Native Plants

Plants Native to Oklahoma for Landscaping [with Pictures]

Oklahoma has a variety of different environments and a lot of plants that are found in these regions. Native plant species are also very prevalent as well. There are many different types of trees, shrubs, perennials and cacti that exist in parts of the state. These plants provide great opportunities for individual growth as well as to better the environment by providing nectar sources for pollinators and food sources for insects.

Oklahoma is one of three states that has been designated as the Center of Plant Diversity in the United States, along with Alabama and Texas. Oklahoma is also home to over 3,000 different species of native plants that are found throughout the state.

Tree Species Native to Oklahoma

1. Willow Oak

One of the most common of all plant species in Oklahoma is called the Willow Oak. In fact, there are more than 50,000 acres that are covered in this tree species.

The Willow Oak can be categorized as a hardwood tree that forms a rounded canopy with dense foliage. It has an average height of 40-70 feet and a width of 20 to 45 feet. The leaves of this tree are willow-like in shape and around five to fifteen centimeters long. The bark is a dark gray or brown color.

The Willow Oak has a lifespan of up to 150 years. This is a very useful tree for its wood quality and usefulness for making furniture and other projects that require wood.

The Willow Oak can live in a large variety of different environments. It is found in dry, moist and sandy regions. It is also found in areas that have clay and limestone soils, as well as loamy soil types. This tree thrives best when it is near a water source, such as streams or ponds.

The wood from the Willow Oak is very popular for craft projects and furniture making because of its ability to stay strong even when damaged by insects or other damaging factors. It is also popular in Oklahoma to be used for baseboards, siding and other outdoor projects.

2. Southern Catalpa

The Southern Catalpa can grow to about 80 feet tall, with a broadly rounded irregular canopy of about 40 to 50 feet wide. This tree usually grows in moist environments and it needs a moderate amount of water regularly. The bark from this tree is a gray to reddish-brown color and it has the appearance of being sparsely lichen covered. The leaves have 5 to 9 lobes that are roughly shaped like tear-drop shapes with pointed lobes.

Their horn-shaped white flowers which bloom around late spring to early summer, are very identifiable from as far away as 1/4 of a mile. They have yellow stripes and purple speckles on their hollow and tube-shaped bodies. These large white flowers attract many bees, butterflies and hummingbirds for pollination and for food.

This tree is found in about 1/6th of Oklahoma’s counties mostly because it does not prefer to grow in saturated soil conditions. It is also found in the east and south-central portions of the state. This tree dies within a year if it loses its leaves & if its trunk or branches are damaged by fire.

The wood from this tree can be used as fuelwood or firewood. It is also used to make furniture, wooden bowls, toys, utensils and musical instruments such as flutes and reed instruments.

3. Red Oak

When it comes to the health and well-being of Oklahoma’s native trees, the second most common tree is the oak or red oak. This tree has a long history with Oklahoma natives and many Native Americans chose this tree as a resource for medicine because of its high medicinal value. It is often referred to by some as the “American Medicine Tree”.

The Red Oak has a very wide range of habitats from dry plains to wetter areas. It is found in many types of soils including sand, clay, rocky areas and loam soil. The average height of this tree is 70-100 feet.

There are generally two types of oaks in Oklahoma; the “bur oak” and the “post oak”. These two trees can be distinguished because of their leaves. The bur oak has “hairy” leaves and the post oak has “smooth” leaves. Both of these trees are very useful and important to the growth of Oklahoma’s native plant species.

The acorns from this tree can be used to make: dyes, food, drinks, toiletries, paper products and more. The wood from this tree is also very helpful in making furniture, wooden bowls, toys and more.

4. Red Maple

Another very popular tree in Oklahoma is the Red Maple. Also known as the Swamp Maple and Sugar Maple, this tree has been used for medicinal purposes and food resources since the days of Native Americans.

The Red Maple is a tree that thrives best in a wet or swampy ground type of environment. This tree can live up to 100 years old and its average height is 40 to 75 feet tall. The size of this tree can range from 15 feet to 25 feet wide.

The leaves are 5-10 cm long and they have 3 to 7 lobes. The bark is dark in color. The Red Maple has a longer lifespan than most trees of its kind, but can fall victim to damage by insects and fungi alike.

