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When shopping for flowers, trees, and other plants, the only way to know you are buying a true native plant is when the label has a two-part scientific name without a third name in quotations. For instance, the lovely native hydrangea is Hydrangea arborescens, while the horticultural variety is Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle.’ Horticultural, cultivar, and nativar varieties have a third word in the scientific name, always in single quotation marks. If you want to attract butterflies, you’ll want the true native, not horticultural variety.
Our local flora is inventoried in the authoritative books Plants of the Chicago Region by Floyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm, and Flora of the Chicago Region by Gerould Wilhelm and Laura Rericha. You can also find where a plant is native range is by going to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s PLANTS database at plants.sc.egov.usda.gov.