This bibliography contains books that will be useful to people who are interested in native plants. It is divided by topic and many of the entries are annotated to help you in finding the books that meet your own personal needs. Some sections contain a few books that are recommended because they are either generally respected or very widely used. An attempt has been made to cast the net widely so some of the books listed are out of print. These can usually be found in your local library, at used-book stores, or online.

This list, and the annotations, are the result of suggestions made by MNPS members. The list is open to change and updating. If you know of a book you think should be included, or you would like to add your comments to an annotation, please e-mail the information to info @ for consideration.

Plant Identification, by category of plant

Higher Plants

(Includes Angiosperms, Gymnosperms, Ferns and Fern Allies)

Woody Plants

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region; Elbert L. Little; 1980; Knopf, New York City; 714 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0394507606.   

Recommended - A good book for the beginning student. This book is organized by leaf type and has a fairly easy-to-use key that will lead you to the basic kind of tree (oak, birch, etc). The descriptions will then generally let you make a species-level identification. It has very good color pictures of leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit and it has interesting historical/cultural comments on many species. This book points out plants that are alien introductions.

Woody Plants of Maryland; Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown ; 1972; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD; 347 pgs.; ISBN: B001LIPH26. 

Highly Recommended - This is the definitive source for identification of woody plants in Maryland. It is not simple to use but the key will get you to an identification. Too large to carry conveniently in the field.

A Field Guide to Eastern Trees:  Eastern United States and Canada, Including the Midwest (Peterson Field Guides); George A. Petrides; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston; 448 pgs.; ISBN: 978-039546732.  

This softcover guide has an effective and easy-to-use key, useful for the beginning student.  The book covers trees only--no shrubs or other small woody plants.

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada (Peterson Field Guides); George A. Petrides; Second edition, 2008; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 464 pgs.; ISBN: 9780395353707. 

This softcover guide has the advantage of including shrubs and woody vines as well as trees.  There are accounts of 646 species, with details on shape and arrangement of leaves, height, color, bark texture, flowering season, and fruit. Drawings of leaves, flowers, buds, tree silhouettes, and other characteristics.

Trees of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada; William M. Harlow; 1957; Dover Publications, New York; 320 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0486203959.  

Although centered on New York State, this book has a very thorough key that usually gets you to the right place. It is organized by family, so once you're familiar with the basic groups of trees (oak, birch, etc.) you can easily locate the species. Unlike most other field guides, it is very readable, with interesting and entertaining information, including historical background on uses of the trees. Good photos of leaf, bark, flowers, and fruit. It includes some shrubs and small trees. Some southern species that are found in Maryland are missing.  Very inexpensive and compact enough to fit easily in a pocket.

Fall Color and Woodland Harvests: A Guide to the More Colorful Fall Leaves and Fruits of the Eastern Forests; C. Ritchie Bell and Anne H. Lindsey; New edition, 2007; University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC; 184 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0960868810. 

A paperback that can fit in a large pocket. It has a key appropriate to the autumn. The trees included are almost all found in Maryland.  If you learn them, you'll know most of our native tree species. Superb photographs aid in identification year round because it's easy mentally to substitute green for the fall color.

Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast; Leonard Foote and Samuel Jones; 2005; Timber Press, Portland, OR; 255 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0881924169. 

This identification guide presents plant descriptions for 550 species and 79 plant families, with keys and photographs.  (Note:  For more information on vines, see resources listed for MNPS' Year of the Vines, 2015; link on main webpage,

Trees of Eastern North America (Princeton Field Guide); Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle,  and Richard Spellenberg; 2014; Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford; 720 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0-691-14591-4.  

Comprehensive, with illustrated leaf and twig keys.  Softcover, but too large to carry conveniently in the field, like a number of the other recent plant field guides.  This is a well illustrated, useful reference book.

Field Guide to Trees of North America (National Wildlife Federation); Bruce Kershner et al.; 2008; Sterling Publishing Co., New York; 528 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1402738753. 

Comprehensive guide, with many color illustrations and useful keys.  A good value for the money.  Softcover but too thick to carry conveniently in the field.  A good reference book.

The Sibley Guide to Trees; David Allen Sibley; 2009; Knopf, New York; 426 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0375415197. 

Beautifully illustrated with color paintings by the author, and full of good information, though it lacks a dichotomous key.  Too large to carry conveniently in the field.

Trees of Pennsylvania: A Complete Reference Guide; Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy A. Block; 2004;  University of Pennsylvania Press; 416 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0-8122-3785-6. 

This book covers all 195 of Pennsylvania’s trees, native and naturalized.  Many of the same species occur in Maryland.

Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America;  John Stein, Denise Binion, and Robert Acciavatti; 2003; USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team; 172 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1470112363.  Out of print.  8.4 M pdf:  

This spiral-bound book is well illustrated, with easy-to-view range maps and well-done drawings and photos of plant parts.  It is a shame that the book is out of print, but fortunately an online version is available.  (Note: For more information on oaks, see the resources listed for MNPS' Year of the Oak, 2012, accessed via main web page,

Silvics of North America. 1990. Vol. 1: Conifers; Vol. 2: Hardwoods. USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook 654. [Supersedes Silvics of Forest Trees of the U.S.]

This is not an identification guide, but is a useful reference aimed at the forester or professional tree grower.  It provides detailed information on each species' habitat, range, climate, soils and topography, associated forest cover, life history, and growth.

Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast; Michael Wojtech; 2011; UPNE (University Press of New England); 280 pgs; ISBN: 978-1584658528. 

This book includes a section on how bark is formed and a discussion of possible advantages of different kinds of bark. Has detailed keys and descriptions, and excellent photos. 

Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees and Shrubs; William M. Harlow; 1959;  Dover Publications, Inc., New York; 126 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0486205113.

This older but still very useful publication has two keys: The fruit key is for northeastern trees and the twig key for deciduous woody plants of eastern North America.  Illustrated with photographs, which are very helpful. This is the only guide of its sort, and very useful to carry in winter.  Too large for a regular pocket, but slender and lightweight, so will fit easily in a large pocket or a backpack.

Master Tree Finder: A Manual for the Identification of Trees by Their Leaves; May Theilgaard Watts; 1963; Nature Study Guild Publishers; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550015.

This small, pocket-size guide (one of the "Finders" series) consists of an elementary, dichotomous key that leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified.  The book can be useful, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple illustrations and range maps. 

Winter Tree Finder:  A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter; May Theilgaard Watts and Tom Watts;1970; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 58 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550039.

This small, pocket-size guide (in the "Finders" series) consists of a an elementary, dichotomous key, which leads step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified.  The book is useful  in winter, although the number of species covered is limited. Includes simple drawings and range maps.

Berry Finder: A Guide to Native Plants with Fleshy Fruits for Eastern North America; Dorcas S. Miller; 1986; Second Edition 2015; Wilderness Press; 64 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550312.

