.Deep Roots: Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society at 50

The Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is celebrating half a century of service to the natural landscape of the North Bay and the native plants that hold up the entire ecosystem behind this bucolic environment.

Since its inception in 1974, the Marin County chapter of the California Native Plant Society has served at the forefront of important issues like the identification, protection and conservation of the Golden Coast’s most valuable resource—its natural landscape and the native plant life that keeps it…well, natural.

Through this 50th anniversary celebration, the society is hosting a number of fun challenges that aim to get adults and children alike into nature, especially with spring being the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities.

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“Marin residents are the beneficiaries of a tremendous amount of open space to enjoy, but it will not be there if we do not take care of it,” said Laura Lovett, a member of the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society—her titles include board member, communications chair, plant sale co-chair, gardening with natives chair and alternate delegate.

“This must be our legacy to the next generation—to be sure it thrives so our children can benefit from it as well. Not only are these public lands beautiful to enjoy; they are essential to all living beings, including humans. They provide our clean air, clean drinking water and quiet places to recharge ourselves, as well as habitat for thousands of species,” Lovett continued.

Through the efforts of local volunteers and native plant life preservationists, the biodiversity of Marin County is well and officially documented and, in many ways, protected. But the hard work in preserving the valuable native plant life is far from over. As the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Marin’s citizens have a call to action: Act now, and help keep the environment as close to pristine as possible.

“We think of nature as resilient, but if you reduce complexity, and reduce the amount of habitat,

it becomes very fragile,” Lovett explained. “It matters a lot what we do with our land, both public and private. With each land use decision we make, the residents of Marin determine what character we want for our county: thriving or worn out, overused or thoughtfully planned.”

Up and down the stunning hills, valleys, forests, meadows, mountains and craggy coastal cliffs are numerous native plants. And, to match, there is a whole slew of invasive species such as broom, as well as manmade structures and landscapes that go against the natural order of things. But one person can make a big difference when it comes to change. And it’s up to individuals whether their impact be for the better or…

“I joined [the society] about eight years ago and had no idea what we’d done for the decades before I got here,” said Lovett. “So, this being our 50th anniversary, I decided to see what our history was. So, I read the entire file cabinet, minutes from meetings, and looked into the bigger issues…and all the different ways the energy of the chapter got invested.”

“In the beginning, the big issue was to know what plants we had since you can’t start to preserve things and say there are rare plants here until you actually find them and know where they are,” she continued. “It was a gigantic job taken on by volunteers who worked on it for 30-plus years—they walked trails and did their best to identify every plant on their hikes.”

California Native Plant Society is a California statewide establishment with individual chapters making up its forces. Through the patient work identifying the native plant life of Marin for decades, the county established a plethora of rare native plant life and cemented its credence as an invaluable chapter of the society.

“It wasn’t the flashiest thing, but it was absolutely essential because you can’t preserve what you don’t know you have,” said Lovett. “And at the Marin level, we’re still pretty active. We’ve got 550 or 600 members, which makes us one of the bigger chapters!”

For the momentous occasion of the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, plenty of celebratory and informative challenges are in store. First and foremost is the Marin Native Plant Challenge, which calls for locals to go out and learn to locate, identify and photo-document 50 or more native plants from the local landscape. Naturally, this task is made easier with apps like iNaturalis. Through participating in field research and learning through engagement, locals can contribute valuable knowledge to the ongoing fight to preserve native plant life.

“The other thing we’re running [for the 50th anniversary] is the 50 Acts of Caring Challenge,” said Lovett. “Anyone can participate…in these ways that you can be more aware of what you do in your home landscape since that’s really what we have left to alter, since we’ve taken over a lot of the rest for housing and parking lots and so on. If our home gardens were more biodiverse and supported more life, we’d all be better off.”

The 50 Acts of Caring Challenge calls for locals to make conscientious and helpful modifications with consideration to native plant life. Through these curated acts of caring, the challenge will create more naturally sustainable plots of land and invite native plants, insects and other creatures and critters who call these vestiges of nature home. Each small act of conservation on an individual scale adds up to form a better bigger picture.

“This year we want to talk about the bigger picture ideas,” said Lovett. “Pile upon pile of these choices in development can reduce or build up the landscape. But it is nature that keeps us alive and sane, so it’s in our best interest to help.”

“Make a bee hotel, and turn your lights off at night, and do not use pesticides,” suggested Lovett. “I made a bee bath that took five minutes, which is important, since bees can get thirsty with all that pollinating.”

Alongside the two challenges mentioned is a Student Native Plant Photo Challenge, which calls for students to go out and explore and capture California’s most beautiful native plant life through photography. Plus, the 50th-anniversary celebrations also include a catered buffet dinner on Aug. 24. So, break out those cameras and mark those calendars—Marin County is about to get even more ecologically enthused.

To learn more about the Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and its 50th anniversary celebrations, challenges and more, visit the website at cnpsmarin.org or follow the activity on Instagram at instagram.com/marincnps.


  1. Such a great group. They do need people to serve on the board and make the Chapter viable.

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