Native Plants: What to Grow

June 17, 2015
Courtesy of New England Wildflower SocietyPictured here from left to right: Red chokeberry, Lowbush blueberry, Running Foamflower

According to the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS), native plant species are disappearing at an alarming rate. In a report released this spring, researchers detail the trend—and what can be done to halt it. One easy measure is to make space for native plants in your own yard. Daniel Jaffe of NEWFS recommends starting with these three, which can thrive throughout the Northeast:

1. Red chokeberry
Native to states along the eastern seaboard, this species thrives in and around wetlands but will also grow in drier soils once it’s established.

2. Running foamflower
Found from northern Maine down to Pennsylvania (where it gives way to a southern form of the species), this plant grows best in partly sunny to shady sites and in moist to partially dry soil.

3. Lowbush blueberry
This site-tolerant species is native to every state in our region and will grow in sunny or shady locations, although it doesn’t thrive in wet habitats.

While the species above have fairly wide-ranging habitats, other native plants grow best in very specific environments. Here are Jaffe’s top recommendations for five northeastern ecoregions.

Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens

Sandy, sunny sites such as southern New Jersey and Long Island, N.Y.

1.    Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

2.    Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

3.    Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)

4.    Flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata)

5.    Flax-leaved stiff aster (Ionactis linariifolia)

6.    Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

7.    Spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata)

8.    Narrow-leaved evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa)

9.    Common horsemint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

10.   Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

11.   Wild campion (Silene caroliniana)

12.   Narrow-leaved blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

13.   Smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)

14.   Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

15.   Bird’s-foot violet (Viola pedata)

Eastern Great Lakes and Hudson Lowlands
Moist to wet areas, covering lower elevations throughout New York State

1.    Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)

2.    Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

3.    Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

4.    Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

5.    Spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

6.    Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

7.    Blue flag (Iris versicolor)

8.    Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

9.    Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

10.   Broad-leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)

11.   Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

12.    Red-osier dogwood (Swida sericea)

13.   Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

14.   New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

15.   Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

Laurentian Plains and Hills
Eastern Maine, from the New Brunswick, Canada, border to Portland.

1.    Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

2.    Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

3.    Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

4.    Coastal sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

5.    Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

6.    Appalachian barren strawberry (Geum fragarioides)

7.    Bluet (Houstonia caerulea)

8.    False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

9.    Wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)

10.   Common horsemint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

11.   American burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis)

12.   Narrow-leaved blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

13.   Running foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia var. cordifolia)

14.   Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

15.   Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

Northeastern Coastal Zone

Rich mesic forests, such as coastal Massachusetts and Connecticut

1.    Snakeroot (Actaea racemosa)

2.    Wild leek (Allium tricoccum)

3.    American spikenard (Aralia racemosa)

4.    Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

5.    Virginia spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)

6.    Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis)

7.    Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

8.    Appalachian barren strawberry (Geum fragarioides)

9.    Starry false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

10.   Long beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis)

11.   May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum)

12.   King Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

13.   Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

14.   Anemone meadow rue (Thalictrum thalictroides)

15.   Possum haw (Viburnum nudum)

Northeastern Highlands
Acidic forests, such as New Hampshire and western Maine

1.    Striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum)

2.    Snakeroot (Actaea racemosa)

3.    Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

4.    Northern lady fern (Athyrium angustum)

5.    Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

6.    Bunchberry (Chamaepericlymenum canadense)

7.    Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

8.    False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

9.    Fiddlehead fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris ssp. Pensylvanica)

10.   Broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera)

11.   Blue-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caesia var. caesia)

12.   Blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)

13.   Running foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia var. cordifolia)

14.    Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

15.   Maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.