Reta Whitten, a library patron, drops off a bucket of Confederate Rose clipping to the Thomas Lee Hall Post Library for the Earth Day Plant Swap April 16, 2022. The Fort Jackson community is invited to drop off plants, seeds, clippings or gardening supplies to the library before returning on the last day of the week to pick out and take home new plants and gardening items Photo By Alexandra Shea |

Library celebrates Earth Day with plant swap

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

“We are encouraging everyone to bring plants, old plants, seeds, or cuttings and drop them off this week,” said Katherine Livingston, public services librarian. “Then stop back by Friday and pick out a new plant.”

Livingston said plant drop off is anytime during the library’s normal hours and the pickup of new plants will begin when the library opens at noon on Friday.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, by reducing energy demand, trees and vegetation decreases the associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. They also remove air pollutants that store and sequester carbon dioxide.

The hope of the plant swap is to save plants that already exist that may perish while being moved as the start of Permanent Change of Station season begins to peak, share native plants that thrive in the local Columbia area, and to promote the growth of new plants to help create more oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses.

“It’s also about recycling plants in celebration of Earth Day,” Livingston said. “This idea can spread and we hope one day it will grow to a parking lot. This is just the start, but it’s great to see how much interest there already is.”

Monday, library patrons had already started dropping off plants that included milk week seedlings, Peace Lillys, and Confederate Rose clippings. The clippings are not a true rose but a kind of species of hibiscus and found throughout the Southern region.

“It has an interesting history,” said Reta Whitten, library patron who donated the clippings.

The flower of the plant begins to bloom in a pale color or pale stripped color. As the bloom grows and unfolds, the flower becomes darker. According to Felder Rushing, co-author of Southern gardening book Passalong Plants, the plants derives its name from the flowers soaking up the blood spilled on Confederate battlefields.

Though Whitten doesn’t agree with the name, she does maintain a healthy supply of them growing around her home because of their beauty and ease of care rather than their legend.

“Milkweed is the only thing that monarch butterflies eat,” said Leslie Ann "LA" Sully, library patron that donated the seedlings. “I grow it to help the butterflies. That’s why I want to share my milkweed.”

For those interested in dropping plants off, the library hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.

“Please come out,” Livingston said. “Let us know if you like it or are interested in any other gardening endeavors. We are listening for ideas of future programs.”