Native Plants / Massachusetts
Massachusetts 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.
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.
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.
Most attractive, Alnus serrulata (Smooth Alder) is a large, spreading deciduous shrub or small tree of pyramidal habit with a densely branched canopy. Its multi-stemmed trunks are covered with shiny gray-brown bark. The foliage of undulating, elliptic to obovate, glossy green leaves, 2-4 in. long (5-10 cm), turns yellow-brown in the fall. In early to mid-spring, long, pendant, pale yellow male catkins, 4 in. long (10 cm), dangle like Christmas decorations near the bare branch tips.
An excellent substitute for spinach, Amaranthus viridis (Slender Amaranth) is a vigorous, erect annual or short-lived perennial with a slender branched stem and deeply veined leaves, up to 6 in. long (15 cm), with a long leaf stalk. Occasionally eaten as a cooked vegetable, the leaves are diuretic and purgative and used in poultices to treat inflammations.
Early-flowering, Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry) is a large deciduous shrub or small tree of rounded habit boasting a profusion of 5-petaled, showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in early to mid-spring. Borne in drooping clusters, they appear before the leaves emerge.
Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian Serviceberry) is a dense, upright, multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree with a delicate, dome-shaped crown. In mid-spring, attractive erect sprays of small, slightly fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers emerge just before the leaves.