Native New England Plants in Our Woodland Garden
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Indian Pipes and Other Interesting Native New England Plants
Carved from the woodlands and surrounded by outcroppings of granite, our property features many Native New England Plants from towering oak trees to diminutive patches of moss. Sure, we've planted lots of ornamental shrubs and flowering perennials, but we also left many of the original native plants in place and transplanted many others around the garden. The result is an interesting mix of native and non-native plants in an environmentally friendly garden that is inviting to birds, bugs, toads and all sorts of local critters.
The native New England plants in our yard add year-round interest to the gardens and provides the local wildlife with natural sources of food, shelter and nesting sites. Native plants are very hardy and naturally adapted to their environment, requiring very little care and no fertilizers or supplemental watering. And since the plants were here when we started the gardens, they were free!
The Native New England Plants in Our Gardens
The Jack-in-the-Pulpit is one of my favorite native flowering plants on our property. Growing at the edge of our garden pond, this plant is almost two feet tall with large glossy leaves.
Relatively common in our area, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant favors moist ground and shady conditions, and we are fortunate to have several growing along the boggy edges of our pond. This interesting perennial plant emerges from its winter dormancy in early spring, sprouting stalks that emerge into trio of large leaves.
Developing from the central stem, another specialized trio of leaves form the familiar vase-like 'flower' with the overhanging roof that gives the Jack-in-the-Pulpit its name. The vase is not actually the plant's flowers, which are very small and found deep within the vase.
The leafy vase structure only lasts a few short weeks before dying back. If the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant is a female, a green seed pod follows the fading leaves, looking like a small cluster of grapes. The seeds turn bright red in the fall, and are eaten by several different birds and animals. This helps to disperse the seeds for the next generation of Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants.
The Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant is self-pollinating. It is also highly toxic.
One of the benefits from creating a natural garden are the pleasant surprises that pop up unexpectedly, such as the Indian Pipe plant that is featured in the lead photo. At first glance, this intriguing little plant looks like some type of mutant mushroom but upon closer inspection, its special beauty is revealed. Resembling the shape of an old clay pipe sticking up from the ground, the 'bowl' of the Indian Pipe plant is actually a lovely bloom.
Also known as the Ghost plant for its white coloration, this unique plant does not produce chlorophyll through photosynthesis. This means that the Indian Pipe plant cannot make its own food. Instead, it takes nourishment from the roots of surrounding trees and fungus; essentially, the Indian Pipe is a botanical parasite.
Indian Pipes grow to about 10 inches high, and are found in shady areas with rich soil and decaying plant matter. We have several colonies growing in different areas of our yard, and they begin to bloom in early June. As fall approaches, the flowers fade and the stalks turn black as the plant prepares for its winter dormancy.
White Wood Aster
White Wood Aster
Growing in the dry shade under a canopy of oak trees, the White Wood Aster provides a nature burst of color with blooms from mid-summer into early fall. The small flowers resembles a little daisy, with a white to purplish center surrounded by little white pedals.
Though common in the area, there are only two small patches of the wood aster on our property. We used this small plant, peeking out behind a lichen-covered rock, to helped to define the location and shape of this planting area.
The Wood Aster is a perennial, dying back for the winter before regenerating in spring. The deer leave it alone, adding to its appeal as a native New England plant for the woodland garden.
Don't Take Plants from the Wild!
All of the plants described here are found naturally on our property. In some cases, we transplanted the native plants as we created the planting beds and paths in our woodland gardens.
Many varieties of native plants are cultivated commercially, and offered through garden centers and online retailers.
The striped wintergreen is one of the easiest native New England plants to identify. Typically growing in small colonies, the striped wintergreen grows to about 6" tall. The waxy green leaves always appear in grouping of three, and each features a distinctive white strip down the middle of the leaf.
Blooming in an early June, the striped wintergreen is also one of the few native evergreen plants that also produces a flower. A little stalk shoots up from the center of the plant in early June, producing a cluster of small white flowers. After the flower fades, a small seed pod forms at the end of the stalk. The striped wintergreen also spreads through underground runners, which is one of the reasons why striped wintergreen plants are often found growing in small colonies.
Once used medicinally by Native Americans, the striped wintergreen is considered rare in our area. We are fortunate to have several plants growing near the little stream of our pond, and there are several colonies scattered in the woodlands around the boulder outcroppings.
The Unknown Evergreen Plant
This interesting little evergreen plant is only 6" inches tall and resembles a diminutive fir tree. There are lots of these little plants sprouting up sporadically around the property, especially in the deep shaded areas around patches of moss.
Unlike the ferns and moss, they do not take well to transplanting and none of the little plants survived the transplant when we needed to clear an area for the goat pen.
I have not been able to identify this plant and if anyone recognizes it, please post the plant's name in the comment section.
Marginal Wood Ferns
New England is home to several varieties of native ferns, and we have several different types of ferns growing in our garden. This vibrant patch of Marginal Wood ferns flourishes in our rain garden, along with a mix of ornamental annual and perennial plants.
The rain garden was created in a low area of our yard where these ferns were growing naturally. Somewhere in the midst of this fern patch are several large Cinnamon ferns, named for the tightly curled brown stalk that resembles a cinnamon stick before opening into a green and leafy frond.
Growing in other areas of the garden are more clumps of ferns, including this Christmas fern. Unlike the foliage of the Marginal Wood fern and the Cinnamon fern that dies back in the fall, the Christmas fern stays evergreen all year round. In colonial times, the Christmas fern was used for holiday decorations.
The Christmas fern is very common around our property, growing in areas of deep shade. This is another plant that the deer do not eat (and even the goats avoid) making it a wonderful native New England plant for the woodland garden.
Native Ferns Surround the Pond
Native New England Plants in Our Garden:
- American Beech
- Christmas Fern
- Cinnamon Fern
- Eastern Hemlock
- Eastern Red Cedar
- Flowering Dogwood
- Indian Pipes
- Mountain Laural
- Queen Anne's Lace
- Oak Trees: Red, White and Black Oak
- Red Maple
- White Pine
- Wild Ginger
- Wild Grapes
- Wild Honeysuckle
Our New England Woodland Garden
Do You Grow Native Plants?
Do You Grow Native Plants?
YouTube Time Lapse fern
© 2013 Anthony Altorenna