Pollinator Garden to Bring New Life to MSUM

Ecology and evolutionary biology student Patrice Delaney is helping to bring new life to MSUM by planting a pollinator garden surrounding the university’s hummingbird sculpture. The hummingbird, created and installed a few years ago by Art Professor Chris Walla and his students, sits on a gray concrete block on the lawn near the Roland Dille Center for the Arts.

MSUM Professors Alison Wallace, biosciences, and Sherry Short, art, are advisors for the garden project and helped Delaney secure a $345 grant from the Roland and Beth Dille Fund for Excellence Grant Program to establish a pollinator garden surrounding the sculpture. Student researchers are involved in the Nutrient Network, a 10-year global research network focused on grassland ecology. Through this involvement, they have become familiar with native plant species on the tallgrass prairie at MSUM’s Regional Science Center, and this project will bring Minnesota’s prairie to campus.

“Providing a connection for our students, staff and community to the natural world is the goal of this planting,” Wallace said. “Not only will it be a place to enjoy the diversity of organisms it will attract and feed, but it will also serve as a teaching tool for 200+ students to learn about prairie ecosystems on our campus.”

Delaney, the student lead on the pollinator project, says the pollinator garden will be beautiful and educational.

“As a wild plant enthusiast myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Patrice. Her passion for pollinator plants has been the driving force behind the project from the get-go,” Short said.

A variety of native grasses and wildflowers will be planted, including milkweed, asters goldenrod, purple coneflower, wild bergamot and other favorites of bees, birds and other pollinators. They also hope to build a sitting area with a solar-powered phone charging station. The pollinator garden will allow students to use it for botanical drawings, and it will be a beautiful aesthetic around the base of the sculpture.

Six student leaders representing The Wildlife Society, Student Senate, Sustainable Student Association, the sustainability program, and Tri-Beta Biological Honor Society are collaborating to remove the existing sod, order the plants, plant and label the seedlings, and maintain the garden. Kyle Kopacek, MSUM grounds supervisor, has facilitated the garden at every step of the way.   

“It will be exciting to watch it mature from the small seedlings planted this year into an established pollinator garden,” Short said.   

“We hope monarchs will come and find our little area, lay their eggs and then reproduce. We hope birds will come to eat the seeds and spread them around our community. We will be able to monitor all of that,” Delaney said.

Watch for new life surrounding the hummingbird in the coming years.

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