A Native Plants ReaderComplementing Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s top “how to” guides like Great Natives for Tough Places, A Native Plants Reader offers a set of engaging narratives on the importance of native plants.
- Introduction, by Niall Dunne
Defining and Collecting
- Defining “Native Plant,” by Niall Dunne
- “Invasive Plants” and “Weeds,” by Sarah Reichard
- Early Botanical Exploration and Discovery in the Northeast, by James L. Reveal
- The Metropolitan Flora, by Susan K. Pell and Steven Glenn
- New York City’s Vanished Natives, by Marielle Anzelone and Wendy Hollender
Native Plants in Nature
- Seasons of a Seed Collector, by Heather Liljengren
- Nibbling on Natives, by Russ Cohen
- Restoring Native Communities, by Myla Aronson
- The Future of My Forest, by Bernd Heinrich
- Major Threats to Native Forests, by Niall Dunne
- Conservation in the Age of Climate Change, by Janet Marinelli
Native Plants in Gardens
- Designing a Restoration Garden, by Judith Larner Lowry
- Welcoming Wildlife into the Garden, by Douglas W. Tallamy
- Adventures in Native Plant Propagation, by William Cullina
- Stopping Garden Plant Invasions, by Sarah Reichard
- Native Alternatives for Notorious Invaders, by C. Colston Burrell
Native Plants in Public
- Creating Connections with Native Plants, by Mairelle Anzelone
- The Native Flora Garden, by Uli Lorimer
- For More Information
The lovely spring ephemeral Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum) is native to the western U.S.; its eastern relative Trillium grandiflorium has vanished from New York City.
In its celebrated series of handbooks, stretching back more than 60 years, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has long championed the use of native plants in the home garden. Guidebooks such as Going Native (1994), Wildflower Gardens (1999), and Great Natives for Tough Places (2009) have introduced gardeners to many spectacular and unusual North American species and taught them how to design beautiful, biodiverse, low-maintenance native plantings that impart a sense of place to their gardens and provide valuable resources for native birds, insects, and other wildlife.
A Native Plants Reader is a departure from the typical BBG handbook. Rather than offering a toolkit of growing tips and practical instructions, this book presents a collection of narratives extolling the virtues of natives, outlining their fundamental contributions to our natural ecosystems, detailing our connections with them, describing the perils they currently face, and advocating for their preservation in the garden and larger landscape. Chock-full of adventures and insights from scientists, gardeners, and writers working in the trenches with native plants, the essays are designed to address and engage both gardeners and nongardening nature lovers alike.
The 16 essays are loosely grouped into four themed sections: “Defining and Collecting,” “Native Plants in Nature,” “Native Plants in Gardens,” and “Native Plants in Public.” But the scope of the essays reaches well beyond simple classification, and there is a rich interpenetration of themes throughout the book. Beloved authors share their unique stories about what drew them to embrace native plants, and botanists and ecologists write about their experiences working in the field. Brooklyn Botanic Garden staff members discuss the significant contributions that BBG has been making to the field of native plant monitoring, conservation, and education since its founding a century ago. And in what is perhaps the key essay in the book, we learn about the challenges that native plants now face in the age of climate change, as well as some of the solutions that are being proposed.
All of the narratives sound a note of hope: hope that we recognize the uniqueness and beauty of our native flora and the vital services it performs. Hope that we invest the time, energy, money, and—for want of a better word—love that’s needed to stop destroying our natural heritage, and start protecting it for future generations.
Mariellé Anzelone is an urban conservation biologist whose work as a garden designer, lecturer, and writer aims to connect New Yorkers to the nature around them. She is the founder of NYC Wildﬂower Week and a contributor to the New York Times.
Myla Aronson is an assistant professor of biology at Hofstra University. She holds an MS and PhD in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University and a BS in natural resources from Cornell University. Her research focuses on the patterns and drivers of biodiversity in human-dominated landscapes, and on how to conserve and restore this biodiversity.
C. Colston Burrell is an acclaimed lecturer, garden designer, writer, and photographer. The author of 12 garden books, he is a popular lecturer internationally on topics of design, plants, and ecology. He is also principal of Native Landscape Design and Restoration, which specializes in blending nature and culture through artistic design.
Russ Cohen is an environmentalist and wild foods enthusiast and the author of Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten (Essex County Greenbelt Association, 2004). He serves as the rivers advocate for the Division of Ecological Restoration at the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. He has also taught edible wild plant and mushroom courses throughout New England for more than 30 years.
William Cullina is the acting executive director for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, in Boothbay, Maine. A well-known author and recognized authority on North American native plants, he lectures on a variety of subjects to garden and professional groups and writes for popular and technical journals. His books include Wildﬂowers and Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines (Houghton Mifﬂin Harcourt, 2000 and 2002, respectively).
Niall Dunne is a former staff editor at Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the editor of BBG’s handbooks Great Natives for Tough Places (2009) and Healthy Soil for Sustainable Gardens (2009). He holds an MA in English from University College Dublin and an MS in ecology from Rutgers University. He lives in Seattle and manages publications and communications for the Arboretum Foundation at Washington Park Arboretum.
Steven Glenn is manager of the New York Metropolitan Flora Project at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He has conducted ﬂoristic research in the New York–New Jersey–Connecticut region for the past 17 years, with a focus on creating detailed distribution maps for all regional vascular plant species.
Bernd Heinrich is professor emeritus in the Department of Biology at the University of Vermont. He is the author of more than 15 books, including The Trees in My Forest and Bumblebee Economics. He is also the subject of a recent documentary, An Uncommon Curiosity: At Home and in Nature with Bernd Heinrich.
Wendy Hollender is a botanical artist, instructor, and author whose work has been widely exhibited and published. Her latest book is Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color (Random House, 2010). She lives and works in Ulster County, New York (drawingincolor.com).
Heather Liljengren is the supervising seed collector and ﬁeld taxonomist for the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island—a facility of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. She currently manages the seed collection program and seed bank at the nursery, which provides local genetic source material for restoration projects throughout New York City.
Uli Lorimer is curator of the Native Flora Garden at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, corresponding secretary for the Torrey Botanical Society, and a regular contributor to BBG handbooks. He also teaches botany, soil science, plant conservation, and biogeography in BBG’s adult education program.
Judith Larner Lowry has been the proprietor of Larner Seeds, specialists in California native plants and seeds, for the past 33 years. During that time, she has designed many homeowner restoration gardens and written two books—Gardening with a Wild Heart (1999), and The Landscaping Ideas of Jays (2007), both published by the University of California Press—as well as numerous articles.
Janet Marinelli is a science journalist who writes about plant conservation and sustainable landscape design. You can ﬁnd many of her articles on her website, janetmarinelli.com. A former director of Publishing at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, her latest BBG handbook is The Climate Conscious Gardener (2010), which won a 2011 award from the Garden Writers Association.
Sarah Reichard is a professor at the University of Washington and director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, in Seattle. She has researched invasive species for more than 20 years and served 6 years on the federal government’s Invasive Species Advisory Committee. She is the author of The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic (University of California Press, 2011).
James L. Reveal is professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, adjunct professor of plant biology at Cornell University, and an honorary curator at the New York Botanical Garden. His research interests include ﬂoristic studies, monographic studies of the knotweed family (Polygonaceae), botanical nomenclature, and the history of New World botanical explorations.
Susan K. Pell is the director of Science at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where she researches the evolution and taxonomy of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae). She teaches a variety of botany courses at several institutions in New York City, including Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York Botanical Garden.
Douglas Tallamy is professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has written more than 70 research articles. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. He is the author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Timber Press, 2007).