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Golden CurrantSnowdrop AnemoneBlue Flax and Native GrassesAlma Potschke AsterGallery Red LupineAmerican Plum in springGeranium platypetalumEvening Primrose - Gumbo LilyWestern Tiger Swallowtail Nectaring on Dianthus

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Montana Native Plants

Native PlantsBlake Nursery has had a long standing love affair with Montana native plants, and the more we see and learn about them, the more intense our devotion. Some of the best aspects of landscaping with natives include their drought tolerance (though not always), adaptability to temperature fluctuations, acceptance of native soil conditions, and attraction to wildlife such as butterflies and song birds. With naturals like these, you'll have fewer headaches than when dealing with unacclimatized imports. Landscaping with native plants connects you with your local environment as you learn the plant names, discover their habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.

RabbitbrushRabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus nauseosus: A tough, silver leafed 3-4' shrub often mistaken for Sagebrush--until fall when it bursts into abundant bloom! Suddenly its zesty yellow flowers brighten the prairie. Gumbo LilyRabbitbrush is drought and alkalinity tolerant, thus is well suited to much of Montana.

Gumbo Lily, Oenothera cespitosa: Also known as Gumbo Evening Primrose, it was collected “near the falls of the Missouri” by Meriwether Lewis, July 17, 1806. A low-growing, long-blooming perennial with startlingly beautiful, large white flowers that open in early evening and wilt the following day. Their sweet scent attracts the pollinating Hawk Moth. If you give them plenty of sun and do not overwater, they will deliver many weeks of enjoyment every year.

Ponderosa PinePonderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa: Montana’s state tree for good reason. Longlived — 350 to 500 years, this rugged evergreen with a straight trunk grows in difficult sites where most other plants would never venture. In fact its taproot can delve 30' into the ground seeking water. Its green needles, 5-10" long, are usually in bundles of three. We love its natural, open form, a pleasing contrast to the formal, nonnative Colorado Spruce. Birds also fancy Ponderosas for nesting and feeding.

Trilobe Sumac, Rhus trilobata: Sometimes unflatteringly called Trilobe  Sumac“Skunkbush Sumac”, because of its supposedly stinky leaves when crushed, we have never encountered anything unpleasant about this tough shrub. We appreciate its compound leaves with three oak-like leaflets, red-orange-yellow fall foliage, and cheery clusters of red berries albeit unpalatable to humans. This Sumac can form dense thickets where birds and mammals find cover for nesting and shelter. As if that’s not enough, this drought tolerant plant is commonly used for soil stabilization thanks to its tenacious, spreading roots.

Wax CurrentWax Currant, Ribes cereum: Also known as Squaw Currant, a compact, rounded, rather humble 3' tall plant that's a treasure of Montana’s native landscape. It's easy to identify by its greenish-white to pink, tubular flowers and unpalatable red berries best left for the birds! In the wild it's found in dry, rocky sites....an ideal Xeriscape plant.

Featured Plant: Serviceberry

Serviceberry Illustration Serviceberry, Juneberry, Shadblow, Sarvisberry, call it what you will, but by any name this plant, botanically Amelanchier, is one of the loveliest we know. In early spring before leaves appear Serviceberry’s white flowers make a delicate, airy display. Summer brings blueberry-like fruit that’s sweet, juicy and coveted by birds and jelly-makers.

Read More...

For more information on plants native to our region, an excellent source is books by H. Wayne Phillips, author of Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (2003), Central Rocky Mountain Wildflowers (2012), Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers (2012), and The Wildflowers of Yellowstone and the Rockies Postcard Book (2003). All are available from Amazon.

