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

Coastal Joe-Pye Weed

Coastal Joe-Pye Weed

August 2018

On my walk to the beach, I pass by a lovely drainage ditch. Lovely, because it is full of native plants, unmolested by invasive species, just as nature would have it (aside from the fact that it is a drainage ditch).

Swamp milkweed with fritillary

Swamp Milkweed

June 2018

by Ginger Laurits, Wild Seed Project volunteer and York County Master Gardener Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is an excellent native plant choice for your backyard garden. It is a “well-behaved” perennial, unlike it’s cousin, common milkweed, (Asclepias syriaca), which enjoys . . . Read More »

V. acerifolium in flower

Viburnums: Year-round Wonders

June 2018

Viburnums are plants that just keep on giving. While they bloom in the spring, these plants provide enjoyment throughout the year. Vernal flowers develop into colorful summer berries (technically drupes). As the seasons progress, the fruits and flowers of spring and summer provide sustenance for wildlife and the attractive branching habit and autumn colors delight more human eyes.


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

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