Fort Collins Natural Areas Department hosts plant tour for community

Savannah Hoag

People of all ages joined the Fort Collins Natural Areas Department for a guided native Colorado plants tour at Nix Farms on August 23.

Sally Guthart, a Colorado landscaper, as well as another volunteer of the Natural Areas Department, David Tweedale, led about 15 community members through Nix Farms’ native plant gardens despite harsh wind and rain.

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“The hearty nature of gardeners really shows at times like these,” Tweedale said. “You don’t find many warm-weather gardeners willing to stand in the wind and rain for the sake of plants.”

Since 2002, Nix Farms Natural Areas has not only been the headquarters for the Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, but also a garden filled with over 40 plants native to Colorado. According to Guthart, these plants have been in Colorado since before European settlement.

“The good thing about native plants is that they’re adapted to our environment,” Guthart said. “They can stand through almost any type of weather.”

The native plants tour is only one of about 125 community programs the department offers local residents to learn more about the environment. These programs can vary from seed collecting to gardening.

“These events are designed to connect people back to the earth,” said Emily Olivio, community programs educator. “We try to do that in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as a nature hike.”

Nix Farms is not the only place home to native Colorado plants in an urban area. Colorado State University contains the same plants on campus at Sherwood Forest.

“The benefit of planting natives (plants) in urban landscapes is that they create habitats,” Guthart said. “It provides for native pollinators and native animals in the area.”

According to Guthart, CSU students frequent the farm to perform studies of pollinators on these native plants as well as observe the plants for classes.

Fort Collins contains 46 natural areas with Nix Farms being a small glimpse of Colorado’s natural beauty. The upkeep of these areas is done by a large number of volunteers willing to spend hours beautifying the community around them.

The department offers volunteer opportunities. Tweedale has been volunteering with the Natural Areas Department for three years.

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“I’m not a plants guy,” said Tweedale. “I know the critters, and I know nothing about birds.”

The next outdoor event at Nix Farms, Campfire at Nix Farms: The Full Moon in Fall, on September 22 from 7-8:30 p.m. is designed to bring awareness of the outdoor community.

“We want to connect people to the land in a way that’s more than just learning about it, in a way that’s more hands on and in a way that’s more fun for some people,” Olivio said.