Category: Native Plants

Going Native

From the N.C. State University Going Native Project:


There are many benefits to using native plants in your landscape — for you, for your community, and for wildlife.


With habitat disappearing at an alarming rate, you can help provide wildlife with an oasis of the habitat they need to thrive.  The native plants that you use can meet the needs, including food and cover, of native wildlife without causing long-term damage to local plant communities. With the right diversity of native plants in your urban landscape, you can provide:

  • Protective cover for many animals.
  • Seeds, nuts, and fruits for squirrels and other mammals.
  • Seeds, fruits, and insects for birds.
  • Nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Larval host plants for butterfly caterpillars.

Prevent Introduction of Invasive Plants

The use of only native plants in your landscape helps limit the chances that potentially invasive, exotic plant species will be introduced into the environment around your home.  Many of the invasive, exotic plant species present in the South’s natural areas today were introduced as landscape plantings many decades ago. Continued introduction of new exotic plants into suburban landscapes will result in many new invasive plants in the future.


Many native plants produce showy flowers, abundant fruits and seeds, and brilliant fall foliage. By planting native plants, you will have a beautiful yard that is friendly to wildlife.

Low Maintenance

Native plants generally grow well and require little care when grown on proper soils under the right environmental conditions. By choosing the right native plants, you may be able to use fewer pesticides and less water.


As more people use native plants in their urban landscaping, it adds to the available habitat for wildlife and benefits the community as a whole.  Going native helps save our natural heritage for future generations.

To find out how you can get started, go to How To Go Native.

A Messy Garden

I took a pledge today (Habitat Network at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) to keep a messy garden during the winter for my native wildlife habitat and the pollinator species that frequent it. Really this was an easy one, because I already do most of these anyway:

  • Leave your leaves on the property.
  • Allow dried flower heads to stay standing in your garden.
  • Build a brush pile with fallen branches instead of removing them.
  • Forget the chemicals.
  • Leave snags on your property.
  • Delay garden cleanup until spring, after several 50F days, allowing overwintering pollinators to move on.


In the “Old Days” this would be classified as a Cut-and-Save article. I think that it is a good idea to have a glossary of plant-related classification terms, so I would like to post a list of definitions from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (Connecticut):

Native, Invasive, and Other Plant-Related Definitions

Native Plant

A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Note: The word native should always be used with a geographic qualifier (that is, native to New England [for example]). Only plants found in this country before European settlement are considered to be native to the United States.

Invasive Plant

A plant that is both non-native and able to establish on many sites, grow quickly, and spread to the point of disrupting plant communities or ecosystems. Note: From the Presidential Executive Order 13112 (February 1999): ‘An invasive species is defined as a species that is 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.’ In contrast to item 2) of the Executive Order, which includes plants invasive in agricultural settings, the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group lists non-native plants as invasive only if they invade minimally managed (natural) areas.

Non-Native Plant

A plant introduced with human help (intentionally or accidentally) to a new place or new type of habitat where it was not previously found. Note: Not all non-native plants are invasive. In fact, when many non-native plants are introduced to new places, they cannot reproduce or spread readily without continued human help (for example, many ornamental plants).

Naturalized Plant

A non-native plant that does not need human help to reproduce and maintain itself over time in an area where it is not native. Notes: Even though their offspring reproduce and spread naturally (without human help), naturalized plants do not, over time, become native members of the local plant community. Many naturalized plants are found primarily near human-dominated areas; and, sometimes, naturalized is used (confusingly) to refer specifically to naturally reproducing, non-native plants that do not invade areas dominated by native vegetation. However, since invasive plants also reproduce and spread without human help, they also are naturalized. Invasives are a small, but troublesome, sub-category of naturalized plants.

Exotic Plant

A plant not native to the continent on which it is now found. (Plants from Europe are exotic in North America; plants from North America are exotic in Japan.)

Translocated Plant

A plant not native to the portion of the continent where it is now found. (California Poppies in New England are an example of a translocated species.)

Opportunistic Native Plant

A native plant that is able to take advantage of disturbance to the soil or existing vegetation to spread quickly and out-compete the other plants on the disturbed site.


Common Usage – A weed is a plant (native or non-native) that is not valued in the place where it is growing (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)). Definition – Any plant that poses a major threat to agriculture and/or natural ecosystems within the United States.

Noxious Weed

Common Usage – A plant that is particularly troublesome. Legal Context (Federal Plant Protection Act) – Any plant or plant product that can directly or indirectly injure or cause damage to crops (including nursery stock or plant products), livestock, poultry or other interests of agriculture, irrigation, navigation, the natural resources of the United States, the public health, or the environment. Note: USDA APHIS maintains a list of federally-recognized noxious weeds. It is illegal to import Federally listed noxious weeds or transport them across state lines. Some states or counties maintain lists and have passed laws regarding responsibilities for their control.

Thanksgiving II

Yesterday I posted a list, as compiled by Doug Tallamy (Bringing Nature Home, 2007), of the best native trees and shrubs in the Mid-Atlantic area for supporting butterflies and moths . Today I would like to post his list of the best native herbaceous perennials and flowers. Both of these lists are comprised of species that provide nectar for the butterfly and moth adult as well as food for the caterpillars. I am thankful that I have specimens from 17 of these 21 genera represented on my little piece of land. There is more work to do . . .

Common Name Genus Number of
Goldenrod Solidago 115
Asters Aster 112
Sunflower Helianthus 73
Joe Pye (Boneset) Eupatorium 42
Morning Glory Ipomoea 39
Sedges Carex 36
Honeysuckle Lonicera 36
Lupine Lupinus 33
Violets Viola 29
Geraniums Geranium 23
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia 17
Iris Iris 17
Evening Primrose Oenothera 16
Milkweed Asclepias 12
Verbena Verbena 11
Beardtongue Penstemon 8
Phlox Phlox 8
Bee Balm Monarda 7
Veronica Veronica 6
Little Blue Stem Schizachyrium 6
Cardinal Flower Lobelia 4

Thanksgiving I

During this week of Thanksgiving, I would like to share a list compiled by Doug Tallamy of the best native trees and shrubs in the Mid-Atlantic area for supporting butterflies and moths (Bringing Nature Home, 2007). I am thankful that I have 11 of these species on my little piece of land.

Common Name Genus Number of
Oak Quercus 534
Black Cherry Prunus 456
Willow Salix 455
Birch Betula 413
Poplar Populus 368
Crabapple Malus 311
Blueberry Vaccinium 288
Maple Acer 285
Elm Ulmus 213
Pine Pinus 203
Hickory Carya 200
Hawthorn Crataegus 159
Spruce Picea 156
Alder Alnus 156
Basswood Tilia 150
Ash Fraxinus 150
Rose Rosa 139
Filbert Corylus 131
Walnut Juglans 130
Beech Fagus 126
Chestnut Castanea 125