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Native Plants in the Western United States

Interesting native plants abound in the western United States. They provide direct forage for wildlife, populate high-elevation forests and give life to the desert. Western gardeners find native plants easy to grow in their natural habitat. Incorporate native plants into your landscaping designs; they're more likely to thrive than imported plant varieties. Native plants also attract birds and butterflies to the garden, adding another element of pleasure.

Twinberry Honeysuckle

Twinberry honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata) is a native plant from Quebec westward to the Canadian Pacific shores and south through California, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. It is an attractive shrub that grows from 3 to 8 feet tall. Flowers are yellow tinged with red, and they produce round black berries in the fall. The berries are toxic and should not be eaten. Native Americans used twinberry to make black pigment. They also used it medicinally to aid in lactation, and as an infusion for chest and stomach problems. Birds and wildlife are attracted to the berries, and the plant is natural forage for native animal species.

Rubber Rabbitbrush

The chewy sap of rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) was used by Native Americans as a source of chewing gum. The stems and leaves are “wooly,” the flowers are yellow and the twigs have an unpleasant odor. Teas made from the leaves and flowers of the plants were taken medicinally by Shoshone for colds, coughs and for stomach ailments. Rubber rabbitbrush is native in the western third of the United States, except along the Pacific Coast. It grows in valleys, dry open plains, mountains and sagebrush areas.

Quaking Aspen

Quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) are well known for their beautiful golden autumn foliage in the higher elevations in the western United States. They are popular for home landscaping in Colorado, even though they are short-lived. Aspens grow very quickly to produce a mature tree in only a few years. They multiply by seeds and by suckers, and can fill an open yard with a grove if left uncontrolled. Aspens may live for only 20 years. They can be managed by allowing new trees to grow up under the mature trees, and then removing the old ones as necessary to keep a vigorous stand of aspens growing. This method permits the natural life cycle of aspens to enhance their use in native landscaping.

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