Salix discolor – American pussy willow or glaucous willow, is native to the northern forests and wetlands of Canada (British Columbia east to Newfoundland) and is also found in the northern portions of the contiguous US (Idaho east to Maine and south the Maryland.
Photo credit: Rhisiart Hincks on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA
It is a weak wooded shrub or small tree growing 20’ tall. The flowers are silvery 1” silky soft catkins displayed along the stems before the leaves emerge. Plants are male and female and the male catkins mature yellow at pollen release. Native bees are attracted to this early pollen. Finches, grouse and cardinals find the flower buds tasty. Several different butterflies including mourning cloak, and viceroy moths use the blue-green leaves as a larval food source. When planted in clusters its multi-stemmed habit provides good cover and nesting sites for a variety of birds.
Native Americans used it’s leaves as a painkiller as it contains salicin like other willows. It is highly sought after for ornamental use in decorating and floral design.
Easy to grow in full sun and adaptable to moist soil and wet poorly drained sites such as found in a rain garden. It will easily form colonies and can be pruned drastically after flowering.
Lindera benzoin – Spicebush is a wonderful Native shrub that can serve many purposes in the landscape. Native to eastern North America, ranging from NY to Ontario in the north, and to Kansas, Texas, and northern Florida in the center and south.
Photo credit: matthewbeziat on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC
It grows as an understory plant in moist rich woods, especially those with exposed limestone. It has a broad, rounded multi-stemmed habit. Attractive dark green foliage that is wonderfully fragrant to the touch. I advise planting this where you will frequently brush by to appreciate the smell. These plants are male and female, however they are difficult to find labeled as such. As a stand alone plant they are still wonderful for the attractive light green, fragrant leaves. If you are fortunate to find both sexes, the female will be covered with fragrant yellow flowers before the leaves emerge and are held close to the branches. Brilliant red fruits will then be produced in the fall which is very attractive to the birds as they are one of the best sources of energy for long distance migratory birds. The male plant produces larger flowers than the female, but both are required for the fruit to develop. The pollen is an excellent source of nectar for butterflies and other pollinators in the early spring. It is also a host plant for spicebush and tiger swallowtail butterflies. It provides cover and nesting sites for various birds. Being deer resistant it is an ideal plant for damp shade situations but will still thrive in full sun and dry conditions.
Early land surveyors used this plant as a guide to good agriculture as it grows in woods feature rich soil. Native Americans used this plant to treat many ailments and the leaves, buds and new growth twigs can be made into tea.
Hamamelis virginiana – Witch hazel is native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota, and south to central Florida to eastern Texas. It has long been used for treating inflammation and tumors as well as an astringent.
Photo credit: dolorix on VisualHunt /CC BY-NC-SA
This is tough shrub or small tree growing 8-10’ with an interesting branching structure and leathery deep veined green leaves. Flowers are produced in the late fall, typically after the foliage has dropped making it a must for the fall garden. ‘Harvest Moon’ has densely packed clusters of lemon yellow flowers showing off their trademarked crinkly, strap-like petals against bare branches in November for stunning late-season appeal
It is easy to grow and will thrive in most sunny, well drained locations. New foliage is coppery, turning green in summer. Birds and other wildlife feed on the seed. It is deer resistant and black walnut tolerant.
Ilex verticillata – Winterberry is native to eastern North America in the US and southeast Canada, from Newfoundland west to Ontario and Minnesota and south to Alabama.
Photo credit: mjhccl on Visual Hunt /CC BY-NC-SA
This is a deciduous holly that drops it leaves in autumn. Small flowers provide nectar for butterflies and other beneficial insects. They are dioecious with male and female plants, so plant at least one male for several females to ensure good berry production. A male and female can also be planted within the same hole if space is limited. Large red/orange fruits are attractive to a variety of birds. The ripe berries are extremely attractive in fall and winter and they attract a wide variety of songbirds. Winterberry is lovely planted in groups, in foundation plantings, borders, bird gardens, as informal hedges and an excellent choice for wet soils. The berried stems make great decoration for the holiday season. I typically will cut the branches and mix with assorted evergreens to fill pots or hanging baskets, or even tucked in to fresh wreaths.
‘Red Sprite’ was discovered in the wild of Massachusetts and is more compact than the original species. The Holly Society of America chooses ‘Red Sprite’ as Holly of the Year in 2010. There are several other named varieties ranging in size and a yellow berry version was recently introduced.
Viburnum prunifolium – Blackhaw Viburnum is native to eastern North America, from Connecticut west to eastern Kansas, and south to Alabama and Texas.
Photo credit: Pottering-Around on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND
This is a large, multi-stemmed shrub great for nesting, providing excellent cover for the birds. It can also be pruned to grow into a small tree. It has creamy white flowers in the spring providing nectar for butterflies, native bees and other pollinators. Blue-black berry-like fruit develop in the fall and are a good source of food for wildlife. It’s dark green leaves change to shades of red and purple in the fall.
It is easy to grow in full sun or part shade and is drought tolerant.
Native Americans used this plant mainly for gynecological purposes, cramping, recovery after childbirth, menopause, morning sickness as well as for cramping of the digestive tract. American slaveholders used an infusion of black haw to prevent abortion in order to ensure childbirth among their slaves.