NC State Extension Publications

 

North Carolina’s native plants provide well-adapted food and cover for North Carolina’s native animals, and a well-planned landscape of native plants can help you attract a diversity of wildlife to your property (Figure 1). Native North Carolina plants also are well-suited to the state’s soils and climate and require relatively little upkeep, once established on an appropriate site. However, the spread of non-native plants poses a threat to native plants and animals of North Carolina. This publication describes the problems associated with some non-native, invasive plants and presents a detailed list of native plants that may be used in place of these foreign ornamentals to attract wildlife to your property.

Figure 1. American goldfinches commonly feed on the seeds of ora

Figure 1. American goldfinches commonly feed on the seeds of orange coneflower in the fall and winter.

Chris Moormon

Why Use Native Plants?

Biologists and other scientists consider invasion by non-native plants to be one of the most serious problems facing native plant and wildlife populations in the United States. For example, multiflora rose, bicolor lespedeza, Japanese honeysuckle, and autumn olive are examples of non-native plants introduced into North Carolina—all for the purpose of promoting “wildlife habitat.” However, each introduction has proven detrimental to North Carolina’s native plants, pushing them out of their traditional habitats; and recent research indicates that many invasive plants may be harmful to local wildlife as well.

  • Native plants generally are de ned as those that occurred in North America before European settlement.
  • Non-native plants are those not native to an area. In North Carolina, non-natives usually come from Asia or western Europe, regions that have similar climate and environmental conditions to those in this state.
  • Some non-natives are planted intentionally as lawn or garden ornamentals or as plants to attract wildlife, but other non-native plants were introduced accidentally.
  • Many non-native species become naturalized, which means they are able to survive, spread, and reproduce on their own.
  • Approximately 25 percent of the plants growing wild in the United States are naturalized non-natives, some of which have become invasive, that is, they grow unabatedly where native plants otherwise would occur.

Invasive non-native plants are those that pose the greatest risk to the native plants and animals of North Carolina. Competitors, diseases, and insects control a plant’s growth and dispersal in its native range.

Over thousands of years, natural checks and balances develop, which greatly reduce the chance that a single species will increase in number to completely dominate a plant community. However, when a non-native plant is introduced to North Carolina, it escapes its natural controls and can become invasive (Figure 2). The characteristics that make many non-native plants attractive as ornamentals (colorful berries, pest resistance, tolerance of harsh conditions) also increase their potential for invasiveness and make them difficult to contain. Prolific growth by a single plant species can be harmful because forests with a limited number of plant species provide very poor habitat for wildlife.

All non-native plants do not become invasive, and most can safely be planted as ornamentals. However, it takes scientists many years or even decades to fully understand an introduced plant’s potential invasiveness. New information is being gathered continually, and you should check with your local nature center, botanical garden, conservation organization, or Cooperative Extension agent about a plant’s invasiveness before introducing it to your property.

Ironically, non-native plants that are attractive to birds and other wildlife often are the most invasive because animals serve as great dispersers of their fruits and seeds. Autumn olive is a non-native plant that produces fruits favored by birds, but the plant grows and often spreads quickly where the seeds are defecated. Native fruit-producing plants may succumb to the competition from this type of invasive plant, thereby reducing the diversity of foods available to birds. In addition, research from the midwestern United States suggests birds that nest in some non-native shrubs experience poor nesting success. Lower nest height, the absence of sharp thorns on the non-native plants, and a branching pattern that allows predators easier access to nests built in non-native plants all could contribute to the increased nest predation. Despite the growing base of knowledge related to the potential problems of non-native plants, species like sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima) continue to be recommended as plantings to encourage wildlife (Figure 3). Until adequate information on the invasiveness of such plants exists, native alternatives should be used (Figure 4).

Figure 2. Non-native invasive plants, including mimosa, kudzu, Q

Figure 2. Non-native invasive plants, including mimosa, kudzu, Queen Anne’s lace, and sericea lespedeza, have taken over this vacated suburban lot.

Chris Moorman

Figure 3. Sawtooth oak, a tree native to Asia, continues to be r

Figure 3. Sawtooth oak, a tree native to Asia, continues to be recommended as a wildlife plant, despite the availability of many native oak species.

Alice B. Russell

Figure 4. Native plants are attractive additions to any property

Figure 4. Native plants are attractive additions to any property. Both American beautyberry (top) and strawberry bush (bottom) produce fruits that are attractive to wildlife and the human eye.

Chris Moorman

Reversing the Trend

You can help stop the non-native plant invasion by using and nurturing native plants around your home and on your property. Native plants generally grow well and require less care than non-native species when grown on the proper soils under the right environmental conditions. Additionally, North Carolina’s native wildlife has become adapted to using native plants over thousands of years. Therefore, native plants meet the needs, including food and cover, of North Carolina’s native wildlife without causing long-term damage to local plant communities.

Many native plants produce showy flowers, abundant fruits and seeds, and brilliant fall foliage. A diversity of native plants in an urban landscape provides:

  • Protective cover for most animals.
  • Seeds, nuts, and fruits for squirrels and other mammals.
  • Seeds, fruits, and insects for birds.
  • Nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies (Figure 5).
  • Larval host plants for butterfly caterpillars (many caterpillars are adapted to eat the foliage of specific plants, called their host plants).

Table 1 contains examples of native trees, shrubs, and herbs beneficial to wildlife. Use the table to identify native alternatives to the non-native plants commonly recommended to attract wildlife. For example, consider a viburnum (Viburnum spp.) or holly (Ilex spp.) in place of autumn olive, or consider one of our dozens of native oaks (Quercus spp.) in place of sawtooth oak, which has been introduced from Asia (Figure 6).

Traditional landscape plantings don’t fully mimic the dense foliage and high plant diversity of natural areas. Therefore, birds and butterflies are most likely to use native plants that grow naturally in unmowed or unmanicured portions of your yard or in adjacent natural areas. Allow native grasses, brambles, and shrubs to grow in small corners of your yard where neighbors will be less likely to see the “unsightly” growth. These areas provide nest sites, cover, and food for birds and commonly harbor host plants for butterfly caterpillars. Minimize the amount of lawn on your property because these areas require frequent use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides that can be harmful to the environment and the very insects you want to attract. Before making drastic changes that might upset your neighbors, describe your plan to them and explain why you intend to make the changes.


Table 1. Plant species native to North Carolina* (including soil moisture and light requirements, region of primary occurrence, and benefit to wildlife).

Latin Name

Common Name**

Soil/Light

Region

Wildlife Value

Tall trees (more than 30 ft)