This small, pocket-sized book (in the "Finders" series) will help you identify plants having fleshy fruit 1 inch or less in diameter.  The book calls all fleshy fruits "berries," whether they are drupes, pomes, accessory fruits, aggregates, or true berries.  Both woody and herbaceous plants are included.  As with the other books in the "Finders" series, the number of species covered is limited.  In addition to native species, the book includes some escaped, cultivated species.  Has line drawings, no range maps.

Common Native Trees of Virginia: Tree Identification Guide; Virginia Department of Forestry; 2007; 128 pgs.

Available inexpensively from the Virginia Department of Forestry:  You can also download it for free from that site.  The number of species included in the book is limited.  The descriptions are non-technical, and there are images of leaves, twigs, flowers and/or fruit.

Illustrated Guide to Trees and Shrubs: A Handbook of the Woody Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent regions; Arthur Harmount Graves; Revised edition, 1956; Harper & Row, Publishers, New York and other cities; Revised edition, Dover Publications, 2011; 288 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0486272580. 

Although an older guide, this book is quite useful, especially as a back-up to other woody-plant reference guides.  It has both summer and winter keys, and is nicely illustrated with line drawings that include buds and leaf scars for some species.  Hardcover and too large to fit in a regular-size pocket, although light enough in weight to be carried easily in a large pocket or a backpack.

The Tree Identification Book: A New Method for the Practical Identification and Recognition of Trees; George W. D Symonds; 1958; reissued 1973; William Morrow & Co., New York; 272 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0688050399.

This older, large-format book is not for carrying in the field, but its large photographic illustrations can be very helpful in identifying tree species.  The book is in two parts: Pictorial Keys to thorns, leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, and bark; and Master Pages. The Keys help you compare structural details that look alike, helping narrow identification to one of a small group--the family or genus.  In the Master Pages, details from the pictorial keys are placed together to highlight differences within the family group, thus helping you eliminate possibilities within that group. This book is a companion volume to the following book:

The Shrub Identification Book: The Visual Method for the Practical Identification of Shrubs, including Woody Vines and Ground Covers; George W. D Symonds; 1963; reissued 1973; William Morrow & Co., New York; 379 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0688050405.

This older, large-format book is not for carrying in the field, but its large, photographic illustrations can be very helpful in identifying shrubs, woody vines, and ground covers.  The book is in two parts: Pictorial Keys to thorns, leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, and bark; and Master Pages. The Pictorial Keys help you compare structural details that look alike, helping narrow identification to one of a small group--the family or genus.  In the Master Pages, details from the pictorial keys are placed together to highlight differences within the family group, thus helping you eliminate possibilities within that group.  A companion volume to the preceding book.

Herbaceous Plants

General Guides:

Newcomb's Wildflower Guide; Lawrence Newcomb; 1989; Little Brown & Co.; 490 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0316604420.

Highly Recommended - Probably the best book for carrying around on a day hike when the larger books will weigh you down. Very good for general use, and even includes some woody species. It has an easy-to-use key that is good for many common, and some not-so-common, species. You will always find the Genus but an exact species identification can in some cases be difficult. This book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species. The paperback version is tough enough to last for many years.

A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Margaret McKenny and Roger Tory Peterson; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 448 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395911723.

Highly Recommended - A good book for the beginning student. Some people find the key this book uses for identification to be counter-intuitive. The book makes a clear distinction between native and alien species.

Herbaceous Plants of Maryland; Melvin L. Brown and Russell G. Brown; 1984; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD; 1127 pgs.;  ISBN: 0-3956-2881-4

Highly Recommended - This is the definitive source for identification of herbaceous plants in Maryland. It is not simple to use but the key will get you to a definite identification.  It is a thick, hard-cover volume, too large to carry conveniently in the field. The book includes the flowering vascular plants plus ferns, grasses, sedges, and rushes, but excludes woody plants and mosses.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers--E: Eastern Region; Revised 2001 by John W. Thieret; Knopf, New York City; 896 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0375402326. .

Appropriate for the beginning student. It has beautiful color photographs (which can be worth pages of descriptive text).

A Guide to Wildflowers in Winter: Herbaceous Plants of Northeastern North America; Carol Levine; 1995; Yale University Press; 344 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0300065602.

This book has an unusual key that does not depend on either flowers or foliage. If you have a general idea what the plant might be, the line drawings will help you identify it. The book does not distinguish between native and alien species.

National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America; David M. Brandenburg; 2010; Sterling Publishing Co., New York; 673 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-1-4027-4154-8. 

This  comprehensive, detailed book includes range maps and numerous color-photo illustrations, which, though small in size, can be quite helpful.  Good value for the money.  It is softcover, but too thick to carry in a pocket.

Flower Finder: A Guide to Identification of Spring Wild Flowers and Flower Families East of the Rockies and North of the Smokies, Exclusive of Trees and Shrubs (Nature Study Guides); May Theilgaard Watts; 1955; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 60 pgs; ISBN:  

Pocket-sized field guide (in the "Finders" series).  Working through the elementary, dichotomous key will lead first to the family, then the species.  The book can be useful, although the number of species covered is limited.  Includes simple illustrations, but no range maps.

Berry Finder: A Guide to Native Plants with Fleshy Fruits for Eastern North America; Dorcas S. Miller; 1986; Second Edition 2015; Wilderness Press; 64 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550312.

This small, pocket-sized book will help you identify plants having fleshy fruit 1 inch or less in diameter.  The book calls all fleshy fruits "berries," whether they are drupes, pomes, accessory fruits, aggregates, or true berries.  Both woody and herbaceous plants are included.  As with the other books in the "Finders" series, the number of species covered is limited.  In addition to native species, the book includes some escaped, cultivated species.  Has line drawings, no range maps.

Winter Weed Finder: A Guide to Dry Plants in Winter; Dorcas S. Miller; 1989; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 64 pgs; ISBN: 978-0912550176.

This pocket-sized guide (in the "Finders" series) is an elementary, dichotomous key for identifying non-woody plants in late fall and winter by the dried structures that remain, such as pods, dried flower heads, seed capsules, and burrs. Includes common native and escaped cultivated herbs, and native ferns. Area covered is the upper Midwest and eastern United States north of South Carolina, and eastern Canada. Illustrated with simple line drawings.  No range maps.

Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes:

Grasses of Washington, D.C.; Kamal M. Ibrahim, Paul M. Peterson; 2014; Smithsonian Contributions to Botany No. 99, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press; 139 pgs.; ISSN: 0081-024X (print); 1938-2812 (online).  Online version accessible through:

A vegetative key, descriptions, and illustrations for the identification of 182 native and naturalized grasses that occur in Washington, D.C.   A glossary of terms and indexes to scientific and common names is provided. The key is based on vegetative characters to allow identification primarily of specimens that do not have flowering structures (inflorescences and spikelets).

Agnes Chase's First Book of Grasses: The Structure of Grasses Explained for Beginners; Agnes Chase, Lynn G. Clark, and Richard W. Pohl; 1996; Smithsonian Institution Press; 162 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1560986560.

