Native Plants for our Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are strategically designed to soak up stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as pavement.  As such, the type of vegetation utilized in rain gardens is crucial to their success.  Native plants are preferred for use in rain gardens as these require the least maintenance, having already adapted to regional climatic patterns and rely on local insects.  Additionally, native plants are recommended species for bioswales and ecological landscaping.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center disseminates information regarding the conservation and sustainable use of native plants in North America.  Additionally, this resource provided by the University of Texas at Austin provides a list of plants native to different discrete geographic regions, their physical characteristics and growing conditions.

Native plant species suitable for rain gardens and other landscapes in Massachusetts include orange milkweed, cherry birch and blue mistflower (pictured below), along with over 100 other wildflower and tree species.


Blue mistflower, native to Massachusetts

To access the full list of native plants recommended for landscaping in Massachusetts visit:


Soak Up The Rain

With the return of spring, we enjoy getting outside and thinking about home improvements. Yardwork and landscaping can also make a difference in keeping streams and lakes healthy.

Austin St raingarden[1]EPA New England has a helpful website that shows how to sustain local waters and improve your yard.  This Soak Up the Rain site provides free guidance about rain gardens, tree planting, rain barrels, porous paving and other ways to keep runoff from harming brooks and ponds. Home landscaping can use plants and soil to prevent pollution, reduce flooding and recharge groundwater.  These “green practices” will enhance the neighborhood, as well as attract birds, butterflies and fauna you can enjoy watching.

The Soak up the Rain website also has practical ideas for town officials, youth groups, businesses and lake associations that are looking to prevent or fix stormwater problems.  There are links for how-to guides, videos, mobile phone apps, and EPA’s Stormwater Calculator. The Calculator is a desktop tool that estimates runoff from a specific site using local soil conditions, topography, and rainfall records.  Home builders, landscape services, homeowners and community groups can apply this tool to consider low impact practices that protect streams and ecosystems. For more information, visit the website at

Community Stormwater Solutions in Action Lessons from Monoosnoc Brook

Oct 17 CSSIA workshop

Stormwater is a leading cause of damage to streams, lakes, and water supplies. Fortunately,there are effective ways to prevent and fix polluted runoff. Leominster took a community approach to stormwater problems to remove 500 tons of debris and sediment from Monoosnoc Brook.

Municipal boards, builders, engineers, and watershed and lake associations will gain practical information to make positive impacts in their own communities at a free workshop on October 17, 2014 at Leominster Library. Expert speakers will present guidance in selecting practices to achieve more pollutant reduction for less cost. The free 2-hour workshop will be followed by an optional tour of nearby bio-swales, tree box filters, porous walkways and other BMP’s.

Pre-registration is requested – email , or telephone 978-534-0379.

The Monoosnoc Brook project has been partly supported with Federal funds from the Environmental Protection Agency to the MA Department of Environmental Protection under an s.319 competitive grant.

Grow a Greener Community

Communities are faced with damages to drinking water supplies, lakes, rivers and streams caused by stormwater runoff.  When it rains, the “first flush” of runoff from roads, driveways, sidewalks, lawns and parking lots, carries pollutants that harm community uses of water and poison aquatic life. Oil, grease, heavy metals, lawn chemicals, sand and salt are washed into underground pipe systems that pour pollutants directly into water bodies.

FortG3 L. George edhunately, low impact approaches can be used to treat stormwater near its source. Methods such as rain gardens, vegetated buffers and tree box filters capture stormwater and infiltrate it into the soil where the water is detained and cleansed.

The Massachusetts Watershed Coalition has created A Community Guide to Growing Greener, a set of guidelines for designers, developers and community boards. It will help local builders, businesses and community residents to use effective, low-cost measures to prevent runoff from harming water supplies and habitats. This guidance will also help to attract development that can protect the Town’s character and its valuable natural resources.

The Guide describes design and construction practices for stormwater management, erosion and sedimentation control, landscape design and site planning. This Guide will also be useful to communities required to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Phase II stormwater regulations.

Community boards can use the Guide in the development and redevelopment process. Because many of these practices are less costly to install than traditional large-pipe stormwater systems, developers find them attractive to use. Thus municipalities can reduce stormwater pollution at little cost to the community.