How to Identify Pacific Native Plants


Identifying Pacific native plants requires a number of strategies. Although they share a USDA hardiness zone (generally 8), an Olympic Penninsula, Wash. gardener and a Los Angeles, Calif. landscaper would reject each other's native plant lists as unsuitable and, in some cases, exotic. Parts of the Pacific Coast extends into British Columbia and the State of Alaska, adding the hardiness zones 1-7 to growing conditions. Identifying native plants means locating plants specific to your weather and soil conditions. Fortunately, abundant resources make identification easy.

Step 1

Complete categories on the Characteristics search page of the USDA Plant Data Base to identify a plant you own or have seen. Characteristics include plant seed type, life-span, mature form (shrub, tree, for example), growing conditions and information about native status. You can also search the data base for new native planting ideas.

Step 2

Locate and call your local or regional native plant society. Activities of native plant societies include meetings, garden creation or garden tours, native plant sales and nursery information, classes and plant identification assistance. The more local your native plant organization, the more likely you are to obtain information about plants that will succeed in your own garden, park or other planting area.

Step 3

Contact government resources to learn more about native plants. Your parks department, county extension service, or state environmental agency will have information on native plants and plant resources. They can also provide contacts to other government agencies and departments that can help identify existing or potentially suitable plants for your local area. While USDA county extension services exist in nearly every county across the US, counties and states may organize native plant information under a variety of agencies: parks, environment, water and even highway departments.

Tips and Warnings

  • When handling unfamiliar plants, use gloves or wash hands thoroughly after contact to protect your skin.


  • Michigan Botanical Club, "Native Plant Societies" links
  • Plant Native, "Native Plant Nurseries" directory sample
  • King County WA Government, "Native Plant Resources"

Who Can Help

  • USDA Plant Data Base, "Characteristics" search page
Keywords: plant identification characteristics, native plant information resources, how to identify Pacific native plants

About this Author

Janet Beal holds a Harvard B.A. in English and a College of New Rochelle M.S in early childhood education. She has worked as a college textbook editor, HUD employee, caterer, and teacher. She is pleased to be part of Demand Studios' exciting community of writers and readers.