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Master Naturalists: Welder Wildlife Foundation dedicates new gardens for native grasses, plants, butterflies

Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.

Russ Bell, Welder Wildlife Foundation volunteer and project coordinator for Welder's demonstration gardens, stands near part of the native grasses garden and explains to several visitors how the rainwater harvesting system was installed and how it operates.

IF YOU GOPublic tours of Welder Wildlife Refuge are available, with no reservations necessary, from 3 to 5 p.m. every Thursday. Saturday tours are available, with reservations, from 9:30 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of each month, excluding holidays.

For more information or to make reservations: Visit www.welderwildlife.org or call 361-364-2643 for more information.

By Mandy Corso

What better time to dedicate a native plant garden than during Texas Native Plant Week.

On Monday, Oct. 18, Welder Wildlife Foundation, near Sinton, dedicated two native plant gardens. About 40 people attended the dedication.

The native grasses garden includes 28 raised beds of grasses native to South Texas.

The other garden is a native plant and butterfly garden.

Participants at the dedication toured the gardens and learned about efforts of contributors and volunteers that made this project successful.

The gardens were conceived to help in identifying native plants. They were envisioned by Selma Glasscock, assistant director of Welder Wildlife Foundation, and Ray Kirkwood, foundation volunteer and president of Mid-Coast Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists.

Several groups collaborated to develop the gardens. These included Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners, Mid-Coast Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, San Patricio Municipal Water District, South Texas Natives of Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M-Kingsville, and foundation volunteers.

Plants for both gardens were propagated and delivered by South Texas Natives project coordinator Forrest Smith. San Patricio Municipal Water District, whose project head was Karen Ivey, donated a 3,000-gallon rainwater harvesting tank, plus the other materials necessary for irrigating both gardens.

Guests at the dedication had the opportunity to see how this rainwater harvesting system was installed and operates.

The native plant and butterfly garden serves as a backdrop for feeders at Welder's Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments) site. The CONE site features a telerobotic camera accessible by Internet. Several CONE feeders and the native plant and butterfly garden can be seen using the camera. Viewers around the world can see the array of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and other wildlife visiting the CONE site, in realtime, 24/7.

Native plants in the gardens attract many species of hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators, one of many benefits of native plant gardens. The CONE site and native plant and butterfly garden can be viewed at http://cone.berkeley.edu.

Foundation volunteers Russ and Marilee Bell served as project coordinators for the gardens. Their efforts, plus those of all the other volunteers, brought the gardens to reality.

The gardens are primarily a teaching tool for refuge visitors to learn about identifying and utilizing native grasses and plants. They can learn how important native vegetation is in South Texas's ecosystems, habitat management, and soil and water conservation. Native plant species are vital for wildlife and habitat management. Refuge staff and volunteers expect many opportunities for beneficial education programs using the Refuge's two new gardens.

Mandy Corso, conservation educator at Welder Wildlife Foundation, works with educational programs for all ages. She designs, implements and presents the programs.

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