Top Ten Native Plants for the Northeast
Eastern Red Cedar
The eastern red cedar is an aromatic evergreen tree. It can grow to heights of 40 - 60 feet. Evergreen leaves are dark green and scale-like. The dark blue berries are soft, juicy and sweet.
Did you know? The most widely distributed eastern conifer, native in 37 states, Eastern Red Cedar is resistant to extreme drought, heat, and cold. The aromatic wood is used for fence posts, cedar chests, cabinetwork and carvings. First observed at Roanoke Island, Virginia, in 1564, it was prized by the colonists for building furniture, rail fences, and log cabins. Cedar oil for medicine and perfumes is obtained from the wood and leaves. The juicy "berries" are consumed by many kinds of wildlife, including the cedar waxwing, named for this tree. Red Cedar can be injurious to apple orchards because it is an alternate host for cedar-apple rust, a fungus disease.
The black tupelo is also known as the blackgum or sour gum tree. This tree has a dense, conical or sometimes flat-topped crown and many slender, nearly horizontal branches. The glossy foliage turns scarlet in the fall. The black tupelo bears fruit with sour pulp.
Did you know? A handsome ornamental and shade tree, Black Tupelo is also a honey plant. The juicy fruit is consumed by many birds and mammals.
Northern Red Oak
The northern red oak is a large tree with a rounded crown of stout, spreading branches. This tree can grow to heights of 60 - 90 feet. Red oaks bear acorns which can be toxic to animals if eaten.
Did you know? The northernmost eastern oak, it is also the most important lumber species of red oak. Most are used for flooring, furniture, millwork, railroad cross-ties, mine timbers, fence posts, pilings, and pulpwood. A popular shade and street tree with good form and dense foliage, the red oak is one of the most rapid-growing oaks and is hardy in city conditions.
Also known as the Michigan holly and black alder, the winterberry is a deciduous holly shrub with very small white flowers that grow in the leaf axils. The fruit is red and berry-like and grows on short stalks.
Did you know? Extremely showy in late fall and early winter when covered with their bright red fruit, these shrubs are either male or female--a trait typical of the holly family. Birds are readily attracted to them. This shrub grows well in both wet and dry sites.
The sweet pepperbush is a tall, many-branched, leafy shrub with spike-like, upright clusters of fragrant white flowers that flower from July to September.
Did you know? Its dry fruit capsules remain long after flowering and help identify this plant in winter. Mountain Pepperbush (C. acuminata) has more pointed leaves and is found in southern mountains.
Red chokeberry is a spreading shrub with terminal clusters of white or pink-tinged flowers on hairy stalks. The shrub is found in thickets, clearings, low woods and swamps.
Did you know? A native shrub, this species forms sizable colonies and is excellent for naturalistic landscaping. Although chokeberry fruits persist through much of the winter, they appear to be of little importance to wildlife; they are occasionally eaten by game birds and songbirds and reportedly by bears.
Blue vervain is also known as Simpler's-joy or blue verbena. It has stiff, pencil-like spikes of numerous small, tubular, blue-violet flowers at the top of a square, grooved stem.
Did you know? Bumblebees are among the important pollinators. In ancient times the plant was thought to be a cure-all among medicinal plants and the genus name is Latin for "sacred plant."
Rough-stemmed goldenrod is a tall, rough, hairy plant with small, light yellow flower heads concentrated on the upper side. It is also known as wrinkle-leaf goldenrod or rough-leaf goldenrod. Goldenrod is often found in fields and along roadsides and borders of woods.
Did you know? This highly variable goldenrod can form large masses in fields that were once cultivated. Physicians in ancient times believed that goldenrod had healing powers. In recent times these plants have been popularly blamed for causing hay fever, but its irritating symptoms are actually caused by ragweed (Ambrosia species), whose pollen is abundant when goldenrod is in flower.
Cardinal flowers, or bellflowers, have erect leafy stems topped with clusters of bright red flowers resembling flaming red spires. Cardinal flowers are often found along moist shady slopes, sunny stream banks and other damp sites.
Did you know? Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, cardinal flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar, for pollination. Its common name alludes to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.
New York Ironweed
New York ironweed is made up of tall stems that branch toward the summit. At the top of each is a cluster of deep lavender to violet flower heads.
Did you know? This often roughish plant is common in wet open bottomland fields.