Top Ten Native Plants for the Midwest
Northern White Cedar
The northern white cedar is a resinous and aromatic evergreen tree with an angled trunk and a narrow, conical crown of short, spreading branches. Evergreen leaves are short and pointed, bark is light red-brown and cones are long and light brown and bear two tiny narrow-winged seeds.
Did you know? Northern white cedars grow slowly and can reach an age of 400 years or more. The lightweight, easily split wood was preferred for canoe frames by Native Americans, who also used the shredded outer bark and the soft wood to start fires. Today, the wood is used principally for poles, cross-ties, posts, and lumber. Cedar oil for medicine is distilled from the twigs.
The black oak tree is a medium-sized to large tree with an open, spreading crown, reaching heights of 50-80 feet. Black oak acorns are poisonous to animals. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.
Did you know? Easily distinguishable by the yellow or orange inner bark, formerly a source of tannin, of medicine, and of a yellow dye for cloth. Peeled bark was dried, pounded to powder, and the dye sifted out.
The northern hackberry, also known as the common hackberry, has a rounded crown of spreading or slightly drooping branches, often deformed as bushy growths called witches' brooms. This tree can reach heights of 90 feet. Bears fruit that matures in autumn.
Did you know? Many birds, including quail, pheasants, woodpeckers, and cedar waxwings, consume the sweetish fruits.
(Viburnum opulus var. americanum)
The cranberry viburnum, also known as the highbush cranberry or American cranberrybush, is a medium to large shrub with dense upright or arching branches that create a round outline. Large, showy white outer flowers ring each cluster. The bark is smooth and gray. Bright red, translucent, juicy berries ripen in late summer and last to early winter.
Did you know? Cranberry viburnum is an attractive native plant for the garden. The pretty, white, flat-topped clusters of flowers are followed by persistent red berries suitable for jam. The maple-like, deciduous foliage is colorful in fall.
Gray Dogwood is a thicket-forming, deciduous shrub with greenish-white blossoms in open clusters. This shrub can grow to a height of 16 feet. Fruit is white and usually does not remain on the shrub for long.
Did you know? The fruit of this dogwood is eaten by birds and other wildlife.
The common chokecherry is a shrub or small tree, often forming dense thickets. Chokecherries are 1/4-3/8" wide and are shiny dark red or blackish in color. The seeds of chokeberries, found inside the fruits, contain poisonous substances and should never be eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person's age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size.
Did you know? Tent caterpillars (Malacosoma) often construct their silvery webs on the branches of this species.
Swamp milkweed has deep pink flowers clustered at the top of a tall, branching stem, bearing numerous narrow leaves. The milkweed flowers from June to August.
Did you know? The juice of this wetland milkweed is less milky than that of other species. The genus was named in honor of Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine, undoubtedly because some species have long been used to treat a variety of ailments.
Also known as red columbine, wild columbine has a red and yellow flower with upward spurred petals alternating with spreading, colored sepals and numerous yellow stamens hanging below the petals.
Did you know? Columbine flowers contain nectar that attracts long-tongued insects especially adapted for reaching the sweet nectar.
The cup-plant is a course perennial that can grow to a height of 3-6 feet. Cup-plants have numerous large, yellow flowers. Each flower head has 20-30 yellow rays and darker yellow disks. Stout leaves are joined at the stem to form a small cup.
Did you know? The small cup formed by the leaves holds water and attracts birds.
New England Aster
The New England aster is a large, stout, hairy, leafy plant with bright lavender to purplish-blue flower heads clustered at ends of branches. Asters flower from August to October.
Did you know? The flower color is variable, ranging from lavender to blue to white. A pink variety of this species is sometimes grown commercially.