Acer barbatum

Southern Sugar Maple

M/F-S

P,CP

S

Acer rubrum

Red Maple

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S

Acer saccharum

Sugar Maple

M/F-S

M

S

Aesculus flava

Yellow Buckeye

M/P-S

M

H

Betula lenta

Sweet Birch

M-D/F-S

M

S,L

Betula nigra

River Birch

W-D/F

P,CP

S,L

Carya glabra

Pignut Hickory

D/F-S

M,P,CP

S,L

Carya ovata

Shagbark Hickory

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

S,L

Carya tomentosa

Mockernut Hickory

D/F-S

M,P,CP

S,L

Celtis laevigata

Sugarberry

M/F-S

P,CP

F,L

Chamaecyparis thyoides

Atlantic Whitecedar

W-M/F-P

CP

C,L

Diospyros virginiana

Persimmon

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Fagus grandifolia

American Beech

M/P-S

M,P,CP

S

Fraxinus americana

White Ash

M/F-S

M,P

S,L

Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Green Ash

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Gordonia lasianthus

Loblolly Bay

W-M/F-P

CP

C

Ilex opaca

American Holly

W-D/F-S

M,P,CP

C,F,N,L

Juniperus virginiana

Eastern Redcedar

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

C,F,L

Liquidambar styraciflua

Sweetgum

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

S

Liriodendron tulipifera

Yellow-Poplar

M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,H,N,L

Magnolia acuminata

Cucumber Tree

M/F-P

M,P

S

Magnolia grandiflora

Southern Magnolia

M/P-S

P,CP

C,S

Magnolia virginiana

Sweetbay

W-M/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Nyssa sylvatica

Blackgum

D/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Oxydendrum arboreum

Sourwood

D/F-S

M,P,CP

N

Persea borbonia

Redbay

W-M/F-S

CP

C,F,L

Pinus echinata

Shortleaf Pine

D/F-P

M,P,CP

C,S,L

Pinus palustris

Longleaf Pine

D/F

P,CP

C,S

Pinus strobus

Eastern White Pine

D/F

M,P

C,S

Pinus taeda

Loblolly Pine

M-D/F

M,P,CP

C,S,L

Platanus occidentalis

Sycamore

M/F-P

M,P,CP

S

Prunus serotina

Black Cherry

M-D/F

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Quercus alba

White Oak

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Quercus coccinea

Scarlet Oak

D/F-P

M,P

S,L

Quercus falcata

Southern Red Oak

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Quercus michauxii

Swamp Chestnut Oak

M/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Quercus nigra

Water Oak

M-D/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Quercus pagoda

Cherrybark Oak

M/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Quercus phellos

Willow Oak

W-M/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Quercus rubra

Red Oak

M/F-P

M,P

S,L

Quercus shumardii

Shumard Oak

M/F-P

P,CP

S,L

Quercus stellata

Post Oak

D/F

M,P,CP

S,L

Quercus velutina

Black Oak

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Quercus virginiana

Live Oak

D/F

CP

C,S,L

Robinia pseudoacacia

Black Locust

M-D/F-P

M,P

S,L

Salix nigra

Black Willow

W-M/F-S

M,P,CP

L

Sassafras albidum

Sassafras

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,L

Taxodium distichum

Baldcypress

W-M/F-P

CP

S

Tilia americana

Basswood

M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Tsuga canadensis

Eastern Hemlock

M/P-S

M,P

C,S

Ulmus alata

Winged Elm

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Ulmus americana

American Elm

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Small trees/shrubs (10-30 ft)

Aesculus pavia

Red Buckeye

M/P

CP

H,N

Aesculus sylvatica

Painted Buckeye

M/P

P

H

Alnus serrulata

Alder

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Amelanchier arborea

Serviceberry

M-D/F-S

M,P

F,N,L

Amelanchier canadensis

Juneberry

W-D/F-P

P,CP

F,N,L

Amelanchier laevis

Allegheny Serviceberry

M-D/F-P

M

F,N,L

Aralia spinosa

Devil’s Walking Stick

M/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N

Asimina triloba

Pawpaw

M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Carpinus caroliniana

Ironwood

W-M/P-S

M,P,CP

S,L

Castanea pumila

Chinquapin

D/F-P

M,P,CP

S

Celtis tenuifolia

Dwarf Hackberry

D/F-P

P

F,L

Cercis canadensis

Eastern Redbud

M-D/F-P

M,P

S,N,L

Chionanthus virginicus

Fringetree

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Cornus amomum

Silky Dogwood

W-M/P-S

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Cornus florida

Flowering Dogwood

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Crataegus spp.

