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riwps annual grant

Annual Grant Recipients

RIWPS is pleased to be able to support a number of projects related to native plants through our Annual Grants.  We thank our members and other donors who make these possible.  The recipients of the  2021 RIWPS Annual Grants were announced at the March 13 Annual Meeting. 

  • NayaBlack, WoonasquatucketRiver Watershed Council ‐ $1,000 ‐ For removal of invasive species and plantings of natives along the river
  • SummerGonsalves, Narragansett Indian Tribe ‐ $2,500 ‐ To install a native pollinator garden at the Narragansett Indian Tribe Farm
  • MelissaGuillet, WashingtonParkAssociation ‐ $1,000 ‐ To create a pollinator garden at Columbia Park
  • ElizabethVarkonyi, URI department of PlantSciences and Entomology ‐ $1,500 ‐ To work on pollen analysis of historical bee specimens

Information about Annual Grants

RIWPS volunteer awards go to ……

The 2021 RIWPS volunteer awards were announced at the March 13, 2021 Annual Meeting. Well deserved congratulations to ….

Woonasquatucket River Greenway

On March 13, 2021 Alicia Lehrer, Executive Director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, spoke at our annual meeting about the organization’s work with emphasis an on invasive plants.

Finding Gibbs Swamp – Garry Plunkett

Long time RIWPS member and volunteer Garry Plunkett dedicates his efforts to land conservation in his town.  Read about his experiences collecting data on a newly acquired property of the Tiverton Land Trust.

In Memory, Robert Fain and Michael Lapisky

We are saddened by the passing of two RIWPS members.

Robert Fain first joined RIWPS in 2008. In addition to his interest in Rhode Island Plants he worked professionally and personally on social justice issues.  He died last July.  See obituary

Michael Lapisky,  an 11 year member, was known for his willingness to share his knowledge and experience on all things gardening.  Michael died in January of this year.  See obituary


In Memory: Mabel “Sindy” Hempstead

In early December, at the grand age of 95, RIWPS Life member and former Co-President, Mabel “Sindy” Hempstead passed on.  Sindy was a RIWPS member since 1994 and immediately recruited to serve on the Board, first as Secretary from 1994-1996, then as Co-President with URI Plant Science Prof. Richard Hull, from 1996-1997. Recruited once again in 2003, Sindy served as a Trustee-at-Large from 2003-2008. She was active for many years on the WildfloraRI publication, Walks & Workshops/Program committee and on Botanical Inventory committee. Sindy’s passion was wetland plants, particularly, the water lilies. To capture her spirit take note of the obituary her daughter and fellow RIWPS member, Joyce Hempstead provided.

Many of you may not know Sindy left RIWPS another legacy – the many plant related articles that appeared in our WildfloraRI publication. Links provided. Explore and thank Sindy!

WilfloraRI articles:
Aquatic Adaptation: You can’t turn back the clock (Fall 2010)
Pond Scum (Winter 2011)
The Bladderworts (Winter 2013)
Lousewort: Pirates of the Orobanchaceae (Winter 2015)

Cultivation Notes:
Lysimachia terrestris – Swamp Candles (2008)
Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush (2010)
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp-milkweed (2011)

On the Trail:
Wickford Harbor Islands (2013)

In 2010 Sindy received our Lifetime Service Award. A life well lived and appreciated.

At Risk Plant Propagation Program

Sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) planted at Doug Rayner Wildlife Refuge:

A cooperative effort of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, Rhode Island Wild Plant Society and Barrington Land Conservancy Trust


November 30, 2020
Hope Leeson, Botanist for The Rhode Island Natural History Survey

Nockum Hill, in Barrington is a place of the Wampanoag people of Sowams (Barrington Preservation Society, 2018). In Algonquian, the word nockum refers to a sandy place, and a place that is visible from afar (Van Edwards, 2013). Geologically, Nockum Hill is a bluff created by glacial outwash deposits along the Kickemuit River. For the Wampanoag and generations of Rhode Island settler families, the soil of the bluff was agriculturally important (now operated as Four Town Farm). For the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) Nockum Hill is a south facing sandy bluff, only a 27-foot climb up from the brackish water of the upper Kickemuit. A perfect place for digging and laying eggs, and moreover a perfect place to incubate terrapin embryos and over-winter hatchlings before the new generation ventures into the water. Nockum Hill itself is now land protected by the Barrington Land Conservation Trust under the name of the Doug Rayner Wildlife Refuge. Although there are no historical records of the sundial Lunpine (Lupinus perennis) growing on Nockum Hill, the sandy soils and periodic disturbances of terrapin digging, present ideal conditions for the species.

In 1997 Charlie Brown, a wildlife biologist with Rhode Island’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and a Barrington resident, observed a population of sundial lupine growing on a sandy outwash bluff along the eastern shore of the Seekonk River in East Providence. The site was heavily used for recreation and the lupine population was becoming increasingly compromised (RINHS database). Brown determined to save the genetic line of the East Providence population, and collected seed from the remaining plants. Later he and his wife Ginger planted the seed in the sandy outwash soils of Nockum Hill. Several patches of the species continue to grow there as a result of Charlie and Ginger’s seed collection and sowing. Sundial lupine is considered a rare species in Rhode Island, listed as a Species of State Concern, and is a host plant to butterfly and moth larvae including the frosted elfin (Callophrys irus), a Rhode Island Species of Greatest Conservation Need (RI WAP, 2015), as well as being the only known host for larvae of the karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa ssp. samuelis). The karner blue is no longer present in Rhode Island, and is nearly extinct over much of its range (USFWS, 2019).

