These dreary winter days got you down? Fortunately, there's still plenty of color out there! We’ve compiled a list of nine native plants that are particularly beautiful during our coldest season. Go on a scavenger hunt for them, or plan on planting them this spring to brighten up your yard next winter – not to mention provide food and shelter for wildlife all year round.
(Image courtesy Tigermuse/Flickr)
Two varieties of this small tree flower in late winter. Extracts found in witch hazel's bark and leaves help shrink blood vessels back to their normal size. Witch hazel extract is used in medicines, aftershave lotions, and creams that treat insect bites and bruises.
(Image courtesy Mary Keim/Flickr)
Wildlife feed on inkberry’s purplish-black berries, which often persist through the winter. Raccoons, coyotes and opossums eat the berries when other foods are scarce. At least 15 species of birds, including bobwhite quails and wild turkeys, also rely on this plant.
(Image courtesy Wallyg/Flickr)
Winterberry is very easy to grow, and isn’t susceptible to many pests and diseases. Its bright red berries stand out in mid-winter snow and look beautiful in holiday arrangements. Not to mention they provide excellent nutrition for winter wildlife. But be careful – they’re poisonous to humans!
(Image courtesy Patrick Coin/Flickr)
This low-growing shrub has purplish berries that last through the winter. In early summer, staggerbush's unique, urn-shaped flowers will surely accent your landscape beautifully.
(Image courtesy JanetandPhil/Flickr)
Yellow-rumped warblers rely heavily on northern bayberry’s berries, which have a waxy, light blue-purple coating. When this deciduous plant’s leaves are crushed, they give off a spicy scent. Bayberry essential oil is extracted from these leaves and used to scent many products.
(Image courtesy treegrow/Flickr)
Sumac berries are quite sour, so they usually aren't the first choice of wintering wildlife. But they are high in vitamin A and have helped many a bluebird when insects are scarce. Shining sumac’s shrubby nature is perfect for critters looking to take cover.
(Image courtesy flora.cyclam/Flickr)
Staghorn sumac is easily identified by its pointed cluster of reddish fruits, which often last through the winter and into spring. Since it can grow in a variety of conditions, staghorn sumac is perfect for novice gardeners. Humans have used the fruit to make a lemonade-like drink high in vitamin A. Native Americans used the plant to make natural dyes, and often mixed it with tobacco.
(Image courtesy Kingsbrae Garden/Flickr)
Southern arrowwood is an eye-pleaser year-round, with furry, white flowers in summer, wine-red foliage in autumn and dark blue berries in winter. This shrub prefers well-drained soils.
(Image courtesy underthesun/Flickr)
Yellow birch trees even smell like winter; when their twigs scrape together, they give off a slight wintergreen scent. The tree is named for the color of its bark, which will brighten up any winter landscape.
Do you have a favorite native plant that looks great in winter? Tell us about it in the comments! And if you’d like more suggestions for native plants that provide winter interest, check out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have launched the Native Plant Center, an online guide to help homeowners identify and choose plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay region.
Users to the website, www.nativeplantcenter.net, can search for native plants by name, plant type, sun exposure, soil texture and moisture. Users can even find native plants with the same characteristics as some of their favorite non-native plants. The website also includes a geo-locator feature to identify plants suited to a user’s specific location.
Planting native plants is an important part of restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Residents who replace their typical backyard landscaping with native plants use less fertilizer and pesticides, provide critical habitat for pollinators, and reduce polluted runoff to storm drains.
The portal uses the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s native plant database, associated with the publication Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
To learn more about native plants, visit www.nativeplantcenter.net.
The birds are chirping, the sun is starting to feel warm on your face, and those afternoon thunderstorms are rolling in. It’s officially spring in the Chesapeake Bay region, which means it’s time to get outside and plant!
If you’ve been looking for a way to help the Chesapeake Bay, planting native plants in your yard is a great way to make a difference. Native plants are adapted to our region's environment, so they need less watering and no fertilizer – which saves you money. Less work, less cost and helpful to the Bay? Sounds great to us!
Here are ten native plants we recommend you plant in your yard this year!
Coneflower (or Echinacea) is a popular, long-lasting perennial that grows 2-5 feet tall. Its bright lavender flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial wildlife. Coneflower is also known for its herbal remedies as an immune system booster.
Sweetbay magnolia is a slender tree or shrub with pale gray bark. It is native to all the Chesapeake Bay states, except West Virginia. It usually grows 12-20 feet tall, but occasionally reaches 50 feet in the southern part of its range. When in bloom, the plant’s fragrant magnolia flowers open in the morning and close in the evening.
Scarlet beebalm is a popular perennial with tufts of scarlet-red flowers. The 3-foot stems are lined with large, oval, dark green leaves that have a minty aroma. Scarlet beebalm will attract hummingbirds to your garden.
This popular, beautiful shade tree tree grows 40-60 ft. in cultivation, occasionally reaching 100-120 ft. in the wild. Red maple is named for its brilliant red autumn leaves. It has the greatest north-south distribution of any East Coast tree species.
Considered one of the most spectacular native, flowering trees, flowering dogwood is a 20-40 foot, single- or multi-trunked tree with white or pink spring blooms. Its fruit is known to attract birds and deer.
The eastern redbud is a 15-30 foot tree with a purplish or maroon trunk and a wide, umbrella-like crown. Its tight, pink flower clusters bloom before its leaves grow, offering a showy spring display.
Blazing star has long spikes of dense, feathery white or purple flowers that bloom from the top down. Birds, bees and butterflies will be frequent visitors to your garden if you plant these beautiful native flowers.
Boneset’s tiny, white flowers are arranged in fuzzy clusters atop 3-6 foot stems. Early herb doctors thought this plant helped set broken bones. Its leaves were wrapped with bandages around splints.
New York ironweed is a tall perennial, growing 5-8 feet in height. Its clumps of striking, deep reddish-purple flowers attract butterflies.
This perennial grows 2-4 feet tall and has showy, red flowers. Although relatively common, cardinal flower is scarce in some areas due to over-picking. Because most insects have difficulty navigating the plant’s long, tubular flowers, cardinal flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination.
For more information about native plants in our area, check out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s special Plants of Chesapeake Bay collection. This database contains hundreds of native plants and a link to a BayScaping guide that will help you use native plants in a Bay-friendly garden.
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question comes from Claudia: “This past winter, a tall Japanese pine on [our bay property] uprooted and fell over in one of the storms. I would like to plant some small trees and bushes [to replace it]. What are the best to plant in this area?”
It’s a great idea to learn about plants that are native to our area before taking on a new landscaping project. Native plants are acclimated to the climate, soil and pests in our area. This usually means they require little to no fertilizer and pesticides. Native species also provide better habitat for wildlife such as bees, birds and butterflies, encouraging a healthy ecosystem.
An excellent resource to learn about native plants in our area is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s guide to Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This document includes a wealth of information about Chesapeake natives.
You can search by type of plant, including:
Once you choose a type of plant, you can select an individual plant by its scientific name for more information, including height, flowering months, fruiting months, soil and light requirements, what wildlife it attracts and other details. For example, switchgrass grows 3-6 feet in clay, loam or sand, and has flowers July through October. It provides food for sparrows and is effective at controlling erosion. All of this information is vital to successful planning and maintaining your native landscape.
You can also search plants that have special purposes, including plants that are good for:
This section is helpful if you are trying to reproduce the natural habitats that plants are used to and to prevent excessive runoff and erosion.
Once you have determined what plants you want to plant, check out one of the following websites to find nurseries that sell native plants:
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!