Award Winning Native Plants for the Great Plaines

Great Plants for the Great Plains

From By Peggy Anne Montgomery

| Published 07/25/2014

The GreatPlants program is a joint effort between the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the Nebraska Nursery & Landscape Association. “These selections are not only beautiful, but water-wise, drought-tolerant plants, selected to not only grow, but thrive in the Great Plains climate.” Says Bob Henrickson, Horticulture Program Coordinator from the NSA. So, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of these selections are native plants. This is a great resource for homeowners that will help them become more successful gardeners and to help them create more biodiversity. It’s also a boon for Independent Garden Centers that can use this information to build smart, retail displays filled with what else -  Great Plants!


2014—Liriodendron tulipifera, tuliptree
This is a favorite nesting tree for birds and the flowers attract hummingbirds. Larval host for the Eastern tiger swallowtail. 
2013—Quercus ellipsoidalis, Hill’s oak
Pollen and emerging leaves attract a long list of pollinators and birds. Acorns are a major food source for a variety of wildlife.
2011—Carya ovata, shagbark hickory
Birds relish the seeds and catkins and find good nesting. Attracts pollinators that attract birds.
2010—Cladrastis kentukea, American yellowwood
Little is known about floral-faunal relationships for this rare tree. The flowers are probably pollinated by bumblebees and other large long-tongued bees.
2008—Ostrya virginiana, American hophornbeam
The nutlets are eaten by a variety of wildlife, such as bobwhites, pheasant, grouse and songbirds.
2007—Aesculus glabra, Ohio buckeye
Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. Many different kinds of wildlife will appreciate the seeds.
2006—Quercus muehlenbergii, chinkapin oak
Oaks attract all kinds of wildlife including; birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Larval host for the gray hairstreak.
2004—Quercus macrocarpa, bur oak
Attracts butterflies and other pollinators. The acorns are eaten by a wide variety of beneficial wildlife.
2002—Gymnocladus dioicus, Kentucky coffeetree
The flowers are cross-pollinated by bumblebees, digger bees, tiger swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds that visit looking for nectar.
2001—Taxodium distichum, baldcypress
Provides cover and nesting for birds and the seeds are fed on by birds and small mammals.
2000—Cornus alternifolia, pagoda dogwood
Attracts butterflies, host plant for spring azure butterfly. Attracts waterfowl and songbirds along with many mammals.
1999—Quercus bicolor, swamp white oak
Attracts songbirds, ground birds, water birds and mammals. Oaks are among the best trees for attracting wildlife.


2013—Pinus strobiformis, Border Pine
Provides nesting sites for owls, hawks, bald eagles and other raptors.
The seeds are gladly eaten by songbirds and other wildlife.
2012—Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca, Douglasfir
The foliage is consumed by grouse, deer and elk. Birds and mammals eat the seeds. Evergreens provide shelter for animals all year long.
2011—Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis, Canaan fir
Attracts butterflies. Songbirds and squirrels eat the seed. Deer and moose browse the foliage in winter. Provides year-round cover for wildlife.
2007—Abies concolor, concolor fir
Evergreens are an important part of any landscape because they provide year round nesting and shelter for wildlife.


2013—Viburnum trilobum, ‘Redwing’, American cranberrybush viburnum
Flowers provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators. Berries are a great source of winter food for birds and other wildlife. *This selection has been verified by Dr. Edward R. Hasselkus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a true V. trilobum, not a hybrid — unlike many other cultivars in the trade.
2012—Viburnum dentatum var. deamii, Deam’s arrowwwood viburnum
Attracts Eastern bluebird, Northern flicker, gray catbird, and American robin. Attracts butterflies and is the larval host for the spring azure.
*This selection can be difficult to find in the trade.
2010—Aesculus parviflora, bottlebrush buckeye
Hummingbirds and butterflies flock to these luscious flowers in June and July, a time when few other shrubs are in bloom.
2009—Mahonia repens, creeping mahonia
The fruits are relished by birds and other wildlife. This low-growing evergreen provides great cover for birds and other wildlife.
2008—Euonymus atropurpurea, eastern wahoo
Grows in moist woods and thickets in full sun to light shade where it provides nesting and cover for birds and small mammals.
2007—Amelanchier alnifolia ‘Regent’, Regent serviceberry
Berries provide food for mammals and birds, and the dense growth provides shelter. Attracts orange tip and elfin butterflies.
* Open pollinated seeding found near Regent ND introduced in 1977, species uncertain.
2004—Ribes odoratum, clove currant
Dr. Michael Dirr calls it “a rare gem in the shrub world.” The clear yellow flowers fill the air with the fragrance of clove each spring.
2003—Viburnum prunifolium, blackhaw viburnum
Flowers provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators. Berries are a great source of food for birds and other wildlife in autum.
2002—Hypericum kalmianum, Kalm St. Johnswort
Great source of nectar for bumblebees and other pollinators. Showy yellow flowers bloom for 6 weeks in summer.
2001—Hydrangea quercifolia, oakleaf hydrangea
Attracts birds and butterflies and it’s large foliage offers cover and nesting sites. Flowers are great dried or cut fresh.
1998—Aronia melanocarpa, black chokeberry
Spring flowers are a great source of nectar for pollinators. Black berries persist and are devoured by birds.


