The Maryland Native Plant Society

BOOKS for Plant Lovers

This is a selection of books that will be useful to people who are interested in native plants. This list, and the annotations, was the result of suggestions made by MNPS members and is not being updated regularly.

Comprehensive Floras that Include Both Woody and Herbaceous Plants

Flora of Virginia; Alan S. Weakley, J. Christopher Ludwig, and John F. Townsend; 2012; Botanical Research Institute of Texas; 1572 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1889878386.  The book is quite large and heavy but most of the content is included in the app, which can be carried in to field. See The Flora of Virginia Project.

Highly recommended. This large, comprehensive volume, many years in the making, is now the go-to book for the dedicated student of regional flora. It includes the vast majority of plant species found in Maryland.

The Plants of Pennsylvania, An Illustrated Manual, 2d Ed.; Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy Block; 2007; Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylania; 1042 pages; ISBN 978-0-8122-4003-0.

Highly recommended. This comprehensive volume includes most species found in Maryland's mountains and piedmont regions.

Companion volumes:
Woody Plants of Maryland;
 Brown, Melvin L., and Russell G Brown. The Book Center, University of Maryland: College Park, Md. 1984.
Herbaceous Plants of Maryland; Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown; 1964; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD.  1127 pgs.;  ISBN: 0-3956-2881-4.

When published, these were the definitive sources for identification of plants in Maryland. Although the taxonomy and scientific nomenclature are now outdated, these volumes are still useful, especially because each species is illustrated.

Flora of West Virginia; P.D. Strausbaugh and Earl Core; 1978; Seneca Books, Morgantown, WV; 1119 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0890920107.

Packed with information and line drawings of every species. Especially helpful for identifying plants in the mountainous parts of our region. It provides the meanings of many scientific names. Nomenclature and taxonomy outdated.

Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Henry A. Gleason and Arthur Cronquist; 2nd edition, 1991; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 910 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0893273651.

A very comprehensive identification guide. This was for some years considered to be the definitive identification book for plants of this geographical region. The scientific nomenclature and taxonomy are now outdated.

Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual: Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Noel Holmgren, Patricia K. Holmgren, and Henry A. Gleason; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 937 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0893273996 .

This book remains a very useful reference because of the high quality of the illustrations. It consists of 827 plates containing black and white illustrations arranged and labeled to cross-reference with Gleason and Cronquist's 1991 edition. It also contains useful diagnostic details not previously presented.

Gray's Manual of Botany: A Handbook of Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Central and Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Merritt Lyndon Fernald; 8th edition, 1950; 1632 pgs.; American Book Company, New York and other cities. 

Some botanists consider this book the finest resource available, despite its date. Out of print at this time but used copies are generally available.  Illustrations are very limited, consisting only of small line drawings for some species.

The Flora of North America; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+; Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford.

This very comprehensive resource, which is a work-in-progress, is viewable on-line at

Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas; Albert E. Radford, Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell; University of North Carolina Press; 1245 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807810873.

A useful reference; it includes many plants that also occur in Maryland.

An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada; Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown; 1913; C. Scribner’s Sons, New York; Reprinted 1970, Dover Publications, New York; three volumes; ISBNs:  Vol. I: 978-0486226422; Vol. II:  978-0486226439; Vol. III: 978-0486226446 .  All three volumes are available online at:

This three-volume, comprehensive work is a classic, still useful although taxonomy has changed much since it was published.

Woody Plants

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region; Elbert L. Little; 1980; Knopf, New York City; 714 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0394507606.   

A good book for the beginner. This book is organized by leaf type and has a fairly easy-to-use key that will lead you to the basic kind of tree (oak, birch, etc). The descriptions will then generally let you make a species-level identification. It has very good color pictures of leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit and it has interesting historical/cultural comments on many species. This book points out plants that are alien introductions.

Made for Each Other:  A Symbiosis of Birds and Pines; Ronald M. Lanner; 1996; Oxford University Press, New York; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0195089035. 

This fascinating ecological narrative details the close relationship between Whitebark Pine seeds, which are  wingless, and Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird that depends on them and disperses them in alpine regions of the American West.  The pine cannot reproduce without the help of the nutcracker, and the nutcracker cannot raise its young without feeding them the seeds of the pines.  In playing out their roles, these partners change the landscape to the benefit of many other plants and animals.  The pine and the nutcracker build ecosystems. 

Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America;  John Stein, Denise Binion, and Robert Acciavatti; 2003; USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team; 172 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1470112363.  Out of print.  8.4 M pdf:  

This spiral-bound book is well illustrated, with easy-to-view range maps and well-done drawings and photos of plant parts.  It is a shame that the book is out of print, but fortunately an online version is available.  (Note: For more information on oaks, see the resources listed for MNPS' Year of the Oak, 2012, accessed via main web page,

Silvics of North America. 1990. Vol. 1: Conifers; Vol. 2: Hardwoods. USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook 654. [Supersedes Silvics of Forest Trees of the U.S.]