This is the latest edition of a botanical classic first published in 1922. The book addresses the complexity of grasses in twelve lessons, providing a good way to gain a basic understanding of grass taxonomy. Each grass type is illustrated by detailed line drawings. The first chapter surveys basic vegetative and reproductive parts, and the remaining eleven lessons describe increasingly complex spikelet and inflorescence varieties, including the taxonomic context and structure. This book is dense and has chapters with titles such as "Paired Spikelets with Hardened Glumes and Membranaceous Lemmas" but it is a good background for those intending to answer the questions found in most grass identification keys.

Field Guide to the Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of the United States; Edward Knobel; 1977; Dover Publications; 96 pgs .; ISBN: 978-0486235059.

This small, compact field guide holds a wealth of information. It uses a remarkably easy key based on the general appearance of the inflorescence, which can usually lead to a quick identification of the plant. The book is good for field use, but for a definite species identification, it should be supplemented with a more sophisticated taxonomic guide.

Grasses: An Identification Guide; Lauren Brown; 1992; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co.; 256 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395628812.

This guide is focused primarily on grasses of the northeastern United States, many of which are also found in the mid-Atlantic region.  Grasses can be hard to identify, and this book can help botanical amateurs identify the common ones.  The book provides little detail about ecology of the species, however.   

Ferns and Fern Allies:

A Field Guide to Ferns and Their Related Families: Northeastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides); Boughton Cobb; second edition, 2005; Houghton Mifflin; 417 pgs.; ISBN: 0618394060

Recommended - This fern ID book, like all the Peterson field guides, is small enough to carry easily. It has an effective key based on various aspects of the fern, including the leaf shape. The key will usually point you to the right part of the book and, with a bit of paging, you will be able to identify most common, and some not-so-common, ferns.

Guide to Eastern Ferns; Edgar Theodore Wherry; Second edition, reprint, 1948; University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia; 255 pgs.

This classic is out of print. It covers the identification of the ferns and fern-allies of the region from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Virginia.

An Illustrated Guide to the Ferns and Fern Allies of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia; Peter M. Mazzeo; 1972; Shenandoah Natural History Association, Inc., Luray, Virginia; 52 pgs.

Although limited to the ferns of Shenandoah National Park, this guide provides a good starting point for the non-expert because it includes many of the ferns that are common in our region, and has good illustrations.  The book is thin and softcover, but has too large a format to fit conveniently into a pocket.  It is available very inexpensively in the visitor-center shops along Skyline Drive.

Fern Finder: A Guide to Native Ferns of Central and Northeastern United States and Canada (Nature Study Guides); Anne C. Hallowell and Barbara G. Hallowell; 2001; Second edition; Nature Study Guild Publishers, Rochester, New York; 64 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0912550244.

Like other plant guides in the "Finders" series, "Fern Finder" is a small, pocket-size book, easily carried in the field.  It is an elementary dichotomous key, which leads the user step-by-step through a series of choices to the species being identified. Heavily illustrated with line drawings, and includes range maps.

Lower Plants 

(Mosses and Other Bryophytes)

Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians (Princeton Field Guides); Karl B. McKnight, Joseph R. Rohrer, Kirsten McKnight Ward, and Warren J. Perdrizet; 2013; Princeton University Press; 392 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0691156965.

Recommended.  This is a good book for the beginner.  It contains a color-tabbed system that helps readers pick out small groups of similar species.  It has illustrated identification keys, and colorful habitat and leaf photos, plus many detailed line drawings and written descriptions, to help differentiate species.

Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley; Edward Uebel (editor); 2000; Maryland Native Plant Society. MNPS has copies available for sale; for more information or to download a pdf, see Maryland Bryophytes Collected by Elmer G. Worthley.

The purpose of this manuscript is to preserve as much pertinent information about Maryland mosses as possible, so that future Maryland bryologists will have some knowledge about which mosses have been found in Maryland, their abundance, location, habitats, and associations. Dr. Worthley's herbarium contained 15 collections of hornworts, representing 4 species; 1138 collections of mosses representing 191 species; and 291 collections of hepatics representing 56 species. His entire collection is now in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Mosses and Other Bryophytes: An Illustrated Glossary; Bill Malcolm and Nancy Malcolm; 2000; Timber Press; 226 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0473067304 .

This glossary briefly defines the botanical terms likely to be used in the descriptions of mosses and other bryophytes, and is illustrated with more than 900 photographs taken at various levels of magnification, mostly using a microscope, that reveal the details of structure in nearly 400 mosses, liverworts, and hornworts.

Non-flowering Plants (A Golden Guide); Floyd S. Shuttleworth and Herbert S. Zim; 1967; Golden Press, New York; Western Publishing Co., Inc., Racine, Wisconsin; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0307240149.

A small gem of a book, very compact and easy to carry.  Covers the common species of algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, liverworts and hornworts, ferns and fern allies, and gymnosperms.  The title is now a misnomer, because algae and fungi are no longer considered plants, but having these organisms included in this small volume is convenient. The illustrations are very helpful, and there are general descriptions for each major group of organisms.  This is a good place to start when trying to identify a specimen; you may need to consult a more specialized guide for a definite identification. 

For the Advanced Identifier

The Flora of North America; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+; Flora of North America North of Mexico. 12+ vols. New York and Oxford.

This very comprehensive resource, which is a work-in-progress, is viewable on-line at  

Woody Plants of Maryland; Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown; 1972; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD; 347 pgs.

Highly Recommended - This is the definitive source for identification of woody plants in Maryland. It is not simple to use but the key will get you to the correct identification. Too large for most people to carry conveniently in the field.

Herbaceous Plants of Maryland; Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown; 1964; Port City Press, Baltimore, MD.  1127 pgs.;  ISBN: 0-3956-2881-4.

Highly Recommended - This companion volume to Brown and Brown’s “Woody Plants of Maryland” is the definitive source for identification of herbaceous plants in Maryland. It is not simple to use but the key will get you to the correct identification. Too large to carry conveniently in the field.   

Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Henry A. Gleason and Arthur Cronquist; 2nd edition, 1991; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 910 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0893273651.

A very comprehensive identification guide. This is considered by some to be the definitive identification book for plants of this geographical region.

Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual: Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Noel Holmgren, Patricia K. Holmgren, and Henry A. Gleason; New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY; 937 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0893273996 .

Although a bit pricey, this book is a very useful reference. It consists of 827 plates containing black and white illustrations arranged and labeled to cross-reference with Gleason and Cronquist's 1991 edition. It also contains useful diagnostic details not previously presented.

Gray's Manual of Botany: A Handbook of Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Central and Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada; Merritt Lyndon Fernald; 8th edition, 1950; 1632 pgs.; American Book Company, New York and other cities. 

Some botanists consider this book the finest resource available, despite its date. Out of print at this time but used copies are generally available.  Illustrations are very limited, consisting only of small line drawings for some species.

