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Mr. Smarty Plants - Determination of native plants of North Carolina

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Monday - April 24, 2006

From: Cary, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Determination of native plants of North Carolina
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am compiling lists of native plants to use in NC, and found that Dirr (Manual of Woody Landscape Plants) lists introduction dates (xxxx) for MANY of the trees you list as natives, e.g., Acer rubrum (1860), Fraxinus americana (1724), Quercus falcata (1904), Q. shumardii (1907), Q. stellata (1819), . . . Where can I find a database with truly native plants? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

All of the trees you list are North Carolina natives. The confusion comes from the terminology Dr. Dirr uses in his book. On page 5 of his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" (3rd edition) he states, "The introduction or cultivation date is the earliest record of the plants." You would think that he would use the term "cultivated" in the text for species that are native to North America. Instead, he pretty consistently uses the term "introduction," as in "introduced to cultivation"; sort of like "introduced to polite society," as in a debutante coming out. He does, however, typically give the region of origin for non-natives somewhere in the text of a species' treatment. Also, he gives treatments for many hybrids and cultivars which greatly complicate matters.

The best resources that I know of for information about North Carolina species are Radford, et al's "Manual or the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas" and the new, yet-to-be-published Weakley's "Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and surrounding areas." You can visit the University of North Carolina Herbarium web page where you can download a very large PDF file of the entire version of this publication or you can download it in several smaller PDF files. I don't know of an exhaustive database of North Carolina native plant species.
 

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