Native Plant Rescue

Last week, at the Arizona Conservation Information Sharing Meeting hosted by Tucson Water, we were given a tour of the Pima County Native Plant Nursery by Jessie Byrd, the Nursery Manager. The idea behind the nursery is deceptively simple - remove native vegetation from a landscape before development occurs, relocate them to the nursery where they can grow in conditions that simulate the local environment, and then use them on public works projects such as parks, roadway medians, or stormwater detention basins. The nursery cannot sell plants to the public - they are not allowed to compete with commercial nurseries - but local government gains access to drought-tolerant, native plants at the cost necessary to fund operations at the nursery.

Put in practice, the nursery is able to lower construction and operations costs by a significant margin. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, outdoor landscaping can require between 15-30% of total water consumption for institutional buildings (e.g., hospitals, office buil