Nature club transforms Parker Building’s garden

On March 18, NSU’s Nature club began transforming the garden in front of the Parker Building from an exotic garden to a habitat for native plants species, a project that will be completed on Earth Day, April 22.

The Parker Garden Restoration Project is led by Paul Arena, assistant professor in the Division of Math, Science and Technology in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences.

Arena said, “Many exotic landscapes have a relatively low diversity of wildlife. Natives, on the other hand, are well adapted to our climate, require little water in addition to our normal rainfall and rarely need fertilizer.”

Arena has led numerous so-called “exotic-to-native” garden transformation projects around South Florida, including his own yard’s landscape.

The first phase of the Parker garden restoration project, eradication of the exotic ground cover plant, Wedelia, is already complete. Wedelia, a member of the sunflower family, is a fast growing invasive plant that Arena feels has no place in Florida gardens.

“I was always bothered by seeing the Wedelia groundcover, since I knew it was an invasive species,” said Arena. “[It] is known to spread into our local natural areas and displace native species.”

Underway is the second phase, in which Arena and students are digging up the area to remove rocks and buried roots.

Safiyah Muhammad, freshman biology major, said, “My role in this project is to help in the removal of these, in order to create a more productive environment in which the native plants can grow.”

Once the area has been cleared, the Nature Club expects to begin the planting phase on April 15.

Freshman chemistry major Aliyah Hill has also been working on the second phase of the project, and is grateful for the chance to connect with nature while improving NSU.

“There’s so much more work to do, and I hope that all NSU students help out to help bring native Floridian plants back to the Parker building,” said Hill.

Before students began physical work in the garden, Arena had an environmental assessment performed to determine which native species are most suited for the area. In addition to the assessment, Nature Club members conducted preliminary surveys of the garden’s plant and animal species that have grown dependent upon Wedelia. Their findings determined the changes that may occur once new, native species are planted.

Nature Club president Shannon Aldridge, marine biology major, is proud of the endeavor and its progress thus far, as it is the largest project the Nature Club has ever taken on.

“We have had a lot of people walk by us [while we’re] working and stop to ask us what we’re doing, and often, they would like to become involved as well,” said Aldridge.  “Hopefully, this restoration project will lead to more restoration projects around Nova’s campus.”

Students, faculty, staff and members of the community interested in volunteering with the project can contact Arena at 954- 262-8335 or arenap@nova.edu.

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