Wilton High School offers native wildflower plant sale

WILTON — After an immensely successful spring sale, the Wilton High School Organic Garden is offering a selection of genetically native wildflowers for sale. They may be ordered online now through Sept. 2 at https://whsorganicgarden.weebly.com/order-your-native-wildflowers-today.html.

The school is joined in the sale by Planters’ Choice Nursery of Newtown as part of their ongoing participation in the CT Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Ecotype Project.

Over this past school year, under the leadership of recent graduate Brett Gilman, the WHS Organic Garden became the first high school in New England to participate in this project, which aims to address the lack of sources of truly native wildflowers in Connecticut. Currently, most wildflower seeds available for planting originate from out West

Scientists have recently discovered that planting seeds from one ecoregion into a different ecoregion weakens the overall genetics of the wildflower population, even if the species is native to both areas. To maintain healthy wild plant genetics, CT NOFA has created a network of land trusts, organic farmers, scientists, landscapers, homeowners, and nurseries to sustainably collect wildflower seeds locally and grow them for restoration projects and for commercial sale.

This fall’s selection features a total of 17 species of native wildflowers, including classics like joe pye weed and wild bergamot as well as newcomers such as swamp milkweed and fall sneezeweed. These native wildflowers are beneficial to a variety of insect pollinators, which have been devastated by habitat destruction, pesticide use, and invasive species. Widespread environmental degradation has caused an “insect apocalypse” that threatens the survival of farms that rely on pollinators to produce food. These truly native wildflowers will have a greater positive impact on native pollinators than other plants.

These wildflower species are also important as larval hosts for myriad species of caterpillars. Providing habitat for caterpillars is important as they are the foremost food source for young birds and birds are indicators of healthy ecosystems. Thus, a high diversity of native plant species supports many species of caterpillars and therefore the birds that rely on them. This ultimately culminates in the creation of high-functioning biodiverse ecosystems.

Suburban towns across Connecticut are becoming increasingly fragmented as roads and neighborhoods separate and diminish the few habitat patches that remain. Homeowners can help bring about widespread, positive environmental change by planting native wildflowers in backyards and flower beds. Planting just a few will have a significant impact.

In addition to supporting local ecosystems, a portion of every plant sold will benefit the WHS Organic Garden club and its educational initiatives. “By purchasing and planting these native wildflowers, you will be directly helping our local ecosystems. There’s nothing more fulfilling,” says WHS Organic Garden president Eli Grass ’21.