Native Plant Acquisitions: LINPI 2015 Plant Sale

Saturday, June 13 was the last open day in 2015 for the Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI) Plant Sale. I picked up another 13 species to add to my list, which has already grown this Spring to over 200 species of plants native to eastern North America. We’ll see how many of them survive my, um “gardening.”

As with all the plants available through LINPI, all are local ecotypes propagated by NYC Parks’ Greenbelt Native Plant Center from wild populations on Long Island and Staten Island. It so happens all these species are also native to New York City.


(or Asclepiadaceae, depending on taxonomy)

Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed
I bought a 6-pack of these from the LINPI Plant sale two years ago. They are blooming now. I bought a flat (6 x 6-packs = 36 plants) this time. I want to have larger groups of them in several sunny areas to see where they thrive.


Eupatorium hyssopifolium, hyssop-leaved throughwort, hyssop-leaved boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum, common boneset, boneset thoroughwort
This species is only found in wetlands (Wetland indicator status OBL/”obligate”), so I’m planting this in and around the garage, for runoff, and planters, where it will benefit from overflow from watering.

Eupatorium serotinum, late-flowering thoroughwort
This was listed incorrectly as Eutrochium serotinum on LINPI’s web site. This is the odd one out for nativity, which is challenged by some, e.g.: NEWFS.

Solidago nemoralis, gray goldenrod
One of the shade-tolerant goldenrods, I bought a flat of these to plant them all around the house as an experiment to see where/how they fare from sun to shade.

Solidago speciosa, showy goldenrod


Vaccinum macrocarpon, cranberry
This is one of the species available on-site at the plant sale that wasn’t listed on LINPI’s web site. I already have two of these, one in each bog planter. I bought a 6-pack as an intentional duplicate. I planted 4 in the two bog planters I have. I need to fill in these planters so the squirrels won’t keep digging them out. As an experiment, I planted the other two nearby, alongside the garage, where they’ll get runoff from the roof and gutter downspout.


Chamaecrista fasciculata, prairie senna, partridge pea, partridge sensitive-pea
Lespedeza hirta
Lespedeza virginica


Hibiscus moscheutos, swamp rosemallow
Another obligate wetland species, I planted this by the side of the garage to benefit from runoff from the roof, and to server as a backdrop for this mixed shrub-perennial bed.


Panicum virgatum, switchgrass
Sorghastrum nutans, indian grass
Tridens flavus, purple top


Rosa carolina, Carolina rose


Cephalanthus occidentalis, buttonbush

Related Content

Other blog posts about my native plant garden


Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI) Plant Sale

Place, Purpose, Plants: Urban Gardening with Native Plants

At last night’s meeting of the Long Island Botanical Society, I spoke about my experiences gardening with native plants in an urban setting. These slides accompanied my talk.

Related Content

All my blog posts about My Garden
Other Native Plants blog posts, resources, and references
My insect photography on Flickr


Bennington, J Bret, 2003. New Observations on the Glacial Geomorphology of Long Island from a digital elevation model (DEM) (PDF). Long Island Geologists Conference, Stony Brook, New York, April 2003.

Hempstead Plains, Long Island’s Remnant Prairie

Updated 2013-09-05: CORRECTION – The white-flowering plant is Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaf Throughwort, not E. perfoliatum, Common Boneset, as I misidentified it.

At a glance – say, highway speed – this may appear to be yet another old-field meadow, biding its time before it transitions into shrubland and eventually forest. This is Hempstead Plains, one of several mature grasslands on Long Island, and the only true prairie east of the Appalachian Mountains.

Hempstead Plains
Hempstead Plains on the grounds of Nassau Community College in East Garden City, Nassau County, NY. The white-flowering plants are Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaf Throughwort.

On Sunday, August 25, I joined three other native plant lovers for a whirlwind tour of Hempstead Plains. We had only an hour; I could have spent several hours there. For me, this was a pilgrimage. I spent most of my childhood on Long Island.