Native Shrubs

Native Perennials

Native Grasses

Native Annuals

Native TreesCommon NameNative HabitatHeightFeatures
Acer glabrum Rocky Mtn. Maple Along mountain streams, canyons20-25'Shrub or small tree, striking fall color
Alnus incana Mountain Alder Banks of mountain streams and canyons; moist, well-drained soil30'Open crown, ascending branches, retains attractive catkins on branches
Betula occidentalis Water Birch Stream courses, moist sites20-25'Shrub or small tree, reddish branches
Crataegus douglasii Douglas Hawthorn Higher elevations, stream banksto 35'Shrub or small tree, brilliant fall foliage, thorny, white flowers in spring
Populus angustifolia Narrowleaf Cottonwood Along streams, rivers, lakes50-70'Long narrow leaves, pale green bark on young trees; fast growing
Populus deltoides Plains Cottonwood River bottoms, stream banks60-90'Broad, open crown, thick trunk; fast growing
Populus tremuloides Quaking Aspen High elevations with much soil moisture60-90'Leaves tremble in the breeze, grows in pure stands if site is favorable; fast growing
Populus trichocarpa Black Cottonwood Moist soils along water courses75-100'White bark on young trees; fast growing
Quercus macrocarpa Bur Oak, Mossycup Oak Sandy plains, river bottoms, limestone soils70-80' tallLarge majestic tree with broad crown, fringed acorn
Sorbus scopulina Dwarf Mountain Ash Higher moisture areas, good soil6-12'Deep green leaves turn orange-red in fall, clusters of orange berries attract birds

