The Native Plant Society was founded in 1983 with the stated purpose ‘to inform and educate the citizens of New Jersey regarding the fragility of the local native flora and emphasize the delicate balance of the natural world, including the crucial role humans play in the world.’
Significant development pressure within New Jersey from the 1950’s into the 80’s was scraping natural habitat from the land, destroying flora unique to the state and critical for local fauna. New Jersey’s newly forming metropolitan areas closest to New York City and Philadelphia saw declines in agricultural and natural habitat as businesses were lured out of the cities by cheap land, and improved roadways and communications systems.
By the early 1980’s the Society’s founders were concerned with the ‘loose confederation of academic, conservation and botanical institutions and organizations [operating] with no comprehensive plan of action’ to address the loss of uniquely New Jersey flora. Meeting regularly at Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ, were Bob Swain, Hubert Ling, John Trexler, Quentin Schlieder, William Flemer IV, Betty Knorr and Michelle Rice. They took action.
Where development projects would impact native habitat, the Native Plant Society team stepped in. From a NY Times article by Marion Mundy in March 1990, “DON’T be fooled by the mild-mannered name. Members of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey are determined warriors in the battle to save the state’s endangered native plants. Their weapons are plastic bags, shovels and a fierce love for the thousands of wild species that grow in New Jersey’s rapidly disappearing open space.” Throughout the 1980’s when construction projects were announced, the team rallied members and residents to evaluate the property and collect specimens of native plants.
The Society incorporated in 1983. Its first newsletter was published in March [Volume 1 Number 1]. The one-page document featured John Trexler, a founding member, writing “New Jersey is home to a wide range of plants found nowhere else on earth.” He mused why New Jersey was excluded from scientific nomenclature, i.e., among names like ‘pennsylvanica’, ‘marylandica’ and ‘novae angliea’ there was no ‘nova-jerseyensis’. Trexler then added ‘the native alternative to landscaping is a viable one whose time has come.’
The Society’s first Horticulture Chair, Betty Knorr, reiterates that viability in the NY Times article cited above, “Contrary to what garden books tell you, transplanting and growing wild plants at home is relatively easy… we’re trying to encourage people to learn about the surprising beauty and benefits of New Jersey’s native species and the importance of preservation.”
The legacy of these founding members continues today with the society’s promotion of the appreciation, protection, and study of New Jersey’s native flora. It is witnessed as native plant gardens, landscapes, bioswales, and meadows become the norm across our state.
Directors and Presidents of the NPSNJ
|1984||Director||William Flemer IV|
|Director||Robert L Swain|
|1985||President||William Flemer IV|
|1986||President||William Flemer IV|
|1987||President||William Flemer IV|
|1988||President||Robert L Swain|
|1989||President||Robert L Swain|
|1990||President||Robert L Swain|
|1991||President||Robert L Swain|
|1992||President||Robert L Swain|
|2019||President||John Black/Joe Alvarez|
|2020||President||Hubert Ling, PhD|
|2021||President||Hubert Ling, PhD|
|2022||President||Randi Eckel, PhD|