Where to See Indiana Natives
Pockets of natural plant life exist throughout Indiana in protected areas such as state parks, nature preserves, and land trusts, and in scattered undeveloped city lots and private lands in agricultural areas. (One needs permission from the landowner before visiting the latter.) In addition, human-made public and private demonstration gardens showcase Indiana native plants in designed landscapes.
Indiana State Parks
Colonel Richard Lieber, an Indianapolis businessman and German immigrant, recommended that a state park system be created in 1916 as part of Indiana’s centennial celebration. Lieber became a national leader in the state parks movement and assisted other states in forming their own systems as well.
A goal of the state parks is to give Hoosiers the ability to experience what the Indiana landscape was like prior to settlement—mature forests, wetlands, and prairies—and to interpret the historical and archeological context of the state.
Indiana was one of the pioneers in providing naturalists to give interpretive programs that help people enjoy and appreciate these special places. Many of the roads, shelters, restrooms, gatehouses, and bridges still in use today were built by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression.
Indiana Nature Preserves
Indiana’s system of Nature Preserves provides permanent protection for significant natural areas within the state. Nature Preserves are defined as areas of land and/or water that have retained or re-established their natural character; or have unusual flora or fauna; or have biotic, geological, scenic or paleontological features of scientific or educational value. Nature Preserves contain living records of Indiana’s natural character before European settlers arrived.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Nature Preserves, manages the preserves to maintain and/or restore natural ecological conditions. Most Indiana Nature Preserves are open to the public for hiking and nature study, or with advance permission for scientific research.
It is against the law to disturb or remove anything from a preserve without a special permit. Please do not disturb or molest the plant and animal life you find; some species may be endangered or rare.
Indiana Land Trusts
Land trusts are private, not-for-profit organizations whose purpose is to acquire property and conservation easements on lands that provide significant environmental and scenic benefits. At least 25 land trusts operate in the state of Indiana. Many of these schedule work days to clear out invasive plants and human debris—great opportunities to view native plants where they grow naturally.
Rules of the Road
- Stay on established trails
- Pack out what you pack in
- Don’t collect without permission
- Wipe your boots before entering a natural area to avoid introducing weed seeds
- Before taking your dog with you, check that dogs are not prohibited in the areas you are visiting
Watanabe Gardens at Indiana State Museum Designed to represent the landscapes of our state, this garden adjacent to the museum draws inspiration from an old limestone quarry. Summer 2005
Sustainable Garden at Eli Lilly & Company A new kind of urban garden on a commercial property, its objective is to enhance the interface with the community and set an example for further urban greening and sustainable practices. Spring 2011
Ameriplex Business Park Located just south of Indianapolis International Airport, the business park is certified by the Indiana Wildlife Federation as the state’s first wildlife friendly development. The 1,500-acre complex has about five acres of wetlands, including nine ponds, as well as acres of prairie and woodland and specially designed habitats for native species. Spring 2008
The Nature Conservancy The Indianapolis headquarters of the Indiana Chapter of TNC, an award-winning “green” building that aspires to “platinum” LEED certification, features a landscape to match. Native plants decorate the parking lot, the sidewalk, and the energy-efficient green roof.