The Red Maple can grow well in a variety of different soil types including clay, loam and sandy soils. It also does very well in moist environments and wetland areas as well as dry areas that are poor for other trees.

The Red Maple is well known for its ability to produce sap that can be used for syrup and as a sweetener. It is also very useful as firewood and wood products.

5. Sugarberry/Hackberry

This tree can live up to 50 years old and can be as tall as 60 feet with a width of 10 to 20 feet wide. The bark of this tree is dark in color, but on older trees that bark turns light gray in color and eventually falls off. The leaves of this tree are between 5 and 9 inches long. The leaves are roughly heart shaped in shape, but they can have slight lobes as well.

The Sugarberry/Hackberry can grow in a variety of different soils types including loamy, sandy and clay soils. It prefers wet soil types but can also do quite well in dry soil areas as well. The Sugarberry/Hackberry thrives best when watered regularly and not overlooked.

The sap of the Sugarberry/Hackberry can be made into syrup, used for medicinal purposes and also as a sweetener. Other uses include: making furniture, paper products, dyes, ink and insect repellent.

The wood from this tree is very useful as well as firewood and other wood products such as pallets.

This tree is also very handy for attracting birds to its fruit for feeding their young.

6. Sugar Maple

This tree has dense foliage with spreading branches forming an oval rounded crown. Its leaves turn from medium green in summer to yellow or red in the fall. The bark on younger trees is smooth and dark in color, but as the tree ages it becomes fissured with light gray or brown bark. The Sugar Maple can grow to 100 feet tall and 20-30ft wide.

The Sugar Maple grows best in moist soils but can also grow in dry soil areas as well. In Oklahoma the Sugar Maple thrives best around the river valleys that are plentiful throughout the state.

The sap from this tree is what is used to make maple syrup or sugar. This tree is also very useful for making furniture and other wood products such as wooden bowls, furniture and more.

7. Yellowwood

Another tree found in Oklahoma is the Yellowwood. It is a small coniferous tree with an open branching structure. It has a narrow crown and can reach heights of 1-3 meters or 4-10 feet high. The leaves are light green on both the top and bottom surfaces, but they turn yellow or orange during the fall and winter.

The Yellowwood likes moist soil types and can survive in both dry areas as well as wet areas to some extent. They can also thrive in moderately acidic soil conditions as well.

The tree is low maintenance, not being prone to disease or insects, as well as not requiring regular pruning. This, together with its attractive foliage color that changes with season, and fragrant flowers make it one of the best trees for planting in your garden.

8. American Smoke Tree

The American smoke tree is a plant that happens to be an ornamental that is native to the United States. The American Smoke Tree is a small tree with a single trunk, mostly found in parts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It can grow up to 40 feet in height with an equal width of 10 feet.

The leaves are sharp-pointed and are mostly dark green in color that could turn red during the fall. The American Smoke Tree is mostly active in the months of April, May, June and July. The flowers are white with a slight purple color on them and the blooms look like a single column, however, on closer viewing, these flowers may be clustered together to form a raceme. These flowers appear as though they have flames at the tips.

The smoke tree does not like wet areas and does not thrive well in humid regions. If left alone and not over-watered it can live for up to 20 years, but with proper care and maintenance it can live for up to 50 years.

Shrubs Native to Oklahoma

1. Smooth Alder

The Smooth Alder is a very common shrub in Oklahoma. The leaves of this shrub are roughly 2 to 5 inches long, oval shaped and they have smooth edges. This shrub has both sexes. The yellow male catkins can be found hanging on its branches, while the female ones, reddish-purple in color, usually grow on the tips.

This shrub prefers certain soil types including clay, sandstone, rocky and loam soils. The smooth alder does best in moist soil conditions with full sun exposure. It does not do well when the weather is too hot or too cold.

2. American Hazelnut

The American Hazelnut is a shrub that grows to around 15ft tall and between 8 to 12ft wide. The leaves are lance-shaped, dark green in color and they are rough with small lobes. The nuts of this shrub are edible and have a very nutty taste.

