Growing Native: adopting a highway and restoring habitat

Grow Native DOT sign on RT 104

Grow Native DOT sign on RT 104

In their Department of Transportation hardhats and fluorescent vests, members of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) chapter of Seneca Park Zoo have been busy beautifying Bay Bridge overlook, adjacent to the highway sign “Seneca Park Zoo, ‘Grow Native’.” For the last decade, Zoo staff has picked up litter at the site and maintained a garden of wildflowers native to Upstate New York such as blue lupines, orange milkweed and yellow black-eyed Susans.

Zoo keepers spreading new compost mixed with native seeds.

Our goal is to raise community awareness about the benefits of native gardening while cleaning litter from one of the most scenic meadows to be seen just before crossing above Irondequoit Bay.

Adopt A Highway cleanup at our Grow Native Garden: bags of trash, beer cans, Styrofoam cups, dirty diapers and two suitcases...

Adopt A Highway cleanup at our Grow Native Garden: bags of trash, beer cans, Styrofoam cups, dirty diapers and two suitcases…

Native flowers do not require fertilizer, which damages our waterways with excessive phosphorous and nitrogen, causing algal blooms which pose wildlife, pet and human health risks.

Algal blooms caused by excessive phosphorous and nitrogen in fertilizer. Photo via aquaview.net

Algal blooms caused by excessive phosphorous and nitrogen in fertilizer. Photo via aquaview.net

Native flowers also do not require additional water given their acclimation to our Upstate environment.

Lupines, the first to bloom.

Lupines, the first to bloom.

Growing native flowers instead of exotic ornamentals will help displace and prevent aggressive, invasive plant species from harming habitat.

Not using fertilizer or additional water and displacing invasive plant species are all welcomed practices to protect our waterways and beautify our communities the “natural” way. Go native — grow native in your own yard!

 

— Blog and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation