Find Your Favorite Green Spot
Discover the beauty of native plants in distinctive places
Native Plant Trust's eight properties throughout New England form a loose continuum of the region's natural conditions, from cultivated to wild. Our six native plant sanctuaries, in particular, offer a sampling of habitat types, where rare plants thrive in the specific conditions in which they evolved, from sandplains to rich mesic forests: You'll find stunning lady's-slippers sprouting from the mire of a Vermont bog, dozens of fern species thriving on the floor of a rich maple forest in New Hampshire, and more than 100 wildflower species thriving in a forest and marsh along the shore of Maine's Merrymeeting Bay.
At Garden in the Woods, in eastern Massachusetts, you'll experience the most cultivated end of the spectrum on a spectacular site—a botanic garden showcasing native plants on a glacial landscape rippling with ravines and ridges.
Those who visit the seasonal Garden Shop at Nasami Farm, in Whately, Massachusetts, will find a nursery with expansive views of farmland in the Connecticut River Valley, part of New England's largest watershed.
The Secret Life of Spring Ephemerals
These woodland wildflowers fuel the life cycle of tiny ants—and vice versa
Spring ephemeral wildflowers rise from the moist floor of New England’s mixed deciduous forests before the trees leaf out. Early spring visitors to Garden in the Woods can see these subtle flowers—violets, trilliums, bloodroot, columbine, Dutchman’s breeches, and blue cohosh, to name a few—in the Curtis Woodland Garden and along other shaded forest paths. By the time the canopy fills in a few weeks later, the ephemerals have produced seed in an accelerated life cycle, an adaptation to this brief interim between seasons. These woodland wildflowers provide nectar and pollen to some of the earliest-emerging winged insects, such as flies and solitary bees, which, in turn, are food for famished migrating birds returning to establish breeding territories and nests.
But ants—particularly common woodland ants in the genera Aphaenogaster, Tapinoma, and Formica—play an even more crucial role in the efficient life cycle of ephemeral wildflowers. Their mutually beneficial relationship unfolds at the ground level, often escaping human notice. It starts with nutritious, fleshy attachments called elaiosomes on the ephemerals’ seeds. Rich in critical carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, elaiosomes are like energy bars for the ants, which also find them irresistibly delicious. The ants carry the wildlflower seeds back to their nests before feasting on the elaiosomes. Ants create significant amounts of soil as they build their nests, and after they nibble away the elaiosomes, they have effectively planted the ephemerals’ seeds in these rich soils. As for the ants, some of them become food for foraging animals. Bears emerging from hibernation, for example, visit ant nests for some of their first spring meals. But don’t worry. Bears have not been seen at Garden in the Woods for—well, a long, long time.
Hobbs Fern Sanctuary Holds More than Fronds
In Lyman, New Hampshire, varied geology underpins the diversity of plant life
Tucked between the Connecticut River and the White Mountains in northwest New Hampshire, this 260-acre sanctuary is a trove of biodiversity wrapped in the enchantment of a secret garden. Explore groves of beech, birch, and maple; rich sugar maple woods at the base of steep ledges; dense stands of balsam fir and red spruce; swamps of red maple and black ash; and meadows and shrub lands.
These distinct communities contain the sanctuary’s 500-plus native plant species, including more than 50 different ferns, club mosses, and horsetails. In the moist woods, spring wildflowers abound—sharp-lobed hepatica, Canada violet, wild ginger, bloodroot, blue cohosh. These varied plant communities support an equally impressive mix of wildlife, notably moose, beaver, woodcocks, red-tail hawks, and several species of warbler.
The secret of this richness lies in the land itself: The geology, topography, and hydrology range from low-lying wetlands to dry, steep slopes. For at least 200 years, human use—farming and timber harvesting—also shaped this land. Its last private owners, Christina and Sturtevant Hobbs, recognized the property’s unique character and asked the Society to continue the conservation they had begun, donating it in 2004. Today, the surrounding area remains rural, and with no major roads nearby, the property offers not only a sanctuary for native plants and animals, but a peaceful refuge for human beings.