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Native plant center at Audubon Society site in Fox Chapel to benefit from $12K grant

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Longtime volunteer Jerry Pidhirny plants Baptista Bush and tends to native plants at the Beechwood Farms Native Plants Center.

Audubon Society Executive Director Jim Bonner said it makes perfect sense to spruce up the native plant center at Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel with more plants.

“We've been looking to do some enhancements with outdoor display gardens and make it a more formalized area to show what they look like in planted form, as opposed to pots,” Bonner said.

Work at the site along Dorseyville Road will flourish thanks to a $12,000 grant from the Fox Chapel District Association, a community-sponsored organization that supports Fox Chapel and neighboring towns.

“The money is a big help,” Bonner said. “We're excited to be doing this.”

Association President Heather Froehlich said the project aligns with the group's mission to support beautification efforts in the Lower Valley that are not funded by taxes.

“The FCDA has been a longtime supporter of Beechwood Farms. They have proven to be a great asset to the community and fit our mission to enhance our local community,” she said.

The association also helped to build a pavilion at Beechwood Farms for outdoor lectures and a shed to house and sell native plants, and gave a donation to the annual “Maple Madness” community event.

The project to install an exhibit focused on Western Pennsylvania's native plants will help to educate local students and residents on how to identify and care for plants found in their own backyards, Froehlich said.

Bonner said the project will increase the visibility of the native plant center for visitors.

With more than 140 species such as trillium and sunflowers available for purchase, Bonner wants to make sure the native plant center is a can't-miss exhibit.

The walking path will be upgraded and lined with native plants in order to attract visitors and increase accessibility, he said.

“There's a little path there but if someone has mobility issues, they would have problems,” he said. “We want to make a clear, designated path.”

Grading and planting began this month but a larger portion of the work will continue in fall, which Bonner said is the best time to transplant the flowers.

The red cardinal flower and milkweed might be a popular choice for potential buyers, he said.

“Milkweed is an attractive plant that is also host for the monarch butterfly,” he said, adding that it is the only plant the monarch caterpillar can eat.

“With numbers of monarchs down, this would be a good one to get out to people.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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