State of New England's Plants

Why Native Plants Matter


New England Wild Flower Society
has released its State of the Plants report, the most comprehensive assessment of New England plants and plant communities ever assembled.

The report discusses the critical importance of plant diversity, profiles five key habitat types, and identifies primary threats to these habitats and to New England’s plant life as a whole. It assesses the status of hundreds of rare and declining plant species. The report also outlines priorities for researching, conserving and managing thousands of species that together comprise New England’s vibrant flora.

Insights from the report include:

  • Plants are in trouble worldwide and in New England, where 22% of native plant species-593 species-are listed as rare or possibly extinct, and 31% of plants are non-native.
  • After a century of reforestation, New England’s forest cover is declining, along with plant diversity.
  • Climate change is already affecting New England plant communities and will accelerate if current trends continue. Forest, alpine, coastal, and estuarine species are most at risk. If current trends continue, Vermont will have the climate of Connecticut by 2039 and of North Carolina by 2070.
  • Multiple threats, ranging from land development to widespread pesticide use to invasive species, together undermine the resilience of our native plant communities.
  • Insect-pollinated plants-the majority of native plants-are in particular trouble and are declining along with insects that pollinate and rely on them.

The report recommends urgent and continued action to save endangered plants, mitigate threats, and conserve and better manage land where plants thrive. At a regional level, we must expand research about our native plant ecosystems and strengthen laws to protect them.

We can individually support native plants and their vital food webs in many ways: by planting native species in our landscapes, avoiding pesticides and herbicides, controlling non-native invasive plants on our land, and educating our children and communities about native plants and their ecological value.

Authored by Elizabeth Farnsworth, the Society’s Senior Research Ecologist, the peer- reviewed report draws on hundreds of studies of New England plant communities, the fieldwork of more than 700 volunteers and professional botanists across New England, and the expertise of leading botanical researchers and the 60 partner organizations in the Society’s New England Plant Conservation Program.

Read State of Plants in Brief or the full report