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How to spot native plants in Richmond

Put your plant knowledge to the test with these tips on how to identify what’s growing in Richmond.

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Juniperus virginiana, aka Eastern Redcedar, is native to our region.

Photo by RICtoday

Spring hasn’t quite sprung, but we’re seeing hints of it around Richmond. Here’s a quick guide to spotting which plants are native to Central Virginia.

According to Richmond Master Gardener Don Moore, a native plant is one that has evolved over thousands of years in a specific geographic region alongside other flora and fauna without any human intervention.

These plants form diverse ecosystems, support three times more pollinators, and require far less watering and maintenance than non-native plants, since they’ve evolved to thrive in our environment. Native plants are the backbone of our entire ecosystem — without them, the whole food web is disrupted.

The Master Gardeners have lots of information online on understanding Richmond’s native horticulture — they even have recommended readings on topics like transitioning your lawn into environmentally friendly natives.

white flowers on a thin-branched tree

The dogwood isn’t just Virginia’s state tree — it’s native to the region.

Photo via Agnieszka Kwiecień

The Plant RVA Native Campaign also has a guide to VA Capital Region Natives. Here are some common friendly flora:

  • Perennials | Common Yarrow, Purple False Foxglove, Eastern Red Columbine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Common Milkweed, Mistflower, Virginia Blue Flag Iris, Coneflowers
  • Ferns | Southern Lady Fern, Royal Fern, Sensitive Fern, Southern Bracken Fern
  • Shrubs | Wild Hydrangea, Witch Hazel, Winterberry, Mountain Laurel
  • Trees | Red Maple, River Birch, Mockernut Hickory, Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Redcedar, Sweetbay Magnolia, Sassafras

If you want to buy native plants to add to your garden, the Virginia Native Plant Society has a list of nurseries which sell primarily native plants and do not sell invasive species. You can also ask the experts at your favorite plant shop to see what’s local.

Do you have questions about adding native plants to your own garden? Drop the Master Gardeners a line.

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