by Ashley Bouwense
The Chester Environmental Commission’s 15th Annual Native Plant Sale yielded the most distributed native plants ever.
The Environmental Commission distributed 949 native plants May 7 to people from all across New Jersey, not just Chester.
“It’s hard to find native plants at local nurseries,” member of the Chester Environmental Commission Stan Pukash, said. “We had people from Sussex County, Edison and Morristown who came to pick up their plants.”
Although it rained during the sale, crowds of people still flocked to the foliage.
Fifteen years ago, the environmental commission decided they wanted to reintroduce native plants to Chester and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Planting native species contributes to the overall health of natural communities which in turn helps to protect our environment, including the air we breathe and our critical water resources,” the environmental commission explained. “A healthy environment also lifts spirits by protecting our natural world. By sponsoring a sale of nursery-propagated native plants [we hope] to encourage interest in them by making them available for purchase by our citizens.”
A native plant is a species that was here before the settlers arrived from Europe—a species that evolved on its own from the unadulterated environment before the colonists imported their plants that were not native to this land.
People had the opportunity to choose from five categories of native plants: woodland flowers, wildflowers, ferns, woodland shrubs and woodland trees. Of the five categories, the woodland flowers were the most popular.
“The Wild Columbine was our top seller this year,” said Pukash. This woodland flower prefers light shade and moist soil. Its red-orange flowers attract hummingbirds.
Other fan favorites include: Great White Trillium, Creeping Phlox, Lowbush Blueberry, Mountain Laurel, Eastern Redbud, River Birch and Witchhazel.
Native plant order forms were available online in February. On the form, people designated which plants they wanted to pick-up in May, and then they paid for their orders online.
The Native Plant Sale is not a fundraiser; the Environmental Commission sells the plants for as much as the plants cost them to buy. Their annual sales are growing with new customers, but the Environmental Commission has also had the same loyal customers since the sale started 15 years ago. Frequenting the sales has become a tradition to some.
“One customer we’ve had since the beginning always comes to pick out his plants with his children,”Pukash said. “He still comes with his kids—both grown, young adults.”
Over 15 years, the commission has distributed more than 6,765 native plants. The native plants not only make the local town look nice, they help support the animals that depend on the plants for survival. Chester’s Environmental Commission hopes the annual sales will help educate residents about the importance of investing in native plants for the betterment of their town.
“Planting native species contributes to the overall health of natural communities which in turn helps to protect our environment, including the air we breathe and our critical water resources,” the commission explained. “A healthy environment also lifts spirits by protecting our natural world. By sponsoring a sale of nursery-propagated native plants, the Chester Township Environmental Commission hopes to encourage interest in them by making them available for purchase by our citizens.”
To find out more about the Chester Environmental Commission and native plants, visit www.chestertownship.org/township-committees/environmental-commission.