Union County Free Native Plant Swap and Shop

The Union County Board of County Commissioners is pleased to announce an opportunity for residents to participate in a Plant Swap and Shop event, on June 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm in the Scout Camping Area of the Watchung Reservation.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique opportunity for Union County residents to actively contribute to the preservation and restoration of our local environment,” Commissioner Chairwoman Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded. “By swapping invasive plants for native ones, participants not only help combat the spread of harmful species but also help the growth of native habitats that support our local wildlife. We’re incredibly grateful for our residents’ dedication to creating a healthier, more sustainable Union County.”

Invasive plants, typically not native to the area, can quickly take over if not controlled. They outcompete native plants, making the ecosystem more vulnerable to pests, diseases, and environmental changes. Additionally, they often don’t provide food or habitat for wildlife. By planting various native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses, you’ll attract a wide range of native insects and birds. These creatures rely on these plants for nectar, seeds, and fruit, which keep nature balanced, resilient to changes.

Residents are invited to bring up to three distinct invasive plants and exchange them for up to three native plants, all at no cost. This initiative aims to promote the removal of invasive species from local ecosystems while encouraging the planting of native species, which are vital for supporting biodiversity and enhancing the natural landscape. Examples of invasive plants to bring for the swap are: Japanese barberry, pachysandra, butterfly bush, garlic mustard, porcelain berry, periwinkle, English ivy and Chinese silvergrass. These plants should be dug up recently and brought to the event with their root included in a sealed bag or box. The native plants offered for swap include Blue Cardinal Flower, Dense Blazing Star, Blue False Indigo, Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Sunflower, Swamp Milkweed and Black Eyed Susan.

In addition to the plant swap, participants will have the opportunity to shop for native plants at the event, courtesy of Toadshade Native Plant Nursery. Toadshade is a plant nursery in Frenchtown that specializes in native, perennial, propagated wildflower plants. Pre-orders through the Toadshade website at http://www.toadshade.com are recommended for convenient pickup at the event.

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for all attendees, pre-registration for the event is required, with a maximum of 100 registrants accepted. Residents can register by registering below.

For more information about native plants in Union County, please download our free guide: “Plant This, not That.” Questions about the Plant Swap and Shop on June 6th should be directed to park.env.services@ucnj.org.

Registration Form

What is an invasive plant?

Any plant that is not native (or does not naturally live in our area) that causes harm to the environment.  In most cases, invasive plants are able to overtake an ecosystem and use up valuable space and resources from native plant species.

They do this by being very effective and fast reproducers and by being habitat generalists – they live well in a variety of conditions.  Invasive plants have few, if any, natural predators or competitors (ie: deer, groundhogs, etc), so there is nothing to keep their population in check.

Once established, these plants can continue to grow and spread, and can eventually form a monoculture – an area with just one plant species – which is devastating to biodiversity.

How many can I bring?

As many as you would like!  But we can only give you a maximum of 3 native plants per household.

How do I bring them?

Dig up the plant, roots and all, and place in a box, bag, etc.  Be sure to tie or tape the container so nothing “escapes”! 

Where do I bring them?

Use GPS directions for 452 New Providence Rd, Mountainside, NJ.  Before entering the Trailside Nature & Science Center parking lot, take the Dead End service road to the left of the yellow and green Trailside sign.  Follow that road downhill to the Scout Camping Area. There will be signs to help guide you.

How do I register and what plants will I be given in return?Please use the form above on this page. Any additional questions should be directed to park.env.services@ucnj.org. Plants that will be available for swapping (while supplies last) include:

  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Dense Blazing Star
  • Blue False Indigo
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Blue Cardinal Flower
  • Swamp Sunflower

How do I pre-order plants from Toadshade Wildflower Farm for this event?

Simply go to toadshade.com, and during checkout enter “Union County Swap and Shop” in the special requests box.  For the shipping option, choose “pickup.”

What are examples of invasive plants?


Any questions can be directed to park.env.services@ucnj.org