Native ShrubsCommon NameNative HabitatHeightFeatures
Achnatherum hymenoides Indian Rice Grass 20-30Cool season bunchgrass with green, wiry leaves. Prefers drought conditions and is often found growing with Sagebrush.
Amelanchier alnifolia Serviceberry, Juneberry Often found along streambanks, moist areas3-15'Shrubby tree with fragrant wt. flowers and edible berries,orange-red fall color; good wildlife cover
Artemesia tridentata spp. wyomingensis Wyoming Big Sagebrush Open, dry areas, rangelands and pastures2-4'Silver foliage, yellow fall flowers; extremely drought tolerant and found at lower elevations than Basin Big Sagebrush
Artemisia cana Silver Sagebrush Open rangelands2-5'Bright silver leaves; very drought-tolerant; important winter wildlife food
Cercocarpus ledifolius Curlleaved Mountain Mahogany Dry, gravelly limestone areasto 20'Shrub or small tree, crooked trunk and branches, thin evergreen leaves
Chrysothamnus nauseosus Rubber Rabbitbrush Open rangelands2-3'Yellow flowers in fall, twisted narrow leaves; very drought tolerant
Cornus canadensis Bunchberry Dogwood Shaded, forested areas1'Lovely, low growing plant with edible red berries. Red fall foliage.
Cornus sericea/stolonifera Red-twigged Dogwood Along stream banks or moist sites8-10'Bright red stems, white flowers in spring; good for streambank restoration; wildlife will browse
Eleaegnus commutata Silverberry Open sites, moist to dry soils8'Sweetly scented flowers in spring. Silver-leafed upright shurb suckers freely to form thickets - good for erosion control. Provides food and cover for birds and nectar for bees. Great alternative to Russian Olive.
Mahonia repens Creeping Oregon Grape Shaded, forested areas1-2Excellent groundcover. Fragrant yellow flowers. Shiny, dark green, holly like leaves become red in fall. Blue edible fruits persist in winter.
Opuntia polyacantha Prickly Pear Cactus Dry areas5-12Clump and sometimes mat forming spiny perennial; Flowers range from yellow to pink in May and June.
Philadelphus lewisii Lewis' Mockorange 6-8'Beautiful flowers with an orange blossom- like fragrance. Attractive natural form that does not require shaping, just remove dead or broken branches.
Physocarpus malvaceus Mallow Ninebark Higher elevation; moist areas, north slopesUpright spreading shrub with peeling bark, white-pink flowers
Potentilla fruticosa Potentilla, Cinquefoil Wet or dry open groundto 4'Yellow flowers over a long period, widely branching
Prunus besseyi Western Sandcherry Tolerates hot, dry conditions; well-drained soil5'Dense, winter hardy shrub; gray-green leaves, many wt. flowers, black edible berries
Prunus virginiana Common Chokecherry Mtn. slopes, streambanksto 30'Shrub or small tree that suckers,fragrant spring flowers,bright red to black berries used for jelly, syrup and wine, brilliant fall foliage
Purshia tridentata Antelope Bitterbrush Dry areasto 10'Low,woody shrub; important wildlife species
Rhus trilobata Trilobe or Skunkbrush Sumac Limestone outcroppings1-5'Dense, thicket-forming shrub with yellow flowers and orange-red berries; brilliant fall color; browsed by wildlife
Ribes aureum Golden Currant Along streams, prefers sunny, moist sitesto 4'Yellow flowers in spring, black berries, arching branches; suckers readily; red to orange fall foliage
Ribes cereum Wax Currant to 6'Spreading shrub with orange or red berries that attract birds. Spring flowers are a hummingbird favorite.
Rosa woodsii Woods' Rose Adaptable but prefers stream banks and other moist areasto 6'Single pink flowers bloom in June, red hips in fall and winter; suckers readily; excellent for streambank stabilization
Salix bebbiana Bebb's Willow streams and ditch banks; not found on sites flooded for long periods o3-12'Medium shrub; younger twigs red-purple, older twigs with white streaks (cracks); mid elevations
Salix boothii Booth's Willow streams and ditch banks3-20'Small to large shrub; twigs yellow, orange, or brown; no waxy layer on underside of leaves; mostly mid elevations, sometimes high
Salix exigua Coyote/Streambank/Sandbar Willow streams and ditch banks5-25'Medium to large shrub; leaves 6 times or more long than wide; mostly mid elevations
Salix lutea Yellow Willow Well drained stream and ditch banks10-25'Medium to large shrub; twigs distinctly yellowish when young turning gray with age; waxy layer on underside of leaves; lower elevations
Schizachyrium scoparium Little Bluestem 1-4'Warm season bunchgrass begins growth in midsummer. Reddish fall color is stunning in mass plantings or singly. Seedheads attractive in winter. Stands up well in snow. Provides cover and seeds for birds.
Shepherdia argentea Silver Buffaloberry Poor, dry, alkaline soils to moist sitesto 15'Silvery foliage, red-orange edible fruits, thorny; thicket-forming
Spiraea betulifolia White Spirea Higher elevations, needs adequate moisture2'Dense shrub with persistent bronze fall color, white flowers in summer; good soil stabilizer
Symphoricarpos albus Snowberry, White Plains and valley bottoms, moist, sun and shade2-5'Prominent white berries; suckers and forms thickets; useful for stabilizing stream banks
Yucca glauca Yucca, Soapweed Dry plains and slopes1-3'Evergreen, sword-like leaves arise from clump; wt. flowers on a 1-3' stalk

