"Your landscape and
our Natural Areas" brochure

What plants should I landscape with?
Use native plants! Native plants are magnificent and by planting them, you bring a natural beauty to your yard. At the same time, you help conserve and promote the aesthetics and health of plant communities throughout southeast Michigan.

Abridged List of Recommended Species Native to Southeast Michigan:
Native Trees
Native Shrubs
Native Vines
Native Perennials
Native Ferns
Native Grasses, Rushes & Sedges

What do we mean by native?
By native we refer to those plants that were here before Europeans settled in Michigan in the 1700s. Since then, thousands of plants and animals have been introduced and become naturalized in North America at an unprecedented rate and scale. Naturalized means these non-native (introduced or alien) species are capable of establishing and sustaining themselves in the environment without our care. These plants can grow at the exclusion of the native plants. Approximately 30% of Michigan’s 2,600 plant species are alien plants that have become naturalized largely in the last hundred years.

Where should my plants come from?
Many plant species that are native in Michigan have wide geographic ranges. Because they are likely to be genetically different from region to region, and therefore possibly unsuited to your conditions, it is best to use individuals of the desired species from your local area. Individuals from a local source are well adapted to that area and by and large the safest to use in the long run. For example, a flowering dogwood that is raised in southern Ohio may not survive our winters nearly as well as a dogwood that was grown in Michigan. In contrast, some introduced species do very well in their new environment because they are relatively free of pests and diseases. These plants tend to become invasive in our landscape. If you are unable to locate the desired plants locally, try to find them from other sources close by in Michigan or else in WI, MN, northern IL, or northern OH.

How can this brochure help?
Inside this brochure is a list of some native plants you might consider using in your landscape. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but a place to start. Some native plants were not included because they are protected by different laws. Certain plants have a "no pick" status under the Christmas Greens Ordinance. Some are listed as threatened or endangered by the state of Michigan or federally. Collecting these plants or even their seeds is against the law. Although some endangered species are available legitimately from sources in other states, we still recommend avoiding them. Again, we don’t want to introduce plants from other regions into the Michigan landscape. A list of state endangered, threatened, and special concern species is available by contacting the Michigan Natural Heritage Program, P.O. Box 30444, Lansing, MI 48909-7944, (517) 373-1263.

Please note that plants, seeds, or cuttings should never be collected on public property and not on private property without the expressed consent of the property owner.

Where can I find these plants?
As native plants increase in popularity, more and more landscape nurseries are stocking them alongside their other horticultural selections. Check with your local nursery to see if it has local sources of native plants. Nursery staff can help match the appropriate native species to your specific site requirements.

In addition to being representative of the native landscape, plants listed here have one or more of the following qualities:

• exceptional horticultural value
• adapted to extreme site conditions
• readily available in the nursery trade
• easy to grow

A word of caution: While many nurseries carry native plants, it is important to determine where they came from before making your purchase. Were the plants wild-collected or were they propagated at that nursery? Collecting plants in the wild can devastate local plant populations, so insist on plants propagated from division, cuttings, or seed (these plants also tend to be healthier than wild-collected plants).

The following reference books can provide excellent information on landscaping, plant conservation, and site requirements for specific plants:

Gardener’s Guide to Plant Conservation. Marshall, N. 1993

Gardening with Native Wild Flowers. Jones, S. Jr., and L. Foote. 1990

Michigan Flora, Parts I and II. Voss, E. 1985

Michigan Trees. Barnes, B. and W. H. Wagner. 1984

Michigan Wildflowers. Smith, H. 1966

Nature’s Design: A Practical Guide to Natural Landscaping. Smyser, C. 1984

Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America. Hightshoe, G. 1988

Shrubs of Michigan. Billington, C. 1949

What’s in a name?
Plants are often known by both a common name and a scientific name. Although common names are easy to remember and to use, they cause a great deal of confusion when several species share the same or similar common names, or when one species has several common names. When it is important to know exactly what you are getting from the nursery or seed catalog, using the scientific name, though a little cumbersome, is far less confusing. The scientific name is composed of two words, usually written in italics. The first word is the genus name and is capitalized. The second word denotes the exact species within that genus, and is not capitalized. Although there may be many species within a genus, each one has a second name unique within the genus. For this reason it is important that the entire name matches the species you desire.

Read plant tags carefully and insist that your local and mail order nurseries are knowledgeable enough to know the scientific names of the plants they sell!

What shouldn’t I plant?
A small but significant number of landscape plants commonly "escape" from planted gardens and invade and destructively alter our natural areas. These species are dispersed by birds, wind or water. Since people have little or no control of these things, the spread of these plants is very difficult to stop. Once established in the landscape, they crowd out many native plants. These invasives often do extremely well in very broad growing conditions— wet to dry and sunny to shady— making them popular within the nursery trade. An example of a very successful invasive, common buckthorn often produces leaves several weeks before the surrounding native plants and keeps these leaves several weeks longer in the fall. This enables it to extend its growing season, an important factor in the plant’s success. When invasives are so successful, they often exclude or crowd out native vegetation. Controlling the invasives is difficult and expensive, and often requires the use of herbicides.

For these reasons, we recommend not using these plants and their varieties and cultivars in your landscape:

Autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellata
Barberry, Berberris spp.
Buckthorn Common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica
Glossy "Tall hedge" Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula
Crown vetch, Coronilla varia
European alder, Alnus glutinosa
Honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, L. japonica, L. maackii, L. morrowi, L. x-bella & their cultivars
Multiflora rose, Rosa multiflora
Norway maple, Acer platanoides
Oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus
Periwinkle (Myrtle), Vinca minor
Privet, Ligustrum vulgare
Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria
Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila

Be wary of "sterile" varieties - we have seen no proof of these claims. In fact, we know that pollen from "sterile" purple loosestrife will fertilize wild purple loosestrife plants.

Refer to the City of Ann Arbor, Chapter 60, Wetland Preservation Ordinance for a more complete list of invasive species. A copy can be obtained from the City of Ann Arbor, Planning Department, Guy C. Larcom, Jr. Municipal Building (City Hall), P.O. Box 8647, Ann Arbor, MI 48107…Tel. (734) 994-2800.

We welcome your questions and comments regarding native and invasive species and the information contained in this brochure. Contact the Natural Area Preservation Staff, of the Ann Arbor Department of Parks and Recreation, 1831 Traver Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, at 734-996-3266.

Natural Area Preservation is funded by the Ann Arbor Department of Parks and Recreation’s voter approved 1993-1998 Park Maintenance and Repair Millage.

Go native and create a natural community in your own backyard! In addition to our original native landscaping brochure, Your landscape and Our Natural Areas, four detailed brochures are now available from the City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Department, Natural Area Preservation Division. Written with the home landscaper in mind—each brochure provides tips and useful information on creating a native plant garden. Along with descriptions of native plants, information is included about natural habitat, site tolerance, plant height, bloom time, color, and other ornamental features. 

© City of Ann Arbor, 1997. All rights reserved.