A walkthrough garden showcasing species of plant life native to the Southeast opened recently at the University of North Georgia. Helmed by Dr. Ashley McCaskill, assistant professor of biology, the project provides opportunity for students and community members to learn about local plants and trees, as well as learning experience for student workers helping to maintain the garden.
"The purpose of this project is really two-fold; besides being an educational experience for people to learn about native plants, it's also a recreational place for relaxation and enjoyment," McCaskill said. "We want everyone to be able to appreciate unique southern Appalachian ecosystems through this garden."
Several students are helping McCaskill by caring for the garden and spearheading specific projects. For example, student Alex Sweatte is working on creating a simulated mountain bog in the garden, a project he planned himself.
"We also want to continue to add more species, and I'm also interested in the possibility of creating some specialty, non-native gardens — perhaps something like a garden with medicinal plants, or a garden featuring species from arid climates," McCaskill said. "It would also be great if we could give students the opportunity to garden vegetables and other edible plants."
The garden was created with a $7,500 Chattahoochee Oconee Forest Interpretive grant through the North Georgia Community Foundation. A grand opening is planned for spring 2014.