Volunteers Help Plant 4,500 Native Plants at Bok Tower Gardens

Guest blog by Martin Corbin, Bok Tower Communications Director

With 4,500 holes to dig...
Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida’s oldest attractions and a perfect daytrip for those looking for outdoor fun. Behind acres of landscaped gardens, a 20-room historic mansion, and Singing Tower carillon bells, lies a deep-seated commitment to conservation. Founder Edward Bok’s motto to, “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” is the organization's guiding principle. Preservation of the lands adjacent to the Gardens figures prominently on our priority list. Visitors don’t often see the extent of the effort put into these projects, but can certainly appreciate the end product on our entrance road - a meandering drive through citrus groves and other undeveloped natural areas.

One of our largest preservation endeavors started in 2007 when we acquired 156 acres of fallow citrus lands with funds from the Florida Communities Trust. We are currently restoring its native sandhill habitat by removing exotic plant species and planting longleaf pines and wiregrass in their place.

...and countless bales of pine straw to spread...
In the most recent phase of this project, community volunteers assisted with the installation 4,500 native ground cover plants and pine straw mulch on a 34-acre parcel over a period of six days. The natives species planted included Florida native wildflowers like gayfeather (Liatris laevigata), Chapman’s goldenrod (Solidago odora var. chapmanii) and twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) among others. Now that the plants are in the ground, the site will be maintained with occasional watering and weed removal. In the coming months, an announcement will be made as we open a new trail through the area for visitors to enjoy. 

...we could not have done it without the fabulous volunteers from our community.
“Without the support of these dedicated volunteers, it would be difficult to complete such a large task,” said Katrina Noland, the land steward at Bok Tower Gardens who led the restoration project. “Not only were these volunteers able to make a lasting impact on the environment, they also received a firsthand education and experienced the nature of this threatened ecosystem.”

Edward Bok would be proud.
Participants ranged from individuals and families to Boy Scout troops and the Ridge Rangers, a group focused on the restoration and support of the Lake Wales Ridge ecosystem. We hope that future projects at the Gardens will be as successful at engaging a wide range of community volunteers who are enthusiastic about being involved in land restoration.

Upcoming volunteer opportunities include a workday in conjunction with National Public Lands Day in late September and a December project in which we'll be planting 2,800 longleaf pine saplings. Those interested in participating are encouraged to visit www.boktowergardens.org where details will be posted in the coming months.

Edited and posted by Laurie Sheldon

Image Sources:
Digging holes:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/boktowergardens/7726437552/sizes/h/in/set-72157630933260736/
Mulching with pine straw:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ridgerangers/7734972190/sizes/c/in/set-72157630958651396/
Volunteers:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ridgerangers/7734974958/in/set-72157630958651396/lightbox/
Edward Bok:  http://explorepahistory.com/kora/files/1/2/1-2-1F94-25-Edward_W_Bok_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15930.jpg


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