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Garden Club installs signs to prevent loss of state flower

Until recently, a stretch of County Highway 49, known locally as Marion Lake Road, could also have been called a kill zone. Numerous Lady Slipper flowers there were dying because the ditches were being mowed and sprayed with weed killer.

From left, Linda and Wayne Bronson and Judy Herzog, associated with the Lady Slipper Garden Club, were among the volunteers who put up signs warning against mowing and spraying of ditches where the Lady Slipper flowers are found. About eight signs were installed and another eight will be put up next spring.
From left, Linda and Wayne Bronson and Judy Herzog, associated with the Lady Slipper Garden Club, were among the volunteers who put up signs warning against mowing and spraying of ditches where the Lady Slipper flowers are found. About eight signs were installed and another eight will be put up next spring.

Until recently, a stretch of County Highway 49, known locally as Marion Lake Road, could also have been called a kill zone. Numerous Lady Slipper flowers there were dying because the ditches were being mowed and sprayed with weed killer.

To stop the genocide, members of the Lady Slipper Garden Club petitioned Otter Tail County to install signs warning against spraying and mowing of the ditches along the south side of the lake. Seven members volunteered to install the signs on Aug. 18.

While the garden club has monitored the flowers in the ditches near Marion Lake, it's the walkers who alerted the club to the flower's plight. There are a number of plants that are turning brown from being sprayed, Reynolds said.

After several years of contacting the county about the plight of the flower, Reynolds found an ally in Rick Hoium this year.

"We talked to the county, and they gave us eight signs," said Carolyn Reynolds, one of the organizers to save the state flower. "(The county) is giving us more, but we'll have to wait until they blossom again. The grass makes it difficult to find them this time of the year."

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After talking with Reynolds, Hoium, Highway Maintenance Supervisor, and Highway Engineer Rick West agreed that protecting the state flower should be a priority and that signage was probably the best option.

In conversation with Reynolds, the two agreed more than a "Do Not Spray" sign would be needed, Hoium said.

"We agreed that the signs should inform people why the area is protected," he said, "(Carolyn and I) felt that if people understood they were protecting the state flower, they would take the initiative to be more careful."

He contacted M and R Sign, which created a brown sign with a picture of the Lady Slipper so people would know that the area was home to the special flower. Cost of the signs was reasonable, he said, at about $19 for the sign and post, he said.

Reynolds has a long history with Marion Lake, as her grandparents, Sarah and Walter Klein Sr., owned Klein's Resort. All the grandchildren worked at the resort as teenagers, she said. Her uncle, Walter Klein Jr., worked with the county to put up "No Driving In the Ditch" signs a number of years ago.

There used to be about three times the number of flowers along the ditches on County 49, Reynolds said, which have been in that location for more than 50 years.

"They are gorgeous (flowers)," Reynolds said. "In the spring when they blossom, they are in bloom for a couple of weeks."

Because it takes about 15 years for a Lady Slipper to grow and bloom, it could be a while before there is a significant comeback, she said. Some signs will also be placed near Underwood.

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A member of the orchid family, Lady Slippers are not difficult to grow, Reynolds said, adding they require a lot of fertilizer and water once a week. In fact, gardeners may purchase the flower from a qualified dealer, she said.

"If the (Department of Natural Resources) were ever to check, owners would have to present a certificate," Reynolds said, "so (the DNR) knows it wasn't dug out of the woods."

The Lady Slipper Garden Club has about 50 members from all over the county, including Perham, Reynolds said. The group meets once a month all year at the Methodist Church in Perham. Members do plantings, maintain flower beds at the East Otter Tail County History Museum and the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, as well as the courtyard at Perham Living and the Richville Community Center.

Related Topics: OTTER TAIL COUNTY
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