Hawthorn

M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,H,N,L

Cyrilla racemiflora

Titi, Swamp Cyrilla

W-M/F-S

P,CP

C,N

Halesia tetraptera

Carolina Silverbell

M/P-S

M,P

N

Hamamelis virginiana

Witch-Hazel

M/F-S

M,P,CP

S

Ilex decidua

Possumhaw

W-D/F-P

P,CP

F,N,L

Ilex verticillata

Winterberry

W-M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Ilex vomitoria

Yaupon

W-D/F-S

CP

C,F,N,L

Morus rubra

Red Mulberry

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Myrica cerifera

Wax Myrtle

W-D/F-P

P,CP

C,F,L

Osmanthus americana

Wild Olive, Devilwood

M-D/F-P

CP

C,F

Ostrya virginiana

Hophornbeam

M-D/F-S

M,P

F,L

Prunus americana

Wild Plum

M-D/F

M,P

F,N,L

Prunus angustifolia

Chickasaw Plum

D/F

P,CP

F,N,L

Prunus caroliniana

Carolina Laurel Cherry

M-D/F-P

CP

C,F,N,L

Prunus pensylvanica

Fire Cherry

M-D/F

M

F,N,L

Rhus copallina

Winged Sumac

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Rhus glabra

Smooth Sumac

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Salix caroliniana

Carolina Willow

W-M/F-S

P,CP

L

Sambucus canadensis

Elderberry

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Sorbus americana

Mountain-Ash

M/F-P

M

F

Symplocos tinctoria

Sweetleaf

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Viburnum prunifolium

Black Haw

M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Viburnum rufidulum

Rusty Blackhaw

D/F-S

P,CP

F,L

Small shrubs

Callicarpa americana

American Beautyberry

M-D/F-S

P,CP

F

Calycanthus floridus

Sweetshrub

M/P-S

M,P

N

Ceanothus americanus

New Jersey Tea

M-D/P-S

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,H,N

Clethra alnifolia

Sweet Pepperbush

W/F-S

P,CP

F,H,N

Corylus americana

Hazelnut

M/F-S

M,P

S

Euonymus americanus

Strawberry Bush

M/P-S

M,P,CP

S

Gaylussacia dumosa

Dwarf Huckleberry

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Gaylussacia frondosa

Blue Huckleberry

M/F-P

P,CP

F,N,L

Hydrangea arborescens

Wild Hydrangea

M/P-S

M,P

S,N

Ilex glabra

Inkberry

M/F-P

P,CP

C,F,N,L

Itea virginica

Virginia Willow

W-M/P-S

M,P,CP

S,N

Kalmia latifolia

Mountain Laurel

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

C,H,N

Leucothoe axillaris

Doghobble

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

C,N

Lindera benzoin

Spicebush

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Lyonia lucida

Fetterbush

M/P-S

P,CP

C,N

Phoradendron serotinum

Mistletoe

parasite

M,P,CP

F,L

Rhododendron atlanticum

Dwarf Azalea

W-D/F-P

P,CP

H,N

Rhododendron calendulaceum

Flame Azalea

M-D/P-S

M

H,N

Rhododendron catawbiense

Catawba Rhododendron

M/P-S

M,P

C,H,N

Rhododendron maximum

Rosebay Rhododendron

M/P-S

M,P

C,H,N

Rhododendron periclimenoides

Wild Azalea

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

H,N

Rubus spp.

Blackberry, Dewberry

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

C,F,S,N

Sorbus arbutifolia

Red Chokeberry

W-M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Vaccinium arboreum

Sparkleberry

D/F-P

P,CP

C,F,N,L

Vaccinium corymbosum

Highbush Blueberry

M/F-P

P,CP

F,N,L

Vaccinium stamineum

Deerberry

D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Vaccinium vacillans

Lowbush Blueberry

D/F-P

M,P,CP

F,N,L

Viburnum acerifolium

Mapleleaf Viburnum

M-D/P-S

M,P

F,L

Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood

M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Viburnum nudum

Wild Raisin

W-M/F-S

M,P,CP

F,L

Vines

Ampelopsis arborea

Peppervine

W-M/F-P

CP

F

Aristolochia macrophylla

Dutchman’s Pipe

M-D/P-S

M

L

Berchemia scandens

Rattanvine, Supplejack

W-M/F-P

P,CP

F

Bignonia capreolata

Crossvine

M-D/F-P

P,CP

H

Campsis radicans

Trumpet Vine

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

H

Decumaria barbara

Climbing Hydrangea

M/F-S

CP

N

Gelsemium sempervirens

Carolina Jessamine

M/F-P

P,CP

C,H,N

Lonicera sempervirens

Coral Honeysuckle

M/F-P

P,CP

H

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia Creeper

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

F

Passiflora incarnata

Passionflower

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

H,N,L

Smilax spp.

Greenbrier

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

C,F

Toxicodendron radicans

Poison Ivy

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Vitis spp.

