UTEP celebrates 27th Annual Florafest

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Annabella Mireles

“Where will we grow” exhibit on display in the Centennial Museum and Chihuahua Desert Gardens

Kristen Scheaffer, Contributor

Florafest is around the corner as we progress into the cooler weather. From 9 a.m. on Oct. 9th at the UGLC plaza until they sell out, the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens will be holding their 27th annual Florafest. 

The event is a native plant fundraiser for the museum; Florafest is the only fundraiser held by Centennial Museum. They will have plants ranging from trees, shrubs, flowers, and cacti; there will be yuccas and agaves, a large variety of plants to choose from according to Kevin Floyd, Botanical Curator and Organizer for Florafest. 

“It’s a chance for people to buy native and desert adapted plants for their landscaping while also getting to talk to master gardeners and other people who know about the plants,” said Floyd. “I think there’s a perception that any sort of drought tolerant landscaping is very barren, that it’s just rocks and cactus.” 

Florafest started as a way to unite people with native plants that were not available within the local nurseries. It was not long afterwards in 1999 that the garden was started by Winn Anderson, the first curator for the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens.  

The first El Pasoan to have an interest in the region’s flora was Elsie Slater, a self-taught biologist. She was known for collecting and pressing plants; she used her art and writing to encourage the community to conserve the region’s natural history, according to Centennial Museum. A lot of her work was donated to different institutions of UTEP, which makes her collection the oldest preserved plants collected locally. You can find more on Elsie Slater at Centennial Museum where they have an exhibit.  

With the gardens, Floyd explains that it was started to highlight the native plants and to prove deserts aren’t boring by showcasing the diversity of the plants scattered throughout the Chihuahuan desert. Because of the gardens, there’s now a demand for native plants which can be met by Florafest. 

“This is a slightly unique botanical garden because it’s really just focused on plants from the Chihuahuan desert,” Floyd said. “We’ve got probably about 600 different species of plants tucked into this little space.” 

Not only are gardens used to educate and spotlight the more common native plants, but they are also home to some plant species that are considered endangered in the wild. Because of the gardens, these plant species are conserved. Along with this, they want to educate and conserve to prevent the endangerment of the common plants.  

It has been a long time since UTEP held a Florafest in the fall, Floyd explained. He’s excited since the fall is a great time for the plants because of the weather and there’s less stress on the plants. Depending on the success, being able to have 2 sales a year, the fall and spring, would be beneficial.  

Their hopes are to expand the gardens and grow more plants on campus, bringing new plants to campus and collecting more seeds from the wild to grow here on campus for conservation, Floyd said.  

“If people are interested in plants to keep their eyes open for the spring sale, but also that I think there’s just a lot of interesting growing plants now that the pandemic seems to have created this demand for plants and so students can come to Florafest,” said Floyd. He also mentioned that volunteer opportunities are available for anyone with an interest.  

 

Kristen Scheaffer can be reached at [email protected] 

Click here to watch the video of the event covered by Anahy Diaz.