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Out with the Buckthorn, In with the Native Plants

Out with the Buckthorn, In with the Native Plants

Bethel students and volunteers celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day (Photo Credit: Kurt Jarvi '18)

Earlier this spring, the Bethel University student group Creation Restoration—in partnership with the biology department, Campus Ministries, and Student Life—planted over 300 native understory plants on Bethel’s campus. The brightly-colored cardinal flowers, iris, trillium, and columbine were planted in areas of campus formerly overrun with buckthorn, a non-native invasive species that was introduced in Minnesota as an ornamental landscaping plant in the 1930s. Though buckthorn was banned in the 1990s, it has no natural predators, spreads quickly, and has caused problems in much of Minnesota, including on Bethel’s campus.

“We have a beautiful campus, but it’s also heavily impacted by people. There are things we can do to try to restore some of our native ecosystems here on campus,” says Jeff Port, a professor in the Department of Biology. He noted that the buckthorn removal initiative has been a long process, with herbicide applications and manual removal in the fall. This spring’s volunteer effort will fill in some of the campus spaces left empty, like the lakeshore and slope between the Brushaber Commons building and Lake Valentine, and the path between Freshman Hill and Soho parking lot. While this planting has filled a practical need on campus and will hopefully hold off future buckthorn growth, many on campus feel it’s reflective of a bigger responsibility to care for the Earth.

Bradley Dawson ’16 is a biology and environmental science double-major who says creation care has played a large part in his faith story. “I believe that in a world where it's often hard to see God through suffering and disappointments, he can always be revealed through the complexity and beauty of his creation,” says Dawson. “I see God revealed in his plants and animals and ecosystems, so I try to keep those around for others to be able to witness as well.”

“One of the first commandments God gives humanity is to care for the beautiful creation he gifted us,” says Whitney Loher ’16, an environmental studies major with a music minor. “Genesis 2:15 says ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ I feel as if this aspect of Christianity is often not given much attention, and Christians can sometimes take creation for granted…One of Bethel's strengths is its sense of community. I hope that as the human community continues to grow, our fellow living creatures and plants can be included in that community and be a part of what makes Bethel so special.” 

Emily Lindvig ’16, an environmental science and biology major, notes that “caring for creation is a way to show my respect and appreciation to God. It has also become a way for me to serve others, giving them safer and healthier places.”

Find out more about Creation Restoration and other special interest clubs for students.