By Amy Okafor
You almost can’t see Connecticut for the trees. Our state is so heavily forested that two-thirds of it is covered by tree canopy. That makes Connecticut a woodland paradise filled with native plants and trees that thrive in this moderate climate.
Native plants and trees show resilience, diversity
The landscape of Connecticut has changed over time. Once a heavily forested region, the land gave way to agricultural sprawl, in the early part of the 19th century. Today, the forests have replenished themselves, nearly doubling in size.
Here are some of the thousands of native plants and trees you'll see everywhere in Connecticut.
Long after the autumn leaves have dropped and the winter snow has melted away, Connecticut’s native plants begin their own show.
The Pinxterbloom azalea showcases its pink, curly blooms. The blue-stemmed goldenrod features arching stems adorned with hundreds of yellow flowers.
But native plants are more than pretty. They’re also an important part of a healthy New England ecosystem, and attract the pollinators that make the outdoors bloom.
Connecticut natives are easy to find.
Eastern Red Columbine
These showy flowers are a flash of bright red and yellow in the springtime forest landscape. This columbine is native to the Northeast, and the columbine family propagates easily in this climate.
This native flowering plant is not just good-looking; it’s also useful in herbal medicine. You may also know it as echinacea, long touted for its immune-boosting properties. This flower has a fuzzy yellow center, and downward drooping, lavender petals.
Common witch hazel
Instead of buying witch hazel at the drugstore, you can pick it out of your backyard. Witch hazel is native to Connecticut, and used as a natural remedy for insect bites and disinfecting scratches and scrapes. Some even use it as a skin toner. In the garden, or in the wild, the common witch hazel produces stems of yellow flowers.
New England is famous for its fall colors. Tourists flock to Connecticut every year to soak in the best scarlet, orange, and gold leaves from September on. It’s the abundant native trees that are putting on that show. Let's start with the most common native trees perfect for your yard.
You can’t miss the red maple, with its red flowers and red fruit, and of course, its flaming scarlet leaves in autumn. This tree is one of the most common in the Northeast. It grows quickly, getting to be about 60 to 90 feet tall.
The leaves of the black birch turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. It gets its name from the wood, which turns a lovely dark mahogany color when exposed to the air. This tree is a great pick for a Connecticut landscape.
The Eastern hemlock is part of the pine family. It’s an evergreen, so it adds a cool splash of green in the Connecticut landscape, year-round. If you see a big one, you'll be looking at a couple of centuries of growth. The Eastern hemlock is a very slow grower and can live to be about 400 years old.
Come late February, the sugar maple tree is probably the most popular tree in Connecticut. This is where local sugar producers get their maple syrup. It’s also a great addition to fall foliage as sugar maple leaves turn yellow, pumpkin orange, and red.
Northern Red Oak
This tree is one of the fastest-growing trees in the oak family, which makes it a good pick for landscaping. Like the name suggests, the leaves turn bright red in the fall.
It goes to show how resilient Connecticut really is. The sheer number of native plants and trees you'll see everywhere in Connecticut demonstrates the diversity of vegetation in our state.
About the Author:
Amy Okafor loves a good landscape, and seeks inspiration for the one in her backyard by visiting every one she can in her travels. She writes about gardening and landscaping for a variety of local and national publications.
The Monroe Farmers' Market is open June–October and offers fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and hand-crafted specialty foods to Connecticut locals.