Thanks to the partnership between the city and a local nursery, nature got an assist Saturday at Salomon Farm Park.
While visitors purchased various plants, shrubs and grasses from Riverview Nursery at the City Utilities’ native plant sale, a monarch butterfly way station was also being installed at the park.
"This is the first year that we’ve decided to do this monarch way station planting," said Karla Yauchler, manager of outdoor recreation with the Fort Wayne Parks Dept. "We wanted to do a little something more with the native plants."
Yauchler said because the department had received inquiries about milkweed, the plant on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs, the city agreed to provide the plant near the Dupont Road entry into Salomon Farm.
"I’m hoping this will be the first, and to make this an annual event, and we’ll keep extending this way station all the way down the length of the field along the trail," Yauchler said. "We put it along the trail because we have so many trail users. In the height of the summer we have 15,000 people walking that trail a month."
Riverview Nursery owner Martha Bishop Ferguson said 53 species of plants were provided, all of which are native to northeast Indiana. Included was a way station kit which included 32 plants.
"Monarchs get all the press because people love monarchs and are familiar with it," Bishop Ferguson said. "So people know their habitats are threatened, and people are buying milkweed. For four years now, my biggest seller, by far, is milkweed. People are planting milkweed for the monarchs, because monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed."
But Bishop Ferguson said other plants such as Golden Alexander were necessary because the monarchs need nectar.
City Utilities representative Mary Jane Slaton said the growing of rain gardens is part of an agreement made with the federal government in 2008 to reduce the amount of sewage going into rivers.
"They really wanted us to incorporate a green component, so we were able to negotiate with them," Slaton said. "Instead of paying a million dollars in fines for past water quality violations, we were able to take about half of that and incorporate it to fund our rain garden program. It was part of our consent agreement with the federal government."
Slaton pointed out the use of native perennial plants and rain gardens helped break up soil to enable more rain water to be absorbed, and it’s a habitat for native songbirds and butterflies.
"Because they’re native, they’re adaptive to our climate," Slaton said of the plants.
"The ones we recommend for rain gardens can withstand sitting in an area that’s inundated with water for up to 36 hours. They can also withstand drought. So they love our climate here. It’s mimicking nature the way things were before we built stuff. It’s mimicking nature for wildlife and water quality benefits."