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2 weeks, 100 plants: LSU ag students take to woods for plant identification class

News Release Distributed 06/06/14

FRANKLINTON, La – With a tall walking stick in hand, Don Reed, an LSU College of Agriculture professor and AgCenter forestry and wildlife specialist, wandered through Bogue Chitto State Park pointing out trees and plants to a group of students.

Each student had to correctly identify the common and scientific names of 20 plants. They called out names such as cherry laurel, St. Andrew’s cross and sweet leaf and more sinister-sounding ones like witch hazel and devil’s walking stick.

The group was spending two and half weeks in forests in southeast Louisiana as part of an intersession class through the LSU College of Agriculture.

Intersession classes are offered between semesters and last about two weeks. Cody Juneau, a senior in Renewable Natural Resources, said he learned a lot in a short period of time.

“It’s been intense,” Juneau said. “It definitely is, but it’s all stuff that we enjoy learning and that we want to learn about, so that makes it easier.”

In this class they learn about understory plants that have wildlife value.

“You can’t manage wildlife or you can’t manage an ecosystem without knowing the plants, so I think it’s one of the most important courses these students have,” Reed said.

Anna Claire Ferchaud said having to identify plants on the spot in front of her classmates was intimidating, but she feels confident now having gone through the class. She said she loves the outdoors and is looking for a career that will keep her there.

“I thought wildlife is all I wanted, but it turns out I love identifying plants and trees and being around it, and they really go hand-in-hand,” Ferchaud said.

The students didn’t see much wildlife while on their treks – just a rabbit and a turkey. But the presence of wildlife was evident.

“You can look at the plants and see where they’ve been browsed,” Ferchaud pointed out.

The students spent much of the class in Lee Memorial Forest, a teaching and research forest in Washington Parish, where they did pine tree measurements and timber surveys. They also visited the Atchafalaya Basin and Crosby Arboretum in Mississippi. Only the first day of class and part of the final exam were held indoors.

“I’m not looking forward to having to go sit back in the classroom for normal classes next semester,” Juneau said.

Tobie Blanchard

Watch the 1:39-min video, Wildlife campers learn to identify plants 
Last Updated: 6/16/2014 1:13:13 PM

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