Native Plants / Rhode Island
Rhodes Island 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 in 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 less fertilizers, pesticides or use less water. Second, they are unlikely to escape and become invasive, destroying natural habitat. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny Serviceberry) is a large deciduous shrub or small multi-trunked tree of dense, fine-textured branching habit with purplish to bronze young leaves. In mid spring, abundant sprays of small, slightly fragrant, white flowers emerge as the leaves unfurl.
Providing multi-season interest, Amelanchier stolonifera (Running Serviceberry) is a deciduous, early-flowering, stoloniferous shrub boasting showy upright clusters of 5-petaled, white flowers in spring, as the leaves are expanding. Attractive to bees and other pollinators, they are followed by abundant, edible, dark purple berries in summer. Resembling blueberries, they are often used in pies and are appreciated by both birds and humans.