Grape

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

F

Ferns

Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas Fern

M/P-S

M,P,CP

C

Herbs and wildflowers

Apocynum cannabinum

Hemp Dogbane

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

N

Aquilegia canadensis

Columbine

M-D/P-S

M,P,CP

S,H,N

Arisaema triphyllum

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

W-M/P-S

M,P,CP

F

Aristilochia serpentaria

Virginia Snakeroot

M-D/P-S

M,P,CP

L

Aruncus dioicus

Goat’s Beard

M/P-S

M,P

L

Asclepias incarnata

Swamp Milkweed

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

N,L

Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed

D/F-P

M,P,CP

N,L

Asclepias variegata

White Milkweed

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

N,L

Baptisia australis

Blue False Indigo

M/F-P

M,P

N,L

Baptisia tinctoria

Yellow Wild Indigo

D/F-P

M,P,CP

N,L

Bidens aristosa

Sticktight

W-D/F-P

P,CP

S,N

Chamaecrista fasciculata

Partridge Pea

M-D/F

M,P,CP

S,L

Chrysogonum virginianum

Green and Gold

M/S

P,CP

S,N

Cimicifuga racemosa

Black Cohosh

M/S

M,P

L

Cirsium horridulum

Yellow Thistle

M-D/F

P,CP

S,H,N,L

Coreopsis angustifolia

Narrow-Leaved Coreopsis

M/F-P

CP

S,N

Coreopsis auriculata

Eared Coreopsis

M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Coreopsis falcata

Sickle Tickseed

W-M/F-P

P,CP

S,N

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lance-Leaved Coreopsis

D/F

M,P,CP

S,N

Coreopsis major

Greater Tickseed

D/F-P

M,P

S,N

Coreopsis verticillata

Threadleaf Coreopsis

D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Desmodium spp.

Beggarlice

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Echinacea purpurea

Purple Coneflower

M-D/F

M,P

S,N

Eupatorium coelestinum

Mistflower

M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Eupatorium fistulosum

Joe-Pye-Weed

M/F

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Eurybia divaricata

White Wood Aster

M-D/P-S

M,P

S,N,L

Geranium maculatum

Wild Geranium

M-D/F-P

M,P

S,N

Helianthus angustifolius

Swamp Sunflower

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Helianthus atrorubens

Sunflower

D/F

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Helianthus divaricatus

Woodland Sunflower

D/P

M,P,CP

S,N

Heliopsis helianthoides

Ox-Eye

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Hibiscus moscheutos

Rose Mallow

M/F-P

M,P,CP

H,N

Houstonia caerulea

Bluets

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

N

Impatiens capensis

Jewelweed

W-M/P-S

M,P,CP

H,N

Ipomoea coccinea

Red Morning Glory

D/F

M,P,CP

S,H,N

Iris cristata

Crested Iris

M/P-S

M,P

H

Liatris spicata

Blazing Star

W-M/F

M,P

N

Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal Flower

W-M/F-S

M,P,CP

H,N

Lobelia puberula

Blue Lobelia

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

H,N

Lobelia siphilitica

Great Blue Lobelia

W-M/P-S

M

H,N

Mitchella repens

Partridgeberry

M/F-S

M,P,CP

F

Monarda didyma

Beebalm

M/P-S

M

H,N

Monarda fistulosa

Wild Bergamot

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

H,N

Monarda punctata

Horsemint

D/F-P

P,CP

H,N

Oenothera fruticosa

Sundrops

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,H

Penstemon canescens

Hairy Beardtongue

M-D/F-P

M,P

H,N,L

Penstemon laevigatus

Smooth Beardtongue

M/F-S

M,P,CP

H,N,L

Phlox carolina

Carolina Phlox

W-D/F-P

M,P,CP

N

Phlox divaricata

Blue Phlox

M/P-S

M,P,CP

N

Phlox paniculata

Summer Phlox

M/F-P

M,P,CP

N

Phlox pilosa

Prairie Phlox

D/F-P

P,CP

N

Phlox subulata

Moss Pink

D/F

M,P

N

Phytolacca americana

Pokeweed

M-D/F

M,P,CP

F,S

Pycnanthemum incanum

Hoary Mountainmint

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

N

Rudbeckia fulgida

Orange Coneflower

M/F

M,P,CP

S,N

Salvia lyrata

Lyreleaf Sage

M-D/F-S

M,P,CP

H,N

Silene virginica

Fire Pink

M-D/P-S

M,P,CP

S,H,N

Solidago spp.

