Database of 1,600 species includes sources for commercially available live plants and seeds
As the movement to reduce water-guzzling manicured lawns and nurture more sustainable, native landscaping has gained momentum around the country, a Virginia agency now offers a better way to help you find the right plant for the right place.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the authoritative source on the state’s native species, encourages individual home gardeners and large land developers alike to use its improved Virginia Native Plant Finder to search for the most appropriate species for a specific location. Visit https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/native-plants-finder.
The free online tool can be used for projects of any scale, from backyard gardens to large solar sites, and park management to landscape architectural design.
Choosing native plants is a critical part of designing a high-quality habitat for pollinators, birds and other wildlife.
“Plant species native to our state are well-adapted to the habitat conditions and climate, so they often require less maintenance than non-native species,” said Kevin Heffernan, stewardship biologist for the Virginia Natural Heritage Program at DCR. “They provide essential food sources for native pollinator species and birds that non-native species lack. Thus, in addition to adding beauty to our landscapes, they increase ecological vitality.”
While some nurseries and garden centers may identify plants as being native to the continent of North America, this webpage focuses on species considered native to the physiographic regions within the state of Virginia (Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plain) and even drills down to the locality level.
For instance, a user who is seeking types of grasses – no taller than 3 feet, for a sunny and dry habitat – could plug in those characteristics and enter the specific locality for a list of recommendations.
Of the nearly 1,600 species in the database, many are commercially available as live plants or seeds. With each species, if it is commercially available, links to vendors who list it in their catalog are provided.
The finder is built using data collected by Natural Heritage scientists, who are responsible for identifying and conserving Virginia’s plants, animals and natural communities. The finder does not include any rare species, or any non-native plants that have been introduced to Virginia. The finder was first created in 2014. In 2018, a separate Solar Site Native Plant Finder for large-scale projects was developed. The newest version combines both into one.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Virginia Native Plant Society and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality contributed to the development of the tool.