All About Native Plants

We are very fortunately located. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of beautiful plants that are native to our area. Why is it useful to use native plants in your landscape? Native plants are a natural part of the native ecosystem and help to support the native wildlife in our area. They tend to require less maintenance, handle our weather well and require little to no chemical interventions relative to non-native plants. If you have planting constraints, you can almost always find a native plant option. On this page you will discover the definition of native plants, a list of some of the best starter natives, using native plants to support pollinators, some sources for further reading and of course some sources for native plants.

From the Master Gardener Handbook

What Are Native Plants?

Native plants are those species that evolved naturally in a region without human intervention. Red maple (Acer rubrum), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) are examples of the over 3,900 species of plants the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) PLANTS Database lists as native to North Carolina. These plants developed and adapted to local soil and climate conditions over thousands of years and are vital parts of local ecosystems necessary for the survival of pollinators, insects, birds, mammals, and other wildlife.

Plants are not considered native to a region within decades or even centuries after introduction. To be native, they must originate in the region and co-evolve with other species over thousands of years. As these species evolve together, they adapt to the physical environment formed by local climate and weather conditions, soil types, topography, and hydrology.

Native plants form interdependent, highly specialized relationships with other organisms that are necessary for each other’s survival. Replacing natives with plants from other regions cannot replicate the complex interactions that naturally occur.

Link to Master Gardener Handbook Chapter on Native Plants

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Charlotte Glen and Matt Jones shared four excellent presentations with a stunning amount of info about native

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The Southeast Native Plant Primer:

225 Plants for an Earth-Friendly Garden

by Larry Mellichamp,Will Stuart, Paula Gross

plants that are perfect for the Piedmont region. This link includes presentations about perennials, trees and shrubs. Plus lots of other links specific to gardening with native plants.

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Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website houses a Native Plant Database with information and photos of more than 25,000 native plants.

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Native Plants of the Southeast:

A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden
by Larry Mellichamp

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If you are interested in using native plants to attract pollinators, this beautifully illustrated e-book, Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants is perfect. When you plan your garden, think like a pollinator -- and this book shows you how.

 Native Plant Starter List

American Beautyberry Callicarpa americana

Black or Brown-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia spp.

Blazing Star, Liatris spicata

Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides

Coneflower, Echinacea spp.
Eastern Columbine Aquilegia canadensis

Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida

Ironweed, Vernonia spp.

Milkweed, Asclepias spp.

Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum spp.

Pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris

Stoke's Aster, Stokesia laevis 

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The NC Native Plant Society conducts nature hikes and walks, educational seminars, and plant sales all focused on the the native flora of North Carolina.

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Try out the beta version of the National Wildlife Federation's Plant Finder site. Add your zip code and find native plants in your area and the pollinators the plants support.

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Visit the Mellichamp Native Terrace, part of the Susie Harwood Garden at the UNCC Botanical Gardens, 9090 Craver Rd, Charlotte, NC 28262.