Native Plant Trust is becoming a household name in New England, making a positive impact on the regions’ conservation efforts and data collection. Aspiring botanists and gardeners alike turn to Native Plant Trust to provide educational resources on native plants and ecological sustainability.
What Is Native Plant Trust?
Native Plant Trust is the country’s first plant conservation organization. It is considered a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is a significant driver in conservation efforts and data collection throughout New England.
Founded in 1900, the organization is now a growing hub for naturalists looking to learn more about the region’s native plants. These public programs are intended to increase awareness of native plants and their importance, while educating individuals about topics related to horticulture or conservation.
In 1987, Native Plant Trust began offering public programs on native plants and conservation. Since then, they have created a comprehensive coursework with notable botanists and ecologists in the New England area.
Garden in the Woods
Located in Framingham, MA at 180 Hemenway Rd, Garden in the Woods is an outdoor botanical garden that is among the most cultivated of the Native Plant Trust’s plant sanctuaries. The 45-acre native plant garden offers a one-mile loop with a gravel path. There are several amenities at the location, such as parking, picnic tables, benches, and a retail shop where you can purchase native plants, books, and gifts.
There is also an education center on site where many public programs take place. The garden is seasonal to the public, though members may still schedule visits during the winter months.
Native Plant Trust has also been awarded with an Accredited Advanced Conservation Practitioners status from Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), with Garden in the Woods being one of the first recipients of this title.
This accreditation ensures that the garden adheres to international standards for botanical gardens and maintain a focus on conservation efforts. According to BGCI, the Advanced Conservation Practitioner Accreditation “recognizes botanic gardens with a focus on conservation efforts that support local, national or global conservation goals.”
Nasami Farm is a plant nursery owned and managed by Native Plant Trust. The nursery is located in Whately, MA, where Native Plant Trust hosts some public programs, as well as a retail space for regional native plants. The goal of Nasami Farm is to offer genetically diverse plants raised without systemic pesticides, as well as researching and offering native plants that may be difficult to grow. This nursery is also responsible for propagating plants that may be used in restoration projects.
Other New England Plant Sanctuaries
Native Plant Trust currently manages six native plant sanctuaries throughout New England. These sanctuaries are different from the managed trails of Garden in the Woods, which is considered a botanical garden. Instead, these sanctuaries are self-guided and unpaved in most cases. Visitors are expected to adhere to instructions for protecting native plants and their habitat.
Plant sanctuaries managed by Native Plant Trust include:
- Annie Sturgis Sanctuary (Maine)
- Harvey Butler Rhododendron Sanctuary (Maine)
- Robert P. Tristram Coffin Wild Flower Reservation (Maine)
- Hobbs Fern Sanctuary (New Hampshire)
- Plainfield Sanctuary (New Hampshire)
- Eshqua Bog (Vermont)
Prohibited activities in the sanctuaries include camping, bike riding or motorized vehicle use, dogs, picnicking, or removal and damaging of plants or plant material, among other activities. Plant apps such as Go Botany and iNaturalist are excellent aids to learning more about plants on self-guided tours in plant sanctuaries.
Iris photographed at Garden in the Woods
Where is Native Plant Trust Located?
Native Plant Trust’s headquarters is located within the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts. Nestled into the location’s well-maintained outdoor botanical garden, the location has a retail shop and education center for visitors, as well as office space for Native Plant Trust staff members.
The organization manages other plant sanctuaries throughout New England, as well as native plant nursery Nasami Farm in western Massachusetts. Typically, in-person public program locations are held either at Nasami Farm or Garden in the Woods for foundational classes but may be held at other locations for hands-on learning based on the class.
How is Native Plant Trust Funded?
As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, it is primarily funded by grants and charitable donations. Native Plant trust publishes an annual report each, breaking down where the organization spent its money, and from which avenues they made most of their income throughout the year.
The 2021 annual report showcases 58% of their income came from grants and contributions, while 26% came from enrollments into their public programs and events. This means that their primary method of funding comes from a split between grants and community interest.
Much of this income is put back into fostering the community’s knowledge and opportunities around native plants. “Program services” made up 75% of all expenses in 2021. This category includes operating costs for their conservation program and native plant sanctuaries, as well as horticulture, education, member services, and retail shops.
How is New England Wild Flower Society Related?
New England Wild Flower Society and Native Plant Trust are the same organization, just from different eras.
In 1900, Native Plant Trust was originally established under the name Society for the Protection of Native Plants. (1) In 1922, the name was re-branded to provide more specific information about their goal, changing to Society for the Preservation of Native New England Plants.
“In 2019 we are ready for [a name] that is better aligned with our mission, our impact…and our roots.”
In 1925, the organization re-branded again to New England Wild Flower Preservation Society. Another name change in 1970 dropped the word ‘preservation’ for more succinct branding as New England Wild Flower Society.
Between branding and the length of the name, however, they decided to rebrand to Native Plant Trust in 2019. This name was concise and memorable, but still encompassed their purpose in the New England area.
A portion of botany class notes on a moth orchid.
Native Plant Trust’s Public Programs and Events
Native Plant Trust has an extensive public programs catalogue intended to educate the public about native plants and conservation. These public programs can be completed either in-person or virtually depending on the class schedule. Several programs also qualify for continuing education units for careers related to botany and landscaping.
Garden in the Woods also has dedicated space for school programs, as well as resources that help teachers incorporate native plant education into the classroom based on state standards. Garden in the Woods also offers seasonal school visits that must be booked in advance.
Additionally, Native Plant Trust offers a certificate course through their public programs that allows students to become certified by the Native Plant Trust. Completion requirements vary based on the certificate type, but students are expected to attend certain foundational classes and electives based on their specialty of choice, as well as complete a certain number of volunteer hours.
Volunteering with Native Plant Trust
Native Plant Trust created – and currently manages – the first program in the United States for monitoring rare plant populations. This program monitors the health and population of rare and endangered plants across New England.
Using this data, the New England endangered plants list can be revised for accuracy. This also helps Native Plant Trust write policies on habitat management and restoration, seed banking, and reintroduction of species in any habitat.
This program is a top driver in conservation efforts across New England, partnering with state agencies and private organizations alike to share information and develop conservation strategies. Because endangered species are not protected on private land, this program also provides an educational benefit for the landowners while surveyors capture critical data to help inform conservation policy.
Mountain laurel photographed at Garden in the Woods
Seed Banking and Plant Purchases
At Nasami Farm, Native Plant Trust is working to conserve genetic diversity in the environment by banking seeds collected throughout New England. The goal of the seed bank is to collect and preserve seeds from most rare plant species throughout the region.
With help from the conservation program to work with landowners and acquiring the correct permits, Native Plant Trust is in a unique position to collect and bank seeds across New England. Once collected, seed technicians clean and dry the seeds in a way that retains the seeds’ viability for later germination.
Not only does this provide a way to re-introduce species into the wild where populations are struggling, but it provides a critical insurance for the protection of rare plants in the midst of climate change and habitat destruction.
- Public Gardens, New England Wildflower Society is Now Native Plant Trust, https://www.publicgardens.org/news/article/new-england-wild-flower-society-now-native-plant-trust