Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Spotted Joe-pye Weed with bee
Spotted Joe-pye Weed

Native & Beneficial Plants

Native plants support pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, but they also create a foundation for the entire local food chain. Many insects eat only native plants as larvae, and most birds rely on insects for part of their life. Even backyard seed-eating birds like chickadees and finches raise their young almost exclusively on caterpillars.

Because backyards and lawn grass occupy over 40 million acres of the US, homeowners have the collective power to conserve biodiversity with their landscaping choices. Replacing lawns with native plants and avoiding yard chemicals are important ways to strengthen local ecosystems, one backyard at a time.

There are hundreds of native and beneficial plants found in Massachusetts; incorporate this starting list to support your outdoor space. 

Wildlife & Pollinator-Friendly Plants

Floral Plants Native to New England

  • Yellow plant, the goldenrod
  • Pink drooping flower
    Columbine © Deborah Kellogg
  • Spotted Joe-pye Weed with bee
    Spotted Joe-pye Weed
  • Native aster species being visited by a native bee at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary
  • bee approaching purple flower
    Wild Bergamot
Floral Plants Native to New England
American spikenard Aralia racemosaAromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolius
Barren strawberry Geum fragarioides Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Bird’s Foot Viola pedata (and other Violets)Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum
Butterfly Weed Ascelpias tuberosaCalico Aster Symphyotrichum lateriflorum
Canada anemone Anemone canadensisCardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Clustered Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum muticumCommon Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Coral bells Heuchera americana*Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum
Cut-leaf Coneflower Rudbeckia laciniataDwarf honeysuckle/Bush honeysuckle Diervilla lonicera
Foamflower Tiarella cordifoliaGoat’s Beard Aruncus dioicus
Golden alexanders Zizia aureaGolden groundsel Packera aurea
Goldenrods Solidago spp.Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Hoary Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum incanumJoe Pye Weed Eupatorium maculatum
Lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifoliumNarrow-leaved Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
New England Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliaeNew Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus
New York Ironweed Vernonia novebracensisNorthern Blazing Star Liatris scariosa
Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana* (can spread aggresively)Ohio spiderwort Tradescantia ohioensis
Pale-leaved Sunflower Helianthus strumosusRue Anemone Thalictrum thalictroides
Smooth Aster Symphyotrichum laeveSmooth beardtongue Penstemon digitalis
Sneezeweed/Helen's Flower Helenium autumnaleSpotted Beebalm Monarda punctata
Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnataTrumpet honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Turtlehead Chelone glabraVirginia Rose Rosa virginiana
White Woodland Aster Eurybia divaricata Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensisWild Geranium Geranium maculatum
Wild Indigo Baptisia tinctoriaWoodland Sunflower Helianthus divaricatus
Wild strawberry Fragaria virginiana 

*native to Northeast but non-native to Massachusetts

Grasses Native to New England

  • Close up of little bluestem grass
    Little Bluestem
  • Grasses in field
    Sideoats Grama © Patrick J. Alexander, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
  • bunches of grass growing outdoors
    Prairie Dropseed © J.S. Peterson hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
Grasses Native to New England
Little bluestem Schizachyrium scopariumPennsylvania Sedge Carex pensylvanica
Prairie dropseed Sporobolus heterolepisSideoats Grama Bouteloua curtipendula
Switchgrass Panicum virgatumTufted Hairgrass Deschampsia cespitosa
Wavy Hairgrass Deschampsia flexuosa 

Shrubs & Small Trees Native to New England

  • close up of plant with white puffy flowers
    Buttonbush © Remy Secora Pearl
  • Green leaves with white flowers
    Mapleleaf Viburnum
  • Close up of winterberry leaves
    Winterberry Holly
Shrubs & Small Trees Native to New England
American HazelnutButtonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis
Chokeberries Aronia spp.Dogwoods (Gray, Silky, Red-twig, Pagoda, Flowering)
SpicebushSwamp Azalea Rhododendron viscosum
Sweet Pepperbush Clethra alnifoliaViburnums (several native options)
Winterberry Holly Ilex verticillata 

Plants Fruit-Eating Birds Love

  • deep purple pokeweed berries
    Pokeweed © Heidi Besen
  • Red plant with black background
    Virginia Creeper © Joan Lacey
  • holly plant with berries, snow, and ice drops
Plants Fruit-Eating Birds Love
American Holly (winter)Black Cherry (late summer)  
Black TupeloCrabapples (e.g. Malus x Zumi) fruits in winter, flowers attract spring migrants
Dogwoods (4 native species)Mulberry (summer)
Pokeweed (late summer/fall) Viburnums (summer; 3-4 native species)
Virginia Creeper (late summer/fall) Winterberry & Inkberry hollies (winter)

Plants Seed-Eating Birds Love

  • Close up of two plant buds on stick
    American Hazelnut
  • Pine cone hanging from evergreen branch
    Pitch Pine © Jerry Gladstone
  • Purple aster flowers with a brown and yellow center.
    Asters © Kristina England
Plants Seed-Eating Birds Love
Oak, Beech, American HazelnutAsters & Goldenrods 
Evening primrose Native grasses (various)

Plants Hummingbirds Love

  • Red flowers with thin petals
  • Hummingbird drinking from red flower
    Cardinal Flower © Diane Lomba
  • Drooping pink flowers
    Wild Columbine © Ann Marie Lally
Plants Hummingbirds Love
Beebalms, Monarda didyma (and other Monarda spp.)Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Giant Hyssop, Agastache foeniculumTrumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempirvirens
Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis 

Important Butterfly Larval Host Plants

  • American Lady butterfly on milkweed
    American Lady on Milkweed
  • pink flowers on stems
  • Yarrow growing near a stream at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Important Butterfly Larval Host Plants
ElmGrasses especially Little Bluestem
Milkweeds (4 species)Oak 
Parsley family (Parsley, Carrots, Yarrow, Dill, etc.)Sassafras