This is not an identification guide, but is a useful reference aimed at the forester or professional tree grower.  It provides detailed information on each species' habitat, range, climate, soils and topography, associated forest cover, life history, and growth.

Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast; Michael Wojtech; 2011; UPNE (University Press of New England); 280 pgs; ISBN: 978-1584658528. 

This book includes a section on how bark is formed and a discussion of possible advantages of different kinds of bark. Has detailed keys and descriptions, and excellent photos. 

Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees and Shrubs; William M. Harlow; 1959;  Dover Publications, Inc., New York; 126 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0486205113.

This older but still very useful publication has two keys: The fruit key is for northeastern trees and the twig key for deciduous woody plants of eastern North America.  Illustrated with photographs, which are very helpful. This is the only guide of its sort, and very useful to carry in winter.  Too large for a regular pocket, but slender and lightweight, so will fit easily in a large pocket or a backpack.

Master Tree Finder: A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves; May Theilgaard Watts; 1963; Nature Study Guild Publishers; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550015.

This small, pocket-size guide (one of the "Finders" series) consists of an elementary, dichotomous key that leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified.  The book can be useful, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple illustrations and range maps. 

Winter Tree Finder:  A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter; May Theilgaard Watts and Tom Watts;1970; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550039.

This small, pocket-size guide (in the "Finders" series) consists of a an elementary, dichotomous key, which leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified.  The book is useful  in winter, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple drawings and range maps.

Common Native Trees of Virginia: Tree Identification Guide; Virginia Department of Forestry; 2007; 128 pgs.

Available inexpensively from the Virginia Department of Forestry:  You can also download it for free from that site.  The number of species included in the book is limited.  The descriptions are non-technical, and there are images of leaves, twigs, flowers and/or fruit.

Pocket Field Guides

Newcomb's Wildflower Guide; Lawrence Newcomb; 1989; Little Brown & Co.; 490 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0316604420.

Highly Recommended - Probably the best book for carrying around on a day hike when the larger books will weigh you down. Very good for general use, and even includes some woody species. It has an easy-to-use key that is good for many common, and some not-so-common, species. You will always find the Genus but an exact species identification can in some cases be difficult. This book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species. The paperback version is tough enough to last for many years.

A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Margaret McKenny and Roger Tory Peterson; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 448 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395911723.

Highly Recommended - A good book for the beginning student. Some people find the key this book uses for identification to be counter-intuitive. The book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species.

Flora of Virginia cell phone app. Illustrated keys, usable in the field. See The Flora of Virginia Project.

A Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); John C. Kricher; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co.; 512 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395928950.

This is not a field guide in the usual sense, but an introduction to forest ecology from a naturalist’s perspective. It is a good first book, helping the reader to recognize forest types.  Its  great value lies in its concise explanations of plant succession, types of climax forest, adaptive mechanisms, and seasonal patterns.

Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes

Grasses, Sedges, Rushes; Lauren Brown and Ted Elliman; 2020; Yale University Press.

This guide is focused primarily on grasses, sedges and rushes of the northeastern United States, many of which are also found in the mid-Atlantic region.  These plants can be hard to identify, and this book can help botanical amateurs identify the common ones. 

Grasses of Washington, D.C.; Kamal M. Ibrahim, Paul M. Peterson; 2014; Smithsonian Contributions to Botany No. 99, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press; 139 pgs.; ISSN: 0081-024X (print); 1938-2812 (online).  Online version accessible through:

A vegetative key, descriptions, and illustrations for the identification of 182 native and naturalized grasses that occur in Washington, D.C.  The key is based on vegetative characters to allow identification primarily of specimens that do not have flowering structures (inflorescences and spikelets).

Maryland Grasses.  Norton, J. B. S. 1930. The University of Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 323.  September 1930.

Agnes Chases' First Book of Grasses

Field Guide to Grasses of the Mid-Atlantic Region. Sarah Chamberlain; 2018; Keystone Books, Penn State Univ. Press. 184 pp; ISBN: 978-0-271-07869-4.

Featuring an easy-to-use dichotomous key, this is a user-friendly guide to more than 300 types of grasses. Contains detailed species diagrams as well as common names, habitats, and distribution. The book’s opening sections outline the parts of grass flowers and describe stem, leaf, and sheath characteristics.

Ferns and Fern Allies

Northeast Ferns: A field guide to the ferns and fern relatives of the northeastern United States. Steven W. Chadde. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 26, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1492177289

A Field Guide to Ferns and Their Related Families: Northeastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Boughton Cobb; second edition, 2005; Houghton Mifflin; 417 pgs.; ISBN: 0618394060

Recommended - This fern ID book, like all the Peterson field guides, is small enough to carry easily. It has an effective key based on various aspects of the fern, including the leaf shape. The key will usually point you to the right part of the book and, with a bit of paging, you will be able to identify most common, and some not-so-common, ferns.

Mosses and Other Bryophytes

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians (Princeton Field Guides); Karl B. McKnight, Joseph R. Rohrer, Kirsten McKnight Ward, and Warren J. Perdrizet; 2013; Princeton University Press; 392 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0691156965.

Recommended.  This is a good book for the beginner.  It contains a color-tabbed system that helps readers pick out small groups of similar species.  It has illustrated identification keys, and colorful habitat and leaf photos, plus many detailed line drawings and written descriptions, to help differentiate species.

Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley; Edward Uebel (editor); 2000; Maryland Native Plant Society. Download a pdf, see Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley.

The purpose of this manuscript was to preserve as much pertinent information about Maryland mosses as possible, including their abundance, location, habitats, and associations. Dr. Worthley's herbarium contained 15 collections of hornworts, representing 4 species; 1138 collections of mosses representing 191 species; and 291 collections of hepatics representing 56 species. His entire collection is now in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Wetland / Coastal

In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook and Field Guide; Ralph W. Tiner; Revised edition, 2005; Rutgers University Press; 352 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0813536811.

This is a good introduction, for the non-scientist, to the "how, what, and why" of wetlands, and includes their development over time. It has many good illustrations. It is, in effect, an overview of the following field guide, written by the same author:

Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Northeastern United States; Ralph W. Tiner; 1993 reprint of original, 1987 edition; University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA; 344 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0870238338.

This book covers: 1. Coastal Wetland Ecology: A General Overview (different tidal wetland habitats, their description and characteristics, and typical species of each); 2. Identification of Coastal Wetland Plants (easy to use diagnostic keys); 3. Wetland plant descriptions and illustrations (this composes more than half the book, organized by environment). Each entry has the scientific and common names, family, full description, habitat, range, similar species, and very accurate diagram drawings. More than 150 species are covered.

Regional Books

City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C.;  Melanie Choukas-Bradley; Third edition, 2008; Johns Hopkins University Press; 334 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0813926889.

This is a very readable and extensively-researched book. It not only is a good field guide for identifying trees, but also tells some interesting stories behind many of the trees planted in D.C.

A Sketch of the Natural History of the District of Columbia; Waldo Lee McAtee; 1918;  H. L. & J. B McQueen, Inc. Washington, D.C.; 143 pgs. plus maps.  Download pdf (15MB)

This book includes valuable historical information on the Magnolia Bogs of the Fall-Line region.  Many of these bogs have been destroyed for development, but a few remain.

Field Guide to the Piedmont: The Natural Habitats of America's Most Lived-In Region, from New York City to Montgomery, Alabama; Michael A. Godfrey; 1997; University of North Carolina Press; 536 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807846711.

This is for the serious student of native plants. It presents an in-depth look at the plants and animals of the region and their interdependence, and at succession from bare soil to climax forest.

Wildflowers & Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain; Helen Hamilton and Gustavus Hall; 2013; Botanical Research Institute of Texas; 288 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1889878416

Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Parks: An Interpretive Guide to Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park; John Means; 1995; The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA; 168 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0939923380.

Includes a chapter on forests and spring wildflowers, and one on wildlife and animal habitats, as well as much information on geology and hydrology of the Catoctin parks.

An Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia); Steven R. Hill;  1986; Castanea Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 265-305.  Allen Press, on behalf of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.  Stable URL:  (Note:  If you register for a MyJSTOR account (free), you are will have access to a few free items at a time.) 

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.; Howard Youth; 2014; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore; 400 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1421412047. 
Covers the parks of D.C. and a selection of the animals and plants found in them.  A fair number of trees are treated, but very few of the herbaceous or shrubby plants are.  A page is devoted to each of the species covered, and high-quality artwork and photos adorn the facing page.  Includes descriptions of species, ecological role, and other commentary.

Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of the Washington - Baltimore Area; Stanwyn G. Shetler and Sylvia Stone Orli;  Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In two parts:  Part I: Ferns, Fern Allies, Gymnosperms, and Dicotyledons; 2000; 204 pgs.; Part II: Monocotyledons; 2002; 95 pgs. out of print. 

