Vote for the Plant of the Year at the 2024 NPSNJ Annual Meeting

Make your Plant of the Year choice known at the 2024 Annual Meeting. All in-person and virtual attendees will vote for one nominee in each category – Rare & Unusual and Backyard Perennial. Join us, see great speakers, have breakfast and lunch with other members, and vote for the Plant of the Year!  

Nominees for 2024 Rare Plant of the Year
Text by John Suskewich

Cypripedium acaule
Pink Lady’s Slipper

Seeing Pink Lady’s Slipper on a walk in the woods, sometime in May, a plant lover’s endorphins really kick-in. The pink and tan flower has an unusual moccasin shape and dangles from a stem that rises from a pair of veined basal leaves. It has a unique design feature for pollination by bumblebees, which requires them to follow a one-way path through the flower, forcing insects to take a pre-determined route past its reproductive parts, sort like the way Ikea makes you travel past all their sales displays before you get to the exit. Cypripedium acaule is not common but can readily be seen at various places in New Jersey, such as near Ramapo Lake in Bergen County and at Cheesequake Park near the center of the state.

Photo credits:

(1) John Lynch, Native Plant Trust
(2+3) Hervé Barrier

Castilleja coccinea
Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

This biennial plant is one of the few New Jersey representatives of the Orobanchaceae or “broomrape” family. (not my idea) According to MOBOT, it is primarily found “in prairies, rocky glades, moist and open woodlands, thickets and streambanks” What look like flowers are actually very bright, very colorful, very vermilion bracts that contain the actual flowers which are tiny and greenish. Because it is semi-parasitic and grows best near a companion plant, Scarlet Paintbrush is reputed to be tough to establish in a garden, but it is striking, vivid and probably worth the effort. Sounds like seeing it growing in the wild would be worth the effort too, even if it meant getting tangled up in a razor wire of wild greenbriar.

Photo credits: Millie & Hubert Ling

Platanthera integra
Yellow Fringeless Orchid

Platanthera integra, Yellow Fringeless Orchid is a very rare, exceedingly exquisite denizen of the acidic swamps and bogs of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. From mid-July to mid-August from a base of small narrow leaves, this gem sends up a stem a foot and a half high, clothed in a few more small narrow leaves, and topped with an inflorescence maybe 3” long of delicate, fringeless! (unlike some of the other representatives of this genus) yellow to orange flowers. Always uncommon, its population decline over time has been attributed to habitat loss, especially fire suppression practices that allow it to become “shaded out.” This is another orchid pollinated by bumblebees.

Photo credit: Millie & Hubert Ling

Ribes missouriense
Missouri Gooseberry

Ribes missouriense, the Missouri Gooseberry, is a native, ornamental, deciduous shrub that in summer produces a small fruit, edible after you dump enough sugar on it, like other gooseberries and currants. The plant grows about three feet high, prefers at least some sun, has lobed palmate leaves, and wields sneaky, nasty thorns along the arching stems that’ll scratch you good like an clawed cat. It can be found in thickets, near wood edges, and around dry glades. The flowers are small, clustered, and drooping, and are followed by tart green fruits. Maybe you can make a kind of cassis out of them like my grandmother made with blackcurrants (also peach pits and dandelions.) Probably not a candidate for a garden since it’s considered an “alternate host for white pine blister rust” like other Ribes.

Photo credit:

(1) Toadshade Wildflower Farm
(2+3) Wikimedia Commons

Nominees for 2024 Backyard Perennial of the Year
Text by John Suskewich

Lobelia siphilitica
Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica, Great Blue Lobelia, is the blue brother of remarkably red cardinal flower, L. cardinalis. They are both part of the very garden-worthy bellflower family, Campanulaceae. In the wild, where it is thrilling to come upon, Great Blue Lobelia is most often seen in part sun to part shade, near streams, sloughs, and other wetlands, telling you that in the garden it prefers moist soil. Where content, it attains a height of two to three feet and colonizes through self-seeding. In most gardens, it persists for years. The summer flowers of Great Blue Lobelia are various shades of violet-blue, lipped, lobed, and arranged on a long stalk. They are an important food source for several native bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds.

Photo credits: Mary Free, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia

Conoclinum coelestinum
Blue Mist Flower

Conoclinum coelestinum, Blue Mist Flower is a very pretty plant that looks like a blue boneset or snakeroot, or a hardy, taller version of the annual ageratum sold in garden centers. Conoclinum coelestinum blooms late in the season, is very easy to grow, and adds a touch of sapphire to the fall flower palette. Height can be a foot or two, and breadth, well, one almost fatal flaw of this plant is its aggressiveness, because where happy it spreads through rhizomes and self-seeding. If you are good at weeding or have other aggressive plants that can duke it out with mistflower, it’s worth having. It attracts many native autumn pollinators: bees, butterflies, and skippers, and displays a strong degree of deer-resistance.

