By | 29 January 2023

If you live in the Ohio Valley area, growing plants native to Midwestern Ohio makes sense. Native plant species are well adapted to their native site. These plants require low maintenance, fewer chemicals, and many are perennials that come back year after year. In addition, many of these plants provide food and shelter for native animal, insect, and bird species.

Midwest and Ohio Valley Native Flowers

From Ohio to Missouri, the native plants of the Midwest comprise many garden beauties. These plants often have long flowering periods, and can be used in many fresh and dried arrangements:

Black-eyed Susan (Rodbeckia hirta) – Yellow, black-eyed daisy-shaped Susan flowers bloom on multi-branched stems in summer and early fall.

Cardinal flower – (Lobelia cardinalis) – Add color to the garden with popping flower stalks of colorful flowers, featuring bright red, five-lobed flowers.

Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis) – Add a fall feel to the garden with golden-yellow-blooming, feathery fall flowers.

Purple Cannabis (Echinacea purpurea) – Say “I love you” all summer long with a daisy-like bouquet of coniferous flowers with pinkish-purple petals.

Tall Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) – Find the striking purple flowers of tall ironweed on 4- to 6-foot (1-2 m) plants in late summer.

Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica) – Enjoy the blue, trumpet-shaped flowers of Virginia bluebell in early spring.

Harvesting Food from Native Plants

For centuries, Native Americans survived by foraging for plants native to the Midwest and Kentucky. Here are some native species that you can add to your edible landscape:

American black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) – Choose clusters of deep purple berries of American black elderberry for midsummer pies, jellies, and wine.

Hyssop Anise (Agastache foeniculum) – Use fragrant anise leaves for tea, to flavor jellies, or add to salads.

Hazelnuts (Corylus americana) – You’ll have to fight off squirrels to harvest these tiny, edible hazelnuts in late summer.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) – There are countless ways to use the tropical flavor pulp of the yellow-green pawpaw fruit.

Red Mulberry (Morris rubra) – It’s definitely pancake season when the red mulberry produces a 1-inch (2.5 cm) fruit the size of a blackberry.

Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) – These small, tart cherries from wild black cherries can be eaten raw or used for jams, sauces, and juices.

Creating Specialized Gardens with Natives

Whether you want to create a bird garden, attract more bees to your herbivorous plants, or simply want an attractive garden design, native plants in the Ohio Valley and Illinois can:

Bee Balm (Monarda didemma) – Bee Balm’s beautiful red flowers attract pollinators, including bees, to the garden.

Common milkweed (Asclepias soria) – Help native butterfly populations by planting milkweed, a host plant for monarch caterpillars.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) – Choose purple, pink, or white flowers from garden phlox for cut flowers or leave them in the garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Northern spice shrub (Landra benzoin) – Add color to your early spring garden with the attractive yellow foliage of this shrub. Then admire the eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar hosting the northern spice bush.

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – Train this vine up a trellis and enjoy the view as local hummingbirds visit each honeysuckle flower for its sweet nectar.

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) – Add winter interest to the garden with winterberry holly as this deciduous shrub has red berries perfect for birds.

Obtaining Native Plant Species

Let’s say you’re wandering the trails in Oaubache State Park and you come across a beautiful collection of native Indiana plants that you’d like to add to your home garden. Is it OK to collect seeds or remove some plants to take home?

The answer to both questions is negative. In most states, it is illegal to remove native plants, collect seeds, or pick flowers from state parks and public lands. If you are caught, you could face significant fines or damages. Even with permission from the private property owner, removing endangered plants or picking rare flowers can threaten the plant’s existence in the wild.

Instead, consider purchasing native varieties from a reputable dealer, your state’s agricultural extension program, or a local botanical society. These plants are cloned or grown from seeds produced by non-wild specimens. In some cases, these purchases help preserve the wild ranges of native plants for the enjoyment of future generations.

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