Hundreds of people strolled through the parking lot at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City, carefully perusing all kinds of native plants to find the perfect ones for their homes and yards.
The Grow Native! program and Runge Conservation Nature Center held the annual native plant sale Saturday, with six vendors selling various native wildflowers, grasses, sedges, vines shrubs and trees. This year marks the 17th year Runge Conservation Nature Center has hosted the popular plant sale.
"It's been great," said Erika Van Vranken, special project coordinator for Grow Native! and the Missouri Prairie Foundation. "We're glad we have pretty good weather and a pretty good turnout."
Grow Native! hosts native plant sales across Missouri throughout the spring and fall. The Grow Native! program is a 22-year-old native plant marketing and education program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, a 56-year-old prairie conservation organization and land trust.
The goal of the event is to get more people to buy native plants, which promote conservation and enhance biodiversity, Van Vranken said.
"Native plants evolved with the wildlife that's here, and so the native plants are suited to the wildlife that's here," she said. "Birds, bees, insects and mammals will be better fed by native plants. ... They're more environmentally-friendly than your standard nursery plant."
Another benefit is native plants are more low- maintenance than other plants, said Austin Lambert, a naturalist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Since these plants evolved with Missouri's climate, they require less watering, fertilization, weeding and extra care.
"There's a native plant that's out there and right for just about everything, from a shaded area to a sunny area to every soil type, so they're really great to work with," Lambert said. "But the big thing is that connection back to nature and wildlife."
By 12:30 p.m. Saturday, more than 700 people had already attended the plant sale, according to event organizers.
Kenneth and Eleanor McDonald, who live in Columbia, attended the sale to buy new plants for their yard. They walked away with more than 20 native plants to plant along the fence in their garden area.
Allison Wildin and her mother, Linda Wildin, attended the plant sale Saturday for the first time. As plant enthusiasts, they were intrigued by the signs leading to the plant sale when they happened to be at Runge. Allison picked out a new plant for her home, a kind she isn't familiar with but is excited to try.
"It's pretty awesome," Allison said. "We just came here to walk and just happened to stumble upon it."