Native Plants / Iowa
Iowa Native Plants
A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region or ecosystem without human introduction. There are many benefits to growing native plants. First, these plants are better adapted to soils, moisture, and weather than exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world. They need fewer fertilizers, and pesticides or use less water. Second, they are unlikely to escape and become invasive, destroying natural habitats. Third, they support wildlife, providing shelter and food for native birds and insects, while exotic plants do not.
Hardy and fast-growing, Acer negundo (Box Elder) is a suckering, vigorous, deciduous tree of upright habit with an irregular rounded canopy of widely spreading branches. The opposite, pinnately compound, light green leaves are composed of 3-7 leaflets, 6-15 in. long (15-37 cm), which turn a dull yellow in the fall.
Noted for its lovely fall color, Acer rubrum (Red Maple) is a relatively fast-growing deciduous tree of pyramidal habit when young, becoming rounded to oval at maturity. In early spring, tiny red flowers, borne in erect clusters, appear before the leaves and are followed by red fruit. Emerging red tinged in spring, the leaves change to dark green with whitish undersides and often develop dazzling yellows and red in the fall. This Red Maple also provides some winter interest, with its attractive, smooth gray bark, often ridged and furrowed with age.
Noted for its spectacular fall color, Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple) is a large, deciduous tree with a straight trunk, wide-spreading branches and a dense, oval to rounded crown. Its foliage of five-lobed leaves, 3-6 in. (7-15 cm) ranges from medium to dark green in summer, and changes to a brilliant palette of yellows, oranges, and reds in the fall.
Ideal for wet areas, Acorus calamus (Sweet Flag) is a spreading, marginal aquatic perennial forming a tuft of erect, sword-shaped, bright green leaves adorned with one slightly wavy edge and a prominent midrib. In late spring, this plant bears inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers in finger-like inflorescences, 2-4 in. long (5-10 cm), which give way to tiny, reddish berries. Both the crushed foliage and rootstocks have a pleasant aromatic fragrance. A great choice for naturalizing, Sweet Flag is quite versatile in the garden and makes a decorative foliage accent in water gardens and around ponds.
Striking all summer long, award-winning Actaea racemosa (Black Cohosh) is a beautiful perennial with deep green, finely divided foliage, enhanced by gracefully arching wands of fragrant white flowers in late summer and fall. The blooms are packed in fluffy spikes, up to 2 ft. long (60 cm), which rise well above the foliage and mature into attractive seed pods.
Perfect for shade gardens, Actaea rubra (Red Baneberry) is herbaceous perennial forming bushy clumps of finely divided, bright green foliage, enhanced by clusters of small fluffy white flowers in late spring and early summer. Borne on conspicuous red stems which rise above the foliage, they give way to pea-sized glossy scarlet berries in summer.
Aesculus glabra (Ohio Buckeye) is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree of rounded habit with a dense canopy of dark green leaves adorned with 5-7 leaflets. Its low, sweeping branches bend toward the ground and then arch back up, creating a rounded outline. In mid to late spring, greenish-yellow flowers are borne in 4-7 in. panicles (10-17 cm) but are often almost lost among the leaves.
Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) is an upright, clump-forming perennial with attractive spikes of small, tubular, lavender to purple flowers from early summer to early fall. Adding lovely vertical lines to the landscape, they are attractive to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.
An exclamation mark in the landscape throughout the winter, Agastache nepetoides (Yellow Giant Hyssop) is a tall herbaceous perennial boasting vertical spikes, 4-16 in. long (10-40 cm), packed with tiny, pale yellow flowers. Blooming for about 1-2 months from mid-summer to fall, they are borne atop stiff, square stems and attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators.
Allium stellatum (Prairie Onion) is a bulbous perennial forming a very compact clump of flat, slender, grass-like green leaves, 12 in. long (30 cm). From mid-summer to early fall, profuse, rounded umbels, 3-4 in. across (7-10 cm), tightly packed with rose-pink to lavender flowers are borne atop leafless stems just above the foliage.