Dictionary of Plant Names: Botanical Names and Their Common Name Equivalents; Allen Coombes; 1997; Timber Press, Portland, OR; 195 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0881922943.

Thousands of words commonly found in the binomial names of plants are defined. The book makes for fascinating reading.  Knowing what the words mean can often help you remember them.

Wetland / Coastal

Back to top

In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook and Field Guide; Ralph W. Tiner; Revised edition, 2005; Rutgers University Press; 352 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0813536811.

This is a good introduction, for the non-scientist, to the "how, what, and why" of wetlands, and includes their development over time. It has many good illustrations. It is, in effect, an overview of the following field guide, written by the same author:

Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Northeastern United States; Ralph W. Tiner; 1993 reprint of original, 1987 edition; University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA; 344 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0870238338.

This book covers: 1. Coastal Wetland Ecology: A General Overview (different tidal wetland habitats, their description and characteristics, and typical species of each); 2. Identification of Coastal Wetland Plants (easy to use diagnostic keys); 3. Wetland plant descriptions and illustrations (this composes more than half the book, organized by environment). Each entry has the scientific and common names, family, full description, habitat, range, similar species, and very accurate diagram drawings. More than 150 species are covered.

Common Plants of the Mid-Atlantic Coast: A Field Guide; Gene Silberhorn; Revised edition, 1999; Johns Hopkins University Press; 306 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0801860812.

This book has the best drawings available in a wetland plant field guide.  Ideal for identifying plants in salt and brackish marshes, beaches, dunes, maritime forests, and tidal wetlands (both brackish and freshwater).

Chesapeake Bay: Nature of the Estuary: A Field Guide; Christopher P. White; 1989; Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, MD; 212 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0870333514.

A natural history organized in sections that correspond to nine major habitats of the area -- from freshwater wetlands to saltwater marshes.  Good brief descriptions, and very attractive (and abundant) line drawings.  This book has become the definitive field guide to the Chesapeake’s flora and fauna.  The most important field marks of more than 500 species are shown in 350 high-quality pen-and-ink drawings. Scientific jargon is kept to a minimum. Illustrations and text are paired to present an easy-to-use primer on the estuarine system.  The book takes an ecological approach to life above and below the Chesapeake's surface.  

Wetland Indicators: A Guide to Wetland Identification, Delineation, Classification, and Mapping; Ralph W. Tiner; 1999; CRC Press; 418 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0873718929.

Although aimed at the professional wetland delineator, this book is general enough to be of broader interest.  It explains the current concept of wetland; the use of various plant, soil and other indicators for wetland identification in the United States; and methods for identifying, describing, classifying, and delineating wetlands. The chapters on wetland mapping and photo interpretation describe the variety of plant communities associated with wetlands. Fifty-five color plates document wetland properties throughout the nation.

Field Guide to the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation of Chesapeake Bay; Linda Hurley; 1990; 51 pgs. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pond and Brook: A Guide to Nature in Freshwater Environments; Michael J. Caduto; 1990; 288 pgs.; University Press of New England; ISBN: 978-0874515091.

Field Guide to Non-tidal Wetland Identification; Ralph W. Tiner; 1988; 283 pgs.; Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD, and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service,  Newton Corner, MA. Cooperative publication.   Online at:;view=1up;seq=27

Wetlands of Maryland; Ralph W. Tiner and David G. Burke; 1995; 193 pgs.; Prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, Region 5, Hadley, MA, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD.  Cooperative publication. Online at:

Life in the Chesapeake Bay: An Illustrated Guide to Fishes, Invertebrates, and Plants of Bays and Inlets from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras;  Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson; 2006; 344 pgs.; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London; ISBN: 978-0801883385.

Amply illustrated with high-quality drawings.  A good guide to eight kinds of habitats in the bay region.

Smithsonian Guide to Seaside Plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, Exclusive of Lower Peninsular Florida; Wilbur H. Duncan and Marion B. Duncan; 1987; Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. and London; 416 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0874743876.

A useful guide.  The color photos, which are in a separate section of the book, are of variable quality.

A Field Guide to Common Aquatic Plants of Pennsylvania.  Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.  Online at:

List of Publications on Wetlands; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ecological Services, National Wetlands Inventory.  Online at:

Regional Books and Articles 

Back to Top

Flora of Virginia; Alan S. Weakley, J. Christopher Ludwig, and John F. Townsend; 2012; Botanical Research Institute of Texas; 1572 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1889878386.  You can order a copy from The Flora of Virginia Project

This large, comprehensive volume, many years in the making, is the new go-to book for the dedicated student of regional flora.  The keys and descriptions are technical, so you will need some knowledge of basic botanical terminology.   

Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of the Washington - Baltimore Area; Stanwyn G. Shetler and Sylvia Stone Orli;  Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In two parts:  Part I: Ferns, Fern Allies, Gymnosperms, and Dicotyledons; 2000; 204 pgs. (600 KB pdf version); Part II: Monocotyledons; 2002; 95 pgs. (

This two-volume set is comprehensive for the area covered, listing the locations where each species has been documented (i.e., Maryland, District of Columbia, northern Virginia).  Identifies alien versus native status.

Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed; Britt E. Slattery, Kathryn Reshetiloff, and Susan M. Zwicker; 2003; 82 pgs.; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office, Annapolis, MD.

This booklet is available for sale through the Maryland Native Plant Society. For more information, please see Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping on the MNPS web site.

City of Trees: The Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C.;  Melanie Choukas-Bradley; Third edition, 2008; Johns Hopkins University Press; 334 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0813926889.

This is a very readable and extensively-researched book. It not only is a good field guide for identifying trees, but also tells some interesting stories behind many of the trees planted in D.C.

A Sketch of the Natural History of the District of Columbia; Waldo Lee McAtee; 1918;  H. L. & J. B McQueen, Inc. Washington, D.C.; 143 pgs. plus maps.  Download pdf (15MB)

This book includes valuable historical information on the Magnolia Bogs of the Fall-Line region.  Many of these bogs have been destroyed for development, but a few remain.

Field Guide to the Piedmont: The Natural Habitats of America's Most Lived-In Region, from New York City to Montgomery, Alabama; Michael A. Godfrey; 1997; University of North Carolina Press; 536 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807846711.

This is for the serious student of native plants. It presents an in-depth look at the plants and animals of the region and their interdependence, and at succession from bare soil to climax forest.

The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual; Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy A. Block; 2007; University of Pennsylvania Press; 1056 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0812240030.

Developed in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Flora Database project and compiled by botanists at Pennsylvania's Morris Arboretum, this guide is helpful for identifying the more than 3,000 species of ferns and fern allies, gymnosperms, dicots, and monocots that are both native and naturalized in the state.  Includes keys to families, genera, and species; extensive black and white diagnostic illustrations; and data on distribution ranges, relative frequency, rare and endangered species, blooming and fruiting periods, taxonomic notes, and an illustrated glossary.