Photo credits:

(1+3) Michael Jacob
(2) Flower – September – Wake Co., NC, Cathy DeWitt, CC BY 4.0, North Carolina Extension Plant Toolbox.

Hibiscus moscheutos
Swamp Rose Mallow

Hibiscus moscheutos, Swamp Rose Mallow is the gorgeous, hardy native relative of the gorgeous tropical hibiscus grown in greenhouses. In its natural setting, Swamp Rose Mallow is found in sites that range from moist to wet, but established garden plants can handle average soil, unless there’s a drought when a glug from the hose might help. This hardy hibiscus luxuriates in the torrid days of summer, and in some years the new growth doesn’t even emerge until June when the days really, really start warming up. The salad plate-sized flowers are very impressive, and range in color from white to deep pink. The plant itself can attain heights of over six feet, and it has a few pest problems, notably Japanese beetles. Other gardeners in the neighborhood will drool with envy at your well-grown specimen of Hibiscus moscheutos.

Photo credits:

(1+3) Michael Jacob
(2) Native habitat, Chris Kneupper CC BY-NC 4.0, North Carolina Extension Plant Toolbox.
(3) Seed Pods – February – Wake Co., NC, Cathy DeWitt,
attribution: CC BY-NC 4.0, North Carolina Extension Plant Toolbox.

Opuntia humifusa
Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia humifusa, Eastern prickly pear has a real high cool quotient. One of the few hardy succulents native to New Jersey, it needs to be sited carefully in a very well-drained location, in gravelly or sandy soil, preferably in full sun. The height is usually less than a foot as the pads, which are swollen stem-segments, not leaves, are pretty prostrate. Probably not a good plant where curious kids hang out because those pads are covered with tiny little bristles that can stick to your skin and are really annoying.

The lovely yellow flowers open in June and July, each lasting but a day or two, and are followed by an edible fruit that Native Americans ate, either fresh or dried. In the Ramapo Mountains, above Hawk Rock, there is a spot called Cactus Ledge, a sunny glade covered with this plant that in early summer is a sight to behold.

Photo credits:

(1) Kazys Varnelis
(2) Wild Ridge Plants
(3) Douglas Goldman, USDA, CC BY-NC 4.0, North Carolina Extension Plant Toolbox.
(4) skdavidson, CC-BY-SA 2.0, NC Cooperative Extension and NHC Arboretum

Governor Murphy Vetoes A3677, NJ’s Invasive Species Bill

We have a disappointing update to A3677, the NJ Bill to prohibit the sale and traffic of invasive species. Governor Phil Murphy has vetoed it under the rationale that the Department of Environmental Protection needs to be more involved in the drafting of the bill. For a bill of such critical importance to our state’s ecology, it is surprising that Murphy and the DEP did not work more closely with the Assembly and Senate and instead punted the work back to them for another year. Although an override is possible, as the bill had unanimous and bipartisan support in both houses, it is unlikely given the late date We will be advocating to send the bill back in front of both houses when the new session starts. Read his statement here.

2023 Advocacy Update and Call to Action on Invasives

Happy New Year!

The Advocacy Committee of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey is excited to report on our progress in 2023 to protect the native plants of New Jersey and to look ahead to new legislation. Your participation, by contacting the governor and legislators, will make a difference.

Bill to Ban Invasives – Finally on the Governor’s Desk

For the last two years, we have been working to pass New Jersey Bill A3677/S2186. This bill aims to prohibit the sale, distribution, or propagation of certain invasive plant species and establishes the NJ Invasive Species Council. It’s a crucial step toward controlling invasive species and protecting our native plant ecosystems. In the spring of 2022, we pushed to move this bill forward when few had faith in it. In December 2022, our committee co-chair Laura Bush testified about it before the NJ Senate Environment and Energy Committee and again before the Assembly Agriculture and Food Security Committee in May 2023. The bill finally passed both houses with unanimous support last week and now we are delighted to announce that it is on Governor Murphy’s desk. Even though this bill had bipartisan support in both houses, this does not mean the governor is certain to sign it. Please reach out to the governor via the governor’s website (, leave a voice mail at 1-609-292-6000 or send a text message to 1-732-605-5455 and encourage him to sign it. Letters are usually better, but there is no time!

New Jersey’s State Native Pollinator

A2994/S4229, which designates the Common Eastern Bumble Bee as New Jersey’s State Native Pollinator, is another bill we are closely following. This designation underscores the importance of pollinators in maintaining the health of our ecosystems and the crucial role native plants play in supporting these species by declaring the Eastern Bumble Bee as our state pollinator. Such laws play more than a symbolic role as they encourage people to learn more about our native plants and insects and their interplay. A note to encourage your state representatives to get this bill to the floor of both houses may help make it a reality. Find your state representative and senator here.

