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Top Ten Native Plants for the Southeast

Black Tupelo
(Nyssa sylvatica)

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.


Willow Oak
(Quercus phellos)

The willow oak grows to 50-80 feet tall. It is a popular street and shade tree. However, be careful not to plant it too close to your house because it grows quite large.

Did you know? The willow oak is readily transplanted because of its shallow roots. While the foliage resembles a willow, it is an oak because it has acorns. City squirrels as well as wildlife consume and spread the acorns.


Sweetbay Magnolia
(Magnolia virginiana)

This attractive, native ornamental is popular for its fragrant flowers borne over a long period, showy conelike fruit, handsome foliage of contrasting colors, and smooth bark.

Did you know? Introduced into European gardens as early as 1688. Called "Beavertree" by colonists who caught beavers in traps baited with the fleshy roots.


American Elderberry
(Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)

This common, widespread shrub has clusters of white flowers and many small black or purple berries.

Did you know? Elderberries, inedible when fresh and raw, are used for making jelly, preserves, pies, and wine. Birds and mammals of many species also feed on the berries. The bark, leaves, and flowers have served in home remedies but can be toxic.


Yaupon Holly
(Ilex vomitoria)

This is an evergreen, much-branched, thicket-forming shrub or small tree with a rounded, open crown, small shiny leaves, and abundant, round, shiny red berries.

Did you know? The ornamental twigs with shiny evergreen leaves and numerous red berries are a favorite Christmas decoration. Yaupon holly is sometimes grown for ornament and trimmed into hedges. The leaves contain caffeine, and American Indians used them to prepare a tea to induce vomiting and as a laxative. Tribes from the interior traveled to the coast in large numbers each spring to partake of this tonic.


Sweet Pepperbush
(Clethra alnifolia)

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.


Swamp Milkweed
(Asclepias incarnata)

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.


Trumpet Honeysuckle
(Lonicera sempervirens)

Also known as coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle is a vine that has showy, trumpet-shaped flowers at the ends of the stems. The flowers are red on the outside and yellow on the inside and produce scarlet berries.

Did you know? This beautiful, slender, climbing vine is frequently visited by hummingbirds.


Climbing Aster
(Ampelaster carolinianus)

A woody-based sprawling shrub, the climbing aster produces masses of large pinkish flowers in late fall.

Did you know? With its unusual rambling habit and abundance of blooms, this aster is a good choice for a southeastern native plant garden. It is a caterpillar food plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly and provides nectar for adult butterflies of many species.


Narrowleaf Sunflower
(Helianthus angustifolius)

Also known as the swamp sunflower, the narrowleaf sunflower has wide-spreading branches that bear daisylike flowers at their ends. The stems and leaves are covered in erect hairs.

Did you know? This native eastern wildflower is often sold as a garden plant. It is valued for its late-season color and as a nectar source for fall butterflies. It grows well in moist soil and will also adapt to drier conditions.

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