Atlas of the Virginia Flora; Alton McCaleb Harvill, et al.; 1977, 1981, 1992; Virginia Botanical Associates, Farmville and Burkeville, VA;  This publication is out of print, but a digital version is available at:

This is a very helpful resource for determining whether a plant is likely to be in the area you are interested in.  It is especially useful if you are in a Maryland county bordering Virginia. 

Flora of West Virginia; P.D. Strausbaugh and Earl Core; 1978; Seneca Books, Morgantown, WV; 1119 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0890920107

An excellent resource, packed with information and useful line drawings.  It is especially helpful for identifying plants in the mountainous parts of our region.

Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Blue Ridge; B. Eugene Wofford; 1989; University of Georgia Press; 400 pgs.; ISBN:978-0820324555.

Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas; Albert E. Radford, Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell; University of North Carolina Press; 1245 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807810873.

A useful reference; it includes many plants that also occur in Maryland.

An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada; Nathaniel Lord Britton and Addison Brown; 1913; C. Scribner’s Sons, New York; Reprinted 1970, Dover Publications, New York; three volumes; ISBNs:  Vol. I: 978-0486226422; Vol. II:  978-0486226439; Vol. III: 978-0486226446 .  All three volumes are available online at:

This three-volume, comprehensive work is a classic, still useful although taxonomy has changed much since it was published.

Wildflowers & Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain; Helen Hamilton and Gustavus Hall; 2013; Botanical Research Institute of Texas; 288 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1889878416

Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Parks: An Interpretive Guide to Catoctin Mountain Park and Cunningham Falls State Park; John Means; 1995; The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA; 168 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0939923380.

Includes a chapter on forests and spring wildflowers, and one on wildlife and animal habitats, as well as much information on geology and hydrology of the Catoctin parks.

An Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia); Steven R. Hill;  1986; Castanea Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 265-305.  Allen Press, on behalf of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.  Stable URL:  (Note:  If you register for a MyJSTOR account (free), you are will have access to a few free items at a time.) 

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.; Howard Youth; 2014; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore; 400 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1421412047. 
Covers the parks of D.C. and a selection of the animals and plants found in them.  A fair number of trees are treated, but very few of the herbaceous or shrubby plants are.  A page is devoted to each of the species covered, and high-quality artwork and photos adorn the facing page.  Includes descriptions of species, ecological role, and other commentary.

Upper Anacostia Watershed plant communities of conservation significance; 2006; NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Teague, J. L., et al., authors (pdf)

See p. 8 for a description of two kinds of "pine barrens" communities that were discovered in Prince George's County, Maryland, a decade ago and are believed to be closely related to vegetation previously known only from the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Both of the new community types are globally rare. One of them is tentatively named the Pine Barrens Pine - Oak community. The other is the Pine Barrens Lowland Forest, which is an unusual wetland type characterized by pitch pine and deciduous hardwoods in the canopy. Pitch pine is more characteristic of dry upland sites, but in the New Jersey Pine Barrens it also occurs in sandy areas that are saturated by groundwater. The occurrences in Prince George's represent a southern extension in the range of this rare vegetation type.

Ecology and Plant Communities

Back to top

A Field Guide to Eastern Forests: North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); John C. Kricher; 1998; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co.; 512 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395928950.

This is not a field guide in the usual sense, but an introduction to forest ecology from a naturalist’s perspective. It is a good first book, helping the reader to recognize forest types.  Its  great value lies in its concise explanations of plant succession, types of climax forest, adaptive mechanisms, and seasonal patterns.

Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants; Heather Holm; 2014; Pollination Press LLC; 320 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0991356300.

Field Guide to the Piedmont: The Natural Habitats of America's Most Lived-In Region, from New York City to Montgomery, Alabama; Michael A. Godfrey; 1997; University of North Carolina Press; 536 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0807846711.

This is for the serious student of native plants. It presents an in-depth look at the plants and animals of the region and their interdependence; and at succession from bare soil to climax forest.

Made for Each Other:  A Symbiosis of Birds and Pines; Ronald M. Lanner; 1996; Oxford University Press, New York; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0195089035. 

This fascinating ecological narrative details the close relationship between Whitebark Pine seeds, which are  wingless, and Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird that depends on them and disperses them in alpine regions of the American West.  The pine cannot reproduce without the help of the nutcracker, and the nutcracker cannot raise its young without feeding them the seeds of the pines.  In playing out their roles, these partners change the landscape to the benefit of many other plants and animals.  The pine and the nutcracker build ecosystems. 

American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits; Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson; 1951; republished 2011, Dover Publications; 512 pgs.;  ISBN: 978-0486207933 .

This classic, older book lists the food and feeding habits of more than 1,000 species of birds and mammals, together with their distribution in America, their migratory habits, and the most important native plant-animal relationships. Based on research conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Final chapter ranks plants according to their wildlife value.

The Butterfly Garden: Turning Your Garden, Window Box, or Backyard Into A Beautiful Home For Butterflies; Mathew Tekulski; 1985; Harvard Common Press; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0916782696.

A complete manual on how to attract butterflies to your garden or backyard by planting common plants and flowers that butterflies use for nectar, food, and pollination. It includes butterflies and plants specific to each region.

Butterfly Gardening: Creating Summer Magic in Your Garden; Xerces Society and Smithsonian Institution; 1998; Sierra Club Books, San Francisco; 228 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0871569752.

Gardening/Landscaping with Natives

Back to top

Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards; Sara Stein; 1993; Houghton Mifflin: New York City; 294 pgs.; ISBN: 0-395-65373-8.

Recommended - This gentle manifesto is a good place to start. It is a personal perspective on growing a garden in which snakes are as welcome as butterflies. In chapters that loosely follow the course of a year - beginning in the fall and ending the following Thanksgiving - the author describes how she came to radically change the way she gardened.

The Natural Habitat Garden; Ken Druse; 1994; Clarkson Potter; 245 pgs.; ISBN: 0-517-58989-3.

Recommended - This book describes ways to create a garden based on native plant communities. Its emphasis on understanding local conditions, native vs. indigenous plants, natural plant associations, and integrated pest management set it apart from most of the other "gardening" books. It does not always make the right suggestions, for instance it trivializes the importance of local genotype, but at least it introduces the topics. It uses 500 striking color photographs of gardens across the country to introduce the plant associations found in grasslands, wetlands, drylands and woodlands. The book also includes tips for researching the pre-settlement natural history of a region, extensive plant lists, and specific instructions on such things as controlling invasive alien species, firescaping, and diverting run-off.

The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada; William Cullina; 2000; Houghton Mifflin Co.; 322 pgs.; ISBN: 0-39596-6094.

Recommended - One of the most authoritative references on this subject. More than a thousand species of flowers are discussed and pictured. This is as much a book for the gardener as the propagator since information on native habitat, cultural requirements, propagation, and design considerations are given for each genus/species. The amount of propagation advice varies from species to species and is based directly on the results gained at the New England Wild Flower Society's "Garden in the Woods."

Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification; Samuel B. Jones, and Leonard E. Foote; 1998; Timber Press: Portland, OR; 255 pgs.; ISBN: 0-88192-416-4.

Gardening with Native Wild Flowers; Samuel B. Jones, and Leonard E. Foote; 1990; Timber Press: Portland, OR; 195 pgs.; ISBN: 0-88192-381-8.

The above two companion books provide practical advice on the uses of wildflowers, and hardy ferns, shrubs, and vines native to the eastern and midwestern United States. Grasses, sedges, and rushes are also covered. Information on which natives are appropriate in shady, sunny, or wetland settings and how to grow them is given. It also includes some information on propagation. They both have beautiful color plates. Good books for the novice or amateur.

American Plants for American Gardens; Edith A. Roberts, Elsa Rehmann; 1996; University of Georgia Press; ISBN: 0-82031-8515.

This book was originally published as a magazine series in the 1920's. It makes a strong case for ecological considerations when creating a garden and its plant lists are arranged according to ecological association.

How to Grow Wildflowers and Wild Shrubs and Trees in Your Own Garden; Hal Bruce, Charles Elliott; 1998; The Lyons Press; ISBN: 0-82031-8515.

The title suggests that this is a book about plant propagation, but it is much more. It is a beautifully written book about learning to garden through the careful observation of native plant communities. Charles Elliot writes in the introduction, "A basic text for wild gardening in America, an inspiration to enthusiasts, and a particularly effective call to arms for those concerned about saving the natural treasurers of the American landscape." One note of caution; this book was written in 1976 before there was an understanding of the threat posed by non-native invasive species.

The author describes where to find and how to grow wild things, both for their beauty and for the good of the planet. He gives instruction on how to cultivate uncommon native plants and what to plant in resistant or unusual areas, such as aquatic gardens or sandy spots. There is an appendix of sources for wild plants and a chart of planting zones. It is filled with interesting and useful information on the plants it describes, but those looking for a pictorial, step-by-step, truly "how-to" manual should consult other reference books. It focuses on plants found in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. with particular reference to the Delmarva peninsula. The book describes the author's year-long, three-times-per-week, 90-mile commute through Delmarva and tells us about the flora and fauna he sees on these drives, and then goes into a description of their attributes, their relationship to the environment, and the history of their development and distribution. It then shares ideas about how these plant materials can be best used in a garden. Please note that the author is definitely not a purist, and reconciles the use of exotics, and store-bought plants, along side native species.

A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers: An Organic Guide to Choosing and Growing over 150 Beautiful Wildflowers; C. Colston Burrell; 1997; Rodale Press; 216 pgs.; ISBN: 0-87596-723X.

This book places native species in both natural and garden contexts. It also provides an adequate treatment of the basics of native garden care in some introductory chapters. It is not a comprehensive reference but instead provides very complete descriptions of a representative sampling of about 150 native plants. It also treats other related species in side bars and contrasts them with the fuller description. It includes a bibliography and a good glossary as well seed and plant sources throughout the country. It does not, however, give any advice on planting native seeds.

The Once and Future Forest: A Guide to Forest Restoration Strategies; Leslie Jones Sauer, Ian McHarg; 1998; Island Press; 350 pgs.; ISBN: 1559-635-533.

Landscape architect Sauer provides a manual on the processes and resources implicated in the restoration of metro-forests: water, ground, plants, and wildlife. It helps you see the big picture and think through the details, like handling storm water and invasive exotic species. The book includes lists of native species and invasive exotics in the Northeastern US.

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses; Michael A. Dirr; 1998 (5th edition); Stipes Publishing Co.; ISBN: 0-875-63795-7.

One of the most widely used reference manuals in the landscape/nursery trade. Covers information for native and non-native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines. Over 1100 pages, many entries with line drawings. Details about morphology, culture, disease/insect pests, landscape value, and propagation practices are covered for each entry. This book is primarily about horticultural varieties and cultivars but can be of help when planting and maintaining native species.

Roadside Use Of Native Plants; Bonnie L. Harper-Lore and Maggie Wilson; 2000; Island Press: Washington, DC; 665 pgs.; ISBN: 1-55963-837-0.

This book was first created by the Federal Highway Administration and is aimed at the highway administrator but it contains material useful to all native plant landscapers. It covers both basic topics like "Defining a Native Plant", and more complex issues such as "Using Plant Communities as Models", "Working with Succession", and "Choosing Non-Invasive Plant Materials".

Gardening With Native Plants of the South; Sally Wasowski, Andy Wasowski; 1994; Taylor Publ.; 196 pgs.; ISBN: 0-87833-8020.

This book has a strictly southern US orientation. Plant profiles are grouped by type and size and it describes native habitats as well as appropriate garden conditions. It gives plant data, and also describes plant uses by native wildlife from toads to birds to insects, including those used as larval food for butterflies.

Native Trees, Shrubs, And Vines For Urban And Rural America: A Planting Design Manual For Environmental Designers; Gary L. Hightshoe.; 1988; John Wiley & Sons: New York City; 819 pgs.; ISBN: 0-471-28879-9.

This book treats trees, shrubs and vines separately. The author first explores the questions to be asked when making a selection of appropriate plants within each category. He then provides an encyclopedia of native woody plants designed so the gardener can answer these questions. Each entry includes not only drawings of the plants leaves, twigs, fruits, etc. but also its characteristics and how they apply to the questions he raised about selection.

The Native Plant Primer; Carole Ottesen; 1995; Harmony Books: New York City; 354 pgs.; ISBN: 0-517-59215-0. Out of print, but available used.

An elaborately produced reference that is illustrated with some 500 color photos. Each region of the country is described in terms of its gardening characteristics; and recommended native perennials, annuals, grasses, ferns, water plants, vines, shrubs, and trees are listed. The idea is to use native plants and to exploit their tendency to flourish in their local habitats with less use of pesticides, fertilizers, and extra watering. The author recounts her coast-to-coast tour of native plant gardens and her meetings with gardening experts in each region. (There is a section specifically about gardening in the South East.) The bulk of the book comprises entries for individual plants, each with a color photo, with textual description that has a charming and chatty personal slant, and with information about cultivation.

The Wild Lawn Handbook: Alternatives To The Traditional Front Lawn; Stevie Daniels; 1997; IDG Books Worldwide; 256 pgs.; ISBN: 0-028-62004-6.

Native grasses, wildflowers, ground covers, and moss are the author's answer to "monotonous single-species turfgrass lawns." Her book is a primer for gardeners who want to reduce or stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserve water, or turn their yards into a collection of plants that attracts birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. There are detailed instructions on choosing a wild lawn and on installing and maintaining the lawn, and even a chapter on landscaping ordinances. Daniels divides the wild lawns into chapters on prairies and native grasses, meadows, moss lawns, woodlands, ground covers, and front-yard gardens.

