Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - December 07, 2007

From: Colden, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Native alternatives for non-natives
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there a way to search this website using an invasive plant species to get a list of native plant alternatives? ie. search Miscanthus sinensis (Chinese Silvergrass) and get the native alternative Saccharum giganteum (Giant plume grass) and others. I love the website and use it to try to plant as much native plants as possible. I want to replace some non-native plants, but haven't found the resource to cross reference the native alternative for them. I also have a landscape design I want to use, but I want to find native alternatives for a few plants before I buy any plants for the landscape design.

ANSWER:

Sorry, we have no specific cross-referencing of replacements for invasive plant species, per se. However, Be Plantwise is a partnership between the National Park Service, the Laby Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Garden Club of America and the National Invasive Species Council. There are links to a number of sites having to do with invasives and non-natives, but so far, we haven't found any cross-reference lists of replacements for non-natives.

We think your idea is wonderful, though, because the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is focused on the preservation and propagation of plants native to North America. So, perhaps we could suggest a slightly different way to go about your search. Begin by going to our Plant Database, and go down the page a little way to the "Combination Search." Suppose, for instance, you are interested in appropriate shrubs for your climate. Select New York as the state, shrub as the habit, perennial or annual, as you choose, and whatever sun and/or shade and moisture requirements you have for the particular spot you have in mind. Just for a trial run, we selected full sun and low moisture, perennial and clicked on "Search." This gave us 14 results. You can read the specific information on each plant and see if it suits your requirements. In addition, the following pages actually named the non-natives for which they were suitable replacements:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick), Juniperus communis var. depressa (common juniper), Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac), Rhus copallinum (winged sumac), Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac), Rosa setigera (climbing rose), and Shepherdia canadensis (russet buffaloberry).

Granted, this is probably not as quick and easy as a cross-reference, but you KNOW that any plant you find in your Search on our Plant Database is going to be a native. You know what sort of plant you want, you know what sort of environment it is going to have, and you'll usually get a selection of several to choose from. Some have photos from our Photo Gallery, but if they do not you can usually do Google-Images to find a picture.

Last answer to a question you did not ask, yet: Where do I purchase these native plants? Go to our list of Native Plant Suppliers, again, search on New York. If we left all the boxes checked, we got 14 results; if we checked only "Nursery", there were 7 results. Or, if you don't see one near you, prepared with your list by scientific and common names of the plants you want, contact nurseries that are in your area and ask specifically if they stock those plants. Happy hunting!

 

More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Native plant nursery
July 07, 2005 - I want to grow wildflower starts for tough-to-grow plants for retail and commercial sale. And I prefer organic, but, jeez, one step at a time. Any guidance on the ins and outs of this business? D...
view the full question and answer

Plant called Jesus in a Manger from Florence AL
June 10, 2010 - Where can I find a plant called "Jesus in a Manger"?
view the full question and answer

Height of tree to block sun on deck in Arlington MA
May 12, 2009 - I am trying to figure out how tall a tree I should buy in order to make sure to block out the sun on my deck
view the full question and answer

Commercial source of Malus x arnoldiana in Massachusetts
April 13, 2006 - Looking for a commercial source for Malus x arnoldiana, a Massachusetts native apple/crabapple. I work for a Massachusetts conservation land trust with an interest in wildlife habitat and mast and nat...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native and exotic plants in New Oxford PA
October 24, 2010 - Is there a palm tree that would grow in New Oxford PA? Also do you know where I could find a place to buy Exotic and Unusual Plant Seeds from around the World. I would like one that has a good reputa...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.