Rescued plants returned home

The shortest highway in Minnesota, TH291 (a.k.a. 18th Street) in Hastings, divides two parts of the Hastings Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) just west of its intersection with Ravenna Trail. That section of the road is on a steep hill and has had significant erosion issues that have gradually increased over the years. The City of Hastings endeavored this year to correct those problems, but in so doing they would necessarily encroach on a small segment of the SNA. Rather than simply bulldoze the site and follow up with some sort of grass seed mix, it made more sense to salvage as much as possible of the existing native plants and to restore them to the site after the road construction was completed.

In partnership with the DNR SNA program, FMR recently successfully completed the final phase of this project. It started in the spring with the “rescue” event, which was repeatedly rescheduled due to the extraordinarily late spring! While in spring 2012 wildflowers began blooming in March, spring 2013 was the opposite, with snow and frozen ground until early May. The rescue event was finally held on May 18 in a steady rain for three hours. Fortunately it was a warm day, and more fortunately still, our stalwart volunteers were unfazed by the conditions, even though several of them were soon completely drenched. In spite of the rain, everyone was in good humor. More volunteers came for a second round of digging on short notice in early June.

The plants were all put into dishpans, with drainage holes drilled in the bottoms. About 145 tubs were filled, with roughly 4 to 10 plants per tub. We salvaged about 30 species, including drooping trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, large-flowered bellwort, bishop’s cap and bloodroot. All the tubs were transported to another location at the SNA and were monitored all summer. Though a water tank was ready for use, the plants stayed moist in the deep shade and watering was never needed.

On Sept. 21, about 22 volunteers gathered again to re-install the plants in their refurbished home. While they were removed from the bottom of the north-facing slope of a maple basswood forest, their new location is on the same slope, but perched behind a 3- to 8-foot high retaining wall. The plants were spaced out and will gradually fill in over time.

Many thanks are due to all the volunteers who helped with both the rescue and the replant events! The project was wonderfully successful in large part due to their hard work. Many thanks also to the staff of the City of Hastings public works and park and recreation staff for all their coordination and assistance and to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, SNA staff for project planning and excellent partnership throughout.