Many of the writers on this blog have been contributing to a series of posts called “Plant This, Not That“. In each case, we highlight a couple of plants that are invasive and/or overused and then suggest some great native alternatives. In my most recent contribution, I focused on native groundcovers for Baltimore.
However, I want to call attention to one of my absolute favorite books on native plants and one that happens to be organized along precisely the same lines. Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, by C. Colston Burrell, is published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and is consistently one of the most popular native plant books at local native plant sales. This is true among both novices and experienced native plant gardeners.
I’m pretty sure the title of the book was originally meant to be “Encyclopedia of Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (that is the title of the author’s preface). If so, the books lives up to its ambitions: Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants is indeed an encyclopedic guide to invasive plants with each section of the book organized as an alphabetical list of invasive trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants, and grasses. For each invasive species, several native alternatives are presented. The native alternatives are selected to match, as closely as possible, the characteristics of the non-native plant: flower color, bloom time, foliage shape, hardiness zone, and so forth.
By my count, more than 200 invasive species are detailed and each is followed by appropriate native substitutes (nearly 500 in all). In many cases, enough different native species are offered so that at least one is bound to be regionally appropriate wherever the non-native species is invasive.
For example, according to the book heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) has a currently invaded range that includes the “[s]outheastern states from Virginia to Texas”. The suggested alternatives are Florida leucothoe and Ilex vomitoria, both southeastern natives. Yet for the invasive Japanese honeysuckle, which has invaded much of the United States, the natives include species from across the country (e.g. Lonicera sempervirens, Lonicera ciliosa, Clematis columbiana, and more).
At just 6″x9″ and 240 pages, the book is compact enough to easily serve as a shopping guide or reference book for your client. And with a retail price not much above $10, adding a copy to your bookcase probably won’t break the bank. At the end of the day, Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants will help you identify the worst plant offenders in your area and give you excellent suggestions for replacing them.
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