Palm Beach students raise awareness to protect our planet

The City of Palm Beach, along with the Preservation Foundation, Palm Beach Day Academy, and students from Palm Beach Public Schools, the Palm Beach Civic Association, Mounts Botanical Garden, and the Garden Club recently celebrated Earth Day.

At the Mandel Recreation Center, Day Academy eighth-graders explained the work they’ve been doing since 2020 planting mangroves and oyster reef balls on Tarpon Cove, an island restoration site in the Intracoastal . The students explained how mangroves, native to Florida, provide habitat for more than 70% of marine animals, while filtering water and protecting our coasts from erosion.

During their trips to the island, the students also deployed Oyster Reef Balls, artificial reef models that mimic the structure and function of natural reefs, creating a habitat for the survival of oysters and other marine species. In case you are unaware of the value of oysters, these natural water purifiers remove nitrogen and sediment from our lagoon. When you consider that excess nitrogen is a major contributor to red and blue-green algae blooms, the work these kids are doing is invaluable.

By working with marine environments, the students realized their interdependence with the health of our earth, and so they partnered with Community Greening, an outreach program dedicated to planting trees. Its mission statement is something we could all embrace: to create sustainable green spaces and vibrant tree cover to strengthen our environment, our economy, our society and our health. Since its inception in 2016, Community Greening has planted over 9,000 trees. These kids are definitely on the right track, so let’s all follow their lead. They want Earth Day to be every day.

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Pink salvia is one of the native species planted by Palm Beach Public students.

Palm Beach Public students have spent the past several months learning the importance of native species and have planted salvia coccinea (red, pink and white sage), fog fruit, mimosa and our state wildflower, coreopsis, in planters outside their classrooms.

The red salvia plants at Palm Beach Public are now in full bloom.

The plants are now in full bloom, brightening up the yard and attracting butterflies and pollinators. In their wonderful video, each student talked about an important benefit of native species: from promoting biodiversity, creating habitats and thriving without chemicals, to providing food for life-sustaining insects. on our planet. Then they added impressive statistics for the United States: $25 billion is spent annually on lawn care; 580 million gallons of gasoline are used by lawn mowers, each producing 11 times more pollution than a new car; and 30-60% of our water supply goes to watering lawns. Lawn care produces 13 billion pounds of toxic pollutants per year.

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In addition, 85% of all plant species depend on pollinators and 500 million tons of insects are eaten by birds every year. Non-native species cannot support the insect populations necessary for birds, so the students urged us to show a little more respect for the natives who have evolved here over thousands of years.

Native Coreopsis was one of the flowers planted in planters at Palm Beach Public.

These kids have done their homework and are reminding us to not only minimize our lawns, but to stop using toxic chemicals that kill essential bugs and bacteria. They realize that plants should be more than just decoration; they must also contribute to the creation of sustainable biodiverse ecosystems. The students implored us to restore our land. Maybe we should listen to them a little more carefully.

Pigeon peas were provided to students during the town's Earth Day event.

After student presentations, each received a pigeon pea plant, Chamaecrista fasciculata, the larval host of the ceraunus blue, cloudless sulfur, lesser yellow and gray hairstreak moths.

The dune sunflower was one of the flowers planted around the Mandel Recreation Center flagpole by Susan Lerner, a horticulturist at the Preservation Foundation in Palm Beach.

Preservation Foundation horticulturist Susan Lerner helped the children plant them around the recreation center flagpole. She has also landscaped a beautiful native garden adjacent to the entrance with plants typically found in maritime hammocks and coastal strands: a beautiful limbo gumbo serves as a focal point surrounded by dune sunflowers, beach verbena, sunny mimosa, Joewood, Bahamian senna and our endangered Jacquemontia reclinata. All provide food for birds and nectar for butterflies.

Beach vervain provides food for birds and nectar for butterflies.

Celebration at Pan’s Garden

On May 1, Pan’s Garden at the Preservation Foundation hosted an engaging series of Earth Day workshops for children.

Stations were set up around the garden for demonstrations of beekeeping, with honey tasting for lucky participants, and seed balls, where children rolled damp earth into balls and added sage seeds. native tropical, dune sunflower, coreopsis, pigeon pea and beautiful blue salvia. lyrata. Each ball was placed in a paper cup for the children to plant at home, and I can vouch for my grandchildren’s excitement as they dug holes in my garden, dropped the balls in them and then marked the places to monitor seed germination. Another station showed how to transport floral arrangements without using plastic, by wrapping the flowers in foliage. There were also Earth Day-inspired games, art stations, storytelling, and lots of bites. It was a huge hit for all ages.

The overwhelming message from our children is that Earth Day should be every day. Making a few changes to your routine could make all the difference.

Call your landscaping company and make sure they don’t apply unnecessary chemicals. better yet, ask them not to apply anything unless there is a serious emergency. A friend of mine told me that her landscapers were planning to apply Roundup to her rather extensive lawn, to replace the grass. Realizing the toxicity of glyphosate, she canceled the treatment and the lawn will be dug up instead, a process used for centuries before the advent of poisons sold to us as necessary environmental tools. Listening to our children talk about terms like “biodiverse ecosystems,” “indigenous sustainability,” and “our fragile barrier island” gives me so much hope for the future. If we put these students in charge, our planet can survive.

Small Strongbark is an endangered native shrub with tiny white flowers.

Plant these natives

Here are some other native plant suggestions for your gardens. At the Jardin Botanique des Monts plant sale last weekend, another great Earth Day event, I found a small strong bark, Bourreria cassinifolia, a beautiful endangered native shrub with tiny fragrant white flowers followed by clusters of small orange fruits appreciated by birds. It is a terrific evergreen border shrub, reaching no more than 3 to 4 feet in height, very drought tolerant and a magnet for many butterflies and hummingbirds. It likes sun to partial shade but is not picky about soil. Try this – it’s a great addition to any border and the flowers bloom continuously!

Birds like the fruit of the small strong rind.

Finally, the pigeon pea is another truly wonderful small native shrub. The bright yellow flowers have a hint of red at the base and bloom from spring to early winter. The feathery light green foliage gives it an airy texture. Growing 1 to 3 feet, with an equal spread, this likes full sun to light shade in moist, well-drained sandy soil. It is host to several butterflies, listed above.

Diane Buhler, left, and Dawn Helton bring home pigeon pea plants provided by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach during the Earth Day celebration April 22.

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