Our guide was Betsy Gulotta, Conservation Project Manager of the Friends of Hempstead Plains, Department of Biology, Nassau Community College, on whose grounds this remnant stands. Here Betsy points out Apocynum cannabinum, Indian Hemp, at the start of our visit.
/Apocynum cannabinum/, Dogbane, Indian Hemp, Hempstead Plains

A Brief Natural History of Hempstead Plains

New York’s Long Island comprises four counties; from east to West they are Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, and Kings (aka Brooklyn). If you look down from space, and maybe squint a bit, Long Island resembles a fish: Brooklyn is the face, Queens is the head and gills, and Nassau and Suffolk are the body and tail.

The fish shape of Long Island arises from two ridges, running roughly east-west. The ridges stand out as light yellow to white in this Digital Elevation Model (DEM) map of Long Island. I’ve highlighted the location of Hempstead Plains in Nassau County, right about where the fish’s pectoral fins would be.Digitial Elevation Map (DEM) of Long Island, showing location of Hempstead PlainsMap: Dr. J. Bret Pennington, Department of Geology, Hofstra University

These ridges are terminal moraines: deposits of sand, gravel and rock left behind as the Wisconsin glaciation made its last stand, then retreated, 20,000-19,000 years ago. Long Island is part of the Outer Lands, the archipelago formed by these moraines, that extends to Cape Cod.

South of the moraines are outwash plains, laced with streams and rivers leading to the bays of Long Island’s southern shores. Hempstead Plains once spanned the westernmost extent of these plains, bounded on the west and north by the northern Harbor Hills Moraine, and on the east by the Ronkonkoma Moraine, where it abuts the Harbor Hills Moraine. This map, from a U.S Fish & Wildlife Service survey of grasslands habitats on Long Island, shows the estimated original extent of Hempstead Plains prior to European colonization, based on soil surveys and historical accounts.
Map, Long Island Grasslands

Why Hempstead Plains is Special

Even if no more of this land were taken up in farms, the continued growth of New York City is bound to cover it all with houses sooner or later, and it behooves scientists to make an exhaustive study of the region before the opportunity is gone forever.
The Hempstead Plains: A Natural Prairie on Long Island, Roland M. Harper, 1911

The existence and persistence of this prairie has yet to be completely explained.

There’s evidence of periodic fire disturbance, whether natural or man-made, even prior to European colonization. (Today, they mow to keep invasive species in check.) But the pine barrens that once extended east of here are also adapted to fire. Why prairie, not pine barrens, here?

The soil here is nothing like the deep topsoils of midwestern prairies. Most of Long Island is a glacial deposit of sand and gravel. Perhaps that balances out the relatively high rainfall we get here. Then why wasn’t there more prairie on Long Island?

Hempstead Plains shares another characteristic with arid and semi-arid lands, including prairie: biological soil crust. During our visit, there were a few places where the lichen soil crust was visible. Where it’s disturbed, as in this photo, you can see the sandy, gravelly underlying soil.
Lichen Soil Crust, Hempstead Plains

With such an unusual confluence of conditions, Hempstead Plains is home to several species that are locally or globally rare and threatened. During our visit, we were privileged to see Agalinis acuta, Sandplain Gerardia, in bud.
Flower Buds, /Agalinis acuta/, Sandplain Gerardia, Hempstead Plains

Back to our little troupe; here we are closely examining a specimen of Baptisia tinctoria, Blue Indigo. We remarked on how different the Hempstead Plains Baptisia looks from horticultural varieties, even of the same species.
Examining /Baptisia tinctoria/ in the Hempstead Plains

Wild areas such as Hempstead Plains provide critical reservoirs of seeds for conservation and restoration efforts. Local ecotypes of native plants are adapted to local conditions. They’ve co-evolved with other organisms in their environment, and support more wildlife than cultivars. Their populations exhibit diversity that disappears when we select and propagate plants for our purposes, such as “garden value.”

