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Invasive Plants and Their Native Alternatives: Cranberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus)

Native to the mountains of southwestern China, this deciduous shrub grows 2-3’ tall with a spread of 3-6’. Its arching reddish branches grow in a herringbone pattern and carry ¾” long rounded dark green glossy leaves that that a pointed tip and turn red to purple in autumn. Clusters of small pink flowers attractive to bees appear in early summer and give way to small showy red fruits attractive to birds. Plants are tolerant of dryness, salt-spray, and alkaline soil, and are especially useful as a ground cover or for erosion control on a slope but are considered invasive in the Great Lakes states, California, and Pacific Northwest. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-7

Vinehill Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora)
Endemic to chaparral on sandy shale soils of Sonoma County in central California, vinehill manzanita is a very rare evergreen shrub growing less than 3’ tall with shiny green leaves and pendulous clusters of pink urn-shaped flowers in spring. USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9

Pinemat Manzanita (Arctostapylos nevadensis)
A mounding evergreen shrub, pinemat Manzanita grows 1-2’ tall and has small elliptical leaves, waxy pale pink bell-shaped pendent flowers in spring, and large reddish-brown berries that may persist into winter. It is native to open montaine woods and rocky slopes from British Columbia, south to Nevada and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Known for its use in seaside conditions, bearberry is a spraing to mounding evergreen shrub2-6” tall and 1-6’ wide. It has small elliptical evergreen leaves, terminal clusters of waxy ,bell-shaped ,white to pale pink flowers in spring, and large red berries that persist into winter. Native to dunes, outcroppings, lakeshores, and open woods from Labrador and British Columbia, south to Virginia, New Mexico, and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 2-8

Wild Lilacs (Ceanothus spp.)
Wild lilacs re endemic to North America where they are occur on dry, sunny hillsides from coastal scrub lands to open forest clarings and are common throughout the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia south through Colorado, the Cascades of Oregon and California, and the Coastal Ranges of California. They are usually evergreen, have large attractive clusters of tiny flowers in many colors, often with fragrance, and are an important food source for mule deer on the West Coast. USDA Hardiness Zones varies by species.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)
Also called Christmas berry, this evergreen shrub or small tree grows 7-35’ tall and 10-25’ wide. It has leathery leaves edged with sharp teeth, terminal clusters of small lacey white flowers in early summer and bright orange red fruit that persists into winter. Native to chaparral and rocky canyon slopes from California to Baja. USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10

Sweet Gale (Myrica gale)
Sweet gale, also called bog myrtle, is a dense, round, deciduous shrub growing up to 36” tall whorls of aromatic foliage that creates excellent cover for native birds. The plant thrives in wet areas, tolerates brackish conditions, and fixes nitrogen in the soil. It is native to marshlands, bogs, and wet sites bordering small lakes, ponds and streams from Nova Scotia to Alaska, south and west to New Jersey and the Great Lakes regions, west t Oregon. USDA Hardiness Zones 2-6

Redberry (Rhamnus crocea)
Redberry is a dense evergreen shrub growing 4-6’ tall and having tiny glossy bright green leaves, small whitish green flowers in spring, and bright red peas-sized berries in summer that are attractive to birds. It serves as a larval food source for pale tiger swallowtail butterlies and western tussock moth caterpillars. Native to dry washes and canyons in coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and various woodlands in Arizona and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11

Buffaloberry (Shepherdia spp.)
Buffaloberries are nitrogen-fixing deciduous shrubs bearing edible rough-coated red berries with white dots on them. The fruits are eaten by bears and the plants are used as food by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species. Two good examples are:

Silver Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea)
Silver buffaloberry is a thicket-forming thorny deciduous shrub known for its shimmering silver leaves and bright red berries of female plants. Plants grow 12-18’ tall and are an import source of food and shelter for wildlife from birds to deer. It is native to prairies, dry plains, slopes, and rocky shores from Minnesota and Saskatchewan to British Columbia, south to Iowa and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7

Russet Buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis )
Growing up to 8’ tall, russet buffaloberry is a deciduous shrub having white bark with orange dots, red berries, and thick, leathery, gray-green to russet green leaves. It is native to moist slopes, wooded, rocky hillsides, and conifer openings from Alaska to Newfoundland, southwest across Maine to western New York and northern Ohio, west to the Black Hill of South Dakota, south down the Rocky Mountains to Arizona and New Mexico, and on the eastside of the Cascade. USDA Hardiness Zones 2-6

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
This rounded deciduous shrub grows 3-6’ tall and has dull green levaes up to 2” long, clusters of tiny bell-shaped pink flowers in summer, and round berries ½” across that are white in late summer and persist because birds do not like them. Native to dry rocky wooded slopes, banks, and forests from Nova Scotia to British Columbia south to Oregon, New Mexico, Illinois and Virginia. The variety laevigatus, shrub snowberry, grows up to 6.6’ tall, has slightly larger fruit and is native to British Columbia south to Arizona and California. USDA Hardiness Zones 3-7

Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus)
This mounding deciduous suckering shrub grows 1-3’ tall and forms thickets 3-6’ wide. It has small greenish-white to pink flowers followed by coral-red fruit that persist into winter and are attractive to birds. Native to open woods, floodplains ,and rocky slopes from New Jersey to South Dakota, south to Georgia and Texas. USDA Hardiness Zones 2-8

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)
Outstanding selections include:
Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbsum)
A parent of commercial blueberry plants, this deciduous shrub grows 4-10’ tall and has clusters of nodding white spring flowers, glue edible berries, and brilliant red to burgundy autumn color. It is native moist acids soils in swamps, clearings, low woods, and outcroppings from ova Scotia to Michigan, south to Florida and Texas. USDA Zones 3-8

Creeping Blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium)
Growing 2-6” tall and 1’4’ wide, creeping blueberry is an evergreen shrub with glossy oval leaves that turn bronze in winter, terminal pendulant clusters of urn-shaped,white to red-stained flowers in spring, and relatively large blue-black berries. It is native to woods, pinebarrens, thickets and disturbed areas like roadsides in the southeastern Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to Georgia. USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9

Elliot’s Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii)
This low spreading shrub is 12” tall and has pointed oval leaves turning scarlet if fall, nodding waxy, bell-shaped flowers in spring, and blue-black berries. Native in diverse habitats from swamps to dry uplands on the southeastern Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia, south to Florida, west to Texas and Arkansas. USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9