In addition to efficient resource management of traditional landscaping, Purdue University has planted native trees, grasses, and shrubs throughout campus. Although native plantings can look "messier" than traditional plantings, they tolerate local environmental conditions better, encourage greater bio-diversity, and are more self sustaining, requiring fewer artificial nutrients.
The native plantings on campus include varieties such as native juniper, Pennsylvania sedge, prairie grass, and purple and yellow cone flowers. These varieties have also been used on select bioswales around the university, which help divert stormwater runoff from the sewage system and allow excess water to irrigate the land.
Prominent native plantings on the West Lafayette campus
Pfendler Hall and Agricultural Communication Building
The native plantings at Pfendler Hall, which houses the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, and the Agricultural Administration building serve both teaching demonstration and sustainability purposes. Originally a specialty garden for the Purdue Arboretum, the plantings switched to a native design in 2009.
Matthew Kern Memorial Garden
Located between Russell Street and the Purdue golf course, this was the university’s first native planting. The garden was dedicated in 1996, after the untimely demise of Purdue student Kern, by his parents. The garden was planted by Kern’s family, friends, and volunteers across campus. In addition to planting native varieties, bluebird houses were also built to promote greater bio-diversity.
Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering
The native plantings at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering were originally planted in June 2010 and were re-planted in spring 2011. These replaced the original planting, which included varieties such as little blue stem and beech grass. Unfortunately, the rich soil caused the original plants to “lodge” or fall over. Therefore, Purdue substituted native grasses such as prairie dropseed, with a bed of fern and black gum trees. The plantings are meant to invoke the metaphor of student growth and accomplishment at Purdue, so that visitors entering the building will see the lower prairie grass and when they leave the building through the back, they will be greeted by taller trees.
First Street Towers
The First Street Towers were the first and largest residential native landscape on campus. The facility landscaping centers on native plants such as little bluestem grass, prairie dropseed, and deschampsia, mixing some traditional varieties with them. The landscape integrates flowering perennials such as butterfly weed, goldenrod and windflower with the native grasses, to help people unfamiliar with the appearance of native grasses to better appreciate them. The Tower residents and managers helped with the planting by identifying various issues to be addressed by the grounds crew.