The selection of native plants for use in the Montana landscape: selection criteria, aesthetic, cultural and environmental evaluation

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


During the past 15 years the landscape industry has experienced increased pressure to use native plants as ornamentals. Although a demand for natives in general exists there has been a relunctance on the part of the industry to offer native species because of the economic risks involved. An ornamental scorecard was developed as an evaluation tool for comparing native plant species with plant species currently available on the ornamental market. The scorecard evaluated 24 native Montana plant species and 20 exotic ornamentals commonly used in the landscape industry in Montana. The aesthetic scorecard rated six visual characteristics using color photographs. Scored were form/habit, flower, fruit, bark, leaf, and seasonal characteristics. The thirteen environmental factors evaluated by the environmental scorecard were transplantability, lifespan, propagation, maintenance/cleanliness, soil texture and pH, moisture regime adaptability (both drought and flood tolerance), exposure tolerances (temperature, light, and wind), insect resistance, and disease resistance. Species were scored by a panel of professional evaluators in the botany, horticulture, nursery and landscape design/architecture fields. These scores allow selection of native plant species with visual and/or functional qualities that are of equal or greater value than those exhibited by plants already available on the retail market, and thus exhibit competitive marketing potential.




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