100 Easy to Grow Native Plants; Lorraine Johnson; 1999; Firefly Books; 160 pgs.; ISBN: 1-552-09327-1.

This book is appropriate for the beginning native plant gardener. The common and botanical name, height, and blooming period of each plant is given, along with its soil, sun, shade, and moisture requirements. Other data includes each plant's native habitat and range (Northeast, prairies, or Northwest), description, propagation, good companions, and related species. Such familiar plants as bee balm, black-eyed Susan, Christmas fern, Jacob's ladder, purple coneflower, and Virginia bluebells are listed.

Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden; by Larry Mellichamp; 2014; Timber Press; ISBN: 1604693231

The Wildlife Garden: Planning Backyard Habitats; Charlotte Seidenberg; 1995; University of Mississippi Press. Out of print.

This book has a southern U.S. focus.

Landscaping With Native Trees: The Northeast, Midwest, Midsouth & Southeast Edition; Guy Sternberg; 1995; Chapters Publishing. Out of print.

Nature's Design: A Practical Guide To Natural Landscaping; Carol A. Smyser; 1982; Rodale Press: Emmaus, PA; 390 pgs. ISBN: 0-87857-343-7. Out of print.

Wild Gardening: Strategies And Procedures Using Native Plantings; Richard L. Austin.; 1986; Simon & Schuster: New York; 96 pgs.; ISBN: 0-671-60241-1. Out of print.

Propagation of Native Plants

Back to top

The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada; William Cullina; 2000; Houghton Mifflin Co.; 322 pgs.; ISBN: 0-39596-6094.

Recommended - This book is useful for the gardener but it also has a very good section on propagation. There is an excellent introduction that covers most of the issues faced in propagation from seed. These include seed cleaning and storage, pre-treatment of seeds, choice of containers and propagation mix, sowing, and the care of seedlings. It also covers propagation by cutting and division. It then gives suggested strategies for hundreds of specific genus/species. While helpful this second section is not as thorough as the first with some species getting a much more in-depth treatment. It can, however, be trusted because it is based on the direct experience gained at the New England Wild Flower Society's "Garden in the Woods." The issue of hydrophilic germinators (seeds that need a warm moist period before a cold moist one) is explained better here than in any other source.

Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers; Harry R. Phillips; 1985; University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill; 325 pgs.; ISBN: 0-8078-4131-5.

Recommended - This book, based on the accumulated experience at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, covers general gardening topics and the cultivation of numerous species but it's focus is on seed and vegetative propagation. It gives a careful description of seed collection, seed cleaning and storage, pre-germination treatment, and seedling care for more than 150 species of plants appropriate to gardens. It has a section on carnivorous plants (such as the sundews and pitcher plants) as well as one on the propagation of ferns. It points out the alien origin of the few non-native plants that are discussed.

Seeds of Woody Plants in North America; James A. Young, and Cheryl G. Young; 1992; Dioscorides Press: Portland, Oregon; 407 pgs.; ISBN: 0-931146-21-6.
Woody Plant Seed Manual. 2008. USDA Forest Service Agriculture Handbook 727. 2008. [an update of Seeds of Woody Plants of the United States]

Recommended - This is essentially a revised edition of the USDA publication "Seeds of Woody Plants in the United States", USDA - Handbook 450. As with the original it contains practical advice for the forester and gardener but it has been expanded to cover over 385 genera. For each genus covered there is a brief discussion of its general growth habit, distribution and uses (by humans and, to a very limited extent, wildlife) followed by more detailed information on flowering and fruiting phenology, seed collection and storage methods, germination and field/nursery techniques for sowing. Most entries also include very good drawings of seeds and seedlings. There is a passable glossary and a large bibliography. One warning is that this book was written before the dangers of invasive exotics were generally accepted. It contains, for instance, careful instructions on propagating Multiflora rosa.

Collecting Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants; James A. Young, Cheryl G. Young; 1986; Timber Press; 236 pgs.; ISBN: 0-881920-576.

Even though the information given about propagation for each genus is much shorter this is not simply a dumbed down version of the book "Seeds of Woody Plants in North America" by the same authors. This book has chapters which provide a general introduction to the handling of seeds, which is something their other book lacks. Topics such as seed physiology, seed collection, cleaning, storage, and pre-planting treatment are discussed in depth starting from a layman's understanding. This book also includes many herbaceous species. Specific propagation instructions are generally given at the genus level and are basically a collection of untested, but footnoted, personal observations. The book has an overall agri-forestry slant but contains information useful for any propagator.

Seeds: Ecology, Biogeography, and Evolution of Dormancy and Germination; Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin; 1998; Academic Press; 666 pgs.; ISBN: 0-120802-600.

This is basically a textbook, suitable for ecologists, plant scientists, horticulturists, and foresters. It stands out from the other books on propagation because the Baskins handle seed germination from an ecological rather than a strictly horticultural perspective. Topics covered include types of dormancy, theories of the relationship between dormancy and germination, the timing of germination, the various factors that control germination, and the general aspects of germination in different sorts of habitats. There are tables listing the specifics of germination for hundreds of species. With a price of $100, most people will find this a useful library resource.

Seed Germination Theory and Practice; Norman Deno; self published: 139 Lenor Drive, State College, PA, 16801; 242 pgs.

An exhaustive report, in tabled format, of germination trials covering more than 2500 species. The introductory chapters are very informative on general issues in seed propagation. This book is appropriate for, and recommend for, the advanced propagator. Unfortunately, the book does not make a clear distinction between native and non-native species. You must buy this book, as well as the growing number of supplements, directly from the author at: Norman Deno; 139 Lenor Drive; State College, PA; 16801.

Seeds of woody plants of the United States - Agriculture Handbook 450; C. S. Schopmeyer (editor); 1974; U.S. Department of Agriculture: Washington, D.C.

This book addresses many details of propagating native woody plants from seed. It is a good resource but is generally unavailable. See the more readily alternative "Seeds of Woody Plants in North America" by Young & Young.

The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture: A Practical Working Guide to the Propagation of over 1100 Species; Michael A. Dirr, and Charles W. Heuser; 1987; Varsity Press Inc.; 1100 pgs.; ISBN: 0-942-37500-9.

One of the most widely used reference manuals in the landscape/nursery trade. It focuses on cultivars and non-native trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines but can be helpful with natives as well. Over 1100 pages, many entries with line drawings. Details about morphology, culture, disease/insect pests, landscape value, propagation practices, and the habitat of native species are covered for each entry. This book includes horticultural varieties and cultivars.

The Prairie Garden; J. Smith, and Beatrice Smith; 1980; University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, WI; 219 pgs.; ISBN: 0-299-08304-7.

An introduction to the propagation of prairie plant species. These are often the most suitable species for a sunny location. The book is written for people of the North-Central states but it has a good introductory section and many of the species covered are also native to Maryland.

Non-Native Plants

Back to Top

Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas; Swearingen, J., K. Reshetiloff, B. Slattery, and S. Zwicker; 2002; National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Washington, DC; 82 pgs.

This booklet is available for sale through the Maryland Native Plant Society. For more information, please see Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas on our web site.

