2018 Plant of the Year
Profiles 

The following five plants are being considered for the Native Plant Society of NJ's Plant of the Year for 2018. Below are the five candidates. Voting will take place at our Annual Meeting on March 3, 2018 at Medford Leas. Attendees will be asked to vote for their favorite and a prize will be awarded to one lucky voter who supported the winning plant. The photographs are generously shared by the fine folks at  Toadshade Wildflower Farm.

 


Fourth Plant:

Phytolacca americana  

Prunus serotina

AKA: Pokeweed, common poke, scoke.  

Native to the Eastern US and with staining berries that are a favorite of catbirds, mockingbirds, cardinals and thrashers this anything but shy plant with the unbelievably colored magenta stems is despised by some, tolerated by many and adored by the cognoscenti. A herbaceous perennial that will die back to root level in the winter then shoot up to as high as ten feet by end of summer. While very young, specially treated leaves are eaten in southern cuisines' poke sallet, the plant generally contains enough oxalic acid, saponins and alkaloids to make all parts, from taproot to berries, toxic to humans, pets, wildlife (with exception of birds) and livestock. It is not without use, however, the berries have been extensively used for inks and dyes. The plant does well in disturbed soils under a variety of soil and moisture conditions. Full sun is preferred 

For more information see:  
USDA Plants Database
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center



Third Plant:

Prunus serotina  

Prunus serotina

AKA: Wild black cherry, black cherry, rum cherry.  

Widespread throughout the Eastern US, with a number of regional subspecies, this tree is somewhat incongruously considered both valuable timber and a weed tree by foresters. Woodworkers value the ease at which you can shape this wood and the beautiful deep brown-black color of aged lumber and wildlife certainly appreciate it. It is used by more than 450 species of Lepidoptera as a larval host, second only to the oak family. Its fruits are eaten by a large number of birds and animals. It tolerates a wide variety of conditions but grows best in full sun and mesic soils. It is a pioneer tree that rapidly colonizes abandoned fields and logged out forests. While often thought of as a small to medium size tree, the State Champion in Pennsville has a circumference of sixteen and half feet and a crown spread of 72 feet. 

For more information see:  
USDA Plants Database
US Forest Service



Second Plant:

Viola sororia  

Viola sororia

AKA: The common blue violet, hooded violet, wood violet and many other local names.  

The state flower of NJ and three other states, this low growing annual or short-lived perennial prefers sunny or partly shaded rich, moist, well-drained soil. Does not spread by runners, but freely seeds itself and can spread rapidly to the point of being aggressive under the right conditions. Petal color is typically a deep blue-violet, fading to white then pale yellow at the base, but this is a variable species that may have white or white and blue petals, all typically fading to pale yellowish at the base. The lower petal is heavily veined dark blue-violet, and forms a short rounded spur at the back that barely projects past the sepals. A larval food plant of many Fritillary butterflies. 

For more information see:  
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
USDA Plants Database
Flora of North America



First Plant:

Monarda fistulosa 

Monarda fistulosa

AKA: wild bergamot  

A showy perennial with lavender, pink or white flowers on 2 to 5 foot tall stems. It's a member of the mint family and is used to flavor teas. Native throughout NJ and thrives in a wide range of soils growing in acid or lime; sand or clay. Doesn't like flooding but survives our winters. Prefers a sunny location but tolerates some shade. Nectar is used by a wide variety of pollinators; hummingbirds and butterflies find the nectar particularly tasty. Deer do not seem to bother with the plant. Easily obtained from seeds or stock. Forms rhizomes that can be divided.

For more information see:  
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
USDA Plants Database