Wild Ones (Founded by Lorrie Otto)

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"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but rather borrow it from our descendants."- Chief Seattle (Member of the Duwamish Tribe of the Pudget Sound Indians, WA).[1]

Wild Ones, founded in 1979 by Lorrie Otto, is an enviromental organization focused on promoting the use of native plants to landscape city and suburban lawns. Lorrie believed that the monoculture of a typical suburban lawn had a negative affect on native plants and animals living in that particular environment. "If suburbia were landscaped with meadows, prairies, thickets, or forests, or combinations of these, then the water would sparkle, fish would be good to eat again, birds would sing and human spirits would soar."[2]

Core Values

"Wild Ones: Native plants and natural landscapes promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities[3]. Wild ones is a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization." The following are taken from Wildones.org[4]


"Our mission stems from our respect for the other species on this planet and future generations. We will treat each other – our staff, members and volunteers – with respect at all times. We respect different tastes in landscaping but also ask that others show respect for the common good by considering how they can conserve resources and improve the environment via the inclusion of native plants in their landscapes."

Personalized Support

"Our members value the opportunity for direct contact with other Wild Ones members and the ability to “learn locally.” This sets Wild Ones apart from many similar organizations. Networking and education are our most important functions."

Appreciation - Volunteers are the Heart of Wild Ones

"To keep our dues low and our efforts local, Wild Ones is a grass-roots organization that runs primarily on volunteer effort. We will continue to rely on volunteers to carry our mission forward. We will support our volunteers and recognize their efforts, especially those in volunteer leadership positions."

All Members are Valuable Members

"At the national level our income is largely derived from member dues and donations. We appreciate all members, respecting that everyone has varying priorities and demands on their time which impact their ability to volunteer."

Fresh and Adaptable

"While we stay focused on our core abilities and goals we will continually look for and solicit ideas from our Board, our members and honorary directors for new strategies that we might use to further our goal of promoting sustainable landscape practices."

Background - Lorrie Otto

Lorrie Otto ( Mary Lorraine Stoeber) was born in 1919 near Madison, WI. Since she was young, Lorrie has always had a deep love for nature. Growing up on her fathers farm, Lorrie had first hand experience with many indigenous plants and animals. One of her favorite memories was running through the freshly plowed soil as her father tended the fields with a horse draw plow. There was nothing better than studying earthworms and other insects that had been unearthed during the hot summers on the farm.

After Graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Lorrie married Owen Otto and moved towards Milwaukee, WI just off the coast of Lake Michigan. Otto would go on to live most of her life there peacefully until 1969 when The Nature Conservancy purchased a local twenty-acre ravine, rich in flora and fauna, in order to build new establishments on top of it. This act shifted Lorries views on nature and she would soon become the naturalist and teacher that is known today. Otto would later become an active board member of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Citizens Natural Resources Association (CNRA). She also lead Wisconsin to the 1972 ban on DDT, an insecticide commonly used on mosquitoes but harmful to many other plants and animals. Five years later Lorrie established Wild Ones in hopes of spreading awareness of the importance of native plants. She passed away May 29th, 2010.

Why Native Landscaping?

                         "If we care about the Earth we could heal it by removing lawns, by finding alternatives to lawns. You can do wonderful things on your own property to protect the environment. Each little island, each corridor will help bring back the butterflies and birds." - Lorrie Otto"[5]

What actually is a native plant one may ask. Wildones.org defines a native plant as "..one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem and/or habitat and was present prior to European settlement."[6] Wild One's notes that it's important to select indigenous plants and seeds when landscaping your lawn, even if that species is from the same type of ecosystem outside of your state.

So why should we focus on choosing indigenous species when it comes to landscaping? The main reason we see this push towards natural landscaping is because many indigenous species are dying due to our tendencies to change they're ecosystems by planting non-indigenous plants in our lawns. Many insects and smaller species such as birds, rabbits and snakes have been affected throughout the years because they no longer live in habitats that sustain them properly. By switching out indigenous plants with plants that look good, we are altering their way of live. Though many may not see the importance in planting a single non-native flower, it can have drastic affects in the long run.

What Can We Do to Help?

When making the switch over to native landscaping, it's important to analyze the region that you live in and research what plants are actually considered native based on your location. Once you have a basic understanding of what you should and should not use, try visiting a local greenhouse or farmers market. It's very likely that many plants being sold there are considered native species to your area. If that's not the case, try seeking professional help by asking one of your fellow gardeners. These individuals are skilled in gardening and landscaping and will most likely know various indigenous species based on your particular region.

Benefits of Natural Landscaping

  • It Protects Habitats: Indigenous plant species are crucial to non-humans: insects, birds, deer, etc.
  • It's Sustainable: Native landscaping can help offset the effects of climate change.
  • Pollinators: Native plants increase pollination!
  • It Increases yields: With the use of native plants, vegetable and berry gardens thrive!


  1. "Lorrie Otto," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/about-us-2/people-of-distinction/lorrie-otto/
  2. "Lorrie Otto," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/about-us-2/people-of-distinction/lorrie-otto/
  3. "Native Plants and Natural Landscaping," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/learn/native-plants-natural-landscaping/
  4. "About Us," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/about-us-2/
  5. "Native Plants and Natural Landscaping," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/learn/native-plants-natural-landscaping/
  6. "Native Plants and Natural Landscaping," Wild Ones, Accessed 05/01/2018, https://www.wildones.org/learn/native-plants-natural-landscaping/

Additional Published Resources

  • Wild Ones--Natural Landscapers, Ltd. (1996). Wild Ones Journal.
  • Wild Ones--Natural Landscapers, Ltd. (1997). Wild Ones Handbook.
  • Naso, Markisan. (2008). Going native: Landscaping with indigenous plants helps property managers streamline maintenance and reduce costs.(ductape). Journal of Property Management, 73(2), 66.

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