Updated by Kate November 20 2023

Welcome to my website. It was started in 2012 to support the native plant nursery I had established in the garden of my home just north of Elmvale, south of Georgian Bay. 


But I continue to offer on-site consultations and other services. And there may be the occasional native plant sale (subscribe through form at left to be notified and to receive my somewhat monthly blog).

And I have kept the plant list, for reference - scroll down.

Keep in touch by subscribing, for a mostly monthly blog and occassional notices. Go to Subscribe Box on home page

Services include:
- Advice on creating an ornamental garden that works for you, your birds, your bees etc...
- Advice on creating a traditional Medicine Wheel Garden
- Advice on controlling (see also what not to plant)
- On-site consultations: $100-$200, payable on the day of the visit, for an on-site consultation in the Barrie/Midland/Wasaga Beach area (includes written report with suggested plantings). 
- Speaking engagements - in person or virtual. Topics include native plants, Monarch butterflies, seed collection, pollinators, birds in your garden, creating habitat, the nature of soil, invasive species, turtles at Tiny Marsh - Fee: $100.
Payments by cash, cheque or e-transfer. No cards. 
For more information EMAIL  or call 705-322-2545.

The plant list (scroll down) includes descriptions of and advice regarding the plants I grow and once sold here so it may be a useful reference. If you are considering purchase of a plant and you're not sure whether or not it is native, there are a couple of other lists on this website you might wish to look at. One - Is it Native? - covers the native plants you are most likely to come across at commercial outlets, mostly at specialist nurseries, but at increasing numbers of mainstream garden centres as well. The other - Invasives: What not to Plant in Ontario - is far from comprehensive, but will help you stay away from the worst offenders you will frequently find on offer.

The plants listed below are hardy in the Great Lakes area, native to Eastern North America, with most native to Ontario. Non-Ontario plants, as determined by the US Department of Agriculture plant database, are indicated with a 'x'. Many come from just south of the Great Lakes, so they're not far from being native! You can check for a map of the plant's range on the USDA database, just enter the plant's Latin or common name. 

My growing methods: No pesticides or non-organic fertilizers, to ensure that plants are safe for pollinators and other insects and therefore safe up the food chain. There's no peat in the ROTN potting mix, to relieve pressure on the world's dwindling wetlands. The soil-based mix helps plants accommodate quickly to most gardeners' natural, non-peat conditions, guards against frost penetrating root systems in winter and against the roots drying out in the heat of summer. If you purchase a plant that is being grown in a peat-based mix, dump it in water and swirl the root system around to get rid of the mix. Then get your plant started in the soil that you expect it to grow in. A mulch of decomposed leaves (see my blog on leaf mould) will be appreciated. I believe many plants die because they are planted in inappropriate material.

With regard to pesticides, the worst are systemic (like neonicotinoids), they make the whole plant toxic to insects and harmful to many other organisms that might consume the plant's nectar, pollen or foliage. There's pressure for garden centres to use plants treated with pesticides because customers want picture-perfect plants. So pressure the other way - ask if the plant has been grown without pesticides. You don't want to put harm in the way of an unsuspecting bee. My philosophy: If there are holes in the leaves, the plant is doing its job.

Helpful reference for lakefront residents and cottagers: Lake Huron Coastal Dune Plants Guide 
Also useful:
-Ontario hardiness zone map (note that microclimates can be created through protective planting and landscaping, allowing for plants to thrive outside their official zone).
-Ecozones and Ecoregions
-Keystone plants by Ecoregion

Slideshow photography by Anne McArthur

Annuals & Biennials

Artemisia campestris - Beach Wormwood
20-80 cm This is a dune plant - a biennial, which means it lives for two years, producing a basal circle of leaves in the first year, flowers and seed in the second. Happy in sand, in full sun and dry conditions. Pretty silvery green leaves, with small pale yellow-green flowers in July-September.

Cirsium discolor – Pasture Thistle
Up to 2 metres. Native thistles are becoming rare on our landscape, largely because of farmers' distaste for non-native thistles, including the invasive alien Canada Thistle. Easily identifiable by the white powdery undersurface of the leaves, this native thistle is visited by many bees, moths and butterflies, including Monarchs. Purple flower heads consisting of many narrow tube-shaped flowers appear from July to September. Some bees specialize in its pollen and it is larval host to the American Painted Lady butterfly and many moths. Flocks of songbirds rely on thistle seed, including goldfinches which breed later than most birds and line their nests with thistle down. A biennial (first year, a low-to-the ground rosette, second year, a tall branched stem), Field Thistle self-seeds readily on open soil. Full sun, accommodates to a wide range of soil conditions.

Echinocystis lobata - Wild Cucumber Vine
Very attractive climber. Not edible. Deeply lobed leaves, curly tendrils and fragrant frothy white flowers in August that attract pollinators, interesting prickly seedpods that dry out to small filigree gourds. Self-seeds readily, squash-like seedlings are easy to spot in early spring and can be pulled out where not wanted.

Nicotiana rustica - Aztec Tobacco
90 cm A handsome plant with broad leaves and a cluster of beautiful greenish-white flowers, one of the four medicine plants of indigenous cultures. Not native to Ontario, it originated in Andean South America and moved up the first peoples' trade routes to be naturalized across the continent. Here's a link to Richters for cultivation advice.

Oenothera biennis - Evening Primrose
60 cm – 1m. This is a biennial plant, which means it doesn’t flower until its second year. A member of an important family for pollinators. Blooms June to October, reseeds readily so once you have it, you have it (in fact, you probably already have it if you're anywhere near uncultivated habitat). The yellow lemon-scented flowers open in the evening and close at noon and are visited by night-flying insects like the large sphinx moths that resemble hummingbirds. The native evening-primrose lasioglossum bee is an Oenothera specialist and will collect pollen only from plants of this family – it depends for survival on their presence. Full sun, average soil.

Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet Runner Bean
The Phaseolus genus originated from the mountains of Central America and also travelled up the trade routes to be widely cultivated by indigenous people before the Europeans arrived. The Scarlet Runner is one of five main species that was domesticated in pre-Columbian times. It's an ornamental pole vine, with beautiful red flowers which attract humming birds. I grow it up through trees. Pick beans earlier than the size at which they are offered for sale at stores. That's when the pods are tender and delicious.


Achillea millefolium - Common Yarrow

30-90 cm Delicate fern-like foliage, flat-topped clusters of white flowerheads from June to September. Its nectar and pollen attract a wide variety of pollinating insects. Native status, from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: A. millefolium is highly variable and has been treated both as a single species with varieties and as multiple distinct species. It is cosmopolitan throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, A. millefolium is a complex of both native and introduced plants and their hybrids. Full to part sun, average soil.

Acorus americanus - Sweet Flag
See under Pont Plants

Actaea pachypoda - White Baneberry

45-70 cm Also known as Doll’s Eyes, for the black-dotted white fruit on red stalks that appear in August. Lovely frothy white flowers in June. Finely dissected grey-green foliage. Deciduous shade (needs sun in spring). Accommodates to a variety of soil conditions.

Actaea racemosa - Black Cohosh
1.5 m Formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa. Other common names are Black Bugbane, Black Snakeroot and - the most descriptive of this plant that can light up a shady area - Fairy Candles. Dramatic arching spikes of fragrant cream flowers are among the last bloomers of fall - from September onwards - and are a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators. Beautiful dissected foliage. Larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly. Average soil, shade or partial shade.

Actaea rubra - Red Baneberry 
40-60 cm Fluffy clusters of delicate white flowers in spring, followed by wonderfully decorative brilliant red fruit in mid-to late summer, lasting into winter. Finely divided bright green foliage. This species is difficult to germinate, slow to grow, hard to find - and a striking and elegant addition to the woodland garden. Light to moderate shade, moist soil enriched with fallen leaf litter.

Agastache foeniculum - Anise Hyssop
100 cm approx. Our all-round favourite pollinator plant! Highlighted as a top performer by the Xerces Society. Member of the mint family. Bees and butterflies are irresistibly drawn to these pretty blue-purple flower spikes with leaves that smell and taste of anise (delicious in teas, salads and cooking). Grows into effective clumps, not fussy, not aggressive, self-seeds readily. Flowers early and late, in fact it's one of the last plants to stay in flower in fall, providing sustenance for tardy pollinators. Sun, part shade

Agastache scrophulariifolia - Purple Giant Hyssop
1.8 m Strong square stems bear flower spikes that aren't purple but pale lavender to cream. The tubular flowers are nectar-rich and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Blooms August-September. Seedheads offer winter interest and food for birds. Similar in form to the related Anise Hyssop but taller, with only a faint anise scent.

Ageratina altissima - White Snakeroot
90 cm An older binomial name is Eupatorium rugosum. A star of the late summer / fall garden - brilliant white flowers in flat-topped clusters on slender, branching stems clothed in toothed leaves. Light up the shade garden at a time when there’s not much else. Often fragrant. Attracts pollinators. Habitat is woodland edge, so part sun to part shade in moist soil is best, but this is a very adaptable plant and will tolerate a range of conditions.

Allium cernuum - Wild Nodding Onion
20-60 cm. A stand-out among those members of the onion family that are grown for their decorative value. Nodding white-pink flowers in July-August. A Carolinian plant that's now rare in the wild, found principally on the Lake Erie islands. Attracts butterflies, bees. Full sun, average soil conditions.

Allium tricoccum – Wild Leek
30-45 cm Bulb-forming perennial. Also known as Ramps. A member of the onion family, one of the first plants to come up in Ontario’s deciduous woodlands, it’s a delicious early spring vegetable. Leaves die back by early summer, the creamy white flower appears on a long stem in July and sets seed. The plant then disappears, and remains dormant until the next spring. A clump will spread slowly over the years. If harvesting in the wild, take only one leaf from each plant. Unfortunately the Wild Leek is disappearing from our natural spaces due to greedy harvesters who clear entire patches. This is a sustainable crop if treated with respect. Needs an area that gets dappled sunlight in spring followed by shade, with moist soil enriched by surface leaf mould.

Amsonia ciliata - Fringed Bluestar x
50-80 cm Clump-forming perennial with clusters of lovely star-like, pale blue flowers. Blooms in June. Attractive narrow leaves turn gold in fall. Not native to Ontario*, but further south on eastern North American continent. Accommodates to a variety of soils. Sun with some shade. 

Anaphalis margaritacea - Pearly Everlasting
See under Groundcovers

Anemone acutiloba - Sharp-lobed Hepatica 
One of the first woodland flowers to bloom in spring - such a lovely signal that winter is over. White or mauve flowers with conspicuous stamens and three-lobed mottled semi-evergreen leaves that give it one of its common names, Liverleaf. Shade, part shade. Accommodates to a variety of soils, from moist to dry (in the wild, grows in deciduous forests under moisture-depleting trees like Sugar Maple).

Anemone canadensis - Canada Anemone
See under Groundcovers

Anemone cylindrica - Thimbleweed 
60 - 100 cm. Small white flowers in early summer, with long-lasting thimble-shaped seedheads in summer and fall that burst into fluffy cottony masses for winter interest, and wildlife food and nesting material. Pleasing deeply divided foliage. Does best in poor soil. Drought tolerant. Self-seeds readily. Sun or shade. 1 gal  $6

Antennaria neglecta - Field Pussytoes
See under Groundcovers

Aquilegia canadensis - Wild Columbine
30-80 cm Flowers in May-June, coinciding with the return of migrating hummingbirds, this is  one of the glories of Ontario's deciduous forests, more glorious also than any other aquilegia. Its delicate hanging flowers have tubular red and yellow petals, flat red sepals and long spurs with yellow anthers. Attractive green foliage. With nectar secreted in the spurs, hummingbirds and long-tongued bumble bees are required for pollination. Best in well-drained soil in partial shade but adaptable - grows in sun in dry rocky terrain and poor gravelly soil. Self-seeds.

Aralia racemosa - American Spikenard
120-180 cm Attractive shrub-like plant (it is a herbaceous perennial, dying back each fall) with widely spreading branches of compound, heart-shaped leaves, bearing racemes of delicate greenish-cream flowers in August that attract large numbers of pollinators, followed by plentiful purple-red berries that are great for wildlife. Sun or dappled shade. Moisture preferred but accommodates to range of average soils. Interesting write-up.

Argentina anserina - Silverweed Cinquefoil
See under Groundcovers

Arisaema triphyllum - Jack-in-the-Pulpit
30-60 cm The fascinating inflorescence grows up inside a leaf-like structure that curls into a protective hood. Berries turn bright red in fall and are consumed by birds. This excellent woodland plant prefers dappled sunlight to light shade in spring, medium shade later in the year and moist soil with decaying leaf litter.

Artemisia ludoviciana - White Sage
60-80 cm Also known as Silver Wormwood and Western Mugwort. Aromatic pale grey foliage. Prefers poor soil and dry conditions, grows in sun oe shade. Can spread aggressively - but I have seen it look most attractive if mown and used as a groundcover. One of the four medicine plants, used in purification ceremonies (smudging).

Asclepias incarnata - Swamp Milkweed
90-120 cm. Also known as Rose or Red Milkweed. One of several milkweeds native to Ontario, this one is particularly beautiful, with a round cluster of pale and dark pink blooms in June-July. Don't be put off by the "weed" part of its name - it's elegant, it doesn't spread with underground runners and it's a good plant to have, being a host to the Monarch butterfly (its caterpillars feed only on native Milkweed foliage). A wetland plant, some moisture in the soil is preferred, but it can work in fairly dry conditions. Sun. 

Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed
40-80 cm. Brilliant orange flowers from June to August make this member of the Milkweed family, also a host to the Monarch butterfly, a most desirable garden plant. Clump-forming - doesn't send out underground runners, but does form a large taproot, making transplanting difficult if you change your mind about where you want it. Drought-tolerant. Slow growing, but worth the wait. Late to break dormancy. Sun or part-shade.

Asclepias syriaca - Common Milkweed
80-100 cm. The perfect Monarch host, a beautiful plant with fragrant dusky pink flowers held in drooping globes from end of June to early August. Attracts a wide variety of pollinators. Dry to moist soil conditions, sun or shade. It can be overly intrusive in a small garden, spreading through a skinny underground root. Pull up the stem if it shows up where you don't want it. I saw it mass planted a bed in Toronto, and it looked very lovely, in a space it had all to itself. As is pointed out on the Monarch Watch website, being a good colonizer does not necessarily mean that a plant species is a good competitor. In fact, in a meadow, Common Milkweed tends to be out-competed by more vigorous species like Goldenrod and disappear. That's plant succession for you. Sun.

Baptisia australis – Blue False Indigo x 
90-150 cm Also known as Blue Wild Indigo - long spikes of deep indigo-blue flowers, followed by attractive seedpods (loose seeds within hollow gourd can be used as rattles). Clover-like blue-green foliage looks good all season. A splendid and long-lived plant that is slow to mature. Drought-tolerant, once established. Full sun, average soil. Naturalized in Ontario, native to points south of the Great Lakes.* Full sun.

Callirhoe digitata - Fringed Poppy Mallow x
90 cm Also know as Standing Winecups for the chalice shape of the strikingly beautiful flower - magenta with a spot of white at the centre of the bloom. Hardy, but not native to Ontario, the range of this species is from the southern shore of Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike other Poppy Mallows, this one stands tall, making it a good addition to a meadow planting. Blooms July-August. Full sun.

Callirhoe involucrata - Purple Poppy Mallow x
30 cm Another Winecup - but this one's a sprawling, mat-forming groundcover that thrives in dry heat because of a deep taproot (which makes it difficult to move after a few years). Native to Eastern North America,* to Indiana, Illinois and points south. Host and nectar plant of the Grey Hairstreak butterfly, native to our area. Drought-resistant, full sun to part shade. Blooms July-September.

Caulophyllum thalictroides - Blue Cohosh
30-60 cm Lovely purple blue foliage emerges in spring, turning blue green as the season progresses. Small yellowish flowers turn into bright blue berries. Slow to establish, will spread by underground rhizomes. Needs dappled sunlight or light shade in spring, and shade for the rest of the year as well as abundant organic matter from decaying leaves or other plant materials.

Chelone glabra - White Turtlehead
30-90 cm Spikes of white flowers in August- September, the distinctive shape of the flower gives the plant its common name. Narrow lance-shaped leaves. Larval host for the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly.  Visited most frequently by worker bumblebees and hummingbirds -  bees must push their way into the flower by forcing open the upper and lower lips to access the nectar. Interesting info in Lorraine Johnson's Garden for the Rusty-patched Bumblebee: bumblebees infected with an intestinal parasite seek out this plant because its nectar has a medicinal effect. Full sun or part shade. Some moisture needed in the soil.

Chelone obliqua – Pink Turtlehead x
24-30 inches. Not native to Ontario but naturalized across the province, this is a plant from the south-eastern US. Attractive pink turtlehead-shaped flowers, needs some moisture, good for water's edge in part shade or sun. Host to the Baltimore Checkerspot.

Conoclinium coelestinum - Blue Mist x
70-90 cm Native to points south and west of the Great Lakes* - USDA map. Blooms in September, with beautiful flat-top clusters of delicate powder-blue flowers that look like Ageratum. Closely related to the white-flowered Bonesets (Eupatorium spp.), and sometimes referred to as Eupatorium coelestinum. Good cut flower, rain garden plant. It is an aggressive spreader so containment is advised. Full sun to light shade. 

Coreopsis grandiflora - Large-flowered Tickseed

60 cm Showy yellow flowers from June to September (remove deadheads to prolong blooming), sun or part sun, likes good drainage in a variety of soils. Attracts pollinators.

Coreopsis lanceolata - Lance-leaved Coreopsis
60 cm Also known as Sand Coreopsis or Sand Tickseed. Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers on long stems bloom in late spring and into summer (deadhead to prolong flowering). Drought tolerant, grows on sandy or poor soil. Attracts pollinators. Full sun.

Coreopsos tripteris - Tall Coreopsis
2 metres plus Also known as Tall Tickseed. Tall, picturesque, clumping with long stems that sway in the wind. Daisy-like pale yellow flowers with maroon centres from July to September. Accommodates to most soils, good in sand. Sun.

Dicentra cucullaria - Dutchman's Breeches
20-30 cm A woodland spring ephemeral that flowers early before the leaf canopy grows and shades the forest floor - then goes dormant and disappears till next year. Delicate grey-green fronds of foliage, white hanging flowers shaped - they say - like an upside-down pair of breeches.

Dodecatheon meadia – Midland Shooting Star x
Delightful ephemeral woodland plant - not native to Ontario, but to points south and west of the Great Lakes*. Blooms in May and then goes dormant and disappears in summer, so mark the spot. White petals flare back, yellow stamens point forward, giving the flower a rocket or shooting star shape. An early gift to foraging bees. Shade, average to moist soil.

Doellingeria umbellata - Flat-topped White Aster
1-1.5m Also known as Parasol Aster. An elegant tall plant with a flat-topped cluster of white flowers and a rigid, often purplish stem. The lance-shaped leaves have prominent veins on the underside and feel smooth when stroked away from the stem, rough when stroked backwards. Attracts many pollinators. Full or part sun, moist soil (good for rain gardens), but also accommodates to average conditions.

Echinacea pallida - Pale Purple Coneflower
Up to 90 cm Slim pale petals, lavender to pink, hang from the orange-bronze centre. An early bloomer, providing welcome nectar for returning hummingbirds and butterflies. Goldfinches feed on the seed. Full to part sun. Average soil. 

Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower *
110 cm A classic: large pink daisy-like flowers with orange-bronze centres on erect stems. One of the joys of an Ontario summer, blooms from July to October. And surprise! despite its being beautifully at home here, it's actually listed as 'introduced' to this province and native south of the Great Lakes. A nectar plant that's visited by many pollinators, including hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies. Seed enjoyed by goldfinches. Strong structure for winter interest. Sun or light dappled shade. Average soil.

Epilobium augustifolium - Fireweed
60-180 cm Also known as Great Willowherb. There is some confusion as to which genus Fireweed belongs. Chamerion angustifolium has alternate leaves, Epilobium angustifolium has opposite leaves, at least near the base. In either case, this plant is the first colonizer after a forest fire, hence its name. Blooms end of June to early September, an important plant for honey producers. Full or part sun, moist conditions preferred.

Erigeron pulchellus - Robin’s Plantain
15-30 cm Daisy-like flowers with white to pink florets surrounding a yellow disk, from May to June. Spreads slowly through underground rhizomes, nice on a dappled bank. Sun, part sun in average to dry soil, but accommodating to most conditions. Nectar plant, attracts native bees and butterflies.

Eryngium yuccifolium - Rattlesnake Master x 
1 to 1.5 m A striking plant much loved by pollinators. Sword-shaped leaves edged with prickles and greenish-white thistle-like flowers in late summer through fall, this plant looks like it belongs in a desert but it is hardy, enjoying hot and dry desert-like conditions - full sun, well-drained dry soil (or sand or gravel). A tall-grass prairie plant that’s not native to our area, its range starts south of the Great Lakes. The name’s derived from the fact that indigenous people used it in a tea as an antidote for a rattlesnake bite.

Erythronium americanum - Trout Lily 
5-10 cm Also known as Dogtooth Violet and Adder's Tongue. The mottled green and brown leaves resemble the markings on a trout. You have to bend low to the ground to enjoy the beautiful yellow flower with stamens that are often tipped in red, blooming late April to May. It will gradually colonize a shaded area, acting as a wonderful groundcover for a few weeks in spring. It is a spring ephemeral, appearing early to enjoy the sun before trees have leafed out and going dormant once the canopy closes in, disappearing until next year. Dappled sun to medium shade, loamy soil with decaying leaf litter.

Eupatorium perfoliatum - Boneset
100-160 cm Showy clusters of white flowers that are delightfully fragrant, plant near a path to enjoy the scent. Leaves are "perfoliated," meaning they clasp the stem. This made it a folk remedy, based on the idea that a poultice of this plant could help broken bones knit together. Blooms July-October. Excellent pollinator plant. Full sun to part shade. Its natural habitat is moist but will do fine in dry conditions. 

Eurybia divaricata - Wood Aster
Also known as Heartleaf Aster. Blooms late summer and early fall in dry shade – few plants are this accommodating. Spreads into large clumps. The clouds of white stars contrast sharply with its wiry black stems and show up well in shade. Shade, part shade.

Eurybia macrophylla - Large-leaved Aster
15-80 cm Large daisy-like flowers, mainly white, some with tinges of blue or lavender. Blooms in August-September. If nothing else works, this is the plant for shade or part shade. It does best in moist soils but will survive as a ground cover in dry sandy shade. Host plant to Silvery Checkerspot and Pearl Crescent butterflies.

Euthamia graminifolia – Flat-topped Goldenrod
30-150 cm. Also known as Lance-leaved or Grass-leaved Goldenrod. In fact, in a different genus to other familiar Goldenrods that are in the Solidago genus (both are in the Asteraceae family). Pretty fragrant pale yellow flowers and a delicate form make this a desirable garden plant. Most Goldenrods do seed, spread and try to take over. While this is not the worst offender, it is a spreader, and - like the others - a gorgeous celebration of the end of summer and a key pollinator plant. Sun, average soil.

Eutrochium maculatum – Spotted Joe Pye Weed
180 cm plus Formerly known as Eupatorium maculatum. One of the most glorious native plants in our area, Joe Pye grows six feet tall and is covered with a cloud of dusky pink flowers in July and August. Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and pollinators. Later, the fluffy seeds are much relished by white-crowned and white-throated sparrows as they pass through on their fall migration. A wetland plant that accommodates to a variety of soils. But leaves will scorch if conditions are too dry.

Eutrochium purpureum - Sweet Joe Pye Weed
120 cm A better Joe Pye for many garden situations, because it is not as tall and - a woodland plant - it grows in drier conditions than Spotted Joe Pye. The flowers are pinker, the stem is purple, at the joints or all the way up. Similarly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators, with seeds also enjoyed by the white-crowned and white-throated sparrows as they migrate through. 

Filipendula rubra - Queen of the Prairie x
1 to 1.5 m Absolutely fabulous! 'cotton candy' panicles of fragrant pink buds and flowers (with pink petals, long white stamens and pink anthers). The large-lobed bright green leaves are also fragrant. A plant of moist meadows that will take to rich garden soils, important to provide extra watering in average moisture conditions. If happy, will spread by rhizomes, which will make you happy, so give this Queen her space. Not an Ontario native* although widely naturalized in this province, Queen of the Prairie comes to us from south and west of the Great Lakes. Full sun.

Fragaria virginiana - Wild Strawberry
See under Groundcovers

Gaultheria procumbens - Wintergreen
See under Shrubs

Geranium maculatum - Wild Geranium
30-60 cm Pleasing pink flowers make this wild member of the cranesbill family of geraniums a decorative rival to any garden variety. Not to be confused with the red and pink pelargoniums that are also called geraniums but are native to South Africa and other parts of the globe. Says Heather Holm in her book Pollinators of Native Plants (available from Return of the Native): "An excellent plant to mass under trees, interplant with ferns or late-summer flowering woodland natives. The foliage typically turns bright red in fall for another season of interest." Attracts a variety of pollinating bees and other insects. Prefers moist soil enriched by fallen leaf litter, will tolerate average well-drained soil. Shade to part shade.

Geum rivale - Water Avens
25-50 cm. Nodding reddish purple flowers in June and July attract bees and other pollinators. A denizen of slow-draining or wet soils. Aromatic root, hairy stem, compound leaves. Rhizome spread forms slowly expanding clumps. Sun or part shade.

Geum triflorum - Prairie Smoke
30-60 cm Pretty red flowers in May - June that turn into tufts of pink feathery seedheads, drying into grey smoke-like whisps. Good front-of-border plant for dry sandy soil in full sun. Dislikes competition, don't allow other plants to encroach! Pollinated by bumblebees.

Gillenia trifoliata - Bowman's Root
60-100 cm Also known as Indian Physic. Loose panicles of white or pinkish flowers make for a lovely display in spring. When the petals fall, colourful red sepals are revealed. Three-lobed leaves turn red or orange in fall. A good choice for a mass planting. 'Bright' shade or partial sun. Mulch with decomposed leaves (leafmould) to add acidity to average soils.

Helenium autumnale - Helen’s Flower
Up to 1 m Also known as Sneezeweed (no, it won't make you sneeze). Very charming - yellow daisy-like flowers with pleasingly recurved petals in July-August, attracts bees and butterflies. Full sun, accommodates to a variety of soils.

Helenium flexuosum - Purple-headed Sneezeweed *
45-90cm Resembles Helen's Flower (H. autumnale), with the same attractive recurved yellow petals, but a little shorter, and distinguished by its decorative purple centres. Prefers moisture. An Eastern Seaboard native south of the Great Lakes, but not considered native to Ontario; the USDA map shows it to be naturalized as far north as Hudson Bay.

Helianthus divaricatus - Woodland Sunflower
Up to 1.5 metres Bright yellow daisy-like flowers, about 4 cm across, from July to September. Grows in dry shade and attracts a variety of pollinators, which makes it a real winner for the woodland garden. Larval host for the Silvery Checkerspot, Gorgone Checkerspot and Painted Lady butterflies. Spreads by underground rhizomes, is said to be aggressive, but I can't get enough of it in my shade garden.

Helianthus giganteus - Giant Sunflower
2 m. A dramatic narrow-leaved perennial sunflower with numerous pale yellow flowers on reddish stems, July-October. Likes full sun, moist ground. Use in naturalizing, not in perennial beds, as it spreads and self-seeds aggressively. Like Jerusalem artichokes, produces edible tubers (but fewer and smaller). From Heather Holm’s Bees: 'Sunflowers have a high wildlife value as they support many species of specialist bees, several moth and butterfly species and produce seeds sought after by songbirds.' 

Heliopsis helianthoides - Sweet Oxeye
1 to 1.5 m Also known as False Sunflower. A striking yellow daisy on multiple branching stems, member of the Aster family, not to be confused with the invasive, non-native white oxeye daisy. Grows in most soils in sun or part shade. Long blooming period of July-September. Self-seeds enthusiastically. Attracts butterflies and pollinators.

Heuchera richardsonii - Prairie Alumroot
30 cm Basal clump with panicles of tiny bell-shaped flowers on tall (60 cm) wiry stalks. Members of the Heuchera genus are all native to North America. Wikipedia lists over 40 varieties from across the continent. Alumroots, also known as Coral Bells, have been extensively hybridized to produce different coloured or patterned leaves for garden use. This one, native to Ontario and points north and west, has softly lobed green foliage and airy creamy-green flowers with stamens tipped in orange. Attracts pollinators. Good for a rock garden or edge of perennial border. Drought resistant. Partial shade, accommodates to most soils, best in well-drained sand or gravel.

Hydrophyllum virginianum - Virginia Waterleaf

20-50 cm A low-growing woodland plant with clusters of pretty blue (sometimes white) flowers in May and June, deeply divided foliage. Shade or part shade, some moisture preferred. Leaves are said to be edible, raw or cooked, best when picked young. Spreads readily by seed and rhizome.

Hypericum ascyron - Giant St. John's Wort

70 cm Robust shrub-like perennial with large yellow flowers bearing many stamens that produce large quantities of pollen (no nectar); attracts bees and butterflies. Leafcutter bees cut pieces of leaf for lining and dividing brood cells. Deep roots, plant it where you want it to stay. Part shade, moist soil.

Iris versicolor - Northern Blue Flag Iris
See under Pond Plants

Liatris ligulistylis - Meadow Blazing Star x
90-120 cm Said to be unsurpassed for attracting Monarch as well as many other species of butterfly. Birds enjoy the seeds later in the year. Very decorative branched spikes of brilliant purple flowers from July to October. A North American native from the prairie provinces and south of the Great Lakes. Full sun. Well-drained moist to medium soil.  

Liatris spicata - Dense Blazing Star
30-60 cm Wands of blue-violet flowers from July to November attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees. A Tall Grass Prairie plant that is threatened in the wild by habitat loss. Full sun. Moist to medium soil.

Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal Flower
60 cm The best red! Glorious spikes of scarlet flowers from July-September. A short-lived perennial that grows along the edges of northern lakes. Needs moisture and sun or part sun. Will self-seed and appear in unexpected spots where it is always welcome, sometimes in dry spots where it doesn't seem to have got the memo. Pollinated by hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Lobelia siphilitica - Great Blue Lobelia 
Up to 120 cm Clump-forming perennial with dense spikes of clear blue tubular flowers from August-October. Attracts bees, hummingbirds, butterflies. Full to part sun, average to moist soil. Self-seeds.

Lupinus perennis - Wild Lupine 
40-60 cm Lovely spikes of pastel through to dark blue (very occasionally white) flowers in June. This is the host plant for the caterpillars of the Karner Blue and the Dusky Wing, two butterflies that are extirpated in Ontario, as well as for the endangered Frosted Elfin. Happy on the beach, in sun and sand, but tolerant of a wide range of soils. Full sun and good drainage a must, low-nutrient conditions best. In areas where the Karner Blue survives, the multi-coloured Russell hybrids present a danger as they readily hybridize with with this native species, contaminating the gene pool and making its foliage inedible to Karner Blue caterpillars. Lupins develop a deep taproot and do not respond well to transplanting.

Maianthemum stellatum - Starry False Solomon’s Seal 
Up to 50 cm Delicate starry white flowers in late May, early June, berries that follow are green and black striped, then red. Spreads, will fill that annoying space on the north side of the cottage. This is a shade plant, does well in sand, adaptable to a variety of soil conditions.

Mentha arvensis - Wild Mint
65 cm Aromatic foliage, fragrant mauve flowers that bloom July-September in whorls around the axils of the leaves. Attracts small bees, wasps, butterflies. Sun or part sun, moist to average soil. Can be used to make tea.

Mertensia virginica - Virginia Bluebells
30 cm A magical woodland plant, producing dramatic bluebells in May, and then going dormant and disappearing until next year (so mark the spot). Shade. Adapts to a variety of soil conditions. Spreads itself through shade by self-seeding, resulting in beautiful drifts.

Mimulus ringens - Monkey Flower
60-100 cm Bushy plant with charming mauve flowers that bloom for about a month some time from late June to mid-August. With all due respect to monkeys, I can't see why the plant was given this name, but it's apparently because of the shape of the flower. Needs consistent moisture, so well-suited to a rain or bog garden.

Monarda didyma - Oswego Tea Beebalm
80-100 cm approx Also known as Crimson Beebalm or Red Bergamot. Striking red blooms on tall stalks, aromatic foliage, a great favourite with hummingbirds. Full sun, will tolerate some shade, average to moist soil. If crowded, downy mildew will appear on the leaves. Good air circulation solves the problem, cut back some of the stems and provide more open conditions. Spreads slowly.

Monarda fistulosa - Wild Bergamot Beebalm
60-120 cm Soft mauve flowers, sweetly scented, attractive to pollinators - bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A Xerces Society favourite. Easy to grow, flowers all summer long, aromatic foliage, self-seeds nicely, drought tolerant, will grow in sun or shade. If crowded, downy mildew will appear on the leaves. Good air circulation solves the problem. Can't decide which is nicest, Oswego Tea or Wild Bergamot; best to grow both. 

Monarda punctata - Dotted Beebalm 
30-60 cm Also known as Spotted Horsemint. Delightful rosettes of creamy tubular flowers with maroon dots occur in whorls, forming a dense, elongated spike at the end of the stem or from leaf axils, each whorl resting on conspicuous leafy bracts (think poinsettia, only in light pink or lavender instead of red). Aromatic foliage can be used for tea. Ontario Wildflowers offers this advice: "A plant for really hot and dry areas. It requires open sandy soil to be happy and reseed, since it is short lived. Because it is rare (it is only found in two places in the wild in Ontario) it should not be planted in the wild." Drought-tolerant pollinator plant. The Great Golden Digger Wasp is one of its visitors. 8.5 cm pot $5

Oenothera fruticosa – Narrow-leaved Sundrops  
To 60 cm No-problem plant with bright yellow flowers that flourishes in poor soil. Member of Evening Primrose family, but blooms in daytime. Drought-tolerant. Spreads. Shallow-rooted so easily controlled. Blooms June-July. Hummingbirds, butterflies and many insects (including one bee specialist, see entry for Evening Primrose) visit for nectar, songbirds for seeds. Sun or shade

Opuntia humifusia - Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Up to 25 cm  Ontario’s only native cactus. A low-spreading succulent, with dramatic large pale yellow flowers in June, followed by fruit that turn red in fall. Native populations are listed as endangered provincially and federally - only three populations exist in the wild in Canada: two in Point Pelee National Park and one in Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve on Pelee Island. Needs full sun, well-drained sand or gravel. Keep clear of weeds, handle with care or prickles will get you. Survives winter just fine outside.

Packera aurea - Golden Ragwort
15-60 cm Showy golden-yellow daisy-like flowers in flat-topped clusters. Blooms in spring and can spread into an effective ground cover for damp woodland, aggressive enough to see off periwinkle (Vinca), it is said. Full sun to light shade, moisture needed, accommodates to most soils.

Packera paupercula - Balsam Ragwort
35 cm Bright yellow daisy-like flowers with recessed petals grow from a basal rosette. This is a plant found in the Carden Alvar in challenging conditions of little soil, intense drought and seasonal flooding. Also said to prefer moist sandy soil and full or partial sun. Also to be ideal for rock gardens and xeriscaping. 

Parthenium integrifolium - Wild Quinine x
60-90 cm Stems bearing flat-headed clusters of small white flowerheads (can be used in dried flower arrangements) emerge from basal rosette of serrated blue-grey leaves. Featured by Xerxes as a 'weird and wonderful' pollinator plant for the variety of floral visitors it attracts. Blooms June to September. Native to Illinois and points south of the Great Lakes, naturalized in Ontario. Full sun, average soil.

Penstemon digitalis - Foxglove Beardtongue 
60-80 cm Not a member of the foxglove family. Penstemons are one of the most beautiful North American flowering species. Clusters of white bell-shaped flowers on tall erect stems in June through to July. Clump-forming, drought-tolerant, sun or part sun/shade, average soils.

Penstemon hirsutus - Hairy Beardtongue

40-60 cm Lavender bell-shaped flowers, gets its name from the hairs on the stem. A little shorter than the Foxglove Beardtongue, clump-forming, drought-tolerant, a pleasing front of border plant. Blooms in late May to June. Sun or part sun/shade, average soils.

Polygonatum biflorum - Great Solomon's Seal

45 cm approx So beautiful in spring, when the double white bells hand from the elegant arch of the stem. Later, dark blue berries form, to be enjoyed by birds. The perfect shade plant. Adaptable to a wide variety of shade conditions. 

Phlox divaricata – Woodland Phlox
20 cm Also known as Wild Blue Phlox. Delicate pale blue flowers in late May to mid-June, one of the best blues, packing a great impact for a small plant. Plant this beauty instead of the invasive periwinkle (Vinca). Spreads slowly over time. Adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, best in dappled shade but will tolerate full sun.

Physostegia virginiana - Obedient Plant
100-130 cm Mauve or white flower spikes. So named because the flowers can be bent into position and will stay that way for a while. Another name is False Dragonhead. An underrated plant that is very effective at the back of the border and is always buzzing with pollinators - hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, etc. Sun to part-sun. Spreads but easy to control as it is shallow-rooted. 

Phytolacca americana - American Pokeweed
120-200 cm Pokeweed has been called bold - it's a description that fits. Lovely racemes of small white flowers blooming July-August, followed by bunches of dark purple berries, stems red or tinged with red, huge oval leaves and a long taproot. Author Lorraine Johnson lists it as one of her favourites. The flowers are visited by a variety of pollinators, the plentiful berries hang in to mid-winter and are high value for birds and some mammals. Part sun, moist soil are best, but this tough plant flourishes in a variety of conditions.

Polemonium reptans - Jacob's Ladder
30-50cm Clusters of deep blue flowers with brightly contrasting yellow stamens in May-June and excellent foliage, the compound leaves arranged like the rungs of a ladder. Adaptable to dry, moist, sun, shade.

Pycnanthemum virginianum - Virginia Mountain Mint
30 to 90 cm - Grown for its fragrance and culinary uses, it is also an excellent nectar plant, beloved by pollinators for its densely packed clusters of white flowers with purple dots and long bloom time (July-September). A spreader, not as aggressive as mint, but give it its own space, the bees and butterflies will be grateful. Full to partial sun, moist to average soil.

Ratibida pinnata - Grey-headed Coneflower
50-150 cm An elegant plant of South-western Ontario's Tall Grass Prairie. Blooms June-September. Showy flower - with a prominent central disk, which is initially light green or grey and later turns dark brown, and reflexed pale yellow petals. Attracts birds, butterflies, bees. Thrives in dry soil, excellent for xeriscaping. Sun or part shade.

Rudbeckia hirta - Black-eyed Susan
60-80 cm The cheerful face of summer in Ontario. Short-lived perennial, but self-seeds readily so once you have it, you have it. Long flowering season startug in June, larval host to several moths and butterflies, including the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. Great source of pollen and nectar for bees, some of which, like the Mining Bee (Andrena rudbeckiae) are specialists, collecting only from this species. Full to part sun, average to dry soils, drought tolerant.

Rudbeckia laciniata - Cutleaf Coneflower
90-150 cm Also known as Green-headed Coneflower. The Cherokee call it Sochan and consider it an important medicine and a nutritious part of their diet. Tall, branched, liberally flowering July through September, and then the plant gets worked over by birds enjoying the seeds. It has unusual light green central cones with drooping bright yellow petals and smooth, deeply cut foliage. Its natural habitat is along stream banks and in moist forests, but accommodates to drier soils. It does well in both sun or shade.

Rudbeckia triloba - Brown-eyed Susan x 
Up to 90 cm - Short-lived perennial with yellow rays, purplish-black raised disk that self-seeds readily - prepare for it to move around. Blooms August to October. Densely branched, taller than R. hirta with smaller but more profuse flowers. Attracts many nectar-seeking and pollen-seeking insects. Not native to Ontario but to points south of Great Lakes.* Tolerates heat, drought and a wide range of soils. Full to partial sun.

Ruellia humilis - Wild Petunia x
45 cm Not a petunia. Gorgeous pale lilac petunia-shaped flowers from July to October make this plant a stand-out. Shape is a neat clump, leaves and stems are hairy. Self-seeds. Native to points south of the Great Lakes.* Full sun, flourishes in dry conditions in any type of soil.

Sanguinaria canadensis - Bloodroot
20 cm A little miracle of spring - each flower stalk emerges wrapped in a leaf; the striking white flowers bloom in May, and then the leaves unfurl, large deeply scalloped saucers, held about 25 cm off the ground. Then the show fades away to go dormant in summer - but below ground, the thick clump of rhizomatous roots (blood-coloured) is slowly spreading. Shade, average soil.

Sanguisorba officinalis - Great Burnet
60-120 cm Spikes of burgundy-red flowers on long stalks float above attractive compound foliage. Pollinator plant. Full sun and some moisture.

Scrophularia marilandica - Eastern Figwort
60-200 cm Also known as Late Figwort or Carpenter’s Square (the latter name comes from its squared-off stem). A tall plant with broad panicles of tiny dark red cup-like flowers that bloom from July through October, its exceptionally abundant nectar makes it highly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, native bees and other pollinators. Because it becomes a high-traffic area for insects, I'd advise locating it in a spot where people aren't going to brush up against it. Figworts are given a special rating by the Xerces Society. Accommodates to a range of soils, including sand. Sun or shade, but does better in sun. 

Silene stellata - Starry Campion
50 cm Also known as Widow's Frill, Starry Catchfly. A beautiful perennial that should be grown more often in flower gardens (though if the soil is too rich, the plant may weaken and lean). Panicles of deeply fringed white flowers clustered at the tops of tall stalks from June through September, leaves up to 4" long appear in whorls of four, attracts butterflies and moths. Drought tolerant. Light shade or partial sun - too much sun will turn the leaves yellow. Variety of soils.

Silphium perfoliatum - Cup Plant
2 to 2.5 m One of the tallest native perennials.. Showy yellow daisy-type flowers from July-October. Drought-tolerant. Leaves clasp the stem to make a cup that holds rainwater for several days where it is used by songbirds, butterflies and other insects. Develops deep roots, so plant it where you plant to keep it. Self-seeds, you might want to control its enthusiasm by pulling and transplanting or donating the seedlings. Accommodates to a variety of soils. Sun. 

Sisyrinchium montanum – Blue-eyed Grass
30 cm Actually not a grass at all, but a miniature iris, a jewel of a plant with bright blue flowers in June-July. Sun to part shade.

Solidago canadensis - Canada Goldenrod
1.5 m Goldenrods are the number one herbaceous plant in terms of the number of pollinators they support - so finding the right spot for this species will enhance the ecological value of your garden. Ragweed, a native that flowers at the same time, is the one responsible for people's allergies, although Goldenrod, being conspicuous, gets unfairly blamed. Canada Goldenrod has large branching heads of tiny yellow flowers. One of the most common Goldenrod species in Ontario, it spreads aggressively and creates a riot of colour in summer and fall. Great for naturalizing. Not advised for small gardens where plants are required to play nicely.

Solidago caesia - Blue-stemmed Goldenrod 
30-90 cm Wands of brilliant yellow flower spikes on wiry, often blue-green stems, show up wonderfully in shade - for this is one of the shade-loving Goldenrods. Blooms late August to end of season. Attracts butterflies, bees, birds. Does not spread aggressively. Dry to average moisture in loamy soil (forest floor conditions). Shade or partial shade.

Solidago flexicaulis - Zigzag Goldenrod

45-90 cm Another shade-loving goldenrod - yellow flowers on a zig-zag stem in September-October. Moist soils from sand to loam - forest floor conditions. Important source of nectar for many insects. Self-seeds and spreads by underground rhizomes - not as vigorously as the sun-loving goldenrods. 

Solidago nemoralis - Grey Goldenrod
Up to 1m Also called Old Field Goldenrod - a goldenrod that's shorter than other sun-loving goldenrods and has a very nice form, with wands of clustered yellow flowers on radiating grey stems that provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. A good choice for difficult slopes or areas with poor soil where little else will grow - although it does well in fertile soil too. Full sun, dry soil.

Solidago ptarmicoides - Upland White Aster
224-40 cm The aster that's actually a goldenrod, it was reclassified into the solidago genus based on its flower structure. More recently, it has been further reclassified as Oligoneuron album. Small bushy perennial that stays in clumps and has showy flowers in late summer. Itlikes dry, sandy soils in full sun. Seed enjoyed by goldfinches.

Solidago rigida - Stiff Goldenrod
90-150 cm Also recently reassigned from the Solidago genus to the Oligoneuron genus, so properly known as O. rigidum. Bright yellow flat-topped flowers from July to October provide abundant nectar for many pollinators and a reliable late-summer source for migrating butterflies like Monarchs. Seeds are consumed by birds. The plant’s deep fibrous root system doesn’t spread rapidly like some of the other rhizomatous goldenrods; it does self-seed. Full sun, dry conditions. Adaptable to a wide variety of soils - clay, loam, sand.

Solidago rugosa - Rough-stemmed Goldenrod
Up to 1.5m Also called Wrinkle-leaved Goldenrod. A central stem bearing panicles of bright yellow flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Bird enjoy the seeds. Full to part sun, accommodates to most soils, even gravelly ones, but some moisture is required. 

Stylophorum diphyllum - Wood Poppy
Up to 40 cm Attractive deeply lobed leaves, lovely intense yellow flowers that bloom in May and June. The foliage exudes a yellow-orange sap. Sometimes called the Celandine Poppy, not to be confused with the look-alike Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus), an invasive alien. The native species is endangered in the wild in Ontario, where there are only three known wild populations, in Middlesex County. Shade to part shade, some moisture.

Symphyotrichum laeve - Smooth Blue Aster
45-90 cm With showy pale blue to purplish flowers surrounding a yellow disk that darkens to a purplish red, this is one of the most attractive blue asters, and one of the earliest to bloom in late summer. Plentiful nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects. Light-green foliage is smooth, almost waxy. Full to part sun in moist to medium dry soil conditions. Host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot and the Pearl Crescent butterflies.

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae - New England Aster 
90-150 cm Also known as Michaelmas Daisy - the essential fall flower, much loved by pollinators feeding up before winter, including Monarchs headed out on the long migration. Drought-tolerant, salt-tolerant. Blooms from September to October. Sun or shade. A lovely purple to offset the yellows of many fall-flowering plants. Accommodates to a variety of soils.

Symphyotricum oblongifolium - Aromatic Aster
30 cm A relatively compact aster that’s the last of its species to bloom in the fall, when it is covered in light purple flowers, turning reddish purple as they mature. The flowers have no scent, it’s the foliage that is fragrant when crushed. Native to points south of the Great Lakes* (USDA map). Full sun, drier soil but average soil is tolerated if well-drained.

Symphyotrichum oolentangiense - Sky-Blue Aster
45-90 cm Also known as Azure Aster, formerly classified as Aster oolentangiensis or A. azureus. More sun-tolerant and showy than many of the fall-flowering asters, this plant is happy in open meadows and woodland edges. The book Garden for a Rusty-Patched Bumblebee (available from Return of the Native) lists a couple of dozen specialist bees that need this plant's pollen, and many species of butterflies and moths for which it is a larval host. Among all the asters, Sky Blue is "particularly enchanting," the authors write. "Versatile and tough, this aster tolerates drought, poor soil, shallow soil and compacted soil - in other words, it's a garden-saver in difficult conditions, plus it's a beauty."

Symphyotrichum puniceum - Purple-stemmed Aster
80-100 cm Another common name is Swamp Aster, an older binomal name is Aster puniceus. Blue-violet daisy-like flowers with a central disk that starts yellow and turns purple, with the same strong attraction for pollinators in fall as the New England Aster, but this is a wetland plant that's more adapted to moist situations. Sun or part-shade.

Symphyotrichum urophyllum - Arrow-leaved Aster
30-90 cm Small white flowers (occasionally pale blue to lilac) in dense clusters, yellow discs turn purple. Blooms August-October. Great pollinator plant. Partial sun. Variety of soils.

Thalictrum dasycarpum - Purple Meadow Rue
180 cm Here's the testimonial from Prairie Moon Nursery, where we got the seed: "This 6 foot beauty may be the most graceful plant that you encounter in a medium-wet prairie or savanna. The stems are distinctly purple, thus the name, and strong to hold up to high winds." The flowers are dangling cream panicles, produced in late spring. Moist soil, full to part sun.

Tiarella cordifolia - Heartleaf Foamflower 
See under groundcovers

Tiarella cordifolia wherri - Wherry's Foamflower
20-20 cm Plants form a handsome clump of maple-shaped green leaves that turn bronze as colder weather sets in. They don't send out runners like the better-known Heartleaf Foamflower. Short sprays of airy white or pale pink flowers in early summer are lightly fragrant. Shade to part shade, average soil, benefits from a mulch of well-rotted leaf litter.

Tradescantia ohiensis - Ohio Spiderwort 
120 cm Very attractive to bees and other pollinators. Lovely blue three-petalled flowers with showy yellow stamens open early morning, closed by afternoon. Lance-like foliage. At its best in June and early July, but continues flowering through summer and into fall, albeit less intensely. Caution: Develops a spreading fibrous root system that is hard to dig up - so plant it where it is to stay; it also self-seeds and spreads vigorously. Good for a prairie planting, erosion control and bank stabilization. Most at home in full sun and well-drained  sandy soil, but adapts easily to part shade and a full range of soil conditions. 

Trillium grandiflorum - White Trillium
20-45 cm Ontario's provincial flower - beautifully charismatic. Single large white three-petalled flower above a whorl of three leaves. A plant of deciduous woodlands, it needs dappled sunlight or light shade in spring, and shade for the rest of the year. A surface layer of leaves and other decaying organic material is desirable. Picking the flower can seriously injure or kill the plant.

Verbena hastata - Blue Vervain 
60-180 cm Candelabra-like inflorescences of slender spikes of purple-blue flowers, often seen in ditches. Short-lived perennial, will self-seed. Attracts butterflies and bees. Larval host for the Common Buckeye Butterfly. Sun, average to poor soil, needs some moisture.

Verbena stricta - Hoary Vervain
60-90 cm Spikes of large blue or purple flowers in July-September. A preferred nectar plant for butterflies and bees. Flourishes in arid conditions - needs sun and sandy or dry soil. Drought tolerant. (Very different habitat requirements to those of Blue Vervain, which prefers loamy and moist).

Vernonia gigantea - Tall Ironweed
160 cm plus or minus. An impressive addition to the summer / fall garden. Clusters of small fluffy, deep purple, composite flowers - August to October - attract pollinators. Monarchs love it. Tall stems bearing attractive tawny-golden seedheads remain standing all winter and are a resource for birds. Grows in damp in the wild but still flourishes in dry soil. Pamper it with a mulch of rotted leaf litter. 

Vernonia fasciculata - Common Ironweed
150 cm Not quite as tall as Tall Ironweed (V. gigantea) but still pretty tall and also very lovely, with purple flowers that form a denser, more flat-topped cluster. Attracts pollinates, including many butterflies (Monarchs love this one too). The tall stems need no support. The tawny-golden seedheads remain standing all winter and are a resource for birds. Grows in damp in the wild but still flourishes in dry soil. Pamper it with a mulch of rotted leaf litter.

Veronicastrum virginicum - Culver's Root 
70-160 cm Beautiful accent plant, showing best in a cluster of three or more. Tall unbranched stems bearing white candelabra-like flower spikes from mid-summer to fall. Leaves arranged in whorls around the stem. Shade or part-sun, part-shade, moist to average soil.

Zizia aurea - Golden Alexanders
50-100 cm. Brilliant yellow flower umbels in May and June resemble Queen Anne's Lace. Attracts pollinators, including the Black Swallowtail. Drought tolerant. Sun or part shade, grows in a wide range of soils.

Grasses & Sedges

Andropogon gerardii - Big Bluestem 
140-180 m. One of the dominant species of the North American Tall Grass Prairie prior to settlement. Highly ornamental with grey-green foliage turning bronze-red in autumn. Appearing in August, the inflorescences consist of three-pronged purplish spikelets from which depend pretty contrasting yellow anthers and resemble (some say) a turkey's foot, giving it one of its alternative names, Turkeyfoot. Deeply rooted, forms a dense clump. A high-protein forage species, also being considered as potential feedstock for ethanol production. Songbirds eat the seeds, grasshopppers, katydids and other insects eat the foliage. Drought-tolerant. Full sun to part shade, accommodates to a wide variety of soils.

Carex hystericina - Porcupine Sedge

100 cm An attractive sedge of marshes and wet meadows with a bristly flower spike, provides food for many species of wetland birds. Will grow in average dry soil. Full sun.

Carex muskingumensis - Muskingum Sedge
40-100 cm. Also known as Palm Sedge. Native to the Great Lakes region. Beautiful form and lovely glossy green foliage which branches out from the main stem, resembling palm fronds. Native to wooded lowlands. Prefers moist soil and will grow in shallow water. Full sun sun to part shade. Spreads.

Chasmanthium latifolium - Northern Sea Oats x 
60-150 cm Also called Uniola latifolia or River Oats. Not native to Ontario but to points south of the Great Lakes." A lovely grass with arching panicles of flat drooping spikelets in late summer that start a light green and turn a purplish bronze in fall. Great in dried flower arrangements. Leave foliage in place over winter to add interest and protect crowns from cold. Self-seeds and can spread vigorously by underground rhizomes, which makes it useful to stabilize banks and prevent soil erosion. Host plant of the Pepper and Salt Skipper butterfly. Prefers partial shade, moist conditions. 

Elymus hystrix - Eastern Bottlebrush Grass
60 to 120 cm Sometimes called (erroneously) Hystrix patula. A clump-forming woodland native that looks great in the shade garden. Attractive seedheads resembling bottlebrushes appear from June onwards, Can be used in dried arrangements. Medium to loam soil. Part to full shade. 

Elymus canadensis - Canada Wild Rye
1.2 m A native grass that grows in riparian woodlands, many types of forest, lakeside sand dunes, and tallgrass prairie. Arching stems are weighted by the nodding, whiskery inflorescences that appear in August. Can be used for stabilizing eroded areas. Seeds feed birds. Full to part sun. Accommodates to a variety of soil conditions.

Hierochloe odorata - Sweetgrass
Aromatic grass, grows to about 20 cm (8 inches), spreads vigorously through underground rhizomes. In the wild, found in ditches and other damp areas, when planted will do well just about anywhere.One of the four medicine plants, used in North American indigenous purification ceremonies (smudging).

Panicum acuminatum - Hairy Panic Grass 
30-60 cm Light shade to full sun and medium to dry conditions in a range of soils, from loamy, clay-like, rocky or sandy.

Panicum virgatum - Switchgrass
70 cm A plant of the Tall Grass Prairie in Ontario, adaptable to many soil types and conditions, used for sand dune stabilization, soil erosion control and wildlife habitat. Medium height, delicate airy panicles turn bronze in fall.

Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem 

70 cm Another of the dominant species of the tallgrass prairie. Finely textured clumping grass with a blue-green summer colour. Purple-bronze flowers in August. In fall through winter, fluffy silvery seed heads on grass that turns a rosy rust colour. Adapts to most soils, except for wet or highly fertile ones. Full sun. Drought tolerant. Cut to the ground in late winter to early spring.

