Native plant greenhouse thriving at CAHS

December 9, 2013
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Joey Kurincak, Jacob Hair and Ethan Greene plant native plants with the help of volunteer Peg Campbell at Audubon Center for Native Plants at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve. The seeds were brought back to the Native Plant Greenhouse at Carmichaels Area to track their growth.
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Mary Gevaudan, volunteer at Audubon Center for Native Plants at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, helps Will Abbott, Parker Woodring and other Carmichaels students plant native plant seeds for propagation in the Carmichaels Area Native Plant Greenhouse.

CARMICHAELS – During 2012-13 school year, students from Carmichaels Area High School grew more than 750 oak seedlings in their native plant greenhouse.

“We are good at growing oak trees,” said Kevin Willis, teacher at Carmichaels Area. “We needed to find a resource to help us grow other native plants.” That’s where Audubon at Beechwood comes in. Students from Carmichaels Area recently visited Audubon Center for Native Plants at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel.

Students were given a tour of the plant center by Roxanne Swann, ACNP coordinator. Groups of students then rotated through different stations staffed by 10 Audubon at Beechwood volunteers who demonstrated how to plant native plant seeds. “We were actually able to plant our own seeds,” said Carmichaels senior Tyler Crago. “Now we will be able to track their growth in our greenhouse.”

Carmichaels Area students also had the opportunity to visit the Spruce Flats Bog, a rare high-elevation bog at Linn Run State Park and Forbes State Forest. Students were guided by Greene County native Mary Joy Haywood, faculty emerita and former chair of the Division of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Carlow University.

Haywood, author of “Wildflowers of Pennsylvania,” has been another invaluable resource in growing native plants. Students sent Haywood the list of native plant seeds they were attempting to grow, and she sent them a detailed description of how to grow each one.

“We were getting our Dense Blazing Star seeds to sprout, but we couldn’t keep them alive,” said student Ashley Dotson. “Mary Joy Haywood told us that these were desert plants and we were watering them to death.”

While at Forbes State Forest, students were able to collect native plant seeds under the supervision of Russ Gibbs, a service forester with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, and Rachael Christie, Forbes State Forest Environmental Educator. Mixed oak acorns, hickory nuts and butternuts were taken back to the greenhouse and planted for propagation and future habitat restoration.

Carmichaels Area received funding to continue its Native Plant Propagation Project through an EITC grant from Community Foundation of Greene County.

With the additional funding, an automatic watering system, seedling propagation heating mats and additional plant benches, pots and soil were able to be added to the existing native plant greenhouse. “What makes this greenhouse project unique is that these students are growing native plants that they will use to restore local habitats,” said Bettie Stammerjohn, director of Community Foundation of Greene County.



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