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Working to Identify Potential New Natives


November 16, 2021

Rumson GC Creates a Climate Change Experiment

After the town of Rumson, New Jersey was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Rumson Garden Club (RGC) members began to ask what native plants might survive the increased temperatures and fiercer storms brought on by climate change and what plants native to southern regions might become the area’s new native species. The club applied for and received a $500 grant from The Garden Club of America’s (GCA) Partners for Plants (P4P) program to plant southern native species to determine what plants might survive. 

Originally part of a three-year, $6,000 P4P habitat restoration grant, the Climate Change Experiment, as it became known, was relocated from the Sandy Hook park to the town’s sewer pump station due to concerns that some southern native species might become northern invasives. As a result, RGC now oversees both the Sandy Hook restoration project and the Rumson Climate Change Experiment.

The experiment began in 2019 and included southern natives as well as a control plant (rosa carolina) that thrives locally. In addition, RGC worked with New Jersey environmental and agricultural experts to identify suitable southern native species that in the past would not have survived the harsh winter climate. The first southern native (iris louisiana) has survived, but is less hardy than the control plant. This fall, RGC members planted milkweed (asclepias verticillata), aster (aster oblongifolius “October Sky”) and verbena—a native of South America. The club’s approach is survival of the fittest, so no watering or soil fertilization takes place. The plants’ ultimate survival is bittersweet, as their perennial beauty can be enjoyed by neighbors, but their thriving is a further sign of climate change.

An unexpected benefit for the club is partnering with Rumson’s Environmental Commission (REC), which has embraced the experiment and supplied high school members of its Junior Green Team to weed and till the soil, enabling easier planting. As the experiment planting winds down next spring, RGC and REC will continue to collaborate. The Climate Change Experiment has enhanced a starkly unattractive site and perhaps identified the area’s new natives.


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