Local ecotypes are rarely available commercially. For example: several of the plants offered at June’s Long Island Native Plant Initiative Plant Sale were propagated by the Greenbelt Native Plant Center from seed collected at Hempstead Plains. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s elimination of field work threatens such regional conservation efforts.

The Hempstead Plains is the last remnant of native prairie grassland that once covered 40,000 acres of central Nassau County. Today, as a result of commercial development only a few acres remain. The site is considered highly ecologically and historically significant. The Hempstead Plains supports populations of federally endangered and globally rare plants among its 250 different kinds of vegetation as well as several plant species that are now considered rare in New York State. It represents one of the most rapidly vanishing habitats in the world, along with scores of birds, butterflies, and other animals that are vanishing with it.
About the Plains, Friends of Hempstead Plains


Here are some of the plants we met during our visit. First, some characteristic tall-grass prairie species.

Andropogon gerardii, Big Bluestem
Andropogon gerardii, Big Bluestem, Hempstead Plains

Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass
/Panicum virgatum/, Switchgrass, Hempstead Plains

Sorghastrum nutans, Indian Grass
/Sorghastrum nutans/, Indian Grass, Hempstead Plains

And a handful of other, smaller grasses. There are 35-40 species of grasses, native and non-native, at Hempstead Plains.

Dichanthelium clandestinum, Deer-Tongue Grass (in the center of the weeds)
/Dichanthelium clandestinum/, Deer-Tongue Grass, Hempstead Plains

Eragrostic spectabilis, Purple Lovegrass
Eragrostic spectabilis, Purple Lovegrass, Hempstead Plains

Schizachyrium scoparium, Little Bluestem
/Schizachyrium scoparium/, Little Bluestem, Hempstead Plains

Here are some more conventional “wildflowers.”

Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaf Throughwort
/Eupatorium hyssopifolium/, Hyssop-leaf Thoroughwort, Hempstead Plains

Euthamia caroliniana/, Slender Goldentop, Flat-top Goldenrod
/Euthamia caroliniana/, Slender Goldentop, Flat-top Goldenrod, Hempstead Plains

Visiting Hempstead Plains

The site is not open to the public except for scheduled guided tours. Plants aren’t labelled – it’s a wild area, not a botanic garden – so you’ll want a knowledgable guide, anyway! Check the Activities page on the Friends of Hempstead Plains web site for their calendar. They have regularly scheduled tours on Friday afternoons, and volunteer days on Saturday mornings, into November.

Getting there is confusing. It’s really easy to miss the turnoff. I circled the entire campus of Nassau Community College before I was able to get back on approach to Perimeter Road, where the parking area is located. I could have used a navigator.

They’re working on a new Interpretive Center, scheduled to be open in 2014. The building site is a corner of the property that was already less than pristine. Nevertheless, they’re disturbing the soil as little as possible. The composting toilet will be an above-ground model, instead of one that requires excavation. The building will have a green roof populated with plants propagated from the site.
Future Site, Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center

I look forward to a return visit.

Related Content

Flickr photo set from my visit
Long Island Native Plant Initiative Plant Sale 2013
All my Native Plants blog posts
My Native Plants page

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Slash and Burn “Campaign for the 21st Century”, 2013-08-23


Friends of Hempstead Plains
Hempstead Plains Grassland, New York Natural Heritage Program
Wikipedia: Hempstead Plains

Saving Bits of Nassau’s Original Prairie, Barbara Delatiner, New York Times, 2003-06-22
An urban nature reserve takes shape on the Diana Center’s green roof (Video), Hilary Callahan, Barnard College News, 2011-08-10 (This Project uses plants propagated by the Greenbelt Native Plant Center from Hempstead Plains seed stock)

