URI launches online Native Plant Guide to help Rhode Islanders select the right plant for their landscape

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 11, 2014 – Autumn is an excellent time for planting, and the Outreach Center at the University of Rhode Island has a new resource for Rhode Islanders to use in selecting the most appropriate plants for their landscapes. The Rhode Island Native Plant Guide is an easy-to-use online tool for homeowners, landscapers, nursery growers and others.

The guide can be found at Native Plant Guide.

“People understand the concept of using native plants, but until now there was never an easy way to see a list of species indigenous to the state and where to purchase them,” said Vanessa Venturini, the Outreach Center extension educator who coordinated the three-year project.

According to Venturini, more than 1,200 plants are native to Rhode Island. A team of botanists, horticulture professionals, and URI faculty pared the list down to 400 plants for inclusion in the guide. Users can search the guide by plant type, name, sun/shade tolerance and soil conditions. Plants are also identified as to their value to wildlife and their food or medicinal value to humans.

“Native plants provide the foundation for the local food web,” explained Venturini. “Many insects can only survive by eating or sheltering in one plant, and since insects are vital to the food web, we are supporting the whole ecosystem by incorporating native plants in our yards.

“Native plants also help to mitigate the negative impacts of human development by helping to create pockets of habitat in our own backyard to connect fragmented habitat,” she added.

In addition to providing a photograph and preferred growing conditions for each plant, the guide also indicates where the plant can be purchased. Local garden centers can routinely update the availability of plants at their stores, and they may use the guide to determine which species they should carry.

“Our goal was to create a link between growers and designers and restoration practitioners who were searching for species native to Rhode Island,” said Hope Leeson, a botanist for the Rhode Island Natural History Survey who contributed to the guide.

The Rhode Island Native Plant Guide was created by staff and students of the URI Outreach Center and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Those with questions, suggestions or comments about the guide can email outreach@uri.edu.

Photo courtesy of URI Outreach Center