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 Indiana University Bloomington

IU Bloomington students contribute to native-plants initiative

September 4, 2013

An Indiana University graduate-level course with a service-learning focus has worked with a local group of conservationists and concerned citizens to promote the use of native Indiana plants in landscaping.

Students collaborated with MC-IRIS—Monroe County Identify and Reduce Invasive Species—to create educational materials for Go Green, Grow Native, an initiative to encourage retailers to sell native plants and reduce the sale of invasive species. Project resources were recently introduced at Mays Greenhouse, a garden and landscaping business on the south side of Bloomington.


Ellen Jacquart meets with students in IU greenhouse
From left, MC-IRIS chair Ellen Jacquart meets with IU graduate students Kimberly Elsenbroek, Cameron Meyer and Natalie Christian to discuss the Go Green, Go Native project.


Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, teaches the course, "The Ecology of Place."

"We explore how in-depth study of particular places can advance ecological theory and sound stewardship of our green spaces," Reynolds said. "It's all about connecting, and service learning provides students with incredible opportunities to make the connections between places, people, theory and practice that enrich learning and create on-the-ground results."

The students and MC-IRIS worked together through the Bloomington Urban Woodlands Project, a coalition that also includes Sassafras Audubon Society and the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. Launched by grants from the IU Office of Sustainability and the Audubon/Toyota TogetherGreen program, the project seeks to promote healthy forests and reconnect communities with their woodlands.

Ellen Jacquart, chair of MC-IRIS, said native plants are often superior for landscaping because they provide better wildlife habitat, can survive in the local climate and won't invade natural areas. An estimated 86 percent of invasive woody plant species, including Asian bush honeysuckle, privet and burning bush, come from landscape plantings.

"There are so many hardy, attractive native plants available for use in landscaping," Jacquart said, "and we want to make sure people know where they can buy them locally."

Mays Greenhouse is one of the first vendors to participate in Go Green, Go Native. It introduced materials such as a nursery map and brochure showing where to find native plants, warning signs for documented invasive species, along with recommendations for native alternatives and an "I Went Native" bumper sticker that the greenhouse provides for free.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they need at Mays, and we are proud to be partnering with the Go Green, Grow Native initiative," said Jason Fulton, nursery manager at Mays Greenhouse. "We invite customers to come in and check out these new resources and tell us what they think."

Mays Greenhouse is at 6280 S. Old Ind. 37 and is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.