Long Island Native Grass Initiative, Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District
Coastal Grasslands (PDF), Long Island Sound Habitat Restoration Initiative, February 2003
Long Island Grasslands, Significant Habitats and Habitat Complexes of the New York Bight Watershed, 1996-1997, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Long Island Botanical Society
Long Island Native Plant Initiative

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) Maps of Long Island, Dr. J. Bret Pennington, Department of Geology, Hofstra University
Geology of Long Island, Garvies Point Museum and Preserve

An Introduction to Biological Soil Crusts,

Historical References:
The Vegetation History of Hempstead Plains (PDF), Richard Stalter and Wayne Seyfert, St. John’s University, Proceedings of the 11th North American Prairie Conference, 1989 (Hosted at the Digital Commons, University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
The Hempstead Plains: A Natural Prairie on Long Island, Roland M. Harper, Bulletin of the American Geographical Society , Vol. 43, No. 5 (1911), pp. 351-360 (An edited version was republished in Torreya, Volume 12, 1912)
Soil Survey of the Long Island area of New York (PDF), by Jay A. Bonsteel and Party, Field Operations of the Bureau of Soils, 1903 (Hosted at New York Online Soil Survey Manuscripts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA)

Winter Storm Watch

A Winter Storm Watch is in effect for Brooklyn and the south shore of Long Island for tomorrow, with the possibility of 6 or more inches of snow:



Gardening Annoyances: “Virtual” Nurseries

Nurseries: Include your postal mailing address on every page of your Web site. At the worst, provide the link to a “Contact Us” page that has this information on every page of your Web site.

I value local sources of plants for several reasons:

  • Reduced shipping costs: It costs less to ship something to me from New England than California or Oregon, so it costs less for me to get a plant from local sources. Fuel and transportation costs will continue to increase, so this will become increasingly important.
  • Greater viability: It takes less time to ship something locally than across country, so the plants I receive from local sources are in better condition.
  • Suitability: Plants propagated and grown out locally are more likely to already be accustomed to my climate.
  • Selections: Small, local nurseries are more likely to have small quantities of specialty plants unavailable elsewhere.
  • Economics: It’s more sustainable economically and culturally to support local business when and where I can.

Finding out where you are located should not become a treasure hunt. Case in point: Perennial Express, located (I eventually discovered) on Long Island.

Their home page contains no contact information. There’s also no obvious link to such information, such as the usual “”Contact Us” or equivalent. It now becomes a “treasure hunt”: keep clicking on every available link until you happen to stumble across one that looks like it might lead you to the information you want.

Neither of the links at the bottom of the page – Terms & Conditions, and Shipping Information – provide any information.

Their Catalog page (referred to elsewhere on their site as their “Online Store” – two different ideas, in my mind) tantalizingly, teasingly, provides a “Contact Us” link. However, that link leads to an online form which you can fill out to send a site-generated email. Again, no information about where they might be located.

In fact, nowhere on this site is there any information about how to contact them or where they might be located. Not even the state or area of the country is given anywhere. The only way to find out where they are is to leave their site.

Turns out they have a wholesale operation called The Plantage. There is one link to that buried at the end of their home page. Again, however, there is no obvious link to their contact information, even on their wholesale site.

There are five “fake” links across the top of the home page: Home, Sales, Information, Links, Gardening. “Fake” because they don’t link to anything. They’re just anchors for drop-down menus of links which only appear when you move your mouse over them.

Through this kind of “out of frustration I wave my mouse around the screen just to see what happens” exploration, I eventually discovered that there is a “Contact Us” link hidden beneath the “Information” anchor. There I found just what I was looking for: mailing addresses, with zip codes and everything.

For anyone who cares at this point, they’re located in Mattituck and Cutchogue in far Eastern Long Island, near Orient Point, about 85 miles from where I live. That qualifies as a local source for me. But based on my frustrating experience trying to figure that out, I’m not going turn to them unless and until they can straighten our their retail end of things.