Goldenrod

M-D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,N

Spigelia marilandica

Indian Pink

M/P-S

M,P,CP

H

Stokesia laevis

Stoke’s Aster

M/F-P

P,CP

N

Symphyotrichum retroflexum

Whitetop Aster

M-D/F-P

M

S,N,L

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

New England Aster

M-D/F-P

M

S,N,L

Symphyotrichum novi-belgii

New York Aster

M/F-P

CP

S,N,L

Symphyotrichum pilosum

White Heath Aster

D/F

M,P,CP

S,N,L

Vernonia noveboracensis

Ironweed

W-M/F-P

M,P,CP

N

Vicia caroliniana

Wood Vetch

D/F-P

M,P,CP

S,L

Viola pedata

Bird-Foot Violet

D/F-P

M,P,CP

L

Grasses

Andropogon glomeratus

Brushy Bluestem

M/F

P,CP

C,S,L

Andropogon ternarius

Splitbeard Bluestem

D/F

M,P,CP

C,S,L

Aristida stricta

Wiregrass

D/F-P

P,CP

C,S

Arundinaria gigantea

Switchcane

W-D/F-S

M,P,CP

C,S,L

Panicum virgatum

Switchgrass

M/F-P

M,P,CP

C,S,L

Sorghastrum nutans

Indiangrass

M-D/F

M,P,CP

C,S

Soil moisture: W = wet; M = moist; D = dry.
Light requirements: F = full sun; P = partial shade; S = shade.
Region: M = mountains; P = piedmont; CP = coastal plain.
Wildlife Value: C = winter cover; F = fleshy fruit; S = seed, hard mast, or catkin; H = hummingbird nectar; N = butterfly and other insect nectar; L = butterfly larvae host plant.
*Use of specific plants by wildlife will vary regionally, and there always are exceptions.
**For information on which plants may be toxic to humans, visit the Plant Database


Figure 5. Tiger swallowtails, along with other butterflies and t

Figure 5. Tiger swallowtails, along with other butterflies and the ruby-throated hummingbird, eat nectar from larger flowers blooms.

iStock.com/Angelcarver

Figure 6. A native Viburnum sp. (above), rather than a non-nativ

Figure 6. A native Viburnum sp. (above), rather than a non-native berry-producer like autumn olive, should be planted to attract wildlife.

Chris Moorman

Landscaping with Native Plants

Retain as much native vegetation as possible during land clearing and construction of houses and buildings. However, areas where plants were cleared during development can be landscaped using native plants. It’s best to provide a diversity of native plant species on your property, which in turn ensures that fruits and nectar will be available throughout the year (Figure 7). Each native plant species is adapted to a speci c range of soil types, light conditions, and moisture regimes. Before planting, have your soil analyzed. A small sample from your yard can be tested for nutrient content and will allow you to receive specific recommendations for preparing your soil before planting. Use the results of the soil tests to help determine which native plants will grow best on your land. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Center for instructions on this free service.

Here are some important concepts to consider when landscaping your property:

  • Before initiating landscaping activities, create a map of the existing vegetation on your property. From this base map, identify areas where food and cover are limited and abundant. Then create a projected map and plan for your final landscape, making sure to incorporate areas that will provide food, cover, and water.
  • Include a diversity of native plants in your landscape. Provide plants that produce winter cover (evergreens), seeds, fruits, and nectar attractive to birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Also, use plants that are known hosts for the larvae of butterflies native to your area (Figure 8).
  • Select plants that flower and bear fruit or seed at different times of the year (see Managing Backyards and Other Urban Habitats for Birds and Butterflies in Your Backyard), thereby assuring fruits, seeds, and nectar will be available throughout most of the year (Figure 9).
  • Check to make sure the plant will fruit. Only the female of some plant species (American holly, wax myrtle, and eastern redcedar) produces fruit. In this case, be sure to provide at least one male plant for pollination.
  • Plan viewing areas by mapping wildflower beds and fruit-producing plants in sight of windows and paths, but avoid planting them near reflective glass or windows to reduce accidental window strikes by feeding birds.
  • Consider the moisture and light requirements of plants when including them in your plan. Map moisture-loving plants in low-lying areas, and position shade-loving plants underneath large trees or on the shady side of your home (Figure 10).
  • Mimic “Mother Nature” by creating gentle curves in your landscape. Plant wildflower beds in irregularly shaped patterns. The beauty of a “natural” landscape rivals that of more regimented traditional ornamental plantings.
  • Cluster similar types of vegetation to allow wildlife easy access to seasonally abundant food sources without excessive movement and increased exposure to predators (Figure 11). Clumping similar species and placing shorter herbs and shrubs in front of taller vegetation improves the appearance of your landscape.
  • Plant low-growing herbs and shrubs under taller shrubs and trees. This helps to provide the layering important to birds. Different birds eat and nest on the ground and in the shrub, midstory, and canopy layers of a landscape.
  • Make sure to provide adequate growing space for landscape plantings. Avoid planting large-maturing trees and shrubs where they will overgrow their space and interfere with overhead utilities or crowd homes and other structures. Shrubs and trees should be at least 6 feet away from all structures.
  • Consult a local expert or one of many guides for recommended planting procedures. Because of North Carolina’s hot summers, fall planting works best for most native plant species.
  • Remain patient. It generally takes 3 to 5 years before the results of landscaping efforts pay off and wildlife use of native plants becomes obvious. An old adage says, “The first year a garden sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.”
Figure 7. The presence of a variety of herbaceous (jewelweed, le

