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