The DC Flora Checklist has been to revise completely Frederick J. Hermann’s much outdated and long out-of-print A Checklist of Plants in the Washington-Baltimore Area (ed. 2), published in 1946 in duplicated form. The publication of the Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of the Washington-Baltimore Area, the new revision by Stanwyn G. Shetler and Sylvia S. Orli, includes two parts, Part I, Ferns, Fern Allies, Gymnosperms, and Dicotyledons (186 p.) and Part II, Monocotyledons(95 p.). It is hoped that the revised checklist will become the basis for preparing a completely new manual of the flora of the Washington-Baltimore Area, to replace the 1919 Flora of the District of Columbia and Vicinity of A. S. Hitchcock and P. C. Standley.

Upper Anacostia Watershed plant communities of conservation significance; 2006; NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia
. Teague, J. L., et al., authors (pdf)
See p. 8 for a description of two kinds of "pine barrens" communities that were discovered in Prince George's County, Maryland, a decade ago and are believed to be closely related to vegetation previously known only from the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Both of the new community types are globally rare. One of them is tentatively named the Pine Barrens Pine - Oak community. The other is the Pine Barrens Lowland Forest, which is an unusual wetland type characterized by pitch pine and deciduous hardwoods in the canopy. Pitch pine is more characteristic of dry upland sites, but in the New Jersey Pine Barrens it also occurs in sandy areas that are saturated by groundwater. The occurrences in Prince George's represent a southern extension in the range of this rare vegetation type.

Native Gardens

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed; Britt E. Slattery, Kathryn Reshetiloff, and Susan M. Zwicker; 2003; 82 pgs.; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office, Annapolis, MD. Note: this publication is available on-line and in PDF format from the Fish and Wildlife Service (pdf). A new database from this information is also on-line at

American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits; Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson; 1951; republished 2011, Dover Publications; 512 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0486207933 .

This classic, older book lists the food and feeding habits of more than 1,000 species of birds and mammals, together with their distribution in America, their migratory habits, and the most important native plant-animal relationships. Based on research conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Final chapter ranks plants according to their wildlife value.

The Butterfly Garden: Turning Your Garden, Window Box, or Backyard Into A Beautiful Home For Butterflies; Mathew Tekulski; 1985; Harvard Common Press; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0916782696.

A complete manual on how to attract butterflies to your garden or backyard by planting common plants and flowers that butterflies use for nectar, food, and pollination. It includes butterflies and plants specific to each region.

Butterfly Gardening: Creating Summer Magic in Your Garden; Xerces Society and Smithsonian Institution; 1998; Sierra Club Books, San Francisco; 228 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0871569752.

Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants; Heather Holm; 2014; Pollination Press LLC; 320 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0991356300.

Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards; Sara Stein; 1993; Houghton Mifflin: New York City; 294 pgs.; ISBN: 0-395-65373-8.

This gentle manifesto is a good place to start. It is a personal perspective on growing a garden in which snakes are as welcome as butterflies. In chapters that loosely follow the course of a year - beginning in the fall and ending the following Thanksgiving - the author describes how she came to radically change the way she gardened.

The Natural Habitat Garden; Ken Druse; 1994; Clarkson Potter; 245 pgs.; ISBN: 0-517-58989-3.

This book describes ways to create a garden based on native plant communities. Its emphasis on understanding local conditions, native vs. indigenous plants, natural plant associations, and integrated pest management set it apart from most of the other "gardening" books. It does not always make the right suggestions, for instance it trivializes the importance of local genotype, but at least it introduces the topics. It uses 500 striking color photographs of gardens across the country to introduce the plant associations found in grasslands, wetlands, drylands and woodlands. The book also includes tips for researching the pre-settlement natural history of a region, extensive plant lists, and specific instructions on such things as controlling invasive alien species, firescaping, and diverting run-off.

The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada; William Cullina; 2000; Houghton Mifflin Co.; 322 pgs.; ISBN: 0-39596-6094.

Recommended - One of the most authoritative references on this subject. More than a thousand species of flowers are discussed and pictured. This is as much a book for the gardener as the propagator since information on native habitat, cultural requirements, propagation, and design considerations are given for each genus/species. The amount of propagation advice varies from species to species and is based directly on the results gained at the New England Wild Flower Society's "Garden in the Woods."

Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification; Samuel B. Jones, and Leonard E. Foote; 1998; Timber Press: Portland, OR; 255 pgs.; ISBN: 0-88192-416-4.

Gardening with Native Wild Flowers; Samuel B. Jones, and Leonard E. Foote; 1990; Timber Press: Portland, OR; 195 pgs.; ISBN: 0-88192-381-8.

The above two companion books provide practical advice on the uses of wildflowers, and hardy ferns, shrubs, and vines native to the eastern and midwestern United States. Grasses, sedges, and rushes are also covered. Information on which natives are appropriate in shady, sunny, or wetland settings and how to grow them is given. It also includes some information on propagation. They both have beautiful color plates. Good books for the novice or amateur.

