Seashore mallow. Photo by Marcy Damon/CBF StaffNative plants, like the seashore mallow, are adapted to local conditions and are important for native wildlife. Photo by Marcy Damon

Native Plants

With increased development, deforestation, loss of habitat, and extensive lawns, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has lost much of the diversity and genetic heritage of its native plants. Local wildlife, such as birds, insects, and mammals are also critically dependent on native plant communities (the zebra swallowtail butterfly, for example, feeds almost exclusively on pawpaw trees during its larval stage).

Native plants are plants that are indigenous to a specific region (eg. the Mid-Atlantic) or area (eg. the county where you live). They are adapted to local conditions of moisture, soil, and seasonal temperatures. While native plants are not maintenance-free, they require much less water, fertilizer, and care than non-native plants.

How to Choose Native Plants for Your Landscape

When restoring forests, wetlands, meadows, and shoreline buffers or creating formal landscape beds in a city or suburban garden, make a conscious choice to select natives instead of non-native plants.

Where to Find Native Plants

If possible, purchase native plants from local growers (see native plant suppliers below). Do not dig up plants from the wild; many natives have become threatened or endangered species due to this practice. Some plants require specific soil fungi and will not survive when transplanted in your garden. Urge your local nurseries to carry true native plants.

Non-Native Invasive Plants

A major reason for the loss of native plants in our landscapes is that their habitat has been taken over by non-native invasive plants. While not all non-natives are invasive (spreading aggressively with no natural controls), some species have done great harm to local ecosystems. Commonly found examples include purple loosestrife, kudzu, multiflora rose, English ivy, Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus) and Bradford Pear. Control of invasive plants can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. If you have any non-native invasive plants in your landscape, consider removing them and replacing them with native plants. 

Two invasive non-natives that have become prevalent in the Bay watershed are:

  • Norway maples—they shade out native groundcovers. Choose a red maple instead.
  • Bradford pears—they are overused in the landscape. Choose an American serviceberry instead, which provides food for wildlife and beautiful white flowers.

Non-Native Resources

National Park Service Publication
"Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Nature Areas."

Maryland Native Plant Society
Information on controlling non-natives, with lists of native plant alternatives.
P.O. Box 4877, Silver Spring, MD 20914

The Nature Conservancy, Maryland Chapter
Information on non-native invasive plants.
5410 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 100, Bethesda, MD 20814

Native Plants Resources

General information:
Delaware Native Plant Society

National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002

Maryland Native Plant Society
P.O. Box 4877, Silver Spring, MD 20914.

Maryland Department of National Resources,
State Forest Tree Nursery

Virginia Native Plant Society

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Maryland native plant lists to download

Native Plant Suppliers

Anne Arundel County Planning and Zoning, Annapolis, MD.
Will provide free marsh grasses (Spartina alterniflora) after application and site visit is complete to Anne Arundel County residents.

Biohabitats, Inc.
15 W. Aylesbury Road, Timonium, MD 21093

Chesapeake Native Nursery
Native plants propagated from indigenous seed sources. Mail order, nursery location in Riva, MD.
7400 Airpark Drive, Derwood, MD 20855

Clear Ridge Nursery
Native trees and shrubs for conservation.
217 Clear Ridge Road, Union Bridge, MD 21791

Environmental Concern
Retail nursery for riparian trees and wetland shrubs, education and research facility.
P.O. Box P, St. Michaels, MD 21663

Ernst Conservation Seeds
Seeds of native grasses, wildflowers, wetland plants and shrubs; live stakes for streambank restoration.
9006 Mercer Pike, Meadville, PA 16335.

Lower Marlboro Nursery
Native perennials, wildflowers, shrubs. Open by appointment.
P.O. Box 1013, Dunkirk, MD 20754

Octoraro Native Plant Nursery
Native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants for reforestation and streambank restoration.
6126 Street Road, Kirkwood, PA 17536-9647

Pinelands Nursery, Inc.
Wetland trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants.
323 Island Road, Columbus, New Jersey, 08022

Stadler Nurseries
Native trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, and grasses. Wholesale and retail.
Locations in Frederick, Md., Gaithersburg, Md., and Manassas, Va.
See website for addresses and contact information

Sylva Native Nursery and Seed Co.
Native trees and shrubs.
1683 Sieling Farm Road, New Freedom, PA 17349.

Tubex Forestry Products
Tree tubes and deer repellent for tree seedlings.

More Resources

Ten Ways to a Bay Friendly Lawn (pdf)

Creating Living Shorelines (pdf)

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