Office of Sustainability hosts annual Native Planting Day

Posted on Nov 29 2017 - 6:42pm by Kendall Patterson

Strawberry Plains Audubon worker Mitch Robinson (right) instructs volunteers on how to plant Christmas ferns and white wood asters at the corner of  Fraternity Row and Vaught Drive on Wednesday. 2500 plugs were planted. Photo by Marlee Crawford

The Office of Sustainability hosted its second Native Planting Day on Wednesday morning at the intersection of Fraternity Row and Vaught Lane. The event was part of the University of Mississippi Green Fund Project.

Native Planting Day started after Jason Hoeksema, associate professor in the Department of Biology, and a group of students received a grant from the Green Fund Project in 2014 to plant native plants. The Green Fund Project provides funds for projects regarding energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainability and more.

Hoeksema, after receiving the grant, propose the idea of hosting a Native Planting Day in 2015, and the university held the first Native Planting Day in spring 2016

“The overall goal is to highlight how native plants can be used and can really support native birds by supplying them a lot of food,” Hoeksema said.

During the event Wednesday, participants planted more than 50 Christmas fern plants and about 500 white wood aster plants.

The plants are provided by Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs.

“This is one of our number one favorite partnerships,” said Mitch Robinson, conservation education manager at Strawberry Plains. “We see the university as a tremendous asset both as a partner with the Office of Sustainability as well as just working with the biology department and environmental studies minor.”

The Office of Sustainability and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center also see this as an opportunity to keep Ole Miss beautiful.

“One thing that we would hope is that the plants continue to enhance the beauty of the campus and the Grove,” Robinson said.

The plants planted will be a part of the general maintenance of the landscaping done for the university.

Another goal of planting native plants is to encourage native habitats on campus, according to Kendall McDonald, sustainability fellow of the Office of Sustainability.

This semester, 35 people signed up to participate in the event.

“It’s also an excellent educational opportunity for our volunteers. They get to learn what native plants are, what they do for pollinators, and they get to kind of go out and work outside for a little bit and might not be something they’re typically able to do,” McDonald said. “So we kind of like to be able to facilitate that experience.”

McDonald said many of the volunteers were just students looking for ways to get involved.

“I used to work on an organic farm back in high school, and I haven’t been able to get my hands in the soil since high school,” volunteer Patrick Oellerich said. “So it’s nice to get my hands back in the ground.”

Robinson said he thinks the event is a great way for students to learn more about the importance of the ecosystem, and he hopes the event continues to thrive on campus.

“It’s a way for them to get engaged at a community level with a place like Strawberry Plains Audubon Center and then to think about in terms of their studies and their understanding of the importance of having ecosystems that support all wildlife and not just humans,” he said. “Hopefully, in time, as more of this gets established, we could expand into other areas on campus.”