Trouble Ahead For New England Plant Life

Bad news for the 3,500 known plant species in New England, as a new report saying that 22 percent of the flora there is thought to be rare, in decline, endangered, or possibly extinct. The new report by the New England Wild Flower Society is to be released today, Thursday. The comprehensive report spells bad findings for the flora in the entire New England region, as researchers find increasing difficulties for the plant life there.

More than 22 percent of the plant life in New England is in danger the report states. In addition to this statistic, another alarming fact is that over 30 percent of the plant life in New England is non-native. Non-native species, or invasive species as they have come to be known, are always in competition with native species, eliminating resources and complicating the ecosystem.

The report cites climate change, new land development, disappearing forestland, and pesticide usage as all risk factors for the plant life. The extensive report has also found some lesser-known risk factors to the plant life such as dams that alter flood paths, commercial harvesting for pharmaceutical usage, and salt marsh dieback, a complex erosion process that has affected more than 80 percent of Cod marshes.

Some of the affected plants range from exotic to obscure to better-known species. The Goldenseal and American Ginseng, which is cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes, Jesup’s milk vetch, which is federally endangered and found no where else but along the Connecticut river, the sandplain geradia, birds-foot violet, wild goat’s rue, and the saltpond pennywort, one of many rare marshland plants.

The decline of these species is relevant and could have enormous ramifications to wildlife and humans. The plants comprise a noteworthy portion of the complex ecosystem there.

“You actually have to save the plants because that is the base of the food chain,” said Debbi Edelstein, the society’s executive director. “And that’s what all of those critters that you are thinking you want to save, whose habitat you want save, are depending on.”

The nonprofit organization, based in Framingham Massachusetts said it compiled the information through the volunteer work of hundreds of volunteers and professional botanists within the New England area, which drew upon data from historical accounts, including that of famous naturalist, Henry David Thoreau.

Those involved hope the report and additional research will result in stronger conservation laws, and invasive species awareness.