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Protecting Northern Michigan's ​Water Resources

Northern Michigan Native Plants

When selecting plants for your yard and garden, why not go native?
Consider using plants that naturally grow in your region and are best suited for the soil and light conditions of your property. There are advantages to using native plants over ornamental and potentially invasive species. Native plants can require less maintenance and have the best chance of survival. Native plants often have an aesthetic fit to the site which is difficult to achieve with a collection of exotic plants. Using native species avoids spreading nuisance exotic plants such as purple loosestrife. There are many beautiful native plants from dogwoods to spiderwort. The following listing includes some of the more common native plants and their basic soil preferences. We encourage you to take this list with you to your local nursery as a guide. We have also included a few sources for these plants.

Native Trees

Wet Conditions
Green ash – Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Basswood – Tilia americana
Black willow – Salix nigra
Yellow birch – Betula alleghaniensis
Northern white cedar – Thuja occidentalis
Eastern hemlock – Tsuga canadensis
Red maple – Acer rubrum
Musclewood – Carpinus caroliniana 
Tamarack – Larix laricina
Eastern cottonwood – Populus deltoides
Common elder – Sambucus canadensis

Upland Conditions
Trembling Aspen – Populus temuloides
White ash – Fraxinus americana
Beech – Fagus grandifolia
Black cherry – Prunus serotina
Ironwood Sugar maple – Acer saccharum 
Bur oak – Quercus macrocarpa
Red oak – Quercus rubra 
White oak – Quercus alba
Red pine – Pinus resinosa
Eastern Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis
Sugar maple – Acer saccharum
White birch – Betula papyrifera
White spruce – Picea glauca
American beech – Fagus grandifolia 
Eastern white pine – Pinus strobus 


Short – Wet Conditions
(Three Feet and Under)
Canada anemone – Anemone canadensis
Great blue lobelia – Lobelia siphilitica 
Marsh marigold – Caltha palustris 
Blue flag iris – Iris versicolor
Jack-in-the-pulpit – Arisaema triphyllum
Turtlehead – Chelone glabra 
Blue-eyed grass – Sisyrinchium angustifolium

Short – Upland Conditions
(Three Feet and Under)
Smooth aster – Aster laevis 
Butterflyweed – Asclepias tuberosa 
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta
Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis 
Spiderwort – Tradescantia ohioensis 
Lupine – Lupinus perennis
Bee balm – Monarda fistulosa 
Foxglove beard-tongue – Penstemon digitalis

Tall – Wet Conditions
(Over Three Feet) 
Swamp milkweed – Asclepias incarnata
Boneset – Eupatorium perfoliatum
Joe-Pye weed – Eupatorium maculatum
Cardinal flower – Lobelia cardinalis
Blue vervain – Verbena hastata
New England aster – Aster novae-angliae

Tall – Upland Conditions
(Over Three Feet)
Sunflowers (Perennial) – Helianthus spp.
False sunflower – Heliopsis helianthoides
Goldenrod – Solidago spp.

Grasses and Sedges

Short – Wet Conditions
(Four Feet and Under) 
Fox sedge – Carex vulpinoidea 
Cotton grass – Eriophorum angustifolium 
Sweet Grass – Hierochloe odorata 
Tussock sedge – Carex stricta

Short – Upland Conditions
(Four Feet and Under)
Little bluestem – Schizachyrium scoparius
Pennsylvania sedge – Carex pensylvanica 
June grass – Koeleria macrantha
Bottlebrush grass – Elymus hystrix 
Canada wild rye – Elymus Canadensis

Tall – Wet Conditions
(Over Four Feet) 
Hardstem bulrush – Schoenoplectus acutus
Prairie cordgrass – Spartina pectinata
Wool grass – Scirpus cyperinus
Threesquare bulrush – Schoenoplectus americanus

Tall – Upland Conditions
(Over Four Feet) 
Big bluestem – Andropogon gerardii
Switchgrass – Panicum virgatum
Indian grass – Sorghastrum nutans

Native Shrubs

Wet Conditions
Speckled alder – Alnus rugosa 
Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis 
Red-osier dogwood – Cornus stolonifera 
Silky dogwood – Cornus amomum
Meadowsweet – Spiraea alba
Ninebark – Physocarpus opulifolius 
Swamp rose – Rosa palustris
Highbush-cranberry – Viburnum trilobum
Michigan holly – Ilex verticillata 
Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago

Upland Conditions
Maple leaf viburnum – Viburnum acerifolium 
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana
Gray dogwood – Cornus foemina 
New Jersey tea – Ceanothus americanus
Serviceberry – Amelanchier arborea
Fragrant sumac – Rhus aromatica
Yew – Taxus canadensis
Ground juniper – Juniperus communis
Round-leaved dogwood – Cornus rugosa 
Arrow-wood viburnum – Virburnum dentatum 
Carolina rose – Rosa Carolina

Ground Covers

Bearberry – Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 
Canada mayflower – Maianthemum canadense 
Bracken fern – Pteridium aquilinium
Bunchberry – Cornus canadensis
Large-leafed aster – Aster macrophyllus
Creeping wintergreen – Gaultheria procumbens 
Wild ginger – Asarum canadense 
Trout lily – Erythronium americanum 
Canada anemone – Anemone canadensis
Foamflower – Tiarella cordifolia
Common Blue Violet – Viola sororia

Invasive Non-Native Species to Avoid

Autumn olive – Eleagnus umbellata
Barberry – Berberis spp.
Buckthorn – Rhamnus cathartica, Rhamnus frangula 
Crown vetch – Coronilla varia 
Honeysuckle – Lonicera tatarica, L. morrowi, L. x-bella, other cultivars 
Maiden grass – Miscanthus sinensis 
Multiflora rose – Rosa multiflora 
Periwinkle (myrtle) – Vinca minor 
Privet – Ligustrum vulgare 
Purple loosestrife – ythrum salicari
Reed canary grass – Phalaris arundinacea 
Russian olive – Eleagnus angustifolia
Siberian Elm – Ulmus pumila 
Spotted knapweed – Centaurea maculosa 
Yellow water iris – 
Iris pseudacorus

Additional Resources


Northern Michigan
​Native Plants 

A perfect pocket guide to take to the nursery or share with your landscaper when planning a greenbelt for your shoreline property.



Native Plants of Michigan
A list of native plants to use for the following types of gardens:

  • Native Plants for Shade Gardens
  • Native Plants to Attract Butterflies
  • Native Plants for Rock Gardens
  • Native Plants for Water Gardens
  • Native Plants for Front Yard Landscaping

Produced by: Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council


Landscape Alternatives for Invasive Plants of the Midwest
This colorful brochure lists several alternatives for each of the invasive species listed in this brochure, both native species and non-native species that currently show no sign of becoming invasive. A great companion for your next visit to the nursery.
Produced by: Midwest Invasive Plant Network

Native Plants – Video 
This is video #3 in the “Protecting What You Love” video series produced by Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. This video focuses on the benefits of using native plants in your waterfront landscaping. 

Funding for this project provided by:
Charlevoix County Community Foundation
Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation
Crouse Entertainment Group

Suggested Websites for Additional Information
Sources for Native Plants
Antrim Conservation District 
(231) 533-8363 

Charlevoix Conservation District
(231) 582-6193

Cheboygan Conservation District
(231) 627-8815

Emmet Conservation District 
(231) 439-8997

The Native Plant Nursery
(734) 677-3260 

Northern Michigan Native Plant Nursery 
(989) 732-4021 

The Michigan Wildflower Farm 
(517) 647-6010 

Wetland Nursery 
(989) 752-3492 

Wildtype Nursery 
(517) 244-1140 

Black Cap Farm