Thanks to The Nature Conservancy

Native pitcher plants that summer in my water feature.

Native pitcher plants that summer in my water feature.

I have been a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for over 30 years, and I have the plaque to prove it. They insisted on giving it to me a couple of years ago. It was the first conservation organization I joined after I got out of graduate school and had a full-time job.

In my opinion, The Nature Conservancy has always walked the talk. In the beginning, I donated to the organization as a whole. TNC does important work all over the world, and I know any donation is money well spent. But as I became aware of how many special places my home state, North Carolina, was losing annually, I decided to direct my donations to the North Carolina Chapter of TNC.  For any North Carolina readers of this blog interested in donating to a conservation cause, you can’t go wrong sending money to the NC Chapter.

Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid


For readers in other parts of the US, if you go to the United States page of the TNC Web site, you’ll see a list of states on the left side of the page. Click on yours to learn of the good work TNC is doing in your homeland. And for my international readers (and it astonishes me daily how many of you there are), that top link will take you to their main page, which includes links about their work all over the world. Find a spot that speaks to your conservation heart, and direct your donations there.

On the NC TNC page, check out the link called Places We Protect. It lists all the ecosystems and habitats they are protecting and managing. As you might expect, the mountains and the coast of NC contain the most preserves. The piedmont region has been most densely populated and modified for hundreds of years. Many (but not all) of once-special piedmont spots are now housing developments and shopping malls. Even so, they have managed to protect two special piedmont preserves. And this year, TNC-NC protected their 700,000th acre. That is nothing short of awesome.

I could talk all day about the value of TNC preserves, but there’s one that anyone visiting the Outer Banks along the coast of NC should always check out — the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. Most folks who visit the NC coast don’t even realize that our coastline once was wooded in many areas right up to the sand dunes along the ocean. And those forests were extraordinary for their beauty and their ability to endure all that Mother Nature throws at our vulnerable coastal areas. You can see one of these few remaining forests at this preserve, walk the trails, read the signage, learn about the way this land used to be.

A mature Bald Cypress with a crowd of its root "knees."

A mature Bald Cypress with a crowd of its root “knees.”

The NC coastal areas have undergone massive development in the last century or so. Many extraordinary and increasingly rare ecosystems only still survive thanks to the efforts of TNC-NC and other conservation organizations working with them. Here’s a link to a video about one of NC’s niftiest plants — the Venus Flytrap. This species is only native to an area about 100 miles in diameter centering on the Wilmington, NC area. The places in South Carolina where they once grew are almost all gone, but NC still has some preserves with healthy populations. Unfortunately, plant poachers know this too, and sneak into the preserves at night, stealing every plant they can find. The good news in NC is that as of today, poaching Venus Flytraps has gone from misdemeanor to felony status. Now if they do the crime, they might actually do some time.

If you are a NC piedmont region dweller, you don’t have to travel to these coastal preserves to see carnivorous plants. The North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC has on display one of the finest collections of carnivorous plants in the world. Most folks don’t realize that these plants — Venus Flytraps and various species of pitcher plants, for example — actually bloom in the spring. Venus Flytrap flowers are quite lovely, and pitcher plant flowers must be seen to be appreciated. You can see all of these plants blooming at the NCBG every spring.

But today my focus is on The Nature Conservancy. If you like to hike in beautiful places, if you want your child to see Venus Flytraps in their natural habitat, if you sleep better at night knowing that knowledgeable, experienced professionals are tirelessly working to preserve our special places for future generations, then please consider a holiday donation to The Nature Conservancy.

And consider making it an annual habit. Maybe in thirty years, you too will earn a plaque commemorating your efforts to help protect our natural heritage. 🙂

Nature's gardens are the source of many a home gardener's favorite flowers, like this Purple Coneflower.

Nature’s gardens are the source of many a home gardener’s favorite flowers, like this Purple Coneflower.

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