Sisyrinchium montanum – Blue-eyed Grass
See under perennials

Sorghastrum nutans - Indian Grass
100-140 cm A dramatically beautiful Tall Grass Prairie plant, with bronze spikelets in June from which tiny golden flowers depend. Deep-rooted, clump-forming, great fall colour and continuing winter interest. Major wildlife value - various species of grasshopper (an important food for many songbirds) feed on the foliage. Birds also consume the seeds and use the foliage for nesting material and cover. Host plant to the Pepper and Salt Skipper butterfly. Sun. Accommodates to a variety of soils.

Spartina pectinata - Prairie Cord Grass
1.2-2.1 m A dominant grass of the wet prairies. Dramatically tall wth gracefully arching foliage. Spreads rapidly by rhizomes, making it useful for wetland restoration and erosion control. Provides valuable cover and sometimes food for gamebirds, songbirds and small mammals. Interesting fall colour. Showy seedheads attract birds. Pioneers and aboriginal peoples used it for thatching their dwellings and making rope and cord.

Pond Plants

Acorus americanus - Sweetflag 
30-90 cm A pond plant with a curious pale yellow flower. The straplike leaves are aromatic, the root is favoured by muskrats. Part shade, moist to wet soil. 

Caltha palustris - Marsh Marigold
60 cm One of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring, a conspicuous and showy yellow. Not a true marigold, which is related to the Aster family, but a member of the ranunculus spp (buttercups). Full sun to shade, moist soil or even shallow standing water. 

Eleocharis palustris - Marsh Spike-rush
Grows in thick mats into the water providing erosion control and habitat for fish and frogs. Attracts dragonflies and damsonflies.

Iris versicolor - Northern Blue Flag Iris 
60-90 cm Also known as Harlequin Blue Flag Iris. A beautiful flowering plant for the edge of the pond, it will stretch out into the water. Strappy foliage, elegant blue flowers with a yellow highlight, blooms from May to August. Attracts bees, hummingbirds.

Nymphaea odorata - Fragrant Water Lily 
Fragrant white flowers that float on the water surface, opening from midmorning to early afternoon, round leaves with a V-shaped split, providing resting pads for frogs and shade for fish. The Anishinaabe ate the flower buds and used the rhizomes (roots) as medicine.

Parnassia glauca – Fen Grass-of-Parnassus
20-40 cm Single brilliant white flowers on stems that rise above a basal rosette. Grows in bogs, fens, wet meadows, dune systems (including Wasaga Beach, in the wet, ungroomed areas, let's keep those, for the survival of the piping plover and this beautiful plant). Waxy white petals delicately traced with pale green veins that act as a visual cue to guide bees and other pollinators to the nectar. One of the bees, Andrena parnassiae, is a specialist pollinator of this plant - which is not a grass. The name comes from a member of the same family (Saxifrage) that grows on Mount Parnassus. This is a little gem for a rain garden or other wet habitat. Needs full sun, consistently moist soil containing some gravel or sand, and protection from competition.

Pontederia cordata - Pickerel Weed
60-90 cm One of an Ontario wetland’s most beautiful plants, with spikes of violet-blue flowers from June to September and intriguingly patterned heart-shaped leaves. Wet mucky soil or standing water. Full to part sun.

Sagittaria latifolia - Common Arrowhead 
30-80 cm Creamy-white flowers with three white petals and three green sepals appear in whorls of three on tall stalks. Pleasing arrow-shaped leaves. Edible tubers that are enjoyed by waterfowl and aquatic mammals. Mud or standing water. Full sun.

Saururus cernuus - Lizard’s Tail   
60-100 cm. The name comes from the shape of the pretty drooping cluster of tiny white flowers in July and August. Flowers are fragrant and so is the foliage, when crushed. Spreads through rhizomes, can form colonies which provide cover for fish and other aquatic life. Light shade to part sun, wet mucky soil or shallow water.


Athyrium filix-femina - Lady Fern
30-90 cm With arching, deep-cut, light green fronds, this is an elegant fern that gradually spreads into colonies if it's in the right location. More tolerant of dry soils than many other ferns. Full to part shade preferred, but can take full sun if soil is kept reliably moist. Accommodates to a range of soils, from sand to clay.

Cystopteris bulbifera - Bulblet Fern
60 cm Graceful rock-loving fern that will also grow in average soil in part sun / part shade. Round bulblets form on the light green fronds and can fall to grow into a new plant. 

Dryopteris intermedia - Intermediate Wood Fern
Evergreen woodland fern with feathery, dark green foliage, clumps up to 18 inches tall x 2 feet wide. Winter interest. Shade. Spreads.

Dryopteris marginalis - Marginal Wood Fern  
30-90 cm Also known as Marginal Shield Fern. A vase-shaped form, with fronds of dark blue-green leaves that are evergreen, lasting through winter. This is a non-aggressive, non-colonizing fern, its natural habitat is rocky hardwood forest. Shade to part shade, average moisture, average soil.

Matteuccia struthiopteris - Ostrich Fern
75-125 cm A tall, striking fern that works well in formal gardens. Moist shade, but adaptable to many conditions. A vigorous spreader - don't plant unless you can give it space to run. Coiled spring shoots (fiddleheads) are edible (remove bronze-coloured sheath and boil in 3 waters). Sun, shade or part shade.

Osmunda regalis spectabilis - Royal Fern
1-2 m The name is an indication of the stately beauty of this fern with broad, twice divided fronds. Will take more light than other ferns, but absolutely requires consistent moisture. Part sun to part shade, variety of moist soils, including sand.

Polystichum acrostichoides - Christmas Fern
30-75 cm A striking fern with deep green glossy fronds that keep their colour through the winter, hence the name. Adapts to wide range of soil conditions. Shade. Allow leaf litter to accumulate around it.

Onoclea sensibilis – Sensitive Fern
A very attractive medium-sized fern, more architectural in appearance because of with fronds that have wavy not toothed edges. Its sensitivity is to frost, the fronds will wither at the first touch, but the plant is hardy and will be back in spring. Moist shade or part shade Spreads.


Anaphalis margaritacea - Pearly Everlasting 
Soft grey foliage offers spring-fall interest, pretty white flowers bloom in August and make a great dried flower. Host plant for the caterpillars of the American Painted Lady butterfly. Drought tolerant, prefers full sun will take part shade, and dry, even rocky or poor soil conditions.

Anemone canadensis - Canada Anemone
30-60 cm Charming white flowers, good foliage with deeply cut sharply toothed leaves, blooms from late May through to July. Spreads aggressively! don't plant unless you can give it space to run, or can contain it, like mint. Average soil, sun or shade. 8.5 cm pot $5

Antennaria neglecta - Field Pussytoes

15-30 cm Low growing spreader has white flowers resembling a cat’s paw and grey foliage. Blooms from late April to early June and attracts many pollinators. Host plant for the American Lady butterfly. Prefers full sun, sand or average dry soils.

Apios americana - Hopniss 
Also known as Groundnut. Twining, herbaceous vine with wonderfully ornate wisteria-like maroon flowers, Tubers and seedpods are edible by humans. It grows in moist low sites and thickets. As a garden ornamental or food crop, its tubers enlarge and become numerous and are said to compare favourably with potatoes. Also said to cause an allergic reaction in a minority of people. Cooking thoroughly seems to be the key. The root system fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Sun with some light shade, moist conditions, and loamy, gravelly, or sandy soil containing some organic matter. More info: Wildflowers-and-Weeds.com 

Argentina anserina - Silverweed Cinquefoil

25 cm Previously known as Potentilla argentina. Low-growing, attractive compound foliage with silvery hairy underside, spreads aggressively with red runners, yellow flowers from June to September. Attracts bees. This is a pioneer plant species that helps stabilize wetlands, dunes, and beaches. So, preference is for sandy or gravelly soil, but will accommodate to average conditions. Salt tolerant. Leaves and roots are said to be edible.

Asarum canadense - Wild Ginger

30 cm Beautiful rounded leaf with a satin sheen, this is an excellent groundcover for shade. You have to lift the foliage to find the intriguing tricorn maroon flowers that appear in April, lying close to the ground. Ants disperse the seed. Flourishes in moist conditions but will do fine in dry ground.

Cornus canadensis – Bunchberry
Grows to a possible 20 cm A sub-shrub that’s a member of the Dogwood family and a denizen of woodland and bog. A groundcover for moist shade. Will not tolerate drying out, and soil temperature must remain cool, so mulch well (leaf mould or pine needles) and if it likes you it will spread through underground rhizomes. Showy white bracts surrounding tiny greenish flowers from May to September. Clusters of red berries in late summer feed birds and other wildlife. In fall, the foliage turns a burgundy red.

Diervilla lonicera - Bush Honeysuckle
30-60 cm Low, arching form. Delicate pale yellow flowers in June-July and from time to time through the season. Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. Drought tolerant, adaptable and vigorous – it suckers, so good for naturalizing though not necessarily what's wanted in a small garden. But, quoting Bill Moses, formerly of the Inglis Falls Arboretum: “A low-maintenance alternative for difficult situations, it can be used to stabilize a slope or for mass plantings… It’s a good pioneer species that can outcompete weedy grasses, thus making it easier for trees and shrubs to become established… It might even be able to supplant invasive aliens such as Goutweed (Alliaria petiolata) and Periwinkle (Vinca minor).” All soils, full sun to partial shade.

Fragaria virginiana - Wild Strawberry 
5-10 cm A low-growing, spreading groundcover. Accommodates to average soils, from sand to clay to loam. Good pollinator plant, flowers April-June. Sun or shade. Produces tiny fragrant fruit if grown in full sun. Host to the Grizzled Skipper butterfly.  

Hydrophyllum virginianum - Virginia Waterleaf 
20-50 cm A low-growing woodland plant with clusters of pretty blue (sometimes white) flowers in May and June, deeply divided foliage. Shade or part shade, some moisture preferred. Leaves are said to be edible, raw or cooked, best when picked young. Spreads readily by seed and rhizome.

Mitchella repens - Partridgeberry
5 cm Trailing evergreen woodland shrub with glossy oval leaves that have a pronounced pale centre vein, this is a good groundcover for a shady undisturbed location - whether under hardwood, pine or mixed forest. It's common in Central Ontario, but can be hard to establish under cultivation as it is sensitive to disturbance as well as to competition from other plants. Needs moisture: water if it starts to wilt under drought stress. Four-petalled white blossoms appear in June, with bright red (but tasteless) berries following in late summer, to be consumed by Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey and other birds and mammals. Best in rich well-drained soil in part to full shade.

Podophyllum peltatum - Mayapple
30 to 45 cm Also known as Mandrake. Beautiful colonies of this plant spread can along the woodland edge. The large umbrella-like leaves come up in early May. You have to lean in to see the pretty white flower that then appears, dangling underneath the leaf. A large pale green fruit follows - reportedly edible if ripe but use caution and research well - all other parts of the plant are toxic, as is the unripe 'apple.' I'd say no. Partial sun, shade.

Rubus fragellaris - Northern Dewberry
Trailing vine with stems that run along the ground for 2-5 m. Scattered prickles. Flowers and fruits, so it's said - I have it growing in deep shade where it does neither, but is a pleasing ground cover, somewhat like a strawberry but with more dissected compound leaves.

