Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

Back to News Home Page

News Release

June 23, 2011

Cape Hatteras Secondary School Junior Naturalists Take to the Water to Learn About Plants-- Envasives!

Native and non-native plants are sometimes difficult to tell apart. The best way to learn about them is up-close and personal. Visitor Services Specialist Cindy Heffley and Volunteer Bob Glennon, both from Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges, decided to help the Junior Naturalists learn about the plants by bringing some of them to the school. Heffley and Glennon passed out various specimens such as Phragmites, Japanese Honeysuckle, Yellow Jessamine, River Cane and Trumpet Creeper. Students quickly realized that looks can be deceiving when trying to figure out which plants are “good” versus “bad”. They also realized why non-native plants, as well as non-native animals, are detrimental to habitats in the area. Many of the students were familiar with Phragmites and Nutria, both of which are considered nuisance species, but some had never known how they were brought into this country.

After learning about the plants in the classroom, the students were anxious to see the plants in the wild. Of course, the idea of using canoes as transportation at the refuge sweetened the deal! Through an education grant provided by the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, Junior Naturalist Coordinator Linda Austin brought the students to the Alligator River refuge. In addition to being shown some of the plants along the Sandy Ridge Trail at the refuge, a guided trip on the Milltail Creek Paddling Trail provided an eye-level view of many of the plants. Along the way, Glennon and Heffley quizzed the student about what they had learned at the school. Plants weren’t the only thing the students were learning about on the trip. Heffley treated them to a history lesson of the area and helped identify many of the birds spotted along the way. One group was also fortunate to see an otter before it swam away. Each of the Junior Naturalists took away with them a better understanding of native and non-native plants along with learning how to have a fun time while learning.


Students listen as Volunteer Bob Glennon explains the difference between native and non-native plants.

Junior Naturalists prepare to venture out on the Milltail Creek Paddling Trail in search of native and non-native plants.
Photo credits: USFWS/Heffley.

Contributed by Cindy Heffley, Visitor Services Specialist, Alligator River and Pea Island NWR.