Mikie Sherrill Bill to Promote Federal Use of Native Plants

At the federal level, HR 6832, introduced by Representative Mikie Sherrill of NJ-11, aims to prioritize and consider the use of native plants in federal projects. This bill represents a significant effort to integrate native plants into larger conservation and landscaping initiatives at a national level. Do write your House Representative and Senators Booker and Menendez to encourage them to co-sponsor this bill. Find your U. S. senators or Members of Congress here.

We continue to track other bills as they are introduced and gain support at both state and national levels.

Finally, as we look forward to the new year, we remind you to renew your NPSNJ membership if you have not already. Your continued participation is essential for the advancement of our initiatives and the fulfillment of our mission. Together, we can continue to make a significant impact on the conservation and appreciation of New Jersey’s native plants.

Thank you once again for your dedication and support. We are excited to embark on another year of meaningful work in the preservation and celebration of New Jersey’s native plant heritage.


The Advocacy Committee of the

Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Receive 20 % off Tess Taylor’s new book Leaning Toward Light in time for the holidays!

This offer has ended. Members receive 20 % off Tess Taylor’s new book Leaning Toward Light in time for the holidays!

Just log in and the code will be there on your member landing page.

Caring for plants (much like reading a good poem) brings comfort, solace, and joy to many—offering an outlet in difficult times to slow down and steward growth. In Leaning toward Light, acclaimed poet and avid gardener Tess Taylor brings together a diverse range of contemporary voices to offer poems that celebrate that joyful connection to the natural world. This book reminds us how gardening is a healing practice, both for ourselves and the spaces we tend. The gorgeous hardcover package with ribbon bookmark makes this anthology a distinctive gift.

Tess Taylor, an avid gardener, is the author of five acclaimed collections of poetry, including Work & Days, which was named one of the 10 best books of poetry of 2016 by the New York Times. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, Tin House, The Times Literary Supplement, CNN, and the New York Times. She has also served as on-air poetry reviewer for NPR’s All Things Considered for over a decade. She will be featured in episode 8 of The WildStory Podcast.

New School Guide Created by Essex Chapter 

In 2023, the Essex Chapter created a NPSNJ School Guide because helping kids learn about native plants is crucial to restoring local ecosystems. 

Designed for parents and teachers, the 12-page Guide explains what native plants are, why they are important, and gives practical advice about how to plant and maintain a school garden that provides food and habitat for pollinators and birds. 

The key feature of the Guide is a sample garden design for sun or part-sun conditions with 8 beautiful and easy-to-grow plants. In addition, the Guide gives detailed information for 17 other plants. All 25 featured plants were selected for their interest while students are in school  and because of their high ecological value to wildlife throughout the year. 

In  the section “Bringing the Garden Outside,” the Guide lists lesson ideas for using the garden. Finally, the Guide contains practical tips for gardening best practices and school garden success. 

Read it below, click here to download your free copy, or email  for a printed copy. 

NPSNJ School Guide

NPSNJ 40th Anniversary Pins at Great Swamp, 9 September

The NPSNJ has just received pins celebrating our 40th anniversary. You can get these at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Harding Township, New Jersey. We encourage all of our members to explore the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Harding Township, New Jersey! The NPSNJ day at the Great Swamp will be held in conjunction with the Great Swamp Fall Festival – a fun filled day of adventure and discovery.

Be sure to visit the NPSNJ table near the refuge visitor center between 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM your free enamel pin celebrating our 40th Anniversary. If you aren’t a member yet, you can sign up on the spot with your smart phone.

Membership News

Our new membership system is now in place and you may once again get memberships at If you are a member and didn’t get an email from us, write

2023 Annual Meeting Video Now Available

NPSNJ 40th Anniversary logo
NPSNJ 40th Anniversary logo

A professionally-edited video of 2023 annual conference is available for free to members (upon login). Nonmembers can purchase a link and password to at this link. The link and password will be displayed on your browser and sent to you via email in your receipt.

Volunteers Needed St. Joseph’s Healing Garden, Jersey City

St. Joseph’s Peace Care Healing Garden

Native Plant Society of NJ Hudson County Chapter is asking for volunteers to help us build the pollinator garden at the St. Joseph’s Peace Care Healing Garden at the corner of Magnolia Ave and Baldwin Ave in Jersey City.  We are looking to create a neighborhood task force of caring gardeners who can help us work quickly to prepare the ground for new native plants arriving in mid June.  We will be removing invasive species and incorporating native plants to create a garden space that will attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators for the nursing home residents and their families to enjoy.  

Also if anyone in the area has an old wheelbarrow they are not using we could use it for this project!

Garden Volunteer Days are:

Wednesdays 9:00am -11:00am

Saturdays 9:00am-12:00pm

We will not meet on July 5th or July 8th 

Any questions please email Kim Correro at