Plants ‘hold this island together’: Native Plant Center on SPI prepares for reopening

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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) – A pandemic and then a storm; the Native Plant Center on South Padre Island is coming back strong, and they are asking for the community’s support in cultivating the valuable resource for the island.  

The Native Plant Center has played an essential role in cultivating natural habitats on the island through dune and coastal restoration efforts. 

Furthermore, using the public garden and plant nursery at their facility, they educate visitors about the importance of native plants on the island. Any time the opportunity presents, they rescue plants that would otherwise be destroyed on construction sites.  

Teebs Thorbjornsen explaining where humans fit in the grand spiral of life. [KVEO: Photojournalist Salvador Castro]

The front of their facility is home to plants recused during the development of the city’s transportation hub.  

“Plants are, I think, undervalued and overlooked sometimes, but we depend on them. Obviously for the air that we breathe, the medicines that they provide, the food as well. But for us, structurally, they hold this island together,” said Thoren ‘Teebs’ Thorbjornsen. 

During the restoration of Bahia Grande, it was realized that there was nowhere to source native plants, so Cameron County asked Thorbjornsen, who was part of the restoration, to help build a facility.  

She has been working on the ongoing project since 2014 and continues to be a key volunteer.  

Teebs Thorbjornsen explaining to Digital Reporter Gaby Moreno how the energy vortex at the Native Plant Center works. [KVEO: Photojournalist Salvador Castro]

Throughout the years, the facility has expanded to include an eco-education center, public display garden, in addition to their plant nursery, and there is more to come; support is needed.  

“As we get support from the community, we apply it directly to the further development of the plant center, with volunteers mostly. This is a volunteer community-based organization, the only person who gets paid is the person that cuts the grass really, so we’re really dependent on support,” said Thorbjornsen.  

The recent winter storm in February killed many of the plants in their garden and nursery.  

Plants donated to the center earlier this week. [KVEO: Photojournalist Salvador Castro]

While they continue to recover from those losses, Thorbjornsen invites the public to see what they are working on and contribute if they can. However, the center plans to officially open with a ceremony on May 1.  

“This place belongs to the community, and I want them to join us in guiding our management as a member of the board or as a volunteer or as a sponsor to help us pay our bills,” said Thorbjornsen as she explained that she can only temporarily care for the facility.  

Plant donations are accepted as they prepare for their reopening, as well as tax-deductible monetary donations. 

To learn more about the Native Plant Center, you can visit their website.  

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