2014—Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa, showy black-eyed Susan
Provides 3 months of nectar for butterflies and bees. Birds love the seeds from dried blooms so don’t cut them back right away.
2013—Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’, Queen of the prairie
This is a selection of a North American native. The airy flowers provide pollen as a reward for visiting insects, but no nectar.
2012—Chelone lyonii, turtlehead
Nectar source for butterflies and other pollinators. Hummingbirds enjoy the nectar as well.
2011—Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox
Excellent source of early nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. Tiger swallowtail butterflies find the flowers especially attractive.
2010—Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’, Gateway Joe-Pye
This is a selection of a North American native. The nectar attracts honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies, skippers, and moths.
2009—Amsonia hubrichtii, narrowleaf bluestar
Blue flowers attract butterflies and the stunning golden fall color will attract you. Great addition to a sunny border.
2008—Geum triflorum, prairie smoke
Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Don’t cut the spent flowers back because the seed attracts songbirds.
2007—Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Fireworks goldenrod
Migrating butterflies use the nectar to fuel their fall migration. Seeds are relished by finches, juncos, sparrows and ruffed grouse.
* This 1993 introduction from Ken Moore of the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill was originally selected from a NC coastal plain population of S. rugosa – Plant Delights Nursery
2006—Pulsatilla species, pasque flower
The flower blooms early in spring which leads to the common name Pasque flower, since Pasque refers to Easter or Passover.
2005—Baptisia minor, dwarf blue indigo
This is a host plant for a variety of butterflies. Provides cover for wildlife and ground feeding birds.
2003—Echinacea species, coneflower
Attracts butterflies in large numbers. Finches dine on its seed in the fall. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar as well.
2001—Penstemon species, beardtongue
Flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators, especially bumblebees. Songbirds feed on seed.
2000—Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly milkweed
One of the very best plants to attract butterflies. Essential to the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly. Bright flowers attract hummingbirds too.
1999—Amorpha canescens, leadplan
Its long bloom time and attractiveness to butterflies make leadplant a great native substitute for butterfly bush (Buddleia).


2014—Carex grayi, Gray’s sedge
The seeds and seedheads of sedges are an important food sources for various waterfowl, rails, upland gamebirds and some songbirds.
2013—Schizachyrium scoparium ‘MinnBlue’, ‘Blue Heaven’ little bluestem
Attracts butterflies and is a host plant for many skippers. Provides nest sites, cover and food for birds
* This cultivar was discovered and selected in a field of Schizachyrium seedlings by Mary Meyer at the University of Minnesota. 
2012—Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’, northwind switchgrass
An essential larval host for most banded skippers and satyrs. Provides nest sites, protective cover and food for birds.
*This is a naturally occurring selection from Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in WI. He gathered the seed along railroad tracks in South Elgin, Il. 
2011—Carex muskingumensis, palm sedge
Provides dense cover for essential wildlife. Yellow-edged foliage provides all-season color.
2010—Eragrostis trichodes, sand lovegrass
This grass is crucial to the life of many butterflies. Native songbirds love to eat the seed so, wait to cut it back.
2009—Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’, Shenandoah switchgrass
Provides nest sites, cover and food for birds. A small and neat 3' tall ornamental grass.
*This selection of our native Panicum was selected by Germany's Hans Simon.
2008—Bouteloua gracilis, blue grama
Wild turkeys and other gamebirds along with songbirds are known to feed on the seeds.
2005—Bouteloua curtipendula, sideoats grama
This is an important larval host for green and dotted skippers. The seed is relished by songbirds.
2004—Sorghastrum nutans, Indiangrass
Provides nesting, protective cover and food for birds. Easy to grow, even in poor, dry soils.
2003—Sporobolus heterolepis, prairie dropseed
Provides tons of nectar for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Produces abundant seed to feed the birds and other small wildlife in the fall.

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