The American Hazelnut prefers areas consisting of soil types such as clay, loam and sandy soil. The American Hazelnut thrives when planted within a moist soil environment with full to partial sun exposure. It does not do so well when the weather is very hot or too cold.

The plant grows well in open areas where it is allowed to spread out with plenty of room to grow. American hazelnuts are usually found in dense thickets and hedgerows but can also be found in wooded areas around roads and trails.

3. Blackhaw

The Blackhaw is a native shrub that exists in Oklahoma and thrives best in moist ground conditions, mainly along river valleys or creek beds. The leaves of this shrub are 5 to 10 cm long with irregularly toothed edges. The bark from the Blackhaw is gray-brown in color and it has long thorns growing from its branches as well. The Blackhaw’s flowers are pink and purple in color with a yellowish-green center. The stem branches of this shrub can be found near the ground, especially on the underside, while on older branches they are off-set and slightly higher than the rest of the branches. The flowering period for the Blackhaw is between May and July.

4. Blueberry Bush/Creek Bank Grape

The blueberry bush can grow to a height of 5 to 9 feet and a width of 10-20 feet. The flowers of this plant are cluster type and they are white in color. The fruit of this bush is blue in color when ripe and very juicy. When it has been picked the fruit contains a nice amount of juice that can be drunk or canned. The berries can be eaten fresh, dried and made into jams, jellies and pies.

The blueberry bush does well in damp soil type areas including wet thickets and river valleys. It also does well in rocky soils as long as there is ample water available to it. It thrives best when planted near streams of water that are abundant within Oklahoma’s soil types. It prefers full sun exposure, but can survive when planted in semi-shadows as well.

5. Flowering Dogwood

The Flowering Dogwood is regarded by many as the best flowering tree. It grows up to 25ft tall and 9m wide. It’s noted for its white flowers that appear in spring just before the leaves begin to grow. Its leaves are green in summer, changing to red in the fall. The dogwood’s bark is gray-brown in color and it can be extremely rough to the touch. The flower buds on the Flowering Dogwood begin to appear in July and continue for two weeks.

The flowers produced by this tree are very fragrant, having a rich sweet scent. Female plants produce plentiful amounts of seeds, which are very small but are quite numerous.

The Flowering Dogwood is an excellent example of a pioneer species. It thrives in a variety of soil types, but prefers moist ground and full sun exposure. It can be found in prairies, glades, woodlands, gullies, riverbanks and along streams in Oklahoma.

6. Water Lily

The Water Lily grows in shallow water and along stream banks throughout Oklahoma. The leaves of this plant are very large, round, smooth and green in color with slight markings on their edges. Water lilies prefer streams, rivers and ponds with a considerable amount of water.

The time for the Water Lilies flowering period is from June to August. Its flower is white to pink in color with a yellow center and it can grow up to 8 inches in diameter. The Flowering period for the Water Lily lasts for about one month. After that the flowers are replaced by seeds which contain black dots on them.

It can often be found along roadside ditches and in wet areas that have no heavy permanent exposure to sunlight. It thrives when planted near streams of water in Oklahoma’s soil types (mostly clay). The Water Lily does not do well when planted in dry soil areas.

8. Swamp Dogwood

The white, fragrant flowers that appear in bundles on the plant make this an attractive plant. The flower buds appear in mid-spring to early summer, once the leaves have fully matured.

The Swamp Dogwood prefers moist soil and full sunlight. It is ideal for prairies and as a border plant around streams and ponds. Swamp Dogwood can be found in thickets of trees throughout Oklahoma.

The Swamp Dogwood is native to Oklahoma, but can be found in other regions of the United States as well, including Louisiana. It grows up to 9 feet in height and 6 feet in width. The Swamp Dogwood has attractive red branches with large green leaves.

Flowers Native to Oklahoma

1. Narrowleaf Bluestar

Narrowleaf Bluestar is found on prairies, hillsides and woodland areas. The flowers are bright blue and very showy. The leaves are narrow with a white underside, giving the plant its name. Narrowleaf Bluestar blooms in late spring to early summer.

Narrowleaf blue star makes a great addition to your garden as it is resistant to deer, attracts butterflies and not prone to insects or diseases.

