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Calvin Native Plant Sale on May 5
posted May 1, 2007

2006 Native Plant Sale at Calvin CollegeThe second annual Calvin College native plant sale will be held from 10 a.m. through noon on Saturday, May 5 at the Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center on Calvin’s campus.

All profits from the sale will benefit Calvin’s Wetland and Woodland Camps, summer classes through which area children explore the college’s 90-acre Ecosystem Preserve.

Calvin biology professor Dave Warners, the sale coordinator, says the annual event is good for local plant lovers and good for West Michigan.

Almost all of the plants at the sale are native genotypes -- collected locally --which are grown in greenhouses at Calvin. Native genotypes are promoted by native plant gardeners for a number of reasons Warners says.

Dave Warners “Non-native genotypes have a tendency to become weedy. If you get a Black-Eyed Susan that was grown in New York State and replant it here, it could be really aggressive,” he notes. “We collected Black-Eyed Susan seeds from Ada. Those Black-Eyed Susan plants have probably been growing in the Ada region for thousands of years, so they’re very used to the climate and the conditions here in West Michigan.”

Native plants also support the larger native habitat, Warners emphasizes, sustaining the butterflies and birds that are native, and therefore natural, pollinators.

“For instance, the Columbine flowers open at the same time Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return from migration," he says. "They’re out of energy, and they need nectar.”

Among the plants on sale at the Bunker Center will be Swamp milkweed, wild bergamot, Golden Alexanders, Wild columbine, Cow bane, Joe Pye weed, Wild strawberry, Black-Eyed Susan, Purple coneflowers, Rattlesnake master, Yellow coneflower, Boneset and a whole range of grasses: bottlebrush grass, fringed brome grass, big and little blue stem, switchgrass and Canada wild rye, among others.

Organizers of this year’s sale are planning to have double the number of plants on hand Saturday than they did last year, hoping to build on the success of the debut effort, while still giving plant lovers value for their money.

“We sell them at about half to two-thirds of what retailers sell these plants for,” Warners says. "We want this to be a good thing for the summer camps but also a service for the community. Some of the plants we sell, you can’t find from a native plant distributor.”

The native plant sale is good for every aspect of the Calvin community and the community beyond the college, even non-human residents, he adds.

“The way I think about it, using native plants in landscaping is consistent with our call to be stewards of creation and of this particular part of the creation here in West Michigan," he says. "We increase the presence of native plants here in Grand Rapids. That benefits butterflies and hummingbirds as well as people’s appreciation for these native plants. Also, these plants are increasingly rare, so by planting them in our gardens we are creating refuges of native genotypes that can cross with wild populations, helping to preserve lineages. And of course, another benefit is income for summer camps at the preserve. It’s just a win-win situation all around.”

Prior to the sale, at 8:30 a.m., Warners will speak at the Bunker’s “First Saturday at the Ecosystem Preserve” series on the subject of urban landscaping with native species.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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