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Helping the environment with native plants

The Hudson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey is pushing for more native plants locally

A Monarch butterfly land on a Swamp Milkweed, a native plant to the area. Photos courtesy of Jersey City Birds.

While the Native Plant Society of New Jersey (NPSNJ) has been around since the mid 1980s, the Hudson County Chapter of the organization was recently founded last summer by Co-Leaders Kim Correro, Lorraine Freeney and Dawn Giambalvo.

Since then, the organization has been active in the Hudson communities, educating and providing resources to promote the planting of native plants in the area. The Hudson Reporter recently caught up with Correro about the local chapter of NPSNJ.

“It happened during the pandemic in that period when we were all quarantined in the house,” Correro said. “We only had our backyards and our parks. So what we would do is meet up and walk into the park and look at the birds. We would look at the plants.”  

Soon, that interest turned into action. Correro, Freeney, and Giambalvo reached out to create the local chapter of the NPSNJ.

“One day, we came across the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and decided to call them up,” she said. “There was no Hudson County Chapter. They had Essex, Bergen, Passaic and Cape May chapters, but there was nothing in our area. We just thought we needed to have an organization like that here. So we asked if we could start the chapter, they were extremely welcoming, and it’s taken off from there.”

From pastime, to passion

Following that, Correro and the other founders have grown passionate about native plants in Hudson County.

“I can’t say enough great things about the Native Plant Society,” she said. “Our mission is to educate people on the importance of native plants. It’s such a great opportunity to heal the planet, one park at a time, one plant at a time.”

And the Hudson County chapter of the NPSNJ has definitely been active within its first year of inception.

A Cabbage White butterfly lands on an Anise Hyssop.

“We hit the ground running and we’re really excited about it,” she said. “We have our own gardens that we work on. We’ve been planting all the time.”

The local chapter’s main goal is to educate and provide access to the native plants to communities.

“It’s really important to us, as a local chapter, to find ways to bring plants to the people here and make them accessible to plant in the parks and the community green spaces where people gather,” she said.

Part of those efforts include an inaugural native plant sale at the Secaucus Green Festival on May 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Following that, the group will hold a special Mother’s Day planting on May 8 at Lincoln Park West from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and they will partner with the Bayonne Nature Club for a nature walk in Rutkowski Park on May 9 at 6:30 p.m..

Participating in #HudsonGives 

These events will be followed the group’s participation in #HudsonGives, a 24-hour online fundraiser meant to benefit nonprofits. For more information, go online to: hudsongives.org/organizations/native-plant-society-of-new-jersey-hudson-county-chapter.

The funds raised during this event will go toward planting native plants in up to ten parks and community gardens in schools in Hudson County including: Lincoln Park West in Jersey City; Rutkowski Park in Bayonne; Triangle Park in Jersey City; Meadlowlands Park in Secaucus as part of a Rutgers Environmental Steward project; Dickinson High School in Jersey City; Canco Park in Jersey City; P.S. 5 in Jersey City; 4H Community Learning Garden (Girl Scout Troop 12026 native pollinator garden); The Ethical Community Charter School; West Slope Community Garden; and Resilience Adventures in Hoboken.

The Hudson County chapter of NPSNJ is raising money for native plants at the children’s garden at PS5 in Jersey City. Photos courtesy of NPSNJ.

“We have about ten different parks and community gardens in schools that we are going to be raising money for that day to be able to purchase plants and native shrubs for their garden projects,” she said. “Our hope through this fundraiser is to raise $5,000. If we can raise that, we will be putting plants into maybe all of these parks.”

Native plants facilitate native wildlife in the area. As the already-urban Hudson County further redevelops, native plants are key to maintaining local ecosystems, Correro said.

“With urbanization and development, especially in the cities, we are losing our birds,” she said. “They’re not migrating through as much as they used to do because we’re putting up so much development. But with more parks and more people becoming educated about native plants, these parks are doing what they can to restore important habitats. It’s really critical for our birds and pollinators.”

‘Saving the planet, one park at a time, one plant at a time’

Additionally, planting native plants can positively impact the environment at a time when climate change is the biggest issue facing the planet.

“Native plants are good for the environment, air quality, and pollution,” she said. “When we have big rainstorms and flooding, native plants should help soak up some of that rainwater and pollution that will end up in our local streams and ponds. So it’s important that we educate our municipalities.”

Students from P.S. 5 in Jersey City learn about planting in their school’s community garden.

Correro credited working with the town of Secaucus as being a leader when it comes to their support of planting native plants. She also credited other towns such as Jersey City and Bayonne for looking to do the same, highlighting the growing importance of promoting and preserving native plants and native wildlife.

“I don’t know what we would have done if we were not able to go into the parks during that time,” she said. “We’ve always been gardeners but this period was very educational in learning how the ecosystem works and understanding how the biology, how the biodiversity works, and how the birds and the pollinators need to have these plants. If you plant it, they will come.’

The Hudson County Chapter of the NPSNJ will hold another native plant sale in June, followed by another in the fall. For more information, email Hudson@npsnj.org or follow them on Instagram at @npsnjhudsoncounty.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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