American Plants for American Gardens; Edith A. Roberts, Elsa Rehmann; 1996; University of Georgia Press; ISBN: 0-82031-8515.

This book was originally published as a magazine series in the 1920's. It makes a strong case for ecological considerations when creating a garden and its plant lists are arranged according to ecological association.

How to Grow Wildflowers and Wild Shrubs and Trees in Your Own Garden; Hal Bruce, Charles Elliott; 1998; The Lyons Press; ISBN: 0-82031-8515.

The title suggests that this is a book about plant propagation, but it is much more. It is a beautifully written book about learning to garden through the careful observation of native plant communities. Charles Elliot writes in the introduction, "A basic text for wild gardening in America, an inspiration to enthusiasts, and a particularly effective call to arms for those concerned about saving the natural treasurers of the American landscape." One note of caution; this book was written in 1976 before there was an understanding of the threat posed by non-native invasive species.

The author describes where to find and how to grow wild things, both for their beauty and for the good of the planet. He gives instruction on how to cultivate uncommon native plants and what to plant in resistant or unusual areas, such as aquatic gardens or sandy spots. There is an appendix of sources for wild plants and a chart of planting zones. It is filled with interesting and useful information on the plants it describes, but those looking for a pictorial, step-by-step, truly "how-to" manual should consult other reference books. It focuses on plants found in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. with particular reference to the Delmarva peninsula. The book describes the author's year-long, three-times-per-week, 90-mile commute through Delmarva and tells us about the flora and fauna he sees on these drives, and then goes into a description of their attributes, their relationship to the environment, and the history of their development and distribution. It then shares ideas about how these plant materials can be best used in a garden. Please note that the author is definitely not a purist, and reconciles the use of exotics, and store-bought plants, along side native species.

A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers: An Organic Guide to Choosing and Growing over 150 Beautiful Wildflowers; C. Colston Burrell; 1997; Rodale Press; 216 pgs.; ISBN: 0-87596-723X.

This book places native species in both natural and garden contexts. It also provides an adequate treatment of the basics of native garden care in some introductory chapters. It is not a comprehensive reference but instead provides very complete descriptions of a representative sampling of about 150 native plants. It also treats other related species in side bars and contrasts them with the fuller description. It includes a bibliography and a good glossary as well seed and plant sources throughout the country. It does not, however, give any advice on planting native seeds.

The Once and Future Forest: A Guide to Forest Restoration Strategies; Leslie Jones Sauer, Ian McHarg; 1998; Island Press; 350 pgs.; ISBN: 1559-635-533.

Landscape architect Sauer provides a manual on the processes and resources implicated in the restoration of metro-forests: water, ground, plants, and wildlife. It helps you see the big picture and think through the details, like handling storm water and invasive exotic species. The book includes lists of native species and invasive exotics in the Northeastern US.

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses; Michael A. Dirr; 1998 (5th edition); Stipes Publishing Co.; ISBN: 0-875-63795-7.

One of the most widely used reference manuals in the landscape/nursery trade. Covers information for native and non-native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines. Over 1100 pages, many entries with line drawings. Details about morphology, culture, disease/insect pests, landscape value, and propagation practices are covered for each entry. This book is primarily about horticultural varieties and cultivars but can be of help when planting and maintaining native species.

Roadside Use Of Native Plants; Bonnie L. Harper-Lore and Maggie Wilson; 2000; Island Press: Washington, DC; 665 pgs.; ISBN: 1-55963-837-0.

This book was first created by the Federal Highway Administration and is aimed at the highway administrator but it contains material useful to all native plant landscapers. It covers both basic topics like "Defining a Native Plant", and more complex issues such as "Using Plant Communities as Models", "Working with Succession", and "Choosing Non-Invasive Plant Materials".

Gardening With Native Plants of the South; Sally Wasowski, Andy Wasowski; 1994; Taylor Publ.; 196 pgs.; ISBN: 0-87833-8020.

This book has a strictly southern US orientation. Plant profiles are grouped by type and size and it describes native habitats as well as appropriate garden conditions. It gives plant data, and also describes plant uses by native wildlife from toads to birds to insects, including those used as larval food for butterflies.

Native Trees, Shrubs, And Vines For Urban And Rural America: A Planting Design Manual For Environmental Designers; Gary L. Hightshoe.; 1988; John Wiley & Sons: New York City; 819 pgs.; ISBN: 0-471-28879-9.

This book treats trees, shrubs and vines separately. The author first explores the questions to be asked when making a selection of appropriate plants within each category. He then provides an encyclopedia of native woody plants designed so the gardener can answer these questions. Each entry includes not only drawings of the plants leaves, twigs, fruits, etc. but also its characteristics and how they apply to the questions he raised about selection.

