More than 3 million lakes and ponds throughout Alaska provide plenty of shorelines for native flora. Cold soil and extreme temperature ranges challenge gardeners in the Last Frontier, but with native plants and flowers that thrive in moist conditions and don't mind Alaska's weather, the Alaskan backyard pond can be surrounded by a thriving habitat.
Burreed (Sparganium spp.) is a wetland plant that likes shallow water (less than 3 feet deep) near ponds, marshes, lakes and rivers. It grows to about 12 inches tall, with long, thin, bladelike leaves. In mid- to late summer, the plant produces greenish-yellow prickly "balls" with white stigma.
Broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia), also called bulrush or cat o' nine tail, is native to Alaska and most of North America. It prefers wet or moist areas on the edge of ponds and lakes. The plant produces thick, dark-brown flower spikes on strong, 6-foot-long stems surrounded by long medium-green leaves. All parts of the plant are edible, and have been used by native Americans not only for food but baskets and matting.
Alaska willow (Salix alaxensis), also called feltleaf willow, is a deciduous shrub that grows 20 to 30 feet tall. It has smooth, gray bark and and 2- to 4-inch-long catkins that appear in the spring before the leaves. The Alaska willow needs full sun and moist soil, and it prefers an open habitat. It can quickly form large thickets.
Blue flag (Iris versicolor) is also known as the wild iris, water iris and dagger flower. It thrives in constantly moist or wet soil and can tolerate standing, even brackish, water up to 6 inches deep. The blue flag needs full sun but very little attention. Its long, narrow, swordlike leaves can grow to 3 feet tall. Each spring the blue flag produces light- to deep-blue flowers, two or three to a stem. It is the only iris native to Alaska, and its fibrous roots and large colonies give excellent shoreline protection for ponds, lakes and marshes.