Invasive Plants; Dr. Sylvan Ramsey Kaufman and Wallace Kaufman; 2007; Stackpole Books (, Mechanicsburg, PA; 464 pages.

This book is a full color field guide that identifies 175 alien species. The book describes each plant, the range, the impact in addition to recommendations to help control them.

Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests; James H. Miller; 2003; USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station: Asheville, NC; 93 pgs. Also called General Technical Report SRS-62.

This booklet, while oriented toward the Southern states, contains almost all of the species that are invasive in our area. There are lots of great pictures. This is available free of charge from the USDA. Information on how to order this can be found on their Website at, where there is also an on-line version available.

Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden; John M. Randall & Janet Marinelli, (editors); 1996; Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Brooklyn, N.Y; 111 pgs.; ISBN: 0-945352-956.

This book is already considered a classic in the field of non-native invasive plants. Unfortunately, its treatment of ecological impact is superficial.

Ecologist's Book on Introduced Species' Destructiveness; David Pimentel (editor); 2002; CRC Press LLC: Boca Raton, FL.

This book discusses the more than 120,000 non-indigenous species that have invaded six countries, causing tens of billions of dollars in harm each year in the United States alone. It makes compelling reading. The editor-author and his 44 contributing scientist-writers are careful to note that not all introduced species have entirely deleterious effects in their new homes, and many are depended on for human sustenance. Some 98 percent of the U.S. food supply comes from introduced species, such as corn, wheat, rice and other crops, as well as cattle, poultry and other livestock.

The Once and Future Forest: A Guide to Forest Restoration Strategies; Leslie Jones Sauer, Ian McHarg; 1998; Island Press; 350 pgs.; ISBN: 1-559635-525.

This book tells you about the environment in a scientific but understandable manner, and suggests ways you can make a difference. Although only two chapters mention invasive exotics in their title, the whole book is an explanation of how natural ecosystems work, and how various kinds of human activities disrupt them, opening them to invasion by exotics and further disruption, which in turn..... You will never look at a large, green lawn with admiration again! Part I covers how ecosystems work and how they become degraded, Part II is about restoration. It is extremely informative, particularly in regard to ecology.

Alien Species in North America and Hawaii: Impacts on Natural Ecosystems; George W. Cox; 1999; Island Press: Washington, DC; 387 pgs.; ISBN: 1-55963-680-7.

This book describes the process whereby exotic species have become dispersed and makes a persuasive argument that a strong exotic species management program is essential for sustainability of natural systems. There is a chapter on Eastern forests. Anyone who manages large units of land, or is simply interested in this topic, will find this book interesting and useful.

Other Useful Books

Back to Top

A Sand County Almanac; Aldo Leopold; 1991; Ballantine Books; ISBN: 978-0345345059 .

First published in 1949, shortly after the author's death, A Sand County Almanac is a classic. It is one of the most influential books about nature ever published. Leopold's view was that it is a human duty to preserve as much wild land as possible as a kind of bank for the biological future of all species.

Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America; E. Lucy Braun; 1950; The Free Press, New York, and Collier Macmillan Publishers, London; Reprinted 2001 by The Blackburn Press; 596 pgs.; ISBN:  978-1930665309.   Online at:;view=1up;seq=9

In this classic and pioneering work, eminent botanist and plant ecologist E. Lucy Braun divides the eastern deciduous forests into nine major regions, and presents detailed information, including her own survey data recorded during intensive field work with her sister, an entomologist. This book is E. Lucy Braun’s best known work. 

    (Note:  During their explorations, E. Lucy Braun apparently encountered the Travilah Serpentine Barrens, in Montgomery County, Maryland.)

Raven Biology of Plants; Ray F. Evert and Susan E. Eichhorn; 2012; Eighth edition; W. H. Freeman;  880 pgs.; ISBN: 978-1429219617. 

This is a classic textbook in botany, the go-to resource for good, readable coverage of all aspects of the subject.

Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); Steven Foster and James A. Duke; 2014; Third edition; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 432 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0547943985.

This book cannot be used as a general identification guide since its key is a confusing combination of flower type, habitat, and overall growth habit. The book is only useful for identifying plants when they are in bloom, as there are no adequate photos of the leaves or of the plants at non-blooming times.  The book can, however, be used for final identification in combination with an ID book.  It describes in a general way the medical uses of specific species by human groups such as Native American and early settlers but is not explicit regarding exactly how the plant was used.

Plants, People, and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany (Scientific American Library); Michael J. Balick and Paul Alan Cox; 1996; W H Freeman & Co; 228 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0716750611 .

Ethnobotanists Cox and Balick share two decades of experience living with the indigenous peoples of Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, conducting fieldwork in the study of how people use plants. The result is a story of human culture in relationship to the plants traditionally used for medicinal, recreational, and ornamental purposes. These ethnobotanists argue that human cultural origins are inter-woven with plants. They examine everything from the prehistoric use and gathering of plants by hunter-gatherers to modern times.

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants; Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series); Lee Allen Peterson; 1999; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston; 352 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395926222.

More than 370 edible wild plants, plus 37 poisonous look-alikes, are described here, with 400 drawings and 78 color photographs showing how to recognize each species. Also included are habitat descriptions, lists of plants by season, and preparation instructions for 22 different food uses.

The Lives of North American Birds (Peterson Natural History Companions); Kenn Kaufman; 1996; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 704 pgs.; ISBN: 978-0395770177.

This book includes information on what each North American bird species eats, where it nests, and what nesting materials it uses.  For many bird species, plants are an integral part of the life cycle.  A useful book if you wish to learn more about the inter-relationships between birds and plants.

Other Book Lists

The West Virginia Eastern Panhandle Native Plant Society also has a good on-line book list.

Where to Buy These Books

Some of the more recent and popular books can be purchased at a mega-bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or at These books plus the less common or more specialized ones are often available locally in the Washington, DC / Baltimore area at these stores:

Adkins Arboretum

12610 Eveland Road
Ridgely, Maryland 21660

The library at Adkins Arboretum contains some of the out-of-print and hard-to-find books listed here.

Audubon Naturalist Society

8940 Jones Mill Road
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815

Their book store has a large selection of natural history books and field guides. They try to always have both of the Brown & Brown identification volumes available.

Irvine Natural Science Center

8400 Greenspring Avenue
Stevenson, MD 21153
Fax: 410-484-3573

A good selection of books. The Center is convenient to people in Baltimore or the northern part of the state.

Maryland Book Exchange

4500 College Avenue
College Park, MD 20740

They have many of the books on this list; plus it is also a source for used books.


Since you are already on line you could try one of the big Internet consortiums of used book dealers. These are an excellent source of used and hard to find books. Bibliofind loads and searches faster; Bookfinder is slow but may be more comprehensive; they're all good, dependable, and easy to use.

© Maryland Native Plant Society. PO Box 4877, Silver Spring, MD 20914. Contact Us.
MNPS is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization incorporated in Maryland. 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software