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Introduction 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 (http://plants.usda.gov). 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 http://www.natureserve.org/index.htm) 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.