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First Nations Student Reintroducing Wildflowers in Michigan

A First Nations Native American student will be reintroducing native wildflowers, bushes and trees to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan over the next year.
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A Native American student’s inspiration to change a one-acre plot on the north side of Lake Superior State University’s (LSSU) Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan campus into a living, breathing laboratory came from a course in human environments taught by LSSU biology professor Dennis Merkel.

Carla Marcellus, a senior from Ontario’s Mississauga First Nation, is launching a pilot project to reintroduce wildflowers common to the area before invasive plants took over.

“Most of the species in urban areas are a hodgepodge of plants—weeds—from all over the world,” Marcellus said in an LSSU release. “Over time, they have edged out native species like prairie grass. My goal is to reintroduce a biodiversity that supports the region’s original ecosystems.”

Other than prairie grass this includes a variety of native wildflowers, flowering bushes and trees, all of which provide habitat for a number of insects and animals from butterflies to migrating songbirds.

Marcellus’s project builds on a four-year-old initiative started by grounds director Steve Gregory, who saved LSSU thousands of dollars by letting a hill overlooking the International Bridge go feral. She will take the feral approach and refine it.

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“I’ve researched what native plant species prefer an open, hilly slope, such as what we have on this section of campus, and settled on a mix of grass, trees, and shrubs that will grow relatively fast, provide for something that’s pleasing to the eye, and still fit within LSSU’s goal for low-cost sustainability,” she said in the release.

She’ll start her project by pulling out invasive species and replacing them with indigenous plants like honeysuckle, milkweed (a Monarch butterfly favorite), and Brown-Eyed Susans.

Marcellus became a certified forestry and fish and wildlife technician through Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, and has brought her Canadian credits to Michigan to be used toward a bachelor’s degree in ecological advocacy.

Marcellus is getting help spreading the word from LSSU biology professor Gregory Zimmerman, and will go over a comprehensive plan for 2012 at a public meeting being held November 30 at 7 p.m. in the Cisler Center.

Contact her by e-mailing