Tiarella cordifolia - Heartleaf Foamflower 
15 cm (5 inches). An attractive woodland groundcover that spreads by runners. White or pale pink flower spikes create a soft cloud-like effect mid-May to early June. Charming maple-shaped leaves offer continuing interest into fall. Shade or part shade. Average soil (prefers moisture but does fine in dry shade). 


Apios americana - Hopniss
Also known as Groundnut. Twining, herbaceous vine with wonderfully ornate wisteria-like maroon flowers, Tubers and seedpods are edible by humans. It grows in moist low sites and thickets. As a garden ornamental or food crop, its tubers enlarge and become numerous and are said to compare favourably with potatoes. Also said to cause an allergic reaction in a minority of people. Cooking thoroughly seems to be the key. The root system fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. Sun with some light shade, moist conditions, and loamy, gravelly, or sandy soil containing some organic matter. More info: Wildflowers-and-Weeds.com.

Clematis virginiana - Virgin’s Bower
Up to 6 m Woody vine with clusters of pretty white flowers from June to September and fluffy seedheads that persist to provide winter interest. Prefers moist soil in sun or part shade.

Lonicera sempervirens - Trumpet honeysuckle x
This perennial vine can grow to 5 m, climbing walls and fences and adjoining vegetation. The USDA map shows it as native to the states south of the Great Lakes and introduced in Canada. It is hardy in North Simcoe and earns its place on this list thanks to brilliant orange-red flowers that are a major hummingbird favourite.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia - Virginia Creeper
Beautiful five-lobed leaves that turn brilliant red in fall. Virginia Creeper is not destructive of masonry and adds a level of cooling insulation in summer. It's good nesting habitat and the berries are a high-quality food for birds. A vigorous grower that does have invasive tendencies – but easy to pull out where not wanted. 1 gal $7

Rubus fragellaris - Northern Dewberry
See under Groundcovers


Amelanchier laevis – Smooth Serviceberry
2 m Shade or sun. One of the first to flower in spring, when it's covered with delicate white blossom. Purple berries by mid-summer are quickly taken by birds. Fall foliage turns golden-orange. Can be trained into shape of small tree. Larval host for Striped Hairstreak butterfly, Dagger moths.

Aronia melanocarpa - Black Chokeberry
1-2 m Multi- stemmed shrub, good hedging material, salt tolerant. White flowers tinged with pink in June, glossy green foliage turning deep red in fall, with dark blue berries for which many claims are made regarding health-promoting properties. Good for wildlife. Prefers moist conditions, adaptable to most soils.

Ceanothus americanus - New Jersey Tea
90 cm Small compact shrub with delightful clusters of bright white flowers in July, good nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies. A nitrogen-fixing deciduous shrub with glossy leaves that make an excellent tea when dried. Along with Narrow-leaved New Jersey Tea (C. herbaceus), it's the only host plant used by the endangered Mottled Duskywing butterfly for egg laying, caterpillar feeding, and adult nectaring. Once established, its deep taproot makes it drought-tolerant. Full to part sun. Accommodates to a variety of soils, with dry to moderate moisture. Protect against rabbits.

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush
3 m A deciduous marshland shrub. Flowers are arranged in a round ball - a spherical inflorescence – and are gorgeous. White or tinged with pink. Attracts pollinators, butterflies, hummingbirds. Useful for stabilizing riverbanks. Sun or part shade, moist soil.

Cornus alternifolia – Pagoda Dogwood 
See under Small Trees

Cornus amomum - Silky Dogwood
2 m Not for the faint of heart, this sprawling untidy shrub is a huge wildlife resource, and I mean huge. Started from seed 10 years ago, I have one that's 2 metres tall and has spread into a thicket 5 metres wide. So, it requires its own space - in full or part sun, damp or wet. In spring, it's covered with flat clusters of creamy white flowers that attract pollinators; in August-September it has brilliant blue berries consumed by birds; fall colour is purplish red. Nesting habitat for song birds; along with other dogwoods, host plant for the Spring and Summer Azure butterflies; host to four specialist bee species - Andrena fragilis, A. integra, A. persimulata and A. platyparia. Note: a host plant for a butterfly has foliage the caterpillars are able to consume; a host plant for a bee provides pollen. Many bees are generalists, gathering pollen from a variety of plants. Specialist bees rely on just one species, genus or family.

Cornus racemosa - Gray Dogwood
1.8 m A good candidate for a shady spot where a shrub screen is needed. Dome-shaped panicles of white flowers in June turn into white berries in late summer. Spreads by suckering, which makes it a good naturalizer. Wild life food source, habitat. Shade or part sun. Prefers some moisture but accommodates to a variety of soil conditions.

Cornus sericea - Red Osier Dogwood
1m to 2m Noted for red stems that look great in winter against snow. Clusters of white flowers in spring. White berries. Great wildlife value. Excellent for erosion control. Sun, many soil conditions.

Corylus americana - American Hazelnut
2-3 m Edible nuts have easy to crack shells and are tasty for people, squirrels and other wildlife. Best to plant two or three to ensure cross-pollination. Tendency to sucker and form thickets, good for naturalizing. Remove root suckers promptly if this look is not wanted. Accommodates to a variety of conditions, dry to moist, loam to sand. Sun or part shade.

Elaeagnus commutata - Wolfberry
0.5m-2m Also known as Wolf-willow and Silverberry, this is the North American native version of the invasive Russian Olive (E. augustifolia). Lovely silvery foliage, fragrant yellow flowers in spring. Suckers profusely - so, a candidate for areas that need naturalization. Fruit and seeds are edible by humans cooked or raw. Also by deer, birds and various wildlife. Fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals. Check Wikipedia for many useful properties. Drought- and salt-tolerant.

Gaultheria procumbens - Wintergreen
10-15 cm Low-growing evergreen semi-woody shrub with dark green shiny leaves that, when crushed, release a familiar aroma - oil of wintergreen is used to flavour chewing gum, dental hygiene products and more. White nodding bell-shaped blossoms in July, followed by bright red berries in fall that are consumed by Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey and other birds and mammals (including bears). Foliage turns purple in fall.

Hammamelis virginiana – Witchhazel 
3 m An edge shrub that likes some shade, some sun. The unique yellow flower with slender strap-shaped petals is its most prized feature (as an ornamental and as a pollinator plant) because it appears in late fall along with the yellowing leaves.

Hypericum prolificum - Shrubby St. John’s Wort 
Up to 120 cm approx Small, mound-shaped, deciduous shrub, with large yellow flowers in July and August. The abundant stamens are rich in pollen (no nectar) and are cross-pollinated primarily by bumblebees. Narrow fine-textured leaves, red to purple bark. Adaptable to most soils, moisture conditions, sun or shade.

Lindera benzoin – Spicebush
1.5 m Leaves give off a spicy fragrance when crushed. Sometimes called wild forsythia for its early small yellow flowers that are in bloom for most of May. Important for the high-fat content of its berries that make it a quality food for migrating birds, but you need a male and female for fruit. So you need to plant a few to have a good chance of one of each, you can't tell till it flowers. If you only have room for one, it will still flower and is a very attractive specimen through the growing season. And, it's the host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail. Moist, well-drained, partial shade.

Lonicera canadensis - American Fly Honeysuckle
Up to 1 m The words 'delicate', 'elegant' and 'lovely' conjure up the modest beauty of this small native shrub that you could easily pass by without a second glance on a walk through the woods. You have to bend close to see the pale yellow double bells that dangle unobtrusively under the leaves from mid- to late May. Later, they turn into paired bright red fruits. Prefers cool woods and moist soils but will grow in light shade in average soil.

Prunus virginiana - Chokecherry
8 m Fast-growing suckering tree or shrub with great wildlife value. Pretty white blossoms in spring, purple fruit in fall that is edible but very tart - leave it for the birds!

Rhus aromatica - Fragrant Sumac 
1 m to 2 m No, it doesn't spread - this is the only non-colonizing sumac in our area. It doesn't grow too tall either, making it useful in situations where a view needs to be preserved. Clusters of yellow flowers. Lovely trilobed leaves that give off a citrus fragrance when crushed. Great colour - a crimson red - in fall. Adaptable to part shade, but best in sun on dry sandy, rocky or clay sites. 

Rhus typhina - Staghorn Sumac
1 m and up. Yes, it does spread. Unrivalled for its fall colour, this is one of our most striking native shrubs. Feathery cream flower panicles in summer, deep red fruiting clusters in fall. Needs control in smaller gardens. Good privacy barrier, windscreen, erosion control, wildlife habitat. The astringent fruit make a delicious pink lemonade. Full sun or part shade, some moisture needed.

Rosa palustris - Swamp Rose
1 m. A mid-sized shrub rose with arching wood stems. Fragrant pink blooms in June and July. Red hips for birds or rosehip jelly. Full sun, prefers moist, acidic soil. Useful for erosion control, bank stabilization.

Rosa virginiana – Virginia Rose
1 m A wild shrub rose that adds grace to any garden. Single pink flowers over a long period of summer are very attractive to bees, have a delicate fragrance and produce bright red hips enjoyed by birds in fall. Foliage turns yellow and red in fall. Not bothered by pests. Spreads, suitable for a low hedge, erosion control, bank stabilization. Full or part sun, variety of soils.

Rubus fragellaris - Northern Dewberry 
Trailing vine with stems that run along the ground for 2-5 m. Scattered prickles. Flowers and fruits, so it's said - I have it growing in deep shade where it does neither, but is a pleasing ground cover, somewhat like a strawberry but with more dissected compound leaves.

Rubus occidentalis - Black Raspberry
90-120 cm - Also known as Thimbleberry. White flowers in June followed by edible berries that start out red and turn a dark purple-black. They are sweeter than those of the Common Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), which is a more aggressive spreader. The Black Raspberry is distinguishable from the Common Blackberry by a whitish bloom on the rounded stem and a white underside to the leaf. The Common Blackberry has a stem with coarse ridges. Black Raspberry forms colonies that make for good wildlife habitat because of the thorns; berries are enjoyed by birds. Thrives in any sunny or partly sunny location.

Rubus odoratus - Purple-flowering Raspberry
1 m An excellent shrub with large well-shaped aromatic foliage, fragrant deep pink flowers from June to September. Edible berries (not as sweet as cultivated varieties, but enjoyed by birds). Spreads vigorously, good for naturalizing a weedy space, not so great in a bed with limited space. Sun, some shade.

Salix bebbiana - Bebb's Willow
2-6 m Also known as Beaked Willow or Diamond Willow, the latter name due to a fungus that creates diamond-shaped patterns in the wood which is then prized for canes and other ornamental craftwork. Silvery grey foliage, fast-growing. Larval host for Mourning Cloak and Viceroy butterflies. Sun or part sun, most soils, moist or wet.

Salix discolor - Pussy Willow
2 m plus A denizen of ditches and moist soils, the soft grey "fur" of the male catkins is one of the first signs of spring in Ontario. Of great value to wildlife as habitat and food. Full sun, moist soil.

Sambucus canadensis - American Elderberry
3 m This is one of two native elderberry species, described as critical wildlife plants by the late Henry Kock of the Guelph Arboretum in his guide to growing natives. "Some 30 species of birds are reported to devour the seeds of both." Do not confuse with the invasive European black elderberry (S. nigra). Suckering shrub that grows in wet or moist soils. Flat-topped white flower clusters in July, edible black berries in fall.

