Green Thumbs at WTP4
City, Austin Water relocate native plants
By Katie Tomasino,
3:23PM, Mon. Dec. 13, 2010
As construction on Water Treatment Plant No.4 is underway and land is being cleared, more than a dozen varieties of plant life will be unearthed in the process. In an effort to help preserve the native flora, the city of Austin worked collectively with Austin Water Utility and WTP4 developers to facilitate a plant rescue.
The event was open to the general public, neighboring WTP4 communities, businesses and environmental groups. It attracted a few hundred participants, including plant relocation veterans, botany experts and gardening hobbyists. "We set aside two days to give people access to a good portion of native plant-dense land that has not already been excavated," Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jason Hill said. "The response has been great, people are out here digging, shoveling and pulling to relocate these plants."
Flowering plants, native grasses and small trees harvested from the rescue will be transplanted to local parks, schools and volunteers’ personal gardens.
Volunteers said land development can mar the native vegetal landscape of the area, destroying natural habitats and food sources for wildlife. "The ecology here provides shelter and sustenance for animals," said Meg Inglis, president elect of the Native Plant Society’s Austin chapter. "Planting native plants also helps conserve water since they don’t need extra irrigation."
The Grow Green program, an initiative created by the city of Austin and Texas AgriLife Extension Services, published a native and adaptive plant guide to help the community make wiser choices about landscaping and water conservation. According to the Grow Green website, plants listed in the guide not only survive, but thrive with less water and fewer chemicals.
The selection of native plant life from the area is rare and hard to find in nurseries. "I like that I can harvest them for free plus I get to learn about these plants and what they do," volunteer Frances Ruby said. "I’m going to plant them on my property; these native species are both lovely and hearty."