Monday, June 3, 2013

Prairie Garden Trust: Learning about Native Plants

Visitors' Center at Prairie Garden Trust.
Under indigo blue skies and white puffy clouds, our Science and Nature club held its second meeting on May 24 at the visitors' center of the Prairie Garden Trust (PGT) in New Bloomfield, Missouri. As families trickled in during the cool spring morning, we divided into two groups. One group got their hands dirty with a planting project. Lead by PGT horticulturist Jen Sieradzki and grounds keeper, Matt Barnes, students took root divisions of Missouri native wildflowers--Coreopsis and Yarrow--and transplanted them into small pots, to take home. Hopefully these wildflowers will become a recognizable and productive part of each student’s home landscaping.

Transplanting native wildflowers.
The second group had fun discussing how plants grow from seed. First we compared dry lentil beans to lentils that had soaked overnight in water. Students noted that the soaked beans were bigger, had a slightly different color, had a sweet/stinky smell and that some looked like they had started to sprout. Each child had the opportunity to dissect a bean by removing the seed coat and using fingernails to pry it apart into two equal sections near the micropyle. Once halved, the embryonic plant was easily identified. We discussed the parts of the embryonic plant (the cotyledon, the embryonic leaves and the radical) and how that plant, with the help of the other parts of the seed, will turn into a seedling in the garden. Then we had fun acting out the germinating process, with each child participating as a part of a newly germinated seed.

Drawing in her science journal.
Finally, the children studied posters of currently blooming Missouri native wildflowers and were sent on a short walk around the visitor’s center to see how many species they could correctly identify. We discussed the common names of these plants and also discussed other species that we expect to see on our hike through the dogleg prairie. Each student received a copy of “Native Plants for your Landscape,” a publication of the Missouri Departments of Conservation and Agriculture.

Both groups of students swapped places, so each child planted a flower to take home, and participated in the seed dissection/germinating and wild flower identification portion of our club meeting.

With the Science and Nature Club meeting finally over, it was time for grubby fingers to be washed and empty stomachs to be filled! On the manicured lawn of the visitor’s center, a motley crew of blankets and table cloths laid under the sky like sun-soaking butterflies. All was quiet as everyone dug in to a well-deserved homemade lunch.

Our day was made perfect with a beautiful hike through the PGT lead by Jen and Matt. Through savannah and prairie, Jen and Matt pointed out blooming wildflowers like Shining Blue Stars, Indian Paintbrush, and Southern Blue Flags, and discussed native grasses and invasive species. We traversed mowed paths to a rocky bluff top, and then wove through the prairie on our way back to the visitor’s center. All in all, a perfect day.

The meeting's facilitator, Anna B., discusses with a student.
A special thanks to The Prairie Garden Trust and all its staff for making our meeting very special. The PGT also provided all the plants for the planting project. Thank you to the Runge Nature Center for providing the publication “Native Plants for your Landscape” prior to our meeting. And finally a special thank you to the Missouri Wildflower Nursery for their expertise on germinating native wildflowers and the free seeds for our club.
--text by Anna B.
--photos by Melanie B. and Billie S.

No comments:

Post a Comment