Native Species & Alternatives

Major sources for invasive plants are escaped plants from gardens or yards.  Even today some of the worst invaders such as exotic bush honeysuckle are glossy buckthorn are still available for purchase.  View Cultivating Awareness: Ornamental Plants Invading Natural Areas for more information on how some common landscaping plants can become serious problems.  The use of native trees and shrubs not only eliminates the possibility of escape, but native plants are better suited for local soils and climate to begin with.  They support better infiltration of rain water, maintain natural food resources and cover for native wildlife, and support local ecosystems through the diverse services they provide.  


Below are lists of native alternatives to common non-native trees such as Scots pine and black locust, shrubs like Japanese barberry, and flowers such as Forget-me-nots.  The  characteristics of the site you are planting will determine what native plants are most suitable.   Before you plant, consider contacting a local forester or natural resources professional for guidance.  There is also a smartphone app available focused on plant species that are used ornamentally and have become invasive in at least part of the Midwest.  The app can help you make decisions about the  best alternatives to these species in your landscaping or garden.


Further information on all of the species listed below can be found at the following websites:  

Cofrin Center for Biodiversity Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay 

Freckman Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin—Steven’s Point 

Wisconsin State Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin

Alternatives to Invasive Plants

Native Shrubs

Image: Black Chokeberry; Gary Fewless, Cofrin Herbarium

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

Nannyberry (Virburnum lentago

Red-oiser dogwood (Cornus stolonifera

Common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis

Prairie rose (Rosa arkansana

Beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta

Pussy willow (Salix discolor

Speckled alder (Alnus incana

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa

Fireberry hawthorn (Crataegus chrysocara)

Native Trees

Photo: White Pine; Gary Fewless, Cofrin Herbarium

Red maple (Acer rubrum

Sugar maple (Acer saccharum

Red oak (Quercus rubra

Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera

Basswood (Tilia americana

Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica

Balsam fir (Abies balsamia

White pine (Pinus strobus

Red pine (Pinus resinosa

White spruce (Picea glauca

White cedar (Thuja occidentalis)

Native Flowering Plants

Photo: Big-leaved Aster; Gary Fewless, Cofrin Herbarium

Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

 Smooth aster (Aster laevis) 

Big-leaved aster (Aster macrophyllus

Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum

Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica

Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa

Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta

Grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia

Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

Native Grasses & Sedges

Photo: Bristly Sedge; Gary Fewless, Cofrin Herbarium

Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium

Wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus

Fowl manna (Glyceria striata

Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis

Soft rush (Juncus effuses

Spike rush (Eleocharis palustris

Great bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani

Fox sedge (Carex stipata

Bristly sedge (Carex comosa

Lake sedge (Carex lenticularis)

Interested in getting involved in native planting?  Wild Ones is a non-profit group that promotes environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration, and establishment of native plant communities.  While Wild Ones is a national organization, Door County has its own chapter whose information can be found on the Wild Ones webpage.  


Additional Resources:  The Wisconsin DNR has created a brochure that lists nurseries and landscapers specializing in  native plants throughout the State of Wisconsin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also created a useful website about landscaping with native plants in the Great Lakes Region—including how to get started, the benefits of landscaping with natives, state resources, and lists of Great Lakes native plants for all habitat types.