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Monday - January 14, 2013

From: Hot Springs, MT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Edible Plants, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Montana native plants to create a garden with edible plants
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Hi Smarty Plants We are looking to create a native herb, vegetable, root, fruit, flower and ground cover garden for the area of Hot Springs, Sanders County, Montana. Our zone is 4 and soil is mostly somewhat alkaline clays medium heavy with a shallow 1-2 inch layer of organic material on top, rainfall is 7-11 inches a year. Sat Sanga Thank you for your advice am looking forwards to it.


You can find a list of native plants that are commercially available for landscaping at Recommended Montana.

Here are a few plants from that list that occur in or near Sanders County, Montana that have edible fruits.

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry) occurs in Sander County

Prunus americana (American plum) does not occur in Sanders County, but occurs in Lewis and Clark County and Cascade County to the east of Sanders County.

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) occurs in adjacent Missoula and Lake Counties.

Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry) is edible raw or cooked and is a handsome plant.   See Montana Plant-Life for more informations.

Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (Blue elder)  and Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry) used for preserves and pies.

Shepherdia argentea (Silver buffaloberry) have sour but edible berries.  Occurs in adjacent Missoula County.

Viburnum edule (Squashberry) has sour but edible berries.  Occurs in adjacent Flathead County.

You should also visit the Montana Plant Life page to find lists of edible Montana plants grouped by the edible part (e.g., berries, seeds, leaves, etc.).  Not all the plants in their database are native, but they do have a native plant list for comparison and you can always check the plant against our Native Plant Database which contains only plants native to North America.  If you want to find out if the plant grows in Sanders County, you can search for the plant in the USDA Plants Database using its scientific name.  When you reach the species page, click on Montana on the map and it will give you a map showing county distribution of the plant.   For example, for Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry) you can see by its distribution map that it occurs over most of the United States and Canada.  If you click on Montana on the map, you will see that it occurs in Sanders County on the Montana distribution map.

You can also read the answer to a previous question about edible wild plants in Montana with a list of suggested books about edible wild plants tht occur in Montana.  You can also see a list of edible and medicinal plants available for purchase from Blackfoot Native Plants.  Here are a couple of edible, native herbaceous plants from their list that grow in Sanders County:

Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry) has fruit and will also serve as a groundcover.   Here is the description from Blackfoot Native Plants.

Chamerion angustifolium [synonym=Epilobium angustifolium] (Fireweed) is reported to be good in salads.   Here is more information from Plants for a Future.

You mention that you want to have vegetables in your garden.  The majority of garden vegetables are non-native cultivars.   To find out what works best for Montana visit the Montana Extension Service to read Planting a Successful Home Vegetable Garden.


From the Image Gallery

Saskatoon serviceberry
Amelanchier alnifolia

American plum
Prunus americana

Prunus virginiana

Rubus parviflorus

Blue elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa

Viburnum edule

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Chamerion angustifolium

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