Ten Natives You Didn’t Think Were Native
by Jeff Ausmus
This e-book is an aside, but still part, of a series about growing wildflowers in a temperate climate. This edition deals with native plants that most might think are non-native. If you enjoy this e-book, please consider leaving a review for the author, and then come back to see the author’s other works!
The cover image is a photograph of Buffalo Bur Nightshade (Solanum rostratum). All images in this e-book are property of Jeff Ausmus.
This book is dedicated to my love, Kimberly!
© 2016, Jeff Ausmus
Published by Jeff Ausmus at Shakespir.
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This book is a small aside in the series Grow Wild. This e-book gives a brief profile of ten plants that many people consider weeds, but are actually native wildflowers.
Please note, this does not automatically mean that you should grow those plants, necessarily. Some of them still have a rather weedy growing habit, and some are even classified as noxious weeds in certain states. A noxious weed generally means that it is a plant that incringes upon agricultural crops, natural habitats or livestock growth. In the case of natives, this is often due to their aggressive growing nature, or sometimes because the plant is poisonous and can hurt animals to eat it.
So it will be up to you whether you want to include these plants in your garden or not. The intent of the book is merely to bring to your attention the fact that they are native, and perhaps give them a second look next time you go to weed your garden, and maybe leave just one or two behind. After all, someone once said, “a weed is but an unloved flower.”
As we have discussed in the other books in this series, many people use the term “wild flower” loosely, sometimes referring to natives and non-natives alike, but in this series, when we refer to them, we mean native wildflowers. So, when we speak of a “native,” we mean a plant that originally grew in the United States, and was not introduced from another country. These kinds of plants are called “introduced” or “non-native” species. And indeed, the flowers that are to follow are, in fact, thought to be introduced species, but they are all native to the United States, in spite of the fact that many grow in a rather weedy fashion.
So, let’s see those flowers… keep on reading!
The following is the list of ten natives that you might not have known were native, or worse, thought were a weedy non-native! Some of these plants can be used as edibles in salads, and some have other fun features – one even eats bugs! Hopefully these plants will inspire you to love nature and to realize this is just the shortlist – there are other natives you don’t expect, too!
Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is a plant in the Morning Glory Family. It typically grows in waste places and on forest edges and sometimes in prairies as well. It can be found growing in most of the United States except California and the Southeast. It can become a bit of a nuisance because of its vines which tend to stray easily from where they start; but if you have a location with a lot of space, this native with beautiful flowers might be one you consider adding to your wildflower garden. This would probably grow best in a waste garden; to find out more about how to create one, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
The Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is known the world over as the carnivorous plant that eats flies! In reality, it does eat flies, but it is not anywhere near as aggressive as some might think. Small trigger hairs on the inside of the leaf close when touched, and if there is a small insect inside, the plant does digest it for nutrition. And although many do not know it, and may think it is from the rainforest or some tropical location, this plant is actually native only to a small group of counties in North and South Carolinas in the United States. This is the only place that it naturally grows in the world; in cultivation, the plant is available in many places, but in the wild, it can only be seen in a few select locations on the Eastern Coast, where it grows in bogs and peatlands. Although the plant hails from a fairly warm location, it is hardy to at least zone five, possibly even colder areas, if it is mulched in the winter. For more information on growing this plant and creating its habitat, please see our e-book, Grow Wild: How to Build a Bog or Fen Garden in the section.
You’ve probably seen this one tons of times, Spotted Spurge (Euphorbia maculata) is a frequent visitor of yards. It can be found growing in the entire continental United States, but it is actually a native plant. It has a definite weediness to it, and its flowers are so small they don’t really have an outward attractiveness, although with a magnifying glass, they are kind of cool looking. This plant can typically be distinguished from other similar species by the spots on its leaves, and also by the pubescens – that is the technical term for hairiness – of its seedpods and stems. If you do want to grow this plant, it would certainly be a great candidate for the waste garden, and you probably won’t have to look far for it; it might already be in your yard! To find out more about how to create a waste garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
Wild Canada Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) is a kind of weedy species that is very closely related to the head lettuce that you eat in salads. There are several other species also closely related (most have leaves that are a kind of bluish color) which are non-natives from Europe, but this species, which can be seen growing in prairies and on woodland edges, is native to the United States and can be found growing in almost the whole eastern half of the US. According to many texts, this species is edible, though it may not taste very good! To find out more about how to create a prairie garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Prairie Garden.
