Trees Atlanta to Plant A Native Grass and Wildflower Meadow on the Eastside Trail

What says “Spring is coming” better than wildflowers??  Can you imagine a prairie of wildflowers and native grasses on the Atlanta BeltLine?

That vision is about to become reality: starting in March, Trees Atlanta will plant 109,000 native grass and wildflower plugs (approximately 8.5 acres) along the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. These plugs will grow into a meadow that will not only be beautiful, it will also become a much-needed source of nesting sites, food, and protection for birds, butterflies, bees, and more. Replanting native meadows is a new sustainable landscape trend in the southeastern United States, and in addition to creating natural habitat, the maintenance of prairies require less fuel, water, and pesticides.

The meadow that Trees Atlanta is planting this spring will be unique because it is growing right in the central urban context of the Atlanta BeltLine and its Arboretum.

The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is a continuous loop of natural area around the Atlanta BeltLine. As you may know, an arboretum (pronounced ar•bor•re•tum) is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants, such as trees. (Some botanical gardens focus on flowers, and some focus on trees!) While most arboretums are located at one address, the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum (ABA) will be a linear arboretum that encompasses the whole city of Atlanta.

The ABA is a collective effort of Trees Atlanta, the Atlanta BeltLine, and members of the surrounding community. Comprised of trees, native grasses, wildflowers, art, and so much more, the ABA forms a natural connection between 22 miles of Atlanta neighborhoods, trails, transit, and parks, while also attracting wildlife to a continuous corridor of habitat.

You may have already noticed the 600+ trees that Trees Atlanta planted last fall on the Eastside Trail; the magnolias, sassafrasses, long leaf pines, hornbeams, oaks, elms, tulip poplars, hickories, dogwoods, redbuds, and more are all part of the ABA… and that’s just on the Eastside Trail. The arboretum will continue to develop as the Atlanta BeltLine itself continues to develop.

When fully planted, the meadow on the Eastside Trail will comprise more than 109,000 individual plants, in 43 different species of grasses and forbs. The species will be planted and labeled in such a way as to make identification as easy as possible for visitors and native plant enthusiasts. In years to come, similar prairies will appear along the entire Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, creating one giant outdoor classroom.

Planting a project this big is going to require teamwork! Trees Atlanta is partnering with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center* on a research component to this meadow, and on March 1st and 2nd the Center will lead workshops to train community volunteers, contractors, and design professionals to properly install prairies and collect data for the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum’s first research project and paper.

Then from March through May, the planting begins! Hundreds of volunteers will be needed to help Trees Atlanta plant the meadow. If you are interested in volunteering, Trees Atlanta will be leading plantings on select weekday and weekend mornings from 9 am to 12 noon in March, April, and May. Please check the Trees Atlanta calendar for the dates, meeting locations, and to RSVP.

Take a Tour with a Docent!

As a free, natural, and ever-changing green museum, the ABA is a dynamic natural space that is open-year round to all audiences. You are free to experience the arboretum by either exploring it independently, or by taking a guided tour!

If the latter is more appealing to you, consider registering for an Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum Docent Walking Tour, which officially launches on April 12. The walking tours are led by well-trained experts called docents, and with them you will explore the Eastside Trail while focusing particularly on the horticultural collections and interesting facts about the Atlanta BeltLine. The walking tour takes approximately 1.5 hours and begins from an easily-accessible trailhead in Inman Park. Each docent prepares his or her own unique talking points to spotlight the native trees, architectural interests, key historical stories, and much more.

Be sure to take advantage of this free walking tour, which is offered all year so you can experience every season of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum with an expert docent.  Register here or contact Kate Baltzell at Trees Atlanta with inquires:  Special group accommodations are available.

Special thanks to Kaiser Permanente for helping to make the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum Docent Program possible.

*For over ten years, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has created designs and specifications for, and overseen the installation and maintenance of, sustainable landscapes.