In 1977, nine people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin attended a natural landscaping workshop led by
Lorrie Otto and became intensely interested in the new concept of landscaping with native plants. Their enthusiasm blossomed into Wild Ones Natural Landscapers, a national not-for-profit organization with a mission to educate and share information with members and community at the “plants-roots” level and to promote biodiversity and environmentally sound practices. We serve as a resource for private individuals, schools, commercial property owners, and community decision makers as they move toward ethical choices in land use and in the redefinition of current guidelines and ordinances affecting our landscape. Because we are a “plants-roots” organization, our organizational goals are accomplished through local chapters and their individual members.
On June 8, 1990, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd was organized under Articles of Incorporation—Non-stock Corporation Law, Chapter 181 of the Wisconsin Statutes. On April 11, 1995, Wild Ones was granted exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code for educational purposes.
Prior to 1995, the original Milwaukee Chapter of Wild Ones (Milwaukee-North) had been functioning as the administrative hub for the entire membership and there were only a few chapters. Because of membership growth, it became necessary to rethink the organizational structure in order to meet present and future needs and to enhance communication among the growing number of chapters. Summer of 1995 marked the first meeting of the new National Board and national officers. Bret Rappaport, a Chicago attorney, was elected as President, and continues to serve as counsel to the national Board. At that time, the national Board of Directors was comprised of nine elected at-large members plus each chapter president. In 2000, the bylaws were changed to facilitate decision making; and the Board now consists of up to 15 elected at-large members. The Executive Committee is made up of the national officers: president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, immediate past president, and the executive director. Valuable assistance comes from the standing board committees (communications, finance, and governance), and ad hoc committees. Except for the executive director and the Journal editor, all members of the executive committee, board of directors and chair people are volunteers. Each person brings their own unique expertise to our organization to implement the board’s directives and guide chapter operations.
The first edition of the Wild Ones newsletter was published in June 1988 and was called The Outside Story. The Wild Ones newsletter has been published continuously since and is now called the Wild Ones Journal. Serving as the primary information vehicle for all Wild Ones members, it covers Wild Ones activities both local and national while providing valuable educational information about all things related to native plants and natural landscaping. Many articles from the Wild Ones Journal are featured on the Learn webpages of the Wild Ones website.
The Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Program (SFE) began in 1996 and was named in honor of naturalist and Wild Ones inspirational leader Lorrie Otto, a pioneer in the natural landscaping movement in the United States and on who’s philosophy Wild Ones was founded. SFE annually gives cash awards to places of learning and other organized groups who successfully communicate their vision of creating natural landscapes using native plants for the purpose of educating users of the facility and the community. Applications are judged and winners selected by a volunteer panel of educators and naturalists. SFE nursery partners (native plant nurseries and propagators) also donate seeds, plants and guidance to grant recipients.
In 1996, Wild Ones went live with its first website using the URL address www.for-wild.org, which was later updated in 2010 to www.wildones.org. The goal of the website is to provide an internet connection to our members, as well as to the rest of the world. It enables Wild Ones and its chapters to showcase their accomplishments to the rest of the internet world, as well as to promote our mission of natural landscaping with native plants.
Beginning with 2003, the Wild Ones national board approved a new name for Wild Ones. The legal name will remain Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd, but for purposes of more clearly aligning our name with the mission of our organization, we will now refer to ourselves as Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes.
On July 23, 2004 the State of Wisconsin recognized Wild Ones in honor of its 25th anniversary as an exemplary organization. Wild Ones celebrated the occasion of its 25th anniversary on August 7th and 8th with a blow-out annual meeting and conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Keynote speaker was Robert Michael Pyle, noted speaker, professor, and ecologist and award-winning author. We were fortunate to have several of the original founders celebrate with us.
The purchase of the Wild Ones Institute of Learning and Development (WILD Center) was celebrated on August 22, 2008 at the first annual meeting to be held at the Wild Ones new headquarters. The WILD Center consists of 16 acres of upland, riparian woodland and marsh as well as a useful headquarters building, is a showcase for natural landscaping and native plants.
Wild Ones 30th anniversary was celebrated in Milwaukee—back where it all started because of a simple workshop put on by Lorrie Otto.
In 2010 Wild Ones Marketing Committee developed our Grow Wild Ones Marketing plan. We are pleased with the results knowing that it is helping us grow our membership and spreading the word about Wild Ones mission further across the United States and Canada.
One of the key goals of the plan was to form partnerships with like-minded organizations; 2012 brought our first. Our partnership with Monarch Joint Venture sent us on an adventure that led to our achieving many of the other goals outlined in the Wild Ones Grow Wild Ones Marketing plan and especially reaching a larger audience.
Wild Ones 35th anniversary was celebrated at the WILD Center with the theme “Moving forward with Monarchs.” Chip Taylor from Monarch Watch was our keynote speaker along with several other notable environmental stewards.
For our 36th year, we began a new era. Donna VanBuecken, Wild Ones first Executive Director wanted to retire, so mid-September 2015 brought Wild Ones a new Executive Director. A special “pass the torch” issue of the Wild Ones Journal was published. Read about how far we’ve come and where we’re going with the native landscaping movement through our Wild Ones Chapter Comments and our Wild Ones Member Comments
A complete time-line of Wild Ones events can be found at chronology.
The Wild Ones logo is the official registered trademark of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes. The Wild Ones logo is protected by law, and may not be used by other organizations or entities without express written permission from Wild Ones.