Figure 7. The presence of a variety of herbaceous (jewelweed, left) and woody (trumpet creeper, right) flowering plants helps ensure that hummingbirds will have access to nectar from spring to fall.

Chris Moorman

Figure 8. Flowering dogwood is a great wildlife plant because it

Figure 8. Flowering dogwood is a great wildlife plant because it produces abundant fruits nearly every year.

Chris Moorman

Figure 9. Eastern redbud (top left) is one of the first plants t

Figure 9. Eastern redbud (top left) is one of the first plants to flower in the spring, and cardinal flower (right) and goldenrod (bottom left) are two excellent late-season nectar sources for butterflies and other insects.

Left photo by Alice B. Russell; other photos by Chris Moorman

Figure 10. Position shade-loving plants like this flame azalea u

Figure 10. Position shade-loving plants like this flame azalea under tall trees or on the shady side of your home.

Chris Moorman

Figure 11. A cluster of orange coneflowers allows butterflies an

Figure 11. A cluster of orange coneflowers allows butterflies and birds access to abundant nectar and seeds without excessive movement or exposure to predators.

Chris Moorman

Where to Find Native Plants

Look for native plants propagated from locally collected seed. This helps protect the unique characteristics of individual plants of the species growing wild in your area and ensures that the plants you use in your landscaping are best adapted to the local environment. Avoid planting cultivars of native plants when possible. Most of these variants may have been selected for qualities other than their value to wildlife, making them less desirable as wildlife plants. Although many conventional nurseries do not carry a large variety of native species, especially noncultivars, the number of reputable nurseries specializing in these plants is on the rise. Be wary of “deals” on native plants, especially orchids and trilliums, which often indicate the plants were collected from wild areas. Collecting plants from the wild contributes to the destruction of their habitats and often increases the chance of planting failure. Occasionally, local nature centers and botanical gardens initiate native plant rescues from areas soon to be cleared for development—these can be good and appropriate wild sources. In addition, it is possible to collect wild seed and sow or propagate native plants from the seed (Figure 12). See Phillips (1985), Bir (1992), and Schopmeyer (1974) for more on propagating native plants from seed.

To locate a nursery near you that sells native plants, visit:

In addition, you can consult with local parks, nature preserves, garden clubs, botanical gardens, arboreta, and your local Extension Center for the names of additional native plant providers.

Figure 12. You’ll have to compete with American goldfinches for

Figure 12. You’ll have to compete with American goldfinches for coneflower seed if you hope to propagate your own plants from seed.

iStock.com/ABDESIGN

Eradication and Control of Non-Natives

Herbicides, prescribed fire, selective removal of unwanted plants, and disking (or a combination of these activities) can be used to eliminate or control unwanted non-native plants (Figure 13). Because the results of these activities vary from county to county, you may need to experiment before finding the most successful approach for your property. In some cases, a range of native plant species already may be present. In others, a single non-native species may dominate a piece of property, requiring the landowner take extreme measures to increase the diversity and abundance of native plants.

Known invasive plants in North Carolina are listed in Table 2. This list is not comprehensive, and most of the plants named have already spread throughout North Carolina to the extent they can never be controlled completely. To prevent the list from continuing to grow, carefully consider a non-native plant’s potential for invasiveness before introducing it on your property, especially when trying to attract wildlife. For more information on methods of control required for non-native plant species, contact your local Extension Center. The North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual, published by North Carolina State University, and Controlling Invasive Plants, by the North Carolina Botanical Garden, are excellent references for non-native plant control.


