National Wildlife Refuge System

Wildness in a Planter

Visitors on the Tallgrass Trail at Neal Smith Refuge, IA, will see native vegetation like this prairie violet.
Credit: Nick Miller/Creative Commons
Amphitheater benches have been turned into planter for native prairie vegetation at Neal Smith Refuge, IA.
Credit: USFWS

Amphitheater benches on the Tallgrass Trail at Neal Smith Refuge, IA, have been turned into planters to display native vegetation.


The old amphitheater was not used often but did require a lot of maintenance removing weeds, replacing boards and removing wasp nests under the benches.  Now Youth Conservation Corps students have replaced benches with four planters using retaining wall blocks. 


During the summer of 2013, a volunteer will work with staff to design four unique displays of native vegetation using flower species that do not grow higher than two feet. 


“Our hope is that as a visitor strolls along the winding and wild Tallgrass Trail, they will find these planters and appreciate the less wild appearance,” says refuge manager Christy Smith. “They will be encouraged to plant something similar in their front or back yards.  Bringing wildness to our suburban neighborhoods can be done without violating Home Owners Association standards.  If enough people planted small areas to native flowers, birds and butterflies would find respite pockets of refuge throughout the state.”


Visitors will be able to walk between the planters and sit on the concrete blocks that corner each planter to enjoy the flowers and the view.

Last updated: May 10, 2013