The root system is shallow and it can be planted in heavy clay. The native soil found in Oklahoma makes the best soil for this type of plant. The plants prefer full sun and well drained soil. The flowers can bloom continuously without going dormant for long periods of time.

2. Oklahoma Rose

The Oklahoma Rose has showy pink flowers which grow on a thick, thorny bush. The flowers appear in late spring to early summer and have a faint but pleasant scent. This plant makes a great addition to flowerbeds, as it is very fragrant and can withstand drought conditions. The Oklahoma Rose also attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

The Oklahoma Rose grows best in full sun and well-drained soil, but it can tolerate partial shade areas as well. These native plants require little maintenance, requiring only deadheading.

3. Narrowleaf Prairie Rose

The flowers of the Narrowleaf Prairie Rose are reddish purple or lavender in color. Narrowleaf Prairie Rose blooms in late spring to early summer and has a sweet scent. The leaves are opposite of each other, having one pair with a large leaf and the other with a small one. This plant prefers full sun to partial shade areas, but can be found in any soil type.

4. Oklahoma Wild Petunia

The Oklahoma Wild Petunia is found in prairies, fields and along roadsides. It has white and purple flowers which appear from late spring to mid-summer. The Oklahoma Wild Petunia has a sweet fragrance.

Oklahoma Wild Petunia can be grown in full sun, partial shade or heavily shaded areas. It prefers sandy, loamy and well drained soil. The plants have a shallow root system and are not invasive. This native plant is hardy and makes a great addition to your flower beds.

The Oklahoma Wild Petunia does best when planted near taller plants for protection from strong winds and heat from the sun, as well as being protected from deer.

5. Eastern Blue Star

The Eastern Blue Star is also called a Prairie Star. Its flowers are blue to purple in color and appear in June or July. This plant only grows up to 24 inches tall and can be found on prairies and road sides.

The flowers are a favorite of butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and humans alike. The Eastern Blue Star prefers full sun areas, but is also successfully grown in partial shade locations. It requires little maintenance and requires deadheading after it has bloomed. It does well in soil that is not compacted and does not require regular watering.

It’s deer, disease and pest resistant making it a great addition to your garden or flower beds.

6. Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed is a perennial plant found in prairies, meadows, roadsides and moist woods. The plants bloom in late spring to early summer and have spectacular flowers with bright orange pistils and red stamens. Common Milkweed provides a great source of food for Monarch butterflies.

This plant can be found throughout Oklahoma on open grassy areas and light soil-rich prairies.

The Common Milkweed is not a large bush, normally growing between 2-3 feet in height. It prefers full sun to partial shade and is best when planted in moist soils.

7. Bushy Asters

Bushy Asters are upright plants with a yellow center and purple petals. The flowers bloom in late summer and into fall. They prefer partial shade locations, but can tolerate full sun if there is enough moisture in the soil.

Bushy Asters make a great addition to your garden as they attract hummingbirds and butterflies. They also do not require much care and are deer resistant, making this plant ideal for the novice gardener.

8. Water Hyssop

The Water Hyssop has flowers that are pinkish purple, with a yellow center. The flowers appear in the late spring or early summer and grow to be three inches across. These native plants can grow up to six feet tall and make a great addition to your garden.

The Water Hyssop occurs naturally along streams, ponds and other wet areas. They are a great addition to any garden as they attract butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees.

Being an aquatic plant, it is at its best when planted in water-logged or wet soils. It also prefers full sun to partial shade.

9. Blue Basil

Blue Basil is a perennial that blooms from late spring to mid-summer. The flowers are dark blue and appear on stems up to a foot tall. It prefers full sun to partial shade locations and grows best in well-drained soils.

Blue Basil is not very invasive, as it can be easily contained within your flowerbeds or garden space, but does spread quickly. It is deer resistant and attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

10. Showy Goldenrod

The Showy Goldenrod is a perennial plant that grows between 3 and 5 feet tall. The blossoms appear from July to October. They are yellow, resembling a daisy and are perfect for cutting. It prefers well drained soil and full sun to partial shade.

Another great feature of the Showy Goldenrod is it attracts Monarch butterflies and other pollinators throughout the growing season. It is not very invasive and does not require much maintenance or care.

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