What is a “Native” Plant?

  Rocky Mountain Columbine (Aguilegia caerulea). Native columbines make a beautiful addition to the native garden.
Photo credit: Susan Buffler
  The native mid-western drought tolerant grass Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) adds attractive fall color to the landscape.
Photo credit: Carolannie Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  The shrub Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) in a native landscape.
Photo credit: Bryant Olsen Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
  Colorful Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) blooms in spring and is native to the Intermountain West region of the U.S.
Photo Credit: Susan Buffler

In the United States, native plants are generally defined as plant species that have existed in an area before European settlement.

Some Definitions of Native Plants

Federal Register: “Native” plants are “all species of plants and animals naturally occurring, either presently or historically, in any ecosystem of the United States.”

USDA Federal Executive Order 13112: “With respect to a particular ecosystem, a species that, other than as a result of an introduction, historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: A species that historically occurred or currently occurs in that ecosystem.

For lists of local and regional native plants, consult local Cooperative Extension Service offices or state and local Native Plant Societies.

Additional Resources:

Audubon – Plant Native Species


Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping – Chesapeake Bay Watershed     


Florida – Native Plants: An Overview