Plant societies work to preserve native species


The Cardinal flower is one of the most beautiful midsummer blooming perennials, and a plant native to R.I.The Cardinal flower is one of the most beautiful midsummer blooming perennials, and a plant native to R.I.

Ever wonder what this area looked like years and years ago? During the Great Depression, begonia growing, classification and study was just getting started. Many thousands of North American plants we know today were still undiscovered. Still, with the introduction of human modifications, the definition of “native plants” is blurry.

The Federal Native Plan Conservation Committee defines a native plant species as one that occurs naturally in a particular habitat, ecosystem, or region of the United States without direct or indirect human actions. For Rhode Island, native plants are those believed to have been around during Colonial times. The University of Rhode Island’s current Rhode Island Native Plant Guide represents more than 1,300 species of plants, most known for their flowers or striking foliage.

In the early spring of 1968, a group, now known as the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, began to gather at the Cook House at the Audubon Eppley Refuge to offer workshops on wild plant gardening. Wanting to separate themselves from a general gardening club, the five members created the society with its roots in conservation.

According to the New England Wild Flower Society, 22 percent of native plant species in New England are listed as rare or possibly extinct. More than 700 volunteers in the area are working to plant native species, lessen pesticide use and control non-native, invasive plants.

In support of that effort, the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society offers an array of programs: lecture series, workshops, botanizing walks, seed starter groups, children’s walks, plant sales and more.

For more information on membership options and upcoming events, visit

STEPHANIE ROSS is a public relations professional and a freelance writer in Boston.