Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation

Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation

by Donald J. Leopold

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780881926736
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/08/2005
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 308
Sales rank: 373,225
Product dimensions: 7.69(w) x 10.75(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Donald J. Leopold is a distinguished teaching professor and department chair of at the College of Environmental Science and Forest Biology, State University of New York, Syracuse, where he has won numerous teaching awards and researches the ecology of old-growth forests and wetlands, the biology of rare plant species, and the biodiversity and restoration of ecosystems. He earned a PhD in forest ecology from Purdue University and an MSF in forest ecology from the University of Kentucky. Leopold has been recognized with awards from the Garden Writers Association and the NYS Nursery and Landscape Association. His research and speaking events focus on applying ecological principles from natural communities to the development of sustainable green systems and restoring badly degraded landscapes.

Read an Excerpt

Many readers of this book undoubtedly already know about the incredible beauty, diversity, and versatility of our native plants. I hope that these readers still can learn something about these plants in the following pages. I have visited the darkest, brightest, driest, wettest, coldest, and hottest natural areas throughout eastern North America. Regardless of how good or poor the site conditions are, I have seen an array of native plant species, many of which at the right time of year are quite attractive. Some put on a show two or three times each year, with flowers, fruit, fall color, or perhaps an interesting form. Unfortunately, many people know little about our native plants and how they can function in garden or restoration projects. I especially hope that these readers quickly discover our natural plant heritage and how one can use these native plants in the landscape.
It is interesting to read about many of these species, especially in books written by outstanding horticulturists from Great Britain and other temperate areas. These authors often will save their best strings of superlatives for the species that are the subject of this book, and mention how they have seen these species in gardens around the world. How unfortunate that these species are so often ignored in the region in which they naturally occur.

Nearly all flowering plants (except artificially created hybrids) are “wildflowers” or “native” species somewhere in the world; but a plant species that naturally occurs somewhere is not necessarily native to that region. For example, when dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) blooms in moist, open areas throughout the Northeast each year, many people assume it is native, a species of phlox. However, dame’s rocket is in the mustard family (four petals, versus five for phlox flowers) and is native to southern Europe and western Asia. Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is another example of a widely naturalized species (again from Europe) that many observers assume is native to this region. In fact, many European species that are naturalized in the eastern U.S. are substantial components of “wildflower” seed mixes. The term “wildflower” should be restricted to those species that are truly native to a specific region. “Native” means that as best as botanists can determine, a species naturally occurred in an area prior to European settlement. While species included in this book are indeed native to some portion of the Northeast, they are not necessarily native to every county, state, or province in this region.
If one wants to learn more about which plant species are native to a particular region in the U.S., and about their identification characteristics and ecological requirements, an excellent source of information is the USDA PLANTS Database Web site ( For many of the species listed here, county distribution maps are included, along with much additional information on the plants. State heritage programs (accessed through also have important information about native plant species, especially those of most concern.
As I reviewed many of the books listed in the bibliography to supplement my personal observations, I often found myself grumbling about species that other authors included or excluded. I suspect the most informed readers will do the same here. I include plants that are native to a good portion of this region, have one or more ornamental attributes, can be found at one or more nurseries (often specialty native plant nurseries), and typically do not require routine incantations to grow. I have not emphasized those that are relatively naturally rare, just too difficult to grow, or too expensive to purchase. And I have excluded hundreds of other species that—while native and likely to fill important natural niches—simply do not compare with the species included here for gardening and restoration purposes. To give some idea of the number of native vascular plant species in this region, relative to the number included here: there are 2078 native, and another 1117 nonnative vascular plant species in New York state alone (Mitchell and Tucker 1997). Although few plant species remain to be discovered in the wild in this region, many wait for gardeners to find and appreciate them.
I have done little justice to the many graminoids—true grasses and grasslike plants, such as sedges and rushes—found in this region. One could easily fill another volume with the many native graminoid species that have roles in gardens, and especially restoration projects, and I highly recommend the reference by Darke (1999) for anyone interested in this ecologically, economically, and horticulturally significant group of plants.

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Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Equiscapes More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorite¿s books for learning the basics of native plants in my region. It is not as in depth as Dirr's Manual to Woody Landscape Plants, but we don't always need that much info. The organization of the book is nice if you are looking for a particular type of plant too (trees, shrubs, etc.) Most of the plants have great color pictures! The price is a little high, but it is proving to be worth its cost,

This great reference book will stay in my library for many years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to use this book for a plant taxonomy and systematics class. I actually enjoyed it. Alot of the photos and discriptions of the native plants were great, and its a good catalog of the native species. The information isn't indepth, but it is a good reference.
Storm52 More than 1 year ago
Native plants are the key to successful gardening and this book is the key to native plants of the northeast area of the US. Any serious gardener living in the northeast will wish that they had this wonderful and very beautifully organized and illustrated reference before they first set out to begin a garden. There are a multitude of gardening books on the shelves of bookstores and promoted on various web-sites but this book stands alone as a very reliable and credible source for those interested in building a garden that is sustainable as well as supportive of natural habitat and biodiversity. The author is distinguished as is the book. It is a joy to read and most highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apparently the reviewer here who disparaged this book and author flunked a course taught by Dr. Leopold, given his many teaching awards and the hundreds of very good reviews in many places and the Garden Writers Association Silver Medal Award that this book received. Such irrational reviews from disgruntled individuals do a great disservice to these review services and wouldn't happen if the reviews weren't anonymous as these kinds of people don't have the guts to be identified. Regardless, this book is as good as most reviews indicate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've yet to read a more boring book on this subject. Donald Leopold has made dendrology a subject I'd never want to venture into ..... I will discourage my college-aged daughter from pursuing this class.