VNPS 2016: Full Steam Ahead!

We have a serious commitment to a lofty Mission Statement, we better be going full steam ahead! For those who would like a short version, our mission statement pretty much says we’re tryin’ to save the world. As in:

  • protect and preserve native plants and their habitats

  • discourage and combat practices that endanger or destroy those

Why would we want to do that? Here’s why: “in order to sustain for generations to come the integrity of the Commonwealth’s rich natural heritage of ecosystems and biodiversity for purposes of enjoyment, enlightenment, sustainable use, and our own very survival.” Right? So here’s a sneak preview of what we have in mind, and an invitation to you, the reader, to join us. Yes, we mean that literally. Don’t worry, we’ll ask again later.

"the rich ecosystems that sustain our very lives"

“the rich ecosystems that sustain our very lives”

The two firecrackers that start the New Year for Virginia Native Plant Society, (hereafter, VNPS), are:

      • the Wildflower of the Year, (WOY)

      • the Winter Workshop

2016 WOY, a native orchid, Downy rattlesnake plantain, (Goodyera pubescens)

2016 WOY, a native orchid, Downy rattlesnake plantain, (Goodyera pubescens)

Each year one plant is voted on by the full Board of Directors for the privilege of being named our wildflower of the year. This is a hotly contested debate with fisticuffs and name-calling. OK, not really, but it is pretty exciting for a big group of plant nerds sitting around a table and holding their collective breath. After the voting, presided over by our Botany Chair, John Hayden, John takes up the mantle and writes up a series of articles that are truly ‘tell all’ features. Last year it was Sweet Pepperbush, this year, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain. Something for everyone, that’s how we roll. Now to get serious.

Our Winter Workshop is held at the University of Richmond, in a nifty and modern facility with presenters who are experts in their respective fields. This year the theme is “Plants and Their Friends: Exploring Partnerships Above and Below Ground. Mycorrhiza, myrmecochory, pollinators, and orchid-fungus relationships are key topics. Or, as one Board member neatly summed it up: bugs, fungus and dirt. You can sign up here on or around the 12th if our webmaster ever gets her act together. Winter Workshop

What with the whirlwind pace of online, all-the-time, is this fine? internet communication, last year the Board voted to change our society-wide Bulletin from a Newsletter to a Quarterly production. Sempervirens is the new name: semper = always, and virens = green. The new Sempervirens will have increased space to feature in-depth material starting with the January issue.

Field trips help us understand and expand!

Field trips help us understand and expand!

Each year VNPS puts its all into one big fundraiser. In 2010 funds were used to help get the Flora of Virginia published. Last year we were able to send a bit over $20,000 to our Virginia Department of Natural Heritage. The money was especially crucial as it helped them to obtain matching funds and buy a critical section of land in the Cedars Natural Preserve area, a spot so important The Nature Conservancy is also working there.

VNPS added another new event last year: the institution of a yearly research grant award. Last year the winners were: “Improving Knowledge of Native Plant Species Distributions in Virginia: A Citizen Science Project for Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteers,” and  ““Virginia’s Virtual Herbarium: Liberating Big Data for Our Native Plants.”  Application period is open till February 16! This award may well be the winner of our fundraising efforts in 2016. Stay tuned.

The last big bang of 2016 will be the Annual Meeting. VNPS chapters take turns hosting the Annual Meeting, so it is held all over our beautiful state. In 2016, the New River Chapter is hosting, so mark your calendars now for September 9 – 11, and plan to come to Blacksburg. VNPS members look forward to this gathering each fall when expert guides will lead them on field trips to explore the local natural areas, parks, preserves and whatever is botanically significant in the area. There are trips for all levels of interest and ability. See you in September!

Obligatory pic of flowers and butterflies. Butterfly weed, (Asclepias incarnata)

Obligatory pic of flowers and butterflies. Swamp milkweed, (Asclepias incarnata)

Throughout the year, the Society keeps its members abreast of issues and opportunities that relate to our conservation mission, such as, the Pipeline, Chesapeake Bay clean-up, invasive plants, and state-level politics. Our Board members are often in Richmond talking face-to-face with legislators.

This round-up would not be complete, of course, without the most vital part of our society, the Chapters. And the incredible work that our members carry out all over the state as part of their chapter’s efforts. Each chapter decides for itself what is most important in their area. Educational programs, community planting, invasive plant removal, scholarships, support for schools, and of course, field trips; all these and more are activities our chapters engage in. Part Two of this blog will turn its spotlight on the chapters, but until then – we warned you – won’t you join us? We can’t do what we do without you. And if we’re going to go full steam ahead in 2016, we need you. See Mission Statement. And Join today. You’ll be glad you did, and so will we!

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sue dingwell