Plant This, Not That: The Book

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.

Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a wonderful native alternative to invasive Japanese honeysuckle. Image © Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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.

© 2012, Vincent Vizachero. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Vincent – I can’t wait to get this book. Just what the doctor ordered. I live on a wooded residential lot surrounded by neighbors overrun with Japanese Honeysuckle. A common comment is that they won’t get rid of the honesuckle till they have something to put in its place. This book will be a terrific resource. Thanks.

    Hal Mann recently posted..Reflections and Anticipation

  2. says

    Vincent, I, too, love this book. Like Donna, I find myself referring to it often. Thanks for highlighting it and introducing it to a new group of native plant enthusiasts. I’ll also add that Carolyn Summers Book ‘Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East’ is another good option.
    Debbie Roberts recently posted..Native Plants for Connecticut Gardens

  3. says

    Back in 2006 When I went to locate a copy the book that got me initiated to the importantce of Native Plant Gardening, “Requiem for a Lawnmower” by Sally and Andy Wasowski, this book came up on the suggested list at amazon. I purchased a copy. Was a fantastic addition to my plant book arsenal and I take it with me to each and every Native Plant society outreach program I volunteer at.

    Thanks for dusting it off and bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds again!
    Loret recently posted..Happy Holidays


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