Table 2. Known invasive plants in North Carolina.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Trees

Tree-of-Heaven

Ailanthus altissima

Mimosa

Albizia julibrissin

Chinaberry

Melia azedarach

Princess Tree

Paulownia tomentosa

Chinese Tallow Tree

Sapium sebiferum

Shrubs

Japanese Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

Russian Olive

Elaeagnus angustifolia

Autumn Olive

Elaeagnus umbellata

Bicolor Lespedeza

Lespedeza bicolor

Japanese Privet

Ligustrum japonicum

Chinese Privet

Ligustrum sinense

Common Privet

Ligustrum vulgare

Oregon Grape

Mahonia bealei

Multiflora Rose

Rosa multiflora

Vines

Porcelain-Berry

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata

Oriental Bittersweet

Celastrus orbiculatus

English Ivy

Hedera helix

Japanese Honeysuckle

Lonicera japonica

Kudzu

Pueraria lobata

Japanese Wisteria

Wisteria floribunda

Chinese Wisteria

Wisteria sinensis

Herbs

Crown Vetch

Coronilla varia

Queen Anne’s Lace

Daucus carota

Tall Fescue

Lolium arundinaceum

Sericea Lespedeza

Lespedeza cuneata

White Sweet Clover

Melilotus alba

Japanese Grass

Microstegium vimineum

Johnson Grass

Sorghum halepense


Figure 13. Although many invasive plants like Japanese honeysuck

Figure 13. Although many invasive plants like Japanese honeysuckle are here to stay, they can be controlled locally by using herbicides or removing by hand.

Chris Moorman

Additional Resources

Moorman, C., M. Johns, L. T. Bowen, and J. Gerwin. 2017. Managing Backyards and Other Urban Habitats for Birds. AG-636-01. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

Moorman, C., J. Pippen, J. Connors, N. Haddad, M. Johns, J. Perry, and L. T. Bowen. 2016. Butterflies in Your Backyard. AG-636-02. North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

Barnes, Thomas. 1999. Gardening for the Birds. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.

Bir, Richard. 1992. Growing and Propagating Showy Native Woody Plants. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Bruce, H. 1998. How to Grow Wildflowers and Wild Shrubs and Trees in Your Own Garden. New York: The Lyons Press.

Campbell, C. C., W. F. Hutson, A. J. Sharp, and R. W. Hutson. 1995. Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers. Northbrook, Illinois: Windy Pines Publishing.

Foote, L. E., and S. B. Jones, Jr. 1989. Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.

Harper-Lore, B., and M. Wilson (eds.). 2000. Roadside Use of Native Plants. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Justice, W. S., and C. R. Bell. 1968. Wildflowers of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Martin, Alexander, Herbert Zim, and Arnold Nelson. 1951. American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits. New York: Dover Publications Inc.

Miller, James, and Karl Miller. 2005. Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.

Newcomb, L. 1977. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

North Carolina Botanical Garden. 2007. Controlling Invasive Plants. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina.

Petrides, G. A. 1988. Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Trees. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Phillips, H. 1985. Growing and Propagating Wildflowers. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles, and C. R. Bell. 2010. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Neal, J. C., et al (eds.). 2017. 2017 North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual. Raleigh: North Carolina State University.

Schopmeyer, C. S. 1974. Seeds of Woody Plants in the United States. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Handbook No. 450.

Wasowski, Sally, and Andy Wasowski. 1994. Gardening with Native Plants of the South. Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co.


Funding for creation of this publication was provided in part through an Urban and Community Forestry Grant from the North Carolina Forest Service, in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service, Southern Region, and by the North Carolina Botanical Garden, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Authors

Professor
Forestry & Environmental Resources
Operations and Program Supervisor
Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve
Forestry and Environmental Resources
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Director of Conservation Programs
North Carolina Botanical Garden

Publication date: July 12, 2017
AG-636-03

The use of brand names in this publication does not imply endorsement by NC State University or N.C. A&T State University of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.