From the late 1800s to the 1920s field botany on Long Island flourished. Thousands of collections and observations were made and published by well-known botanists such as George Hulst, William Leggett, William Ferguson and Roy Latham. Field botany on Long Island began to decline in the mid-1920s, and from 1930 to 1970 only sporadic collections were made. Roy Latham continued to collect plants of "special interest," but his major collecting years were past. For a period of about 50 years (1925 to 1975), few plants were collected throughout the island. But then, during the mid-1970s, several botanists began to independently re-locate historical plant populations and once again document the flora of Long Island. For the most part there was little communication among this new generation of botanists. By the mid-1980s a number of botanists had migrated to Long Island and interest in field botany was further revitalized Recognizing the need to meet and share interests and concerns, Robert Zaremba and Margaret Conover organized a group of about 24 botanists and naturalists who would formally establish the Long Island Botanical Society in 1986. The society was officially incorporated in 1989.

Spadix of Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
Photo courtesy of Donald House

Initially, the small group was held together by a common interest in field botany. Local field trips and monthly programs were usually presented by members of the Society. It soon became apparent however, that the group desired to be more than friends sharing a common interest; an urgent need to contribute to the botany of Long Island was expressed. The society established a local flora committee dedicated to the production of a new Flora of Long Island. The committee first prepared a checklist of Long Island vascular plants, past and present. The list consisted of approximately 1800 species. Monthly flora meetings began in 1990 and the current status of each plant species was discussed and recorded on data sheets and distribution maps. Just this past May (2003) the committee finished compiling data on all of the island's plant species, and has produced a draft atlas of the flora.

The society continues to be field-oriented. About six to eight local field trips are sponsored by the Society each year. Plant identification workshops are occasionally presented in which the indoor study of a plant group is then reinforced with a field trip. Monthly meetings are commonly centered around current research projects on Long Island botany. The education committee promotes the Society's activities to the general public. The society's newsletter has attracted many members during the past few years. It attempts to reach a wide audience of readers. Some articles are technical, but also included are interesting notes on the local flora, conservation, announcements of new publications, Society news, and upcoming events. What has Long Island's botanical community learned in the last 25 years? For one thing, the island still supports a rich diversity of plants. It has the greatest concentration of rare plants in New York and large areas of high-quality habitat still exist that support many diverse plant communities. On the other hand, Long Island has irretrievably lost some of its botanical heritage. The goal of the Long Island Botanical Society is to help preserve what remains of this heritage through the promotion of a greater understanding of the plants that grow wild on Long Island.

Executive Board
Eric Lamont

Vice President
Andrew Greller

Kathleen Gaffney

Recording Secretary
Sue Avery

Corresponding Secretary
John Potente

Committee Chairpersons
Local Flora
Eric Lamont
Andrew Greller

Field Trips
Robert Chapman

John Potente

Lois Lindberg

John Turner

Mary Laura Lamont

Kathleen Gaffney

Newsletter Editor
Eric Lamont

Donald House