Audubon recommends sources of native plants | living

Audubon recommends sources of native plants

CLARION The Bird Friendly Habitat Program, promoted by the Seneca Rocks Audubon Society, aims to improve and expand habitats for birds and other wildlife in backyards and other properties.

One aspect of the program is the presence of native flora, including native flowers, shrubs, and trees. This makes it even more attractive to domestic insects and birds, both of which are in severe decline.

Previous articles have reviewed the Bird Friendly Habitat program, the importance of native plants, and provided advice on how to start growing them in a private yard or public place.

While the popularity of native plants has skyrocketed, it is still difficult to find sources for plants native to Pennsylvania or at least the northeastern United States. This article provides clues to the sources of native plants.

One way to confirm that a plant is native to Pennsylvania is by checking the Audubon Native Plants Database at

As soon as you enter a zip code, a list of native plants is generated. Filters can be applied to limit the list according to the type of plant required (flower, shrub, tree, vine, etc.), the type of plant resource offered (nectar, fruit, nuts, seeds, caterpillar, butterflies), and even the type of bird to attract.

Locally, in the Clarion Region, C&A Trees has been selling native plants for years alongside non-native ornamental plantings. They have expressed an interest in continuing to meet the public demand for native plants. Their native perennial flowers are ripe enough to sell out at the beginning of June.

In the Brookville area, Quiet Creek Herb Farm sells a number of native perennials, beginning in May.

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania owns a local plant nursery in Beechwood, near Fox Chapel. They grow their own plants without pesticides, have a great variety, and are open for sale in early May.

There are local plant sales conducted by various organizations throughout the state. The Central Pennsylvania Native Botanical Festival is held by the Pennsylvania Native Botanical Society at the beginning of May each year in Boalsburg.

A variety of shrubs and tree seedlings, some native, are sold by the Armstrong and Butler County Conservation Areas for a small fee in the spring.

Native shrub and shrub seedlings can also be purchased from Moser Forests in Indiana and the Howard Nursery of the Game Commission of Pennsylvania in Center County.

Public garden centers may also contain native plants. It is important to inquire about the use of insecticides, such as neonicotinoids, that can harm pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.

Another concern for garden centers is the availability of “upright” types of native plants versus cultivars, meaning the cultivated variety.

Varieties are indicated by a specific name within single quotation marks after the Latin name. For example, Aster novae-angliae “Purple Dome” refers to a cultivar of the upright New England aster species.

Insects have evolved with the upright species, often preferring them over cultivars. According to Dr. Doug Talmey, entomologist and author of Nature’s Best Hope, cultivars with altered leaf color or flower size, color, or shape change do not benefit caterpillars and pollinators.

To be safe, try to use upright species rather than cultivars that have been chosen for ornamental value.

Mail order is another option. The Pollen Nation at is a mail order nursery in New Jersey that sells jacks, or small plants, which are a less expensive option than plants in larger pots.

They sell a variety of perennials and herbs native to the eastern United States and sell upright species as well as cultivars.

Starting native plants with seeds is another possibility that can save money. However, the seeds of many native plants require special treatment if they are not sown in the fall.

For example, some seeds need cold stratification, as occurs in nature during winter, to break seed dormancy before sowing in spring.

Do some research before trying this. Prairiemoon Nursery ( in Wisconsin has excellent instructions on the treatment required for different flowers and herbs.

Ernst Seeds ( in Meadville sells native seeds in Pennsylvania, but in quantities that may overwhelm a first-time native gardener.

Again, make sure any seeds you buy are for plants native to Pennsylvania.

More information on how to qualify as a Bird Friendly Habitat, helpful articles to get started, and application registration can be found on the Pennsylvania Audubon website at


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