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Native plants are indigenous to the area, meaning that they have been around since pre-Colonial times or have since arrived without the help of humans. These plants have evolved to survive in their unique habitats—the coast being one such habitat with particularly extreme conditions: wind, waves, storm flooding, salt spray, and drought. But there are also non-native plants lurking at the coast—plants that were introduced by humans, either intentionally or accidentally. Sometimes, these species are considered invasive because they out-compete their native counterparts and have the potential to disrupt the natural balance, reduce biodiversity, degrade habitats, alter native genetic diversity, and transmit exotic diseases to native species. To help you sort the natives from the invasives, this tip provides descriptions and photographs of some of the more common coastal plants in Massachusetts.
For larger images of the plants shown here, see the classic site.
The following links provide additional information on native and non-native invasive plants:
Native Plants - American Beachgrass: CZM; Blackgrass and Beach Plum: Alexey Zinovjev and Irina Kadis, Salicicola; Little Bluestem: Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC); Sweet Goldenrod: Mrs. W.D. Bransford, LBJWC; Bearberry: G.A. Cooper, Smithsonian Institution; Lowbush Blueberry and Black Cherry: University of Connecticut Plant Database; Bayberry: NOAA Photo Library.
Invasive Plants - All photos courtesy of Bugwood.org with specific acknowledgements: Common Buckthorn: Paul Wray, Iowa State University; Common Reed and Morrow's Honeysuckle: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut; Japanese Honeysuckle: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia; Japanese Knotweed: Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration; Oriental Bittersweet: James R. Allison, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Potentially Invasive - Rugosa Rose: Alexey Zinovjev and Irina Kadis, Salicicola.