The Cedar Grove is a vision of aesthetic and restorative nature that will create a coherent ecological landscape for visitors to explore. It is located in the northeast sector of the Preserve. The restoration plan for the Cedar Grove was determined through a combined effort of students and professionals. It incorporates the existing citrus grove, and utilizes species that would create a coherent transition between the two groves and would preserve the open aesthetic created by the citrus trees. The vegetation palette selected for populating the Cedar Grove is based primarily on characteristics of the mesic habitat that historically existed in the Genius Preserve. The native stand of Southern red cedar that once thrived here was literally choked out by a tangled mix of Chinaberry, earpod and camphor trees. The restoration plan integrates remnant natives already found on the site with other native and ornamental plants that will provide an aesthetically pleasing landscape. Soil and moisture conditions are also considered in determining vegetation type and location.
A path running from the citrus grove through the Cedar Grove was designed to take the visitor on a meandering stroll through the grove, pausing in the open outdoor classroom and continuing down the sloping terrain, across the Dinky Rail path toward a lakeshore vista. The initial path was lined with coontie, a native groundcover plant selected for its dark color and low-lying profile, which will guide the observer without impeding his or her view of shrub and understory strata plants. Saw palmetto was also placed along the path, although due to the sharpness of its leaf blades, it was set back from the path slightly. It has a tendency to grow taller than the coontie and its placement allows for this.
The native Chickasaw plum tree was selected for use in the grove to complement the open aesthetic established by the citrus trees. In early spring, this deciduous tree is covered in showy white blooms. As the tree matures, it will create a canopy of flowers over the path. Other flowering plants selected for this section of the grove include beautyberry and blue and coral porterweed. These larger shrubs will attract butterflies and other pollinating insects to the area. They also provide a pleasing splash of color.
The path was designed with numerous bends and turns, allowing the visitor to stroll at a leisurely pace, taking in the flora and fauna along the way. Taller-growing plants such as beautyberry and coral and blue porterweed were placed at turning points along the path to conceal the ultimate destination from the visitor, implying a sense of natural mystery of what is to come. Existing cedar and magnolia were also incorporated in the path’s design.
The path empties into the outdoor classroom, an open area within the grove where large oak and magnolia provide shade and cut and fallen tree trunks serve as seating for quiet contemplation.
Once the visitor leaves the outdoor classroom, the path continues down through the Cedar Grove extension, toward the lake. This extension was planted in the fall of 2005. The initial path through the extension is lined with Elliott’s love grass, a species of low, clumping native grass that flowers throughout the year. Because it is a self-sowing seed, this plant should propagate and spread on its own. It may also provide seedlings that can be transplanted to the nursery and propagated for use in future restoration projects.
Throughout this extension where several cedars and magnolia previously existed, additional hickory, magnolia and beautyberry were planted with sporadic uniformity. Along the Dinky Rail path, hickory and saw palmetto were added to existing cedar, laurel oak and hickory to line the trail.