Purple Prairie Clover

Purple Prairie Clover

Sulphur Buckwheat

Sulphur Buckwheat

Silvery Lupine

Silvery Lupine

Native PerennialsCommon NameHeightFeatures
Achillea millefolium Yarrow 18-24Recognized by it's lacy fernlike leaves (millefolium means "a thousand leaves"). Flat-topped white flowers on self-supporting stems provide nectar for butterflies. Long blooming especially with deadheading. Seedheads attractive in winter.
Allim cernuum Nodding Onion 12Nodding white to pink round flower heads in summer. Low growing and tolerant of moist and dry conditions.
Anaphalis margaritacea Pearly Everlasting 8-36An upright plant with papery, round, white flowers. Foliage is woolly and silver. Excellent as a dried flower.
Antennaria dioica 'Rubra' Rosy Pussytoes 4-12Low, mat-forming. Spreads slowly by trailing stems. Rosy colored flowers.
Antennaria microphylla Little-leaf Pussytoes 4-12Low, mat forming with white flowers.
Aquilegia caerulea Rocky Mountain Columbine 30Thrives in cool, moist spots. Blue spurred blossoms with white corollas. Hummingbirds, butterflies and hawkmoths pollinate flowers.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Kinnickinnick 3-6Forest groundcover prefers acidic soil. Leathery, evergreen leaves. Pink urn-shaped flowers hang downward from stem. Red berries eaten by birds and mammals; persist through the winter.
Artemisia frigida Fringed Sage 18Fast growing with silver leaves. Drought tolerant. Mixes well with native grasses and wildflowers.
Asclepias speciosa Showy Milkweed 3-4'Striking and unusual, star-shaped, pink flowers. Large, lance-shaped leaves. Sole plant containing materials Monarch butterfly larvae need to mature. Monarch butterflies feed on its nectar.
Balsamorhiza sagittata Arrowleaf Balsamroot 2-3'Solitary yellow sunflower-like blooms on long stems. Large, attractive leaves shaped like arrowheads. Birds love the seeds.
Campanula rotundifolia Harebells 12Delicate purple blooms in the spring. Tolerant of shade and sun, but needs moist soils.
Castilleja sessiliflora Downy Indian Paintbrush
Clematis hirsutissima Mountainspray Clematis 2'Distinctive, bell-shaped, purple flowers on erect stems. Fuzzy seedheads. Hairy, finely-divided foliage.
Dalea purpurea Purple Prairie Clover 2-3'Produces many purple ball-shaped flowers with elongated centers on upright stems. Fixes nitrogen in the soil.
Echinacea angustifolia Narrow-leaf Purple Coneflower 1-2'Pink to purple petals fall gracefully downward from bronze center. Attracts beneficial insects and butterflies. Seedheads attractive all winter.
Eriogonum umbellatum Sulphur Buckwheat 6-12Ground cover for a sunny, dry spot. Leaves form evergeen or purplish mat in winter. Vibrant yellow flowers turn rust in fall. Birds eat the seeds. Good in dried arrangements. Withstands wind.
Gaillardia aristata Blanket flower 2-3'Bright, daisy-like flowers, yellow with red centers, attract butterflies and bees. Great for dry, sunny spots. Forms a clump with upright, spreading stems. Deadheading keeps it tidy.
Geranium viscosissimum Sticky Geranium 12-36Pink to violet flowers.
Geum triflorum Prairie Smoke Geum 24Soft-textured red flowers. Feathery, pink seedheads blow in wind, like smoke. Attractive, deeply-lobed foliage turns red in fall. A distinctive groundcover.
Heuchera sanguinea Coral Bells 12-18"Bell-shaped pink to white flowers held on slender stems. Will bloom into early summer if deadheaded. Lends an airy appearance to the landscape.
Hymenoxys acaulis Sundancer Daisy 1-2'Extremely hardy, drought tolerant rangeland native that thrives in poor, well drained soils. Compact size with golden yellow flowers that appear suspended in mid-air. Excellent as a rock garden perennial. Will not tolerate heavy soils or over-waterin
Iris missouriensis Rocky Mountain Iris 12-30Only native iris in Central Rocky Mountains. Delicate flowers vary in color from white to dark blue. Grass-like foliage.
Lewisia rediviva Bitterroot Narrow, succulent leaves appear with fall rains, resume growth in spring and disappear when flower is in full bloom. Beautiful, large flowers.
Liatris punctata Gayfeather 6-24Bright pink to lavender flowers borne on a 6" spike. Blooms attract butterflies and bees. Seedheads are attractive in winter and good in floral arrangements.
Linum lewisii Blue Flax 12-18Self-sows readily so let it spread in a naturalized short or mid-grass meadow. Dainty sky-blue flowers open in morning and fall by mid-afternoon.
Lupinus argenteus Silvery Lupine 2-3'Extremely hardy rangeland native with distinctive silvery palmate leaves, discovered 1806 in Montana by Meriwether Lewis.
Lupinus polyphyllus Bigleaf Lupine 12-30"Deep blue colored blossoms appear over bright green foliage. Attracts butterflies.
Lupinus sericeus Silky Lupine 1-2'Soft blue blossoms above hairy, silky foliage.
Mimulus lewisii Pink Monkeyflower 1-3'Magenta to pink flowers similar to snapdragons, but more open. Attracts hummingbirds and beneficial insects.
Oenothera caespitosa Gumbo Lily 10-12Lemon yellow flowers open from red buds towards end of day and last until following morning. Lovely summer groundcover. Great bloomer even in the heat of summer. Deer generally leave this plant alone. Prefers rocky, dry sites.
Penstemon eriantherus Fuzzy-tongue Penstemon 8-18Attracts butterflies; lilac-purple flowers.
Penstemon fruticosus Shrubby Penstemon 1-2'Lavender flowers over semi-evergreen foliage; prefers dry, well drained sunny sites.
Penstemon procerus Littleflower Penstemon 10-18An abundance of small blue to purple flowers on short stalks.
Penstemon strictus Rocky Mountain Penstemon 2-3'Attracts butterflies. Dark "guidelines" on purple flowers direct insects into petal tube for pollination.
Pulsatilla patens Pasque Flower 6-12Delicate, cup-shaped purple flowers.
Ratibida columnifera Prairie Coneflower 18-24Yellow to red flowers top slender stalks. Petals droop slightly away from the center. Does well in naturalized settings.

