|LaSalle Bioswale Project - Native Plants for the Urban Core|
Of course there were engineers involved (Doug Skiles) and plant people like Bob Chabot and Chris Dailey from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and others.
|The Bioswale takes the place of the old right-of-way landscape|
I have to keep reminding the botanist in me about the importance of native plants.
San Marco's library bioswale is filled with ethnobotanically important native plants.
|Cordgrass, Muhly grass, Cypress, Ilex and curbcuts gather and treat stormwater|
However, many times these native plants are looked down on by, yes, even those involved in Urban Green, Green Roofs and Permaculture efforts.
Maybe due to their 'commonness', or lack of pretty, patented fluorescent flowers (though many native species are stunning in their own right), or minimal fruiting-food production, natives are out-of-vogue with a large component of the Urban Green movement. In fact, in the Urban Farm movement, little if any thought is given to the impact of planting food plants that may themselves be another eventually invasive or monoculture problem.
|Native plants provide habitat for native pollinators|
Yet the plants here are just as rich in ethnobotanical value as any exotic plant such as moringa, without the dangers of becoming invasive. Though preached and loved as the ultimate plant, moringa has been classified as a potential dangerous plant for native habitats (see Michigan Technological University's website).
|Existing utilities were worked around during design and installation|
But the San Marco bioswale brings all that back to mind very quickly.
The native plants growing in the San Marco bioswale not only clean standing and flowing stormwater, they are able to withstand long periods of drought without additional irrigation. This is important because of our present water supply crises. The plants can adapt to either floods or dry periods, without having to turn on the hose.
|Native plants provide the transition beauty from street to building|
Yet there is more. As I was walking around the bioswale, I noticed hundreds, if not thousands of dragonflies, damselflies and other insects.
|Because of low leaf litter rate and ability to survive drought or flood, Cypress is perfect for bioswales|
Importantly, we must recognize mistakes we as a culture have made in the past bringing in exotic plants for food, erosion control and landscape beauty that eventually have turned into nightmare plants. Kudzu, wisteria, Mexican petunia and potato vine are just a few of many. Unleashing plant monocultures that choke out native grasses and other plants has been a process that once we start has been difficult to rehabilitate.
The disappearance of many native pollinators and beneficial insects, amphibians and reptiles can be directly related to the use of food and landscape plants from foreign ecosystems that having once arrived, take over and preclude habitat for the native species.
Once our native species are gone we are left with a hodgepodge of alien plants.
Unfortunately, though gaining in popularity, native plant landscape are still under-appreciated for their biodiversity, pollinator support and habitat providing value.
Permaculture, green roofs and Urban Green have come a long way. They still have a long way to go with respect to incorporating native plants.
Hopefully, projects like the San Marco bioswale will teach us about why we need a majority of native plant species on our green roofs, permaculture gardens and Urban Core Green.