South Charlotte

Matthews’ Squirrel Lake Park fosters plant education

The Oakleaf Hydrangea is a native plant found at Squirrel Lake Park. Visitors to the park can now easily identify the plant due to the informative sign, and may learn more by utilizing the QR code in the lower-right corner of the sign.
The Oakleaf Hydrangea is a native plant found at Squirrel Lake Park. Visitors to the park can now easily identify the plant due to the informative sign, and may learn more by utilizing the QR code in the lower-right corner of the sign. JILL PALMER

Visitors to Squirrel Lake Park in Matthews may now learn more about native and invasive plants, thanks to a project by Habitat and Wildlife Keepers and funded by a $250 grant from the Matthews Woman’s Club Service League.

HAWK members wanted a way to educate people on the benefits of native plants and the dangers of non-native invasive plants.

Borrowing an idea from the UNC Charlotte Greenhouse and Botanical Gardens, HAWK members decided to create 50 signs identifying different plants and including a QR code, allowing visitors to scan the code with a smartphone to learn more about the vegetation.

The QR code directs visitors to the N.C. State Going Native site, www.ncsu.edu/goingnative, which contains detailed information about the particular plant.

“With Matthews being a community-certified wildlife habitat, we are trying to do more things to help educate the public,” said HAWK member Jill Palmer. “With the QR codes on the signs, we’re hoping it will encourage folks to take it a step further and learn more about the importance of growing native plants for wildlife.”

Palmer and fellow HAWK member Debbie Foster compiled a list of plants at the park, and UNCC Botanical Garden interim director Paula Gross helped with the design and allowed the group to use the greenhouse’s equipment for printing and laminating.

The signs were completed last winter, but the group waited until spring for installation so that plants were up and readily identifiable. Seventy-five percent of the signs are now installed, and the remainder will be placed once the group gets confirmation of tree identification.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

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