The Native Plant Primer; Carole Ottesen; 1995; Harmony Books: New York City; 354 pgs.; ISBN: 0-517-59215-0. Out of print, but available used.

An elaborately produced reference that is illustrated with some 500 color photos. Each region of the country is described in terms of its gardening characteristics; and recommended native perennials, annuals, grasses, ferns, water plants, vines, shrubs, and trees are listed. The idea is to use native plants and to exploit their tendency to flourish in their local habitats with less use of pesticides, fertilizers, and extra watering. The author recounts her coast-to-coast tour of native plant gardens and her meetings with gardening experts in each region. (There is a section specifically about gardening in the South East.) The bulk of the book comprises entries for individual plants, each with a color photo, with textual description that has a charming and chatty personal slant, and with information about cultivation.

The Wild Lawn Handbook: Alternatives To The Traditional Front Lawn; Stevie Daniels; 1997; IDG Books Worldwide; 256 pgs.; ISBN: 0-028-62004-6.

Native grasses, wildflowers, ground covers, and moss are the author's answer to "monotonous single-species turfgrass lawns." Her book is a primer for gardeners who want to reduce or stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserve water, or turn their yards into a collection of plants that attracts birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. There are detailed instructions on choosing a wild lawn and on installing and maintaining the lawn, and even a chapter on landscaping ordinances. Daniels divides the wild lawns into chapters on prairies and native grasses, meadows, moss lawns, woodlands, ground covers, and front-yard gardens.

100 Easy to Grow Native Plants; Lorraine Johnson; 1999; Firefly Books; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 1-552-09327-1.

This book is appropriate for the beginning native plant gardener. The common and botanical name, height, and blooming period of each plant is given, along with its soil, sun, shade, and moisture requirements. Other data includes each plant's native habitat and range (Northeast, prairies, or Northwest), description, propagation, good companions, and related species. Such familiar plants as bee balm, black-eyed Susan, Christmas fern, Jacob's ladder, purple coneflower, and Virginia bluebells are listed.

Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden; by Larry Mellichamp; 2014; Timber Press; ISBN: 1604693231

The Prairie Garden; J. Smith, and Beatrice Smith; 1980; University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, WI; 219 pgs.; ISBN: 0-299-08304-7.

An introduction to the propagation of prairie plant species. These are often the most suitable species for a sunny location. The book is written for people of the North-Central states but it has a good introductory section and many of the species covered are also native to Maryland.

The Wildlife Garden: Planning Backyard Habitats; Charlotte Seidenberg; 1995; University of Mississippi Press. Out of print.

Landscaping With Native Trees: The Northeast, Midwest, Midsouth & Southeast Edition; Guy Sternberg; 1995; Chapters Publishing. Out of print.

Nature's Design: A Practical Guide To Natural Landscaping; Carol A. Smyser; 1982; Rodale Press: Emmaus, PA; 390 pgs. ISBN: 0-87857-343-7. Out of print.

Wild Gardening: Strategies And Procedures Using Native Plantings; Richard L. Austin.; 1986; Simon & Schuster: New York; 96 pgs.; ISBN: 0-671-60241-1. Out of print.


The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada; William Cullina; 2000; Houghton Mifflin Co.; 322 pgs.; ISBN: 0-39596-6094.

Recommended - This book is useful for the gardener but it also has a very good section on propagation. There is an excellent introduction that covers most of the issues faced in propagation from seed. These include seed cleaning and storage, pre-treatment of seeds, choice of containers and propagation mix, sowing, and the care of seedlings. It also covers propagation by cutting and division. It then gives suggested strategies for hundreds of specific genus/species. While helpful this second section is not as thorough as the first with some species getting a much more in-depth treatment. It can, however, be trusted because it is based on the direct experience gained at the New England Wild Flower Society's "Garden in the Woods." The issue of hydrophilic germinators (seeds that need a warm moist period before a cold moist one) is explained better here than in any other source.

Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers; Harry R. Phillips; 1985; University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill; 325 pgs.; ISBN: 0-8078-4131-5.

Recommended - This book, based on the accumulated experience at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, covers general gardening topics and the cultivation of numerous species but it's focus is on seed and vegetative propagation. It gives a careful description of seed collection, seed cleaning and storage, pre-germination treatment, and seedling care for more than 150 species of plants appropriate to gardens. It has a section on carnivorous plants (such as the sundews and pitcher plants) as well as one on the propagation of ferns. It points out the alien origin of the few non-native plants that are discussed.

