Information about plants on the web

Cosmos ©Janet Allen
Cosmos—one of the non-native plants we no longer grow

When we were first learning about habitat gardening—and it sounds strange now—we didn't think that much about the plants beyond the fact that they provided some berries, nectar, or something else wildlife could use and that they would grow here in CNY.

As we began to understand more about the importance of native plants and the important of NOT growing invasive plants, we became more particular, but it was hard to find out which were native, which were invasive, and which ones were most beneficial. (Resources on invasive plants are below.)

For the first years we were creating our habitat garden, there were remarkably few resources to learn about what would be appropriate here in Central New York. Since then, new ones have appeared, and I've learned to adapt other resources from nearby ecoregions to find out which plants would also be appropriate here. (Useful plant books are described here.)

Here are some of my favorite resources on the web

Native Plants for Conservation Landscaping

The Native Plant Center is an excellent resource, just as is the .pdf of its book (pictured), one of my favorites.

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping can also be downloaded directly from the Native Plant Center website. It packs in a lot of information about native plants, is very well-organized, and is easy to use.

Especially useful is that it indicates plants' specific value for various creatures.

Even though it targets the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we're surprisingly close to this watershed (it ends around Cortland, which is just a few miles south of Syracuse), and many of the plants are native here in CNY, too. And with the changing climate, many of these plants may become even more suitable for our area.

Here are some other useful web resources.

  • The New York Flora Association lists ALL plants found in NYS—even invasives. This is not a bad thing since it's a good to know what plants actually are growing here in NYS. BUT it means that after we select our county, we have to CHOOSE "YES" IN THE NATIVE PLANT column on the chart.
  • Guide to the Finger Lakes Plant Communities—This is an entire book provided free on the web. A wonderful resource for our area! We have a hard coy of this book, but it can also be downloaded for free at the bottom of this eCommons page—the MohlerMarksGardescu2006.pdf file.
  • Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center is a wealth of information. We got plant recommendations for the Northeast Region to find the native plants they recommend for our area.
  • The Connecticut Botanical Society has very nice descriptions of native plants. Most of the plants that would be native in Connecticut would be native here (at least it's close enough for my standards!)
  • eNature describes the cultural needs of native plants. At first, I didn't notice that there was a tab for Natives and a tab for Invasives. It became much more useful once I noticed this.
  • Finger Lakes Native Plant Society has a nice Native Plant of the Month feature (look in left hand menu), which is especially useful since they're actually CNY natives.
  • Green Landscaping with Native Plants is the EPA's website for the Great Lakes region. It has a number of good resources.
  • The University of Connecticut's Plant Selector is a good resource for choosing plants that meet certain criteria IF the "native" and "wildlife" boxes are selected .

Invasive Plants on the Web

It's good to know how to identify the invasive plants, too. These also suggest some native alternatives that fulfill similar landscape functions.