5 Plants You Thought Were Native

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Because native plants have a long co-evolutionary history with the native wildlife of a location, they are uniquely well-suited choices for the modern garden. In this age of climate-change and habitat destruction, our gardens should do more than just look good: they must do good as well.
Whether that means providing food and shelter for wildlife or reducing stormwater pollution, native plants are great plants.
But human memory is short, and people sometimes equate prevalence with history. Yet many plants that Americans think of as native here are actually introduced from Europe, Asia, or Africa.

Here are five plants you might have thought were native:

1. Forsythia is so common in garden plantings you wouldn’t know that its actually native to Asia.  Want a native alternative with bright yellow blooms?  Try Witch Hazel or Shrubby St. Johns Wort. You could also plant a stand of goldenrod for spectacular yellow flowers with a big benefit to wildlife.

2. Periwinkle is widely sold by landscapers as a groundcover. Since it’s a common sight on the forest floor you might have mistaken this plant as a native. However, Periwinkle is actually an invasive introduced from Europe in the 1700s.  For a native evergreen groundcover try Bearberry or Wintergreen.

3. Daffodils are so ubiquitous in American gardens you wouldn’t know they aren’t native. Instead of planting Daffodils try planting Black Eyed Susan or Native Iris.

4. Dames Rocket was introduced as an ornamental around the time of European settlement and continues to be widely used throughout North America. What are a few showy native flowers to replace dames rocket? Try phlox, heliopsis, or calico beardtongue.

5. Despite the cunning name, American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is decidedly un-American: the native range includes Europe, Africa, and Asia. Commonly used as a highly pruned hedge plant, we generally encourage gardeners to take a lower-maintenance (and more wildlife-friendly) hands-off approach. Herring Run Nursery offers several varieties of the native inkberry (Ilex glabra) that can make a fine substitute for boxwood. The ‘Densa’ and ‘Gem Box’ varieties are especially dense and compact.

Just because a plant is common doesn’t mean its native.  Before introducing a new plant to your garden, check to make sure its a North American native. It is easy to look up any species of plant in the USDA Plants database to see if it is native or introduced.  To ensure that you are buying native, purchase your plants at Herring Run Nursery.