The botanical garden supports the restoration of native plants
Garden offers programs for community members, leaders to get involved
Georgia State Botanical Garden meets various needs within the Athens community.
Many community members have taken refuge in the garden’s trails and outdoor activities over the past year. Before the pandemic, the garden park served as the backdrop for weddings and special events. And local families know the garden as a fun excursion spot or a source of home school supplies.
But the staff and researchers at the State Botanical Garden know their work comes with a mission that extends beyond the garden’s 313 scenic acres. One of these missions is to restore the native ecosystems of Athens-Clarke County and beyond.
“Native plants support larger and more diverse insect populations, which are essential to birds and amphibians, and throughout the food chain,” said Jim Affolter, Professor Larry R. Beuchat in the Horticulture Department from UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Director of Science and Conservation at the State Botanical Garden.
Land use planning and reforestation have forced many native species to the brink of extinction, such as the Georgia aster, dwarf sumac and echinacea. The State Botanical Garden, a public service and awareness unit of the UGA, removes invasive species in Athens and reintroduces native plants through three restoration projects, funded in part by the Federal Institute of Museum Services and libraries.
Projects focus on restoring the garden’s flood-prone area, supporting the growth of a new pocket meadow, and reintroducing river cane, a high-priority bamboo species native to the southeastern United States. . Visitors can see these projects in action along the Middle Oconee River and in areas near the power line that runs through the center of the garden.
The garden also strives to improve the landscape of local native plants through programs such as Connect to Protect. The Connect to Protect program partners with communities to create pollinator-friendly gardens that feature native plants and educational materials in urban and suburban landscapes.
“You don’t need a large area for these gardens,” Affolter said. “On a small patch of land, especially in cities, you can grow them to support local plants and insects.”
You can find Connect to Protect Gardens at the intersection of Washington Street and College Avenue in downtown Athens, at Oconee Veterans Park, and in several school districts, including the Clarke County School District (CCSD).
The garden also offers workshops, lectures, hands-on training, and educational tours in partnership with organizations such as the Non-Profit Center for Plant Conservation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and CCSD.
Want to help create a thriving ecosystem in your own backyard? Here are some resources offered by the State Botanical Garden:
Visit the Georgia State Botanical Garden’s website to learn more about the garden’s conservation and preservation efforts.
For gardeners and for those who just enjoy spending time outdoors, the garden welcomes visitors all year round. Members of the community can also enjoy the trails and natural areas, explore the gardens and schedule guided tours.