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Working to Restore a Wetland

Our guest blogger today is Marija Watson, an intern with the Horticulture department at the IMA.

Reflecting on the past four months, which has been a fantastic learning experience and undoubtedly great fun, brings a smile to my face.

Through my internship with the Horticulture Department, it was my task to design a wetland restoration project at the Lake Terrace area in the IMA’s 100 Acres: Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.  Before this project, the area was underutilized, had minimal native vegetation, and suffered from the aggressive nature of several invasive species.

So what did I do exactly? Let’s take a walk. Starting at the lake, several species of grasses and sedges have been planted, including two of my favorites: Carex emoryi (Riverbank Tussock Sedge), an excellent, adaptable sedge that thrives in wetland areas, even those that experience varying levels of water throughout the year and Juncus torreyi (Torrey’s Rush), a wonderful early successional species that will produce spike-shaped seedheads. Both species are rhizomatous in growth, which is ideal for a relatively quick establishment.

As you walk further away from the lake toward the new artwork Chop Stick, you will notice a grouping of Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush) and Glyercia striata (Fowl Manna Grass). Buttonbush, a hydrophilic shrub, produces an aggregate of white flowers that insects, especially butterflies and bees are certain to love. Also, the seeds are a good quality food source for waterfowl. Among the cool-season Carex spp., Fowl Manna Grass, a species that prefers shady, moist wetlands has been added near the drainage pipe.

Near the end of the swale, don’t miss out on Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats), a unique, warm-season grass that displays seedheads characteristic of oats. Look for the yellow-golden color of the leaves in the fall.

The species in the swale will function to filter stormwater runoff and recharge groundwater resources, imperative to conserving clean water. As the new plants establish, wildlife will benefit from the added cover, fruit, and flowers.

Near the seating area, Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) will have an attractive appearance throughout the year and offer a gorgeous fall bronze color. Given time to develop a solid root system, this warm-season grass will also help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion.

And there’s more…Additional work was completed along the south of the trail heading toward the museum. Specifically, nasty invasive, non-native species such as Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard) and Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle) were removed from the area.

To replace those invasive species and suppress future growth, Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) and Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) were added. Spicebush has beautiful, bright yellow flowers that bloom before leaf emergence in the spring. When crushed, the leaves and stems have a lemon smell. These shrubs will complement the red-purple color displayed by the Eastern Redbud.

Next time you visit the park, find the Lake Terrace area on the map and stop by to see the new plantings. Given a couple years to establish, the grasses and sedges will add an aesthetic value and provide numerous wildlife benefits

Thank you to the Horticulture Department for countless memorable moments and help with this project!

Filed under: Art and Nature Park, Horticulture

4 Responses to “Working to Restore a Wetland”

  • avatar
    Katie Says:

    Thank you Marija, job well done.

  • avatar
    Patty Says:

    Very nice, Marija!! Thanks for all your hard work…it’ll be exciting to see it develop and mature. :)

  • avatar
    Fan Says:

    Great work Marija. Looks like a great variety of plants, and good example for the public to see and learn about Native plants. Help the floodplain ecology find some balance we hope.

  • avatar
    Kathy Hull Says:

    More great information for the Garden Guides and Art Docents to share with the public. Thanks.

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