In 2020, AAS board member Jonathan Varol conceived the idea for a native plant garden to be installed adjacent to the Prairie Creek Banding Lab at the Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) property. His vision was to enhance both the habitat and the educational opportunities for visitors and future AAS college interns.
Jonathan was able to secure grant funds from Florida Power and Light and Audubon Florida to purchase regionally appropriate native plants, tools, mulch and other necessities. Local Florida Native Plant Society members gave advice on plant selection and garden design, and ACT staff was very helpful with site preparation and subsequent mowing to maintain a dozen large plant circles. Many volunteers, primarily Sherri and Eric Amundson and Lee Bloomcamp, helped with the labor-intensive tasks of ridding the beds of bahia grass and other weeds, preparing the beds and establishing the new plants. These and other volunteers, along with some AAS college interns, continue to maintain the garden with weeding, watering, mowing, mulching and more. In 2022, Paul Lyrene, UF Emeritus Professor of Horticultural Sciences, installed several plantings of native blueberry species to enhance food sources for birds and other wildlife.
As of early 2023, most plants at the garden have successfully established and are re-seeding.