the region's native plants at a seminar held Saturday at the Conservation Campus Nature Center.

The seminar was presented by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Cape Girardeau County Master Gardeners. The program began early, offering seven classes and time for an evaluation and door prizes, ending by 3p.m.

Carol Wilkinson of Cape Girardeau recently went through Master Gardener training. Pumped for spring, she filled a tray with purple bear tongue, spice bush and purple poppy mallow, all plants native to Southeast Missouri, for a jump-start on the season.

"These are new things I'm trying," she said. "Most of the plants growing in my yard have blown in with the wind. You know, my neighbors have them and they end up growing on my property, too. Or the birds carry seeds."

Wilkinson lives on three and a half acres behind Notre Dame Regional High School, and since her husband died a few years ago she's allowed part of the land to go back to nature.

"It's a good place for deer," she said.

What she likes about native plants is there's no spraying or fertilizing. "Native plants take care of themselves," she said.

According to Master Gardener treasurer Nadine Davis, who organized pre-registration, two of the most well-attended classes were the propagation workshop and growing and cooking with herbs.

"We opened up a second propagation workshop this year to accommodate those signed up," she said.

About 25 Master Gardeners and 10 Nature Center staff and volunteers ran the seminar.

Master Gardeners are a part of University Extension. They have knowledge or experience in gardening or landscape management and are willing to learn about horticulture and provide research-based information to the community. Classes are typically offered in the fall, winter and spring.

"Having a partnership is real important for as long as we can house the program here," said Nature Center manager April Dozier. "It keeps growing. It's a great opportunity to encourage people to use native plants."

One reason to promote native plants is the benefit they have to wildlife. Butterflies, hummingbirds and other birds are attracted to native plants.

The moss collecting, growing and gardening class filled the auditorium with 80 enthusiasts. Cleve Hayes from Puddingstone Farm in Michigan told the group that growing moss indoors or out requires trial and error when trying to match the specific environments they grow in.

"In the wild there's no holding them back," Hayes said. "But establishing them in a garden can be challenging. It takes time."

335-6611, extension 133

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