Flowers Flowers Flowers

Native GrassesCommon NameHeightDescription
Achnatherum hymenoides Indian Rice Grass 20-30Cool season bunchgrass with green, wiry leaves. Prefers drought conditions and is often found growing with Sagebrush.
Andropogon gerardii Big Bluestem 3-8'Distinctive three-parted seedheads shaped like a turkey's foot. Lush green leaves change to reddish-cooper in fall. Provides cover and seeds for birds.
Bouteloua gracilis Blue Grama 10-20Warm season bunchgrass. Short stature makes it excellent mixed with wildflowers in shortgrass meadows. Decorative seedheads
Festuca idahoensis Idaho Fescue 1'Bluish, wiry leaves. Tolerates wind.
Koeleria macrantha Prairie Junegrass 6-18Small stature bunchgrass, delicate blue-green leaves with striking seed head
Leymus cinereus Basin Wild Rye 5-8'Long-lived, cool season bunchgrass. Provides nesting cover for upland birds and small animals. Does not tolerate drought well.
Pseudoroegneria spicata Bluebunch Wheatgrass 3-5'Accent plant with upright flowering spikes and true green leaf blades. Provides nesting cover and seeds for birds. The state grass of Montana.
Schizachyrium scoparium Little Bluestem 1-4'Warm season bunchgrass begins growth in midsummer. Reddish fall color is stunning in mass plantings or singly. Seedheads attractive in winter. Stands up well in snow. Provides cover and seeds for birds.
Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass 5'Striking accent plant with dramatic, silky golden brown seedheads in autumn. Reddish- orange fall color
Stipa comata Needle and Thread Grass 2'Tufted clump grass with unusual seedheads in July that dry and persist through late fall

Native AnnualsCommon NameHeightDescription
Euphorbia marginata Snow on The Mountain 2-3'Its native habitat: along streams and dry plains, features: unusual, graceful flowers that are long blooming if irrigated. Will reseed if flowers are not cut back in the fall.

Native Wildflower Seed Mix

We also carry a custom wildflower seed mix, which is adapted to Montana growing conditions.

Below is a native plant display garden planted at the Big Horn County Historical Museum in Hardin, Montana in the summer of 2012. The focus was on using native plants with a significant historical use, mainly for food and medicine. Some plant species selected were Silver Buffaloberry, Golden Currant, Narrowleaf Coneflower, and the native Bitterroot.