USDA Grant Provides Funding for Wildflower Garden

Photo courtesy of Eric Weiner

For those unfamiliar with the south side of campus, last year it became home to what should end up being a beautiful wildflower meadow, planted last year by the Beekeeping Club.

The funding for this garden was provided in part by the New Jersey Beekeeper's Association, who used a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to provide seeds, plugs (half-grown plants) and expertise. The NJBA encouraged Ramapo and two other New Jersey locations to provide native wildflowers gardens for bees and other pollinators. Originally planted in June of 2014, this spring marks its second growing season.

The meadow is made up of 21 different species, which are set to be in full-bloom between midsummer and early fall. The garden is mostly made up of plants that do not flower in the first year, which is why the meadow's presence has yet to truly be felt. Instead, in that time, the plants begin forming the root systems they need to grow. They begin to flower in the second year after being planted, and in their third year they can fill out greatly in comparison. Since this meadow was planted in June of last year, a lot of germination has recently occurred in 2014, according to Professor Eric Wiener, associate professor of environmental science.

"Our surveys in 2014 showed that on average nearly 10 meadow plants germinated and became established per square meter,” said Wiener. “The meadow is a little over 1000 square meters. So, as many as about 10,000 wildflowers germinated from the seeds that we spread last June."

That's thousands of plants that will hopefully flower for the first time in 2015 and 2016.

Some plants included in the meadow are milkweed, asters, goldenrods, hyssop, partridge pea, purple coneflower and wild bergamot, according to Beekeeping Club secretary Melissa Mayberry.

When asked about the purpose of the meadow, she said that it is meant to "provide a rich, varied source of nectar and pollen for honeybees; however, once the plants better establish themselves, we also intend to use them for research on the habits of pollinators."

Melissa is a junior double majoring in bioinformatics and computer science as well as helped to tend the meadow this past summer. She and the other students worked on planning out how and where to plant the meadow, did the actual planting and performed routine maintenance.

“As for the meadow benefitting the environment, it'll bring more life to campus, especially to the Sustainability Center,” said Kristen Andrada, president of the Beekeeping Club. “Not too many people know about the Sharp Sustainability Center, so with the addition to the meadow, I hope it's growth will attract more people to visit that part of campus.” 

Wiener also stated that the meadow is meant to demonstrate the effect of reintroducing native wildflowers to areas overgrown with invasive species, and effectively return the land to a more "natural" state. It will allow for more bees and other pollinators to collect nectar and pollen during a time of year when there often isn’t enough food for pollinators in our region. Professor Wiener hopes that the Ramapo site will help to teach others how to create and maintain their own meadows and show people the benefits of such gardens.

"Being able to start something and then watch it change and grow over time is really gratifying," said Mayberry. "I personally hope that it grows into something of a 'main attraction' on campus, so that it might draw more interest towards the beehive, garden and Sustainability Center."