In the early 1960s, the Conservation Committee initiated a project to collect and press native and naturalized plants of Wilton. Spearheaded by the energetic efforts of long-time member, Marybeth Wheeler, the Club’s members collected about 550 plants from Wilton and several hundred additional plants representative of Connecticut. They meticulously pressed, mounted, and systematically arranged the plants for study in a collection known as an herbarium. The herbarium also includes 200 historical sheets prepared by amateur botanist and long-time Wilton resident, Anna Carpenter, who donated her collection of pressed plants to the Wilton Library (of which she was a founding member) in 1921. In 1981, the Club donated the entire collection to the Wilton Library where it currently resides in the library’s History Room. In 2012, the Club named the herbarium The Marybeth Wheeler Herbarium to honor the remarkable woman who initiated the effort. With support from the Yale Peabody Herbarium and the Northeast Consortium of Herbaria, the conservation committee fully digitized the collection in 2015. The diversity of our native flora reflects the health of our ecological community with its varied habitats. This diversity is verified through the use of a herbarium.
As a companion project, the Wilton Garden Club published an award-winning book in 1992 titled The Ferns and Flowering Plants of Wilton. It is an account of plants growing in our town and the recorded history of their presence. Not coincidentally, one of the resources for it was Anna Carpenter’s list of Wilton plants. The book, which is a compilation of essays, botanical drawings, maps, and checklists, identifies nearly 1,000 plants and their habitats as well as their use in parks and gardens. It is also available at the Wilton Library.