Plant Rescue FAQ

The following questions and answers were originally prepared by Jeane Saylor Reeves, the original advisor to the Plant Rescue Program.

Who can participate?
Any member of the Georgia Native Plant Society can participate in plant rescues. Members may bring a guest with certain restrictions. Check with the lead facilitator on each particular rescue for permission. Children under the age of 14 cannot participate due to liability issues. At each rescue, all participants are required to sign both a hold-harmless agreement and a participation agreement.

May I bring a friend/spouse?
Membership in GNPS is an Individual/Family membership; therefore, anyone living in your household is a member and may sign up for rescues. With permission of the facilitator, a friend (if a Georgia resident), can come on a single rescue before joining the GNPS.

How do I learn of rescues?
Members are notified monthly of scheduled rescues by e-mail, and the list is posted on the Plant Rescue Schedule page and on the calendar. Unscheduled rescues, called “pop-up” rescues, may occur anytime during the month, and an email with that information is sent and the information is posted on the website. Rescues are not normally held in January, July, and August.

How often can I come?
Rescues are open to all members but are usually limited in size to approximately 12 to 15 people. During the on-line sign-up process, you will be notified by the lead facilitator if you have a confirmed place on the rescue. If all places are taken, you may be placed on a waiting list in case of cancellations.

Is there any cost to go on the rescues?
No, there is no cost (except for sweat equity). Participation is a privilege of membership in GNPS.

Will there be someone there to help me?
Yes, the rescues are generally a mix of experienced, knowledgeable people and newcomers; men and women; young adults and older ones. You will find that we are happy to share our expertise on plant identification and replanting.

How hard is it?
Native plant rescues are not “a walk in the park.” They are lots of fun, but also involve climbing steep slopes, crossing creeks, and maneuvering fallen trees. People of all ages join in our rescues, but it’s best to be at least somewhat fit. Just carrying heavy bags of plants and damp dirt back to cars can be strenuous.

What will I find?
Every site is different but, in general, you will find various wildflowers, ferns and mosses, shrubs such as native azaleas or viburnums, and small trees such as beech, maple, and redbud. Some sites have unusual, special plants, which we are always delighted to find and save from the earthmovers.

How can I join the Society?
There is an application form on the Membership page. As soon as your membership is processed and your email address is added to the rescue email list, you will begin receiving the monthly rescue email notification. You will be so glad you did join GNPS, and not just for the rescues. This is a wonderful group of interesting, bright, caring folks with a challenging mission, and you will fit right in!

Where are the rescues?
The sites for which we get permission to save plants are usually wooded and are slated to become subdivisions, office parks, even reservoirs. The sites are most often in the greater metro Atlanta area. At some point, when we have enough trained volunteers and rescue sites, rescues may be offered in other areas of the state.

How are the rescue properties discovered?
We learn of potential rescue sites through our members, from newspaper articles, from developers, and from concerned citizens.

What kind of property is best for rescues?
The first requirement is that is will be developed soon, as we do not want to disturb plants that will not be destroyed. Property that has the highest potential for saving plants is usually wooded (mature hardwoods or a mixed forest of hardwoods and pines.) Land that is sloped and has a stream on it will most likely have plants to rescue. But we never really know until we do a site survey if the property is right for rescues. We have found some wonderful surprises!

How do I let you know about potential sites?
The more information provided about the property the better! Take a look at our Potential Rescue Site Information Form to see what we need. Then the next time you see a zoning sign or a for sale sign on some property, come back to the website and let us know about it. We have to have enough information to find the property and the property owner.

Should I take a look at the property before I contact you?
If you enter property without the owner’s permission, you are trespassing. So, please let the site procurement people get permission to check it out.

I own some property and I don’t mind if GNPS wants to rescue on it.
No, we only want to do plant rescues where plants are going to be destroyed by development in the near future. Your undisturbed native plants provide needed food and habitat for insects, birds, and small mammals, so let’s keep it that way!

I’d like to help find new sites. Whom do I contact?
Contact the Rescue Directors, Marcia Winchester and Ellen Honeycutt using We are always looking for volunteers to help on the rescue committee. We’d love to have a site procurement volunteer in each of the metro Atlanta counties.

How long do we stay?
Rescuers are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the start time to sign the necessary paperwork. Those arriving after the designated start time may be denied access to the rescue. Our rescues last about two hours, sometimes less in very cold or hot conditions. If lightning is seen or heard, even distantly, we leave the woods immediately.

Can I come back on my own?
NO. The only time you can be on any rescue property is when you are there under the leadership of a trained GNPS facilitator, with the proper forms, on a sanctioned native plant rescue. Otherwise, it is considered trespassing.

What supplies do I need to bring?
To carry the plants, we use plastic grocery bags, doubled for strength. (To avoid mix-ups, prior to the rescue, please use a marker pen to add your initials to the bags.) Buckets with handles also work well. Large drawstring garbage bags are good for heavier plants such as shrubs, small trees, or large ferns. You will need a shovel, a hand trowel, or both. These need to be marked with your initials in case they are misplaced. In warm weather, you may want to bring insect repellent and drinking water. Have water available in your vehicle for your rescued plants to help them to survive the shock of being transplanted.

What should I wear?
The woods, while beautiful, are often host to poison ivy, ticks, and biting or stinging insects. We recommend long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks, sturdy shoes, and perhaps a hat. Facilitators require all rescue participants to wear blaze orange clothing (vests, caps, etc.) during hunting season on all sites (mid-September through the end of February). They may also require the blaze orange on large sites or other times when it is beneficial to help keep track of rescuers. Many hardware stores and big box stores carry the supplies.

Are the plants we dig going to live?
Yes, most likely. Most of them are surprisingly tough, and if given good and proper care, they will thrive when transplanted. Newly planted rescue plants as with all plants, will probably need extra water, usually for the first year. 

Where do all the plants go?
The ferns, wildflowers, shrubs and trees we save are given new homes either in GNPS members’ home gardens and habitats, or they are transplanted to public facilities and projects of the GNPS, such as nature centers botanical gardens or Master Gardener projects.

Alternately, do I get to keep my plants?
While you are not required to give away any of the plants that you dig, occasionally a facilitator will ask or suggest that a small percentage of the plants be donated to a GNPS-aided public garden or project in need of certain native plant material.

Can I sell the plants I find?
NO. To make money from the plants that are rescued would be a violation of the generosity and trust the developers place in the GNPS. The only exception is that of the GNPS Plant Sales, which are a fundraiser to support the projects of our non-profit organization.


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