Sambucus pubens - Red-berried Elderberry 
1 m Bushy multi-stemmed shrub with graceful arching braches. Flowers open mid-May and are insect-pollinated. Colourful berry crop ripens in July and early August and is among the first fruit available to birds. Accommodates to variety of soils. An understory or edge of forest shrub that takes some deciduous shade.

Spirea alba – Meadowsweet 
1.5m Multi-stemmed marshland shrub with fluffy white flowers in August-September.  Like other late bloomers, it's of great value to butterflies and other pollinators. Tolerates range of conditions from moist to swamp. Host plant for the Spring Azure butterfly. Full or partial sun.

Spirea tomentosa – Steeplebush
60-120 cm Showy clusters of pink flowers from July-September attract pollinators. Like other late bloomers, it's of great value to butterflies and other pollinators. Full sun, wet or moist conditions, acidic sandy soil.

Staphylea trifolia - Bladdernut
3 to 4.5 m A charming small understory shrub that will flower delightfully in part shade. Compound foliage with three leaves, bell-shaped white flowers in May, a papery capsule containing the seed in August, which hangs onto the tree well into fall. Looks good when trained as a tree, but it does sucker, so diligence is required to keep it to a single stem. If left to its own devices, a good hedging shrub.

Symphoricarpos albus – Snowberry
120cm This is a shrub that does well in dry shade so can be used in hard-to-fill spots like the north side of a house. Small pink flowered are diligently visited by bees. White berries are enjoyed by birds and show up well in the grey days of winter.

Viburnum cassinoides – Wild Raisin
3 m Also known as Witherod. A great native ornamental with permaculture and / or wildlife value. Emerging leaves are an attractive bronze in spring, turning dark green. Creamy white flower clusters in late June. Noted for an eye-catching display in the fall when the edible fruit turn from white to pink to bright blue to blue-black, often with two or more colours present in the same cluster – in dramatic contrast to foliage that’s turning from orange to purple. Host plant to the Summer Azure butterfy. Prefers moist loams but accommodates to a variety of soils. Full sun to part shade.

Viburnum dentatum – Arrowwood
1.5 m Long straight shoots once used for arrow shafts. Creamy white flowers in May/June. Nicely defined foliage, good fall colour, nutritious berries for migrating birds. Host to the caterpillars of the Hummingbird Moth. Alas, it gets attacked by the alien viburnum leaf beetle BUT you can foil the pest if you coat the base stems with Vaseline in spring and check the upper ends of stems for egg clusters in fall (clip off any you find and burn). Sounds like a lot of trouble? Worth it for this attractive and useful shrub.

Viburnum lentago – Nannyberry
4-7 m Large ornamental shrub. Creamy, flat inflorescences in May-June, blue-black berries in September-October. Partial shade to sum (edge habitat). Adaptable to a wide range of soil condition. Wildlife values, the berries are an important winter food for songbirds.

Small Trees

Cornus alternifolia – Pagoda Dogwood 
About 7 m Just a joy - an elegant small tree that arranges its branches in layers – like a pagoda. It can grow as a shrub. White flowers in spring, blue-black berries in July-August that are devoured by birds. Fast-growing. Shade or part shade.

Maclura pomifera - Osage Orange x
7-15 m (height may be less in Ontario). Also known as Hedge Apple, for its large knobbly fruit. Grows as a tree or multi-stem shrub, prized by indigenous people for wood that was hard and rot-resistant (used for making bows, which led to its being named bois d’arc by French trappers). The same characteristics – along with ferocious thorns – led to its adoption by settlers as a vigorous hedging plant for confining livestock. It is dioecious, which means male and female trees are needed for fruit to develop seed. This is listed as native south of the Great Lakes* although there is debate, previously discussed. Full sun preferred, average but not acidic soil. 

Ptelea trifoliata - Hop Tree
3-5 m Rare. A Carolinian species found in the Windsor area but hardy in Huronia and to the north, this is a deciduous tree or shrub that grows along beaches and helps stabilize dunes. Adaptable to other conditions of average soils, it's an understory tree best in part sun. Lovely trilobed foliage, pretty clusters of white flowers and followed by greenish-white disk-shaped seed pods. Host plant for the spectacular Giant Swallowtail butterfly. It tends to sucker, so control is needed if the tree form is desired. Drought tolerant.

Staphylea trifolia - Bladdernut
See under Shrubs

Shade Trees

Acer pensylvanicum - Striped Maple
8 m with a spread of up to 6 m This understory tree (widespread in the White Pine forests of North Simcoe) gets its name from the bark’s attractive vertical stripes. Also known as Moose Maple, a reference to the fact that deer and moose like to browse on the twigs in winter - so if these mammals are an issue, protect the lower part of the tree with deer netting or burlap until it is tall enough. Its large, three-lobed leaves turn lemon-yellow in fall. Green flowers and, later, winged seeds hang in elegant clusters. Moist acidic sandy soil, shade or part shade.

Acer rubrum - Red Maple
20-25 m, with a spread of 10-15 m This is the tree that lights up a brilliant scarlet in fall (not to be confused with the European Crimson King and other dark red cultivars of the Norway Maple, an invasive species). Delicate bright red flowers in spring attract early pollinators. Needs full sun. Average to wet soil.

Acer sacharinum - Silver Maple
25-35 m Fast growing, graceful ornamental. Silver-green, deeply notched leaves. Turns yellow in fall. Moist soil, full sun.

Aesculus glabra – Ohio Buckeye

9-12 m Showy yellow flowers in May-June are pollinated by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and various long-tongued bees. Attractive compound leaves and shiny brown ‘conker’ nuts in prickly husks. This is the North American cousin of the European Horse Chestnut and, as with that tree, all parts are toxic to humans and other mammals. Moist, humusy soil in sun or part shade.

Catalpa speciosa - Northern Catalpa

25-30 m  Literary note: the Alice Munro Literary Garden in Wingham is set under a spreading Catalpa tree. The species has extra large leaves and – in late June / early July - huge clusters of orchid-like fragrant flowers that give this tree a tropical appearance. Long 18-inch seed pods that resemble a bean in fall. Likes moist ground. A tree originally from the southern US, so not native to Canada, but widely planted and fully hardy in North Simcoe. I like this tree: Wonderful, glorious, stunning Catalpa.

Carya ovata - Shagbark Hickory
19-25 m Sweet-tasting nuts. Hickories are slow to grow in their early years as they work on putting down a long tap root. They grow quite quickly once established. Two trees are best for cross-pollination. Good fall colour, distinctive bark. Sun and rich moist soil preferred but will accommodate to variety of conditions from dry to moist, clay to sand, sun to shade.

Celtis occidentalis – Common Hackberry

10-15 m. Similar to elm in shape and size, but often considered superior. Withstands heat and drought. Yellow in fall. Interestingly ridged gray bark. Good for wildlife – the red-orange berries are said to be the favourite food of wild turkeys. Only host for the Hackberry Emperor butterfly.

Gleditsia triacanthos – Honey Locust
15-24 m A beautiful fast-growing ornamental that casts a light dappled shade that is kind to grass and other plantings. A member of the pea family with panicles of pale, fragrant flowers in spring, it fertilizes the soil by fixing nitrogen, so makes a good companion tree or addition to the permaculture garden. Thornless.

Gymnocladus dioicus - Kentucky Coffee Tree
15-20 m This species, a member of the pea family with soil-enriching bacteria on its root nodules, only grows naturally in Essex and Lambton Counties in Ontario but is hardy further north. Its tropical appearance, with compound leaves that are the largest of any native tree in Canada, have made it a desirable ornamental that is planted far beyond its range. A species of floodplains and rich moist woodland, it will tolerate open dry sites and partial shade. Also tolerates drought, salt, and is largely unaffected by insects or disease. Slow-growing (13 m by 10 years is one estimate). It can form a colony by sprouting from a spreading root system, so constant mowing is required if it is to be a specimen tree. Insect-pollinated with the white or green fragrant male and female flowers borne on separate trees or colonies. Seeds do not make good coffee. They have no natural dispersers, which is one reason the Kentucky Coffee Tree is listed as threatened in Ontario and Canada, and gives rise to the theory that the pods were consumed and dispersed by megafauna before the last Ice Age.

Juglans nigra - Black Walnut

30 m A majestic fast-growing tree that will provide you with your own nuts. Valuable timber tree. Grow in full sun and rich, moist soil. Some plants will not grow near it but the list of those that are juglone-tolerant is long and varied and includes most natives - in fact I have not found a native I can't plant under a Black Walnut canopy. 

Quercus Rubra - Northern Red Oak
18-25 m A fast-growing, pollution tolerant ornamental with fabulous fall colours and acorns that provide the primary overwintering food for many birds and mammals - but there's so much more. Entymologist Doug Tallamy says the oak is the best tree you can plant, supporting more life than any other in North America - he's devoted an entire book to the subject. And, he says, the best way to plant an oak is as an acorn. Oaks do not do well in containers because they have a long taproot that curls around the base of the pot (a condition known as root-bound) and may have a hard time straightening out when planted in the ground. This can kill the tree months or even years after transplanting. That's why making a major investment in a large oak is not the way to go. Best to start from acorns or bareroot stock. For more info on the care and protection of a young oak, see the last chapter of The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees.


Abies balsamea – Balsam Fir
25 m Christmas tree shape with aromatic resin. A mixed conifer windbreak of Balsam Fir, White Spruce and Cedar makes good wildlife habitat.

Picea glauca - White Spruce
25 m A handsome 'Christmas' tree that is important habitat and food for grouse, seed-eating birds and red squirrels. Adaptable to different soil types.

Pinus strobus - Eastern White Pine 
Up to 30 m tall, with a 12 m spread. Fast-growing, with soft blue-green needles in groups of 5. With age, this pine acquires the iconic windswept appearance celebrated by the Group of Seven. For indigenous people, she is the Tree of Peace, as Paul O'Hara writes in this tribute to the tallest and most striking tree in Ontario's forest. "White pine enjoys full to part sun and medium to dry moisture environments over a range of soil types," he says. "They make wonderful specimen trees in open landscapes, planted in clusters for windbreaks and screening, or as an evergreen anchor in a residential design. Along with asters, goldenrods and milkweeds, white pine is one of my first thoughts when choosing plants for the garden or restoration project."

Thuja occidentalis – Eastern White Cedar
12 m. Also known as American arborvitae. Beautiful fan-shaped leaves. Good wildlife habitat.

Tsuga canadensis - Canadian Hemlock
12 m Elegant, slow-growing and long-lived (hundreds of years - a gift to the future). Small needles give a fine texture. Arching limbs. Shallow- rooted so protect from wind by planting among or in the lee of other trees. Likes moist soil with good drainage. Good in shade. Protect young trees from rabbits. Sadly, the wooly adelgid has arrived in Ontario. Here's the story of how the deadly pest came to North America - a lesson to all who want a garden that's just a cut above the neighbours.'

*Note: All plants on this list are  native to the Eastern North American continent, but some are not classified as native to Ontario. Those ones are marked with an x. I am a supporter of assisted migration - which means I favour including plants that are native to further south. We still need to intensify our efforts to restore the plants that belong in our ecosystems here and now, but we should not take an exclusionary view of natives that may need to move northwards because of changing conditions but be unable to keep pace with the accelerating manmade disaster that is climate change. More details on the theory of assisted migration.