Woody Plant Seed Manual. 2008. USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook 727. 2008. [an update of Seeds of Woody Plants of the United States]

Recommended - This is essentially a revised edition of the USDA publication "Seeds of Woody Plants in the United States", USDA - Handbook 450. As with the original it contains practical advice for the forester and gardener but it has been expanded to cover over 385 genera. For each genus covered there is a brief discussion of its general growth habit, distribution and uses (by humans and, to a very limited extent, wildlife) followed by more detailed information on flowering and fruiting phenology, seed collection and storage methods, germination and field/nursery techniques for sowing. Most entries also include very good drawings of seeds and seedlings. There is a passable glossary and a large bibliography. One warning is that this book was written before the dangers of invasive exotics were generally accepted. It contains, for instance, careful instructions on propagating Multiflora rosa.

Collecting Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants; James A. Young, Cheryl G. Young; 1986; Timber Press; 236 pgs.; ISBN: 0-881920-576.

Even though the information given about propagation for each genus is much shorter this is not simply a dumbed down version of the book "Seeds of Woody Plants in North America" by the same authors. This book has chapters which provide a general introduction to the handling of seeds, which is something their other book lacks. Topics such as seed physiology, seed collection, cleaning, storage, and pre-planting treatment are discussed in depth starting from a layman's understanding. This book also includes many herbaceous species. Specific propagation instructions are generally given at the genus level and are basically a collection of untested, but footnoted, personal observations. The book has an overall agri-forestry slant but contains information useful for any propagator.

Seeds: Ecology, Biogeography, and Evolution of Dormancy and Germination; Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin; 1998; Academic Press; 666 pgs.; ISBN: 0-120802-600.

This is basically a textbook, suitable for ecologists, plant scientists, horticulturists, and foresters. It stands out from the other books on propagation because the Baskins handle seed germination from an ecological rather than a strictly horticultural perspective. Topics covered include types of dormancy, theories of the relationship between dormancy and germination, the timing of germination, the various factors that control germination, and the general aspects of germination in different sorts of habitats. There are tables listing the specifics of germination for hundreds of species. With a price of $100, most people will find this a useful library resource.

Seed Germination Theory and Practice; Norman Deno; self published: 139 Lenor Drive, State College, PA, 16801; 242 pgs.

An exhaustive report, in tabled format, of germination trials covering more than 2500 species. The introductory chapters are very informative on general issues in seed propagation. This book is appropriate for, and recommend for, the advanced propagator. Unfortunately, the book does not make a clear distinction between native and non-native species. You must buy this book, as well as the growing number of supplements, directly from the author at: Norman Deno; 139 Lenor Drive; State College, PA; 16801.

Seeds of woody plants of the United States - Agriculture Handbook 450; C. S. Schopmeyer (editor); 1974; U.S. Department of Agriculture: Washington, D.C.

This book addresses many details of propagating native woody plants from seed. It is a good resource but is generally unavailable. See the more readily alternative "Seeds of Woody Plants in North America" by Young & Young.

The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture: A Practical Working Guide to the Propagation of over 1100 Species; Michael A. Dirr, and Charles W. Heuser; 1987; Varsity Press Inc.; 1100 pgs.; ISBN: 0-942-37500-9.

One of the most widely used reference manuals in the landscape/nursery trade. It focuses on cultivars and non-native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines but can be helpful with natives as well. Over 1100 pages, many entries with line drawings. Details about morphology, culture, disease/insect pests, landscape value, propagation practices, and the habitat of native species are covered for each entry. This book includes horticultural varieties and cultivars.

Seeds of Woody Plants in North America; James A. Young, and Cheryl G. Young; 1992; Dioscorides Press: Portland, Oregon; 407 pgs.; ISBN: 0-931146-21-6.

Nonnative & Invasive Plants

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Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas; Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker; 2002; National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Washington, DC; 82 pgs.

Invasive Plants; Dr. Sylvan Ramsey Kaufman and Wallace Kaufman; 2007; Stackpole Books (, Mechanicsburg, PA; 464 pages.

This book is a full color field guide that identifies 175 alien species. The book describes each plant, the range, the impact in addition to recommendations to help control them.

Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests; James H. Miller; 2003; USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station: Asheville, NC; 93 pgs. Also called General Technical Report SRS-62.

This booklet, while oriented toward the Southern states, contains almost all of the species that are invasive in our area. There are lots of great pictures. This is available free of charge from the USDA. Information on how to order this can be found on their Website at, where there is also an on-line version available.

Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden; John M. Randall & Janet Marinelli, (editors); 1996; Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Brooklyn, N.Y; 111 pgs.; ISBN: 0-945352-956.

This book is already considered a classic in the field of non-native invasive plants. Unfortunately, its treatment of ecological impact is superficial.

Ecologist's Book on Introduced Species' Destructiveness; David Pimentel (editor); 2002; CRC Press LLC: Boca Raton, FL.