In 2019, in an effort to formalize relocation and support of rare plant species populations, the RINHS, RIWPS, and RIDEM discussed a cooperative program to propagate the seed of state listed rare plant species. The focus of the program is augmentation of existing rare plant populations (At Risk Plant Propagation Program – ARP3) in support of other rare organisms that depend on these plant species for food. Lupines were selected as a first project, with the goal of increasing the population at Nockum Hill. Seed was collected from the genetic lineage of the East Providence population from plants growing in sandy soil at Charlie Brown’s Barrington home, as well as from plants growing on Nockum Hill. Propagation was overseen by Linda McDaniel (RIWPS Seed Starters East), and in May of this year 24 plants were planted into two locations at Nockum Hill. In addition, two areas with existing plants were weeded and cleared of overhanging branches to allow more sunlight to reach the ground. As a result of vegetation and light management, the number of seedlings that germinated in the largest patch increased. In 2020, a total of 312 sundial lupine were counted; all offspring of the 1997 cohort of plants.

Lupines propagated by SSE were planted in two separate lupine patches. Survival of the planted individuals was 100% for the first three weeks, until terrapins and their predators began digging within the planted areas, and uprooted the small seedlings. At this point each area was surrounded by one-foot high fencing attached to 2-inch wooden stakes. The fencing successfully deterred terrapins, and no further digging occurred.

A second wave of losses occurred at the end of July, when despite weekly watering, several plants failed to survive above-ground. By the end of August, a total of eight of the 24 seedlings were visable within the two patches. It is hoped that the deep tap roots, which are characteristic of the species, have survived and that the individual plants will resprout in the spring of 2021.

To build on experiences gained in 2020, seed was again collected by Charlie Brown, and donated to the project. In August, LindaMcDaniel sowed a total of 324 seeds. Germination was good (about 90%) and despite some initial losses 257 have gone into dormancy. With any luck there will be 200 lupine seedlings to plant at Nockum Hill in the spring of 2021!

The 2020 ARP3 Lupine Project began in 2019 with seed collection and its’ subsequent propagation. In addition to these initial efforts, the project required the execution of many important logistical efforts, for which I am extremely grateful. Peter McCalmont oversaw the project on behalf of the Barrington Land Conservancy Trust (BLCT). Charlie Brown and Pete McCalmont trimmed overhanging branches above the largest of the 1997 patches, and weeded oak seedlings and other species to reduce competition at the ground layer. Pete lugged additional water to the site throughout the summer, and created the much-needed fencing to keep terrapins and their predators from digging in the planted areas. Mary Grover, who is both a RIWPS and a BLCT member, collected seed in 2019, monitored and watered the plants throughout the summer of 2020, and collected survival data on the planted individuals. Linda McDaniel was responsible for the propagation and care of the lupine seedlings at the RIWPS SSE greenhouse in Portsmouth, and was accompanied by a masked and physically distant Sherry Dzamba for transporting and planting the seedlings at Nockum Hill.


-Barrington Preservation Society. 2018. The Story of Nockum Hill.

-Burton Van Edwards. 2013. In a Place Called Nockum, presentation to the people of Barrington.

-Kim Mitchell and Carnes, C. 1996 (updated 2019). Wild Lupine and Karner Blue Butterflies. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service MidwestRegion.

-Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 2015. Rhode Island Wildlife Action Plan.

In Memory: Dick (Richard) Donnelly

Dick describing the characteristics of a plant at RIWPS plant sale

With sadness we are sharing the news of the death of Dick Donnelly a RIWPS’ member for 28 years and a wonderful volunteer. Dick was passionate about native plants and generously shared his talents for teaching about them, both informally and in a wide variety of public programs and events. His contributions to the many years of RIWPS’ annual award winning native plant exhibit at the Rhode Island Spring Flower Show and Garden Show in Providence are much remembered. He worked to source these exhibits, securing plants including trees and stones for creating walls, as well as stuffed animals appropriate to the exhibit’s setting. His attention to accurate habitat details was extraordinary.  He also served as a docent using his love of storytelling to create narratives not only to highlight the function and beauty of the wild plants themselves but also the magic and wonder of experiencing the scene in the exhibit. Volunteers recount the year he helped stage a display with an abandoned foundation of a house in the woods and then as docent enthralled children and adults, suggesting that this was the house he had grown up in along with describing how he had played among these woodland plants and creatures and used the products of the plants for many good purposes. Dick also served on the Board of Trustees and in 2008 received a Lifetime Service Award.  We are thankful to have benefitted from his passion, creativity and joy.

Obituary Notice

RIWPS Sponsors Another Pollinator Garden

RIWPS has sponsored another pollinator garden this year at the Roger Williams National Historic Park in downtown Providence. The park has a visitor center and facilities office on North Main Street. Previously there were four raised beds containing herbs and vegetables. Aaron Erzinger, the facilities manager, was impressed with the pollinator garden at the Captain Wilbur Kelly House in Cumberland which was also sponsored by RIWPS and installed by members of the Seed Starters East group and requested assistance to have a pollinator garden replace some of the raised beds.

After assessing the site RIWPS member Sherry Dzamba put together a list of species which would be appropriate. As with the pollinator garden in Cumberland, the species chosen were selected from Robert Gegear’s list of local species favored by our native bees. Plants were donated by RIWPS from the inventory in Portsmouth as well as plants donated by Peggy Buttenbaum, Linda McDaniel and Sherry. The three RIWPS members and Aaron spent a day planting.

The park is located on (5) acres of land which was the original settlement of Providence in 1636.The garden is located on the section of Smith Street between North Main Street and Canal Street. We expect a colorful display from spring to fall.

Interested in helping to maintain either the garden in Cumberland or Providence?
Please email We will be setting up a group of volunteers for each garden to meet periodically to weed and install new plants as needed.