Wild Seed Project Native Plant Profiles
Wild Seed Project: Returning native plants to the Maine landscape

Each wild plant in Maine has an interesting life story. Every month we will profile in depth one of the plants from the many varied habitats that make our state so beautiful. You will learn where it grows, its defining characteristics, what other creatures have coevolved with it, and how the species might be used in a planted landscape.
—Heather McCargo


Buttonbush. Cephalanthus occidentalis. Rubiaceae

September 2016

Medium-sized shrub (7′-10′ tall) of wetlands, but adaptable to moist garden soils; late-flowering and very attractive with fragrant blossoms and large, shiny, deep-green foliage; interesting winter bark and persistent fruit; deserves to be planted more than it is, to benefit . . . Read More »

Northern Oak Fern. Gymnocarpium dryopteris. Woodsiaceae

Northern Oak Fern. Gymnocarpium dryopteris. Woodsiaceae

August 2016

Very attractive deciduous fern; distinctive trimerous fronds of bright green; unusual ground cover for humus-y soil in moist shade; ranges from Greenland to Alaska, south from Washington to West Virginia.

Iris flower, up close

Iris versicolor, blue iris, and Sisyrinchium montanum, strict blue-eyed grass; Iridaceae

July 2016

Two members of the iris family, one large, one small, Iris versicolor is a long-lived perennial with large purple flowers; Sisyrinchium montanum is short-lived, but readily self-seeds. Iris versicolor ranges from Maine west to Nebraska, south to Arkansas; Sisyrinchium montanum . . . Read More »

Rhodora. Rhododendron canadense. Ericaceae.

Rhodora. Rhododendron canadense. Ericaceae.

June 2016

Early-flowering, colonizing shrub, three to four feet tall; normally found in cool, moist, peaty soils in sun or part-shade; striking magenta flowers appear before foliage; deer-resistant; creates, in multiples, good habitat for small birds; ranges from Newfoundland west to Ontario . . . Read More »

Photo Credit Donald Cameron

Lindera benzoin. Northern spicebush. Lauraceae

May 2016

Beautiful, well-shaped understory shrub, usually 6-12’ tall, and multi-stemmed; found in moderately moist, fertile soil in deciduous forests; provides early-season nectar for Lepidoptera (like the overwintering mourning cloak butterfly); found only in southernmost Maine, though fairly common from Ontario to . . . Read More »

American Honeysuckle. Lonicera canadensis. Caprifoliaceae

American Honeysuckle. Lonicera canadensis. Caprifoliaceae

April 2016

Small to medium-sized shrub of woodlands and mixed forest edges; dangling, bell-shaped, paired flowers and lovely green leaves appear simultaneously in mid to late Spring; attractive red fruit in early autumn. Ranges from Nova Scotia and eastern Saskatchewan, south to . . . Read More »


Violet species (Violaceae)

March 2016

Small herbaceous plants of woods and fields; flowers are blue, purple, white, or yellow, according to species; deep green, heart-shaped leaves in basal rosettes or on ascending stems; a good groundcover and a vigorous self-seeder. By Pamela Johnson

Shagbark hickory. Carya ovata. Juglandaceae

Shagbark hickory. Carya ovata. Juglandaceae

January 2016

Tall, long-lived, member of the walnut family; stately, and moderately slow-growing; loose-plated bark and golden autumn color are strong landscape features; tolerant of a range of soil and moisture conditions, once established; found primarily in southern Maine, across southern Quebec . . . Read More »

Christmas Fern Spores

Christmas fern. Polystichum acrostichoides. Dryopteridaceae

December 2015

Evergreen fern of moist forests; grows in neat clusters of two or three plants, or in small colonies; prefers light to full shade, but will tolerate sun if soil is humus- rich and moist; ranges from Nova Scotia and Ontario, . . . Read More »


Eastern spicy-wintergreen. Gaultheria procumbens. Ericaceae.

November 2015

Semi-woody, evergreen ground cover, arising from underground stems; long-lasting, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers followed by cherry-red fruit; distinctively scented leaves are appreciated by wildlife and humans. Found from Newfoundland to Manitoba, across the Midwest, and south to the higher elevations of . . . Read More »

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