As students crowded around Rudder Plaza on Monday, Collegiate Plant Initiative members passed out crates of free potted red flowers and fresh-cut white and red carnations.
To spread awareness and a love of plants, the Collegiate Plant Initiative visited Texas A&M to hold their annual plant drop at Rudder Plaza. By passing out free plants on campus, the plant drop aims to spark a connection between students and horticulture. The Collegiate Plant Initiative is a student-run group whose mission is to educate other students about plants and horticulture across the nation.
Virginia Frazier, the executive director of the College Plant Initiative based at the University of Florida, said the organization travels to different universities across the U.S. to give free plants to students.
“We’re just trying to make people who love plants,” Frazier said. “And we’re trying to find the plants people love. We’re just trying to spread the love of gardening to college students.”
The initiative's fastest drop ever was at the University of Florida in 2018, as they distributed all the free plants in two minutes. Last year at A&M, the plant drop lasted about four minutes, and this year 1,000 plants and 1,200 cut flowers were dropped in about eight minutes.
Charlie Hall, a professor in the horticulture department at A&M, has a partnership with David Clark, professor of plant breeding and genetics from the University of Florida. Their partnership through the Collegiate Plant Initiative includes the plant drop and weekly data sharing from each classroom.
“That's where this whole nonprofit organization came from,” Clark said. “Our first two partners were Penn State and Texas A&M.”
Altman Plants President Ken Altman donated many of the plants for this drop which were produced at one of his facilities in Giddings, Texas.
“I was really thrilled with all the interaction between campuses,” Altman said. “I'm a big believer in getting people more involved in horticulture, so that's why I was really happy to donate plants.”
Many of the flowers supplied were from Floralife, a company that produces cut flower preservative solutions. Floralife Vice President Jim Daly was also in College Station for the drop.
“It sounds like a great deal to get students involved seeing plants and flowers and understanding them and learning to love them, so it's great for all of us,” Daly said.
Students like Claire Unruh, sophomore natural resources major and director of Aggie Replant, were enthusiastic about receiving free plants.
“I’m minoring in horticulture, and I’m also in Aggie Replant,” Unruh said. “I’m super excited, I hope I can keep these plants alive.”
Debi Chedester is the executive director of the American Floral Endowment, an organization that supports students by providing money for research and educational grants. Chedester said it was nice that the entire AFE board of directors , including Daly, was present to see what their organization is sponsoring. This is AFE’s third year of sponsorship for the program.
“It was great to see all the people smiling and all the kids happy and posing for photos and the selfies that were going on,” Chedester said. “I hope they come to appreciate the beauty and the joy that the flowers and plants can bring to them.”