Study identifies plant species at Fernwood

Published 10:45 pm Saturday, August 14, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
Ellery Troyer is always searching for new types of plant life.
Troyer, a graduate student of Biology at Andrews University, is conducting a bio-diversity study of the plant life at Fernwood.
Throughout the course of the study, Troyer hopes to collect, identify, and analyze every species of plant life on the property.
The focus area for the project is the nature preserve section of Fernwood. Areas like the garden, where plants are cultivated, are not included in the study unless a naturally occurring plant sprouts up.
Since he started working on the project in April of 2003, Troyer said he has identified about 400 species of plant life, but he expects to identify around 475 species before he completes the project sometime next year.
With all the diversity in the area, Troyer finds many foreign, or "invasive" species of plant life that pose a threat to indigenous plants at Fernwood.
An invasive species is one that, when introduced to a new environment, takes over because there is no natural control to keep it in check according to Troyer.
"The worst thing about invasive species is they severely impact the bio-diversity wherever they grow by killing off other plants," he said.
Examples of such invasive species include the crown vetch, purple loosestrife, and garlic mustard.
Troyer said some species, like the purple loosestrife, can be controlled by introducing a predator into the ecosystem. Others, such as garlic mustard, pose more of the threat because there are no known ways of controlling it, he said.
The project can also help to maintain any endangered species of plants that exist at Fernwood by identifying where they grow in the preserve.
The benefit of the project is quite far reaching, Troyer said.
"It's a starting point for other researchers of bio-diversity," he said. "Say 20 years from now when someone is conducting a similar study here, they can look back at this study to see how things have changed."