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Native Plants and Water Use: Oregon State Bunch Gathers Grass

Jul 02, 2015 03:26 PM EDT
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In the high desert of Bend, Oregon, volunteers recently collected 1,300 native plants for landscaping use on Oregon State University-Cascades' planned new west-side campus, the local newspaper The Bend Bulletin reported.

While many universities have incorporated native-plant use into their landscaping plans, the arid-climated Oregon university intends to create a campus that is mostly native in appearance, the Bulletin said. 

Instructor Matt Shinderman and volunteers gathered plants including bunch grasses, wildflowers, and bushes from the 10-acre site where the campus will be built. Not only will the plants require zero watering and maintenance once they are established, they could become a "living laboratory" where OSU-Cascades students could learn about fire ecology, ecological restoration, and urban landscaping, according to the Bulletin.

In terms of fire ecology, it's likely that wildfire will not touch the campus, but the plants could be arranged by size and species to show periods of regrowth following a disturbance such as a fire, the Bulletin said.

The new campus, going into construction this week, is slated to be complete by fall 2016, according to a university release.

About a year ago, OSU-Cascades students took an inventory of plants at the planned campus site, the Bulletin said.

"It's such a wonderful idea -- to take it from the native area and put it back," volunteer Camara Bedell-Stiles, 25, said, according to the Bulletin. Bedell-Stiles is studying natural resource policy and management and sustainability.

The plants will be stored outside at a nearby nursery until the new campus is built, the Bulletin said.

"They're all thriving out here so they don't really need to go into a greenhouse," said Mic Dunston, a worker for Winter Creek Restoration & Nursery, which will store the plants until the campus is complete, the Bulletin reported.

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Universities including the University of Texas, University of California-Santa Cruz are increasing the number of native plants on campus as well.

If you gather native plants in an area, make sure to get permission to use the land (as OSU-Cascades did, since they owned the land) and a permit for gathering on public lands. 

Follow Catherine at @TreesWhales

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