butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida)
New York City native plants include mosses, ferns, grasses, sedges and rushes, wildflowers, trees, shrubs and woody vines. Over thousands of years, native plants have adapted to the climate, soils and environmental conditions of our locality. This site-specific evolution is reflected in their genetic makeup. Sculpted by nature, the plants found here have become perfectly suited to New York City living. They are an integral part of our ecosystems, and the building blocks of our local biodiversity.
New York City has already lost more than 30% of its native plants, due to urban development and other human activities.
What can you do to help preserve NYC’s native plants?
Take a walk.
Head outdoors with a field guide and a friend to learn about the botanical jewels in your neck of the woods. Preservation comes to those places that are loved by people.
Ride with the masses.
Whenever possible, take mass transit. Let your legislators know how you travel. New roadways promote sprawl and destroy and degrade habitat. If this money were instead used to bolster mass transit, we could conserve oil, preserve biodiversity and decrease sprawl.
Removing native plants from the wild depletes natural populations. Never take plants from parks or other open spaces. An exemption – if a site were slated for development, then the plants should be rescued and moved to another site, but ONLY if you were absolutely certain that the plants would otherwise be destroyed.
Be civically active.
Development is the #1 cause of native plant destruction. Make note of open space slated for a strip mall or housing complex or active recreation area (because even settings like ball fields and golf courses eat up natural habitats). Attend community board meetings. Voice your dissent. Open space allows for passive recreation, like plant hunting, birding and hiking. Such activities nurture the naturalist in all of us.
Preserve open space.
Work to save our natural areas. Become a member of a local land trust or conservancy devoted to preserving open space and natural resources. If one doesn’t exist, consider starting your own.
Join a botanical society.
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all have native plant societies. These groups lead tours through local fields and forests and always welcome new plant people. See our Resources page to learn more.
Compost with care.
Most homeowners believe it is environmentally responsible to pile lawn refuse (grass clippings, leaves, twigs) in adjacent open areas. Don’t. By dumping garden waste in woods or at property edge, you may be inadvertently overwhelming critical habitat for plants and animals!
Lay off the herbicide.
Is it really that important to have a “weed free” yard? The struggle for pristine green carpet (aka lawn) is a struggle against nature itself. Herbicides kill the native plants on and around your property. Instead, keep turf to a minimum, and maximize color, richness and beauty with native plant gardens.
Legal protection for plants.
New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all have something in common – none of these states have laws safeguarding native flora. Moreover, they have no legal protections for rare plants. An undeveloped lot chuck-full of uncommon and unique vegetation is not legally viewed as special. This site is just as likely to be built upon as a lot full of crummy weeds. This happens even at the Federal level, where most of the money from the Endangered Species Act goes towards animal protection. Let your legislators know that your flora should have rights. Flower power!