The plants in the following lists are appropriate choices for the rugged coastal conditions of Massachusetts. The plant selections within the coastal beach plant list, coastal dune plant list, and coastal bank plant list are appropriate for the specified coastal environment, though some of the plants may overlap due to their ability to tolerate various conditions. Additional information is provided for the plant species listed below that are linked to the Plant Highlights and Images page . CZM recommends the use of natives wherever possible, and the vast majority of the plants listed below are native (which, for purposes of this website, means that they occur naturally in eastern Massachusetts). Certain non-native species that have specific coastal landscaping advantages and are not known to be invasive have also been listed. These plants are labeled as “not native” (with a link to the definition of that term) and their state or country of origin is given in parentheses.

Coastal Beach Plant List

Plant List for Sheltered Intertidal Areas

Sheltered intertidal areas (between the low-tide and high-tide line) of beach, marsh, and even rocky environments are home to particular plant species that can tolerate extreme fluctuations in water, salinity, and temperature. The following plants are appropriate for these conditions.

Plant List for a Dry Beach

Dry beach areas are home to plants that can tolerate wind, wind-blown sand, salt spray, and regular interaction with waves and flood waters. Certain plants actually thrive on accumulations of sand to help them grow. The plants listed below are appropriate for dry beach conditions.

Coastal Dune Plant List

Plant List for Exposed Areas of a Coastal Dune

Fronting dunes and exposed secondary dunes are habitat for plant species that can tolerate wind, wind-blown sand, and salt spray; endure interaction with waves and flooding; and often even thrive on sand inundation. The plants listed below, as well as those listed above for dry beach areas, are appropriate for these environments.

Plant List for More Sheltered Areas of a Coastal Dune

More protected secondary dunes are able to host a greater variety of plant species, because they are more sheltered from wind, salt-spray, and wave action. The plants listed below, as well as those listed above for exposed coastal dunes, are appropriate for these more sheltered dune environments.

Grasses, Perennials, and Vines
Shrubs and Groundcovers
Trees

Coastal Bank Plant List

Plant List for Exposed Areas of a Coastal Bank

The top and face of the coastal bank is where the landform is most exposed to wind, salt spray, and storm waves. The plants listed below are appropriate for the rugged conditions of an exposed coastal bank.

Grasses, Perennials, and Vines
Shrubs and Groundcovers
Trees (only on low slopes or set back from the top of the bank)
Plant List for More Sheltered Areas of a Coastal Bank

Areas landward of the top of coastal bank are more protected from wave action, but may still be significantly affected by wind and salt spray. The plants listed below, as well as those listed above for exposed areas of a coastal bank, are appropriate for these more protected areas of the coastal bank.

Grasses, Perennials, and Vines
Shrubs and Groundcovers
Trees

For more information about many of the plants that are listed above, visit the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) PLANTS Database, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Plant Database of Trees, Shrubs, and Vines, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database. The specific native status of each plant was determined by using The Vascular Plants of Massachusetts: A County Checklist available through the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program .

A native plant species is a plant that is considered indigenous and naturally occurring to the region since pre-Colonial times (before 1500) or arriving more recently without human intervention. For purposes of this website, a native plant is one that occurs naturally in eastern Massachusetts.
A non-native plant species is a plant that is non-indigenous and not naturally occurring to the region. (For purposes of this website, the region is eastern Massachusetts with an emphasis on the coastal environments.) When non-native species enter into an ecosystem, they have the potential to disrupt the natural balance, reduce biodiversity, degrade habitats, alter native genetic diversity, and transmit exotic diseases to native species. However, not all non-native plants are invasive. Non-native plants that are not considered invasive are those that generally do not rapidly disperse, become established, or create self-sustaining or dominant populations that would be disruptive to the natural ecosystem. CZM recommends the use of natives wherever possible but has included certain non-native species in this website that have specific coastal landscaping advantages and no known environmental impacts. Be sure to check the most recent sources of Invasive Species information.
Rosa Rugosa
Rugosa rose (Rosa rugosa) is considered to be non-native (native to eastern Asia) and potentially invasive in some regions or habitats of Massachusetts and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed. The shrub is often planted on coastal sites because it is extremely tolerant of sea spray and storms, making it well adapted to the coastal environment. On dune sites, the shrub is useful for erosion control and stabilization and because of its thorny stems can also be strategically planted to direct pedestrians away from or between sand dunes. However, because of its ability to spread by seeds and by rhizomes, it has an ability to outcompete and displace other native beach and dune plants. In addition, on bank sites, rugosa rose is less effective at controlling erosion and may in fact worsen the problem when other more effective erosion control plants are unable to grow due to shading effects. Therefore, care should be taken when considering planting rugosa rose on coastal properties.