This book discusses the more than 120,000 non-indigenous species that have invaded six countries, causing tens of billions of dollars in harm each year in the United States alone. It makes compelling reading. The editor-author and his 44 contributing scientist-writers are careful to note that not all introduced species have entirely deleterious effects in their new homes, and many are depended on for human sustenance. Some 98 percent of the U.S. food supply comes from introduced species, such as corn, wheat, rice and other crops, as well as cattle, poultry and other livestock.

Alien Species in North America and Hawaii: Impacts on Natural Ecosystems; George W. Cox; 1999; Island Press: Washington, DC; 387 pgs.; ISBN: 1-55963-680-7.

This book describes the process whereby exotic species have become dispersed and makes a persuasive argument that a strong exotic species management program is essential for sustainability of natural systems. There is a chapter on Eastern forests. Anyone who manages large units of land, or is simply interested in this topic, will find this book interesting and useful.

Other Useful Books

Dictionary of Plant Names: Botanical Names and Their Common Name Equivalents; Allen Coombes; 1997; Timber Press, Portland, OR; 195 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0881922943.

Thousands of words commonly found in the binomial names of plants are defined. The book makes for fascinating reading.  Knowing what the words mean can often help you remember them.

A Sand County Almanac; Aldo Leopold; 1991; Ballantine Books; ISBN: 978-0345345059 .

First published in 1949, shortly after the author's death, A Sand County Almanac is a classic. It is one of the most influential books about nature ever published. Leopold's view was that it is a human duty to preserve as much wild land as possible as a kind of bank for the biological future of all species.

Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America; E. Lucy Braun; 1950; The Free Press, New York, and Collier Macmillan Publishers, London; Reprinted 2001 by The Blackburn Press; 596 pgs.; ISBN:  978-1930665309.   Online at:;view=1up;seq=9

In this classic and pioneering work, eminent botanist and plant ecologist E. Lucy Braun divides the eastern deciduous forests into nine major regions, and presents detailed information, including her own survey data recorded during intensive field work with her sister, an entomologist. This book is E. Lucy Braun’s best known work. (Note:  During their explorations, E. Lucy Braun apparently encountered the Travilah Serpentine Barrens, in Montgomery County, Maryland.)

Raven Biology of Plants; Ray F. Evert and Susan E. Eichhorn; 2012; Eighth edition; W. H. Freeman;  880 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1429219617. 

This is a classic textbook in botany, the go-to resource for good, readable coverage of all aspects of the subject.

Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); Steven Foster and James A. Duke; 2014; Third edition; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 432 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0547943985.

This book cannot be used as a general identification guide since its key is a confusing combination of flower type, habitat, and overall growth habit. The book is only useful for identifying plants when they are in bloom, as there are no adequate photos of the leaves or of the plants at non-blooming times.  The book can, however, be used for final identification in combination with an ID book.  It describes in a general way the medical uses of specific species by human groups such as Native American and early settlers but is not explicit regarding exactly how the plant was used.

Plants, People, and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany (Scientific American Library); Michael J. Balick and Paul Alan Cox; 1996; W H Freeman & Co; 228 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0716750611 .

Ethnobotanists Cox and Balick share two decades of experience living with the indigenous peoples of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, conducting fieldwork in the study of how people use plants. The result is a story of human culture in relationship to the plants traditionally used for medicinal, recreational, and ornamental purposes. These ethnobotanists argue that human cultural origins are inter-woven with plants. They examine everything from the prehistoric use and gathering of plants by hunter-gatherers to modern times.

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants; Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); Lee Allen Peterson; 1999; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 352 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395926222.

More than 370 edible wild plants, plus 37 poisonous look-alikes, are described here, with 400 drawings and 78 color photographs showing how to recognize each species. Also included are habitat descriptions, lists of plants by season, and preparation instructions for 22 different food uses.

The Lives of North American Birds (Peterson Natural History Companions); Kenn Kaufman; 1996; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 704 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395770177.

This book includes information on what each North American bird species eats, where it nests, and what nesting materials it uses.  For many bird species, plants are an integral part of the life cycle.  A useful book if you wish to learn more about the inter-relationships between birds and plants.

Where to Buy Books

Some of the more recent and popular books can be purchased at a mega-bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or at These books plus the less common or more specialized ones are often available locally in the Washington, DC / Baltimore area at these stores:

Adkins Arboretum

12610 Eveland Road
Ridgely, Maryland 21660

The library at Adkins Arboretum contains some of the out-of-print and hard-to-find books listed here.

Audubon Naturalist Society

8940 Jones Mill Road
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815
Naturalist Store

Their book store has a large selection of natural history books and field guides. They try to always have both of the Brown & Brown identification volumes available.

Maryland Book Exchange

4500 College Avenue
College Park, MD 20740

They have many of the books on this list; plus it is also a source for used books.

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