What is plant rescue?

The previous post told a happy story about a native plant garden being acquired by some new owners. Not all stories have such positive endings, though. Sometimes a natural yard – or a wild area brimming with native plants – is bought by someone who isn’t interested in protecting the thriving ecosystem they now own.

It could be a private homeowner who doesn’t understand the value of native plants, and who plans to revert the garden to lawn. It could be a developer who intends to bulldoze the plant community in order to build a big-box store or some condominiums. Either way, those plants are in trouble.

Enter plant rescue.

If you know of native plants – especially rare species – that are going to be destroyed by the property owner, you may be able to save the plants by moving them to a new home. While you might be tempted to just swoop in and take the plants before they get flattened, it’s better to follow these practices:

  • Work with the property owner to get permission to remove the plants from the site. Agree on a time when the plant rescue will happen, and take full responsibility for the safety of all the people who will be involved in the plant rescue.
  • Provide all the necessary tools for digging up and transporting plants. Don’t forget to bring drinking water and wear appropriate clothing for working outdoors.
  • Once on site, be sure to stay within the property lines. Do not take plants from neighboring lots.
  • Take only the plants that you can truly rescue. That is, do not take more plants than you will be able to quickly place in a new home. If there are any rare species present, prioritize rescuing those.
  • Follow good plant-moving practices: Dig up a large ball of soil around and beneath each plant. Have a pot ready to immediately transfer the plant into. Put the plant back in the ground, at its new site, within a day or so – and provide it with shade and water to help it survive the move.
  • Before leaving the plant rescue site, refill the holes from the plants you took. Clean up after yourself and repair any damage you might have caused.
  • Afterwards, send a thank-you letter to the property owner.

If property owners can be persuaded to keep healthy native plants on their land, so much the better. But if not, working together to find creative solutions can be the next best thing.

What is plant rescue?

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