The Pineapple Plant (Matricaria discoidea) is probably one that you have seen growing in between cracks in a parking lot, or up and down your gravel driveway. It sure has a preference for areas like that, leading most to believe that it is another non-native, not worthy of their time. But, for those who give it a second chance, this plant is actually believed to be native to the Pacific Northwest, and then spread to other states, where it is called ‘adventive’ – that means it is not originally native there, but has popped up there, or does occasionaly. This plant is also edible and can be used as a salad nibble. It would be best grown in a waste garden area; to find out more about how to create a waste garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) has large yellow flowers that open mostly in the evening and last until sunrise, or usually until the bright sun hits them in the morning or afternoon. Although one who sees these flowers might not think them a non-native, if the plants are seen without their flowers, they can have a somewhat weedy habit. The plant is certainly worth of growing, however, because its bright yellow flowers add great beauty to the garden in the evening. They are biennial, so the first year, the leaves grow close to the ground, and in the second year, a tall stalk comes out from which the flowers are produced. This plant would grow best in a prairie area. To learn more about how to create prairie garden, visit our
Common Woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta) is probably one of the most common plants that is called a weed, and whether or not you consider it as such, it is, in fact, a native plant! It can be seen growing in most yards and can also be found in woods, and lots of waste places. There are several other Oxalis species which look very similar, in particular, O. dillenii and O. corniculata, the former being another native and the latter being non-native. Oxalis stricta, however, has only lightly pubescens leaf edges and the stems have spreading hairs which reach out and do not lay against the stem. This plant is also edible and can be added to salads for a tangy flavor. This plant would grow best in a waste garden area; to find out more about how to create a waste garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
This plant is commonly referred to as Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). It has a very weedy looking habit, which makes one think it might be a non-native, but it is infact native to almost the entire continental United States except a few states in the plains and Rocky Mountain area. In late summer, ir produces dark berries which really look like they would make a good snack, but they are actually not at all edible and can be severely poisonous if eaten. If you are able to grow this, without risk of anyone (especially children) accidentally eating it, it would grow best in a woodland edge garden: visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Woodland Garden.
A close relative to our common tomatoes that we eat is Eastern Black Nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum), although this plant gets small black berries that are, in fact, poisonous and not edible. Even the common tomato plant would be poisonous had it not been engineered in certain ways by scientists to make it edible. This plant likes to grow in disturbed areas and in yards, and its flowers are small, but can be attractive when viewed closely. The black berries in summer also make for a beautiful sight. This plant would grow best in a waste garden. To find out more about how to create a waste garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
Big Bract Verbena (Verbena bracteata) has a rather weedy habit, especially later in the season as it sprawls across parking lots and driverways and the earlier blooms are no longer there leaving only old seedpods. But still, the small purple flowers are attracive in their own right. This plant is an annual, so it reseeds itself every year, if conditions are favorable. It can be found often in parking lots, many times growing from the cracks in the pavement. It would grow best in the waste garden. To find out more about how to create a waste garden, visit our and check out Grow Wild: How to Build a Waste Garden.
We have now come to the end of this book, Grow Wild: Ten Natives You Didn’t Think Were Native. We hope you learned something new about the native plants that are to be found in the United States, and that maybe, you might consider growing one of them, if you find them charming enough.
We hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed this e-book! If you have any remaining concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact that author, as he would be glad to help you out with any of your gardening needs and questions. Ways to reach him can be found in the section located at the end of the book.
Thank you for reading this e-book!
Jeff has been growing wildflowers for over twenty years and gaining knowledge and experience about the best methods for growing them, and creating gardens to grow more diverse types of wildflowers. Through much trial and error, he has created areas that now house more than eight hundred native wild flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors, with many more planned for the future.
Jeff lives in Michigan with his beautiful wife and children, where he is working on creating new gardens and adding new wildflowers all the time. At one time, he grew both “garden favorites” and wild flowers, but after time, he became more and more natural-only, and now his specialized gardens use only wildflowers to create the perfect color for the yard throughout the entire growing season!
He gets his plants from nurseries, as well as from wildflower trades with a network of traders who share a similar interest in wildflowers, and also want to beautify their yard with nature’s wonders.
If you have enjoyed this second e-book in this series, please consider purchasing the other titles by the author. At time of publishing not all titles listed below are available, but stay tuned, as they will become available soon!
You can connect with the author by visiting his garden webpage at:
Or you can also visit his pages on social media at:
We look forward to hearing from you, if you have any comments or questions. Thank you for reading this book, we hope you enjoyed it! If so, please consider leaving a review, and also please see our other titles!
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An aside in the series Grow Wild, the book gives a brief profile of ten native wildflowers that most people do not think are native, or may consider weeds. It offers at least some reasons why it might be worthwhile to grow these plants.