The Pennsylvania Native Plants Society advocates conservation of native plants and their habitats and promotes the increased use of native plants in the landscape.
The Pennsylvania Native Plant Society had a beginning in 1979, when, through initiatives of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and the Pennsylvania Legislature, a movement was begun to recognize the rare and endangered plants of Pennsylvania and to set up organized efforts to produce a list of such plants and implement legislation for their study and protection. Through the efforts of Paul Weigman, Edgar T. Wherry and Carl Keener such a list was prepared in 1979 and updated frequently in subsequent years. To facilitate continuous management of data on the Pennsylvania flora and its rare, threatened and endangered components, the Rare Plant Committee was formed of any botanists with special interest in the flora of Pennsylvania who cared to join, and, from its inception, the Rare Plant Committee was designated a committee of the "Pennsylvania Native Plant Society." Membership of the Committee and the Society were the same, and it consisted of volunteers who joined because they had botanical contributions to make or desired to be on a "Pennsylvania botanical information network."
The only meetings were the annual meetings of the Rare Plant Committee, and 8 issues of a newsletter, The Truffula Seed, appeared between 1981 and 1986. General membership in the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society was not solicited until 1993, when a small group of botanically-dedicated Pennsylvanians, recognizing, among other things, the historical importance of Pennsylvania botany, joined together to transform the Society into a general-membership native plant organization which is now a Pennsylvania Non-Profit Corporation with headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.
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What is a native plant?
A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, require less maintenance such as watering, and are less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many Non-native plants are also invasive, and threaten to crowd out our native plant species. Incorporating native plants in your home landscape will encourage birds, pollinators, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
Why natives plants?
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many Non-native plants are also invasive, and threaten out our native plant species.
There is also a strong, ecological connection between native plants and the insect and animal world, especially the bird population. These populations have evolved with the native plant population and have become dependent upon certain plants. For example, an oak tree can support over 500 species of moths and butterflies, amongst other insects, while a Bradford Pear (a common ornamental non-native) won't. The more insects, the more bird food available. Most terrestrial birds feed their young insects. So although you might be providing food for the adult birds with ornamental non-native plants, you won't be providing food for their babies, which will ultimately impact their population.
As with any plant that you want to grow, however, the right plant must be matched with the right spot. There are a myriad of native plants that thrive in every type of habitat imaginable. It's your job to do some research to find the best species for your hot, dry slope, that wet swale in the back, or the dry shade under your oak tree.
For even more insight, read a summary of Dr. Doug Tallamy's presentation at the PNPS annual meeting last November, written by PNPS member Jim Green.
For plant recommendations and landscaping help, please consult our Helpful Resources