Help a reader: What’s a good source for identifying native plants, weeds?

butter and eggs or linaria vulgaris
Commonly called butter and eggs, linaria vulgaris is not native to North America, but is commonly seen along roadsides. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here’s a question from a reader:


I am looking for a book about native plants and weeds in Buffalo or Western New York. My friend likes to walk along the railroad tracks in Buffalo to look at the wildlife but he can’t identify some of the wild flowers and weeds growing along the tracks.

Can you suggest a book I could purchase that would show different kinds of native wildflowers and weeds in this region?

Thanks so much,



My first thought is the Western New York Guide to Native Plants for your Garden that was published by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. You can access it online and you may still be able to find a print copy (scroll to the bottom of that page to see a list of locations.)

It’s a great resource for your garden, but it may not be the field guide that Chris is looking for.

Are there print books, phone apps or even Internet databases that are good for identifying wild plants? If so, please leave a comment below.

How to get your questions answered

Sometimes readers contact me with questions that I can’t answer. I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on

So when someone asks a question I can’t answer, I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise. If you have advice for Chris, please leave a comment below. If you want to know the answer to this question, check back later to read the comments.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

A more efficient route for getting your questions answered is to turn to Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension or to turn to your local garden center.

For Master Gardeners at Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County, call (716) 652-5400 from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays or email them at For Chautauqua County, email your question to; call the Helpline at (716) 664-9502, ext 224, or stop in to the Frank Bragg Ag Center, 3542 Turner Rd., Jamestown,  from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays.

There are helpful Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in other counties, too. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

The businesses that support this magazine have very knowledgeable staff. Check out our Gardening Directory or click on the ads to the right.

9 Comments on “Help a reader: What’s a good source for identifying native plants, weeds?

  1. The best field guide I like to recommend for this region is “Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide”. It has a simple and easy to use key and has drawings of every plant. Although no guide is complete, This one covers most of the plants found in the wild.

  2. On Facebook, there are groups of people who are very helpful at identifying plants. I like the group Plant Idents, but there are others.

  3. A set of books is generally the best to get positive IDs on any plants. Ed’s recommendation above of the Newcomb Guide is excellent. Partner that up with Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers (Northeastern/North Central North America), National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers (Eastern Region) along with Botany in a Day, which is a great reference for identifying plant families. Being able to ID the family first makes IDing the species much quicker. Have fun!

  4. The most comprehensive book on native plants for our area that I have found is “Native Plants of the Northeast”, by Donald Leopold. It covers grasses, ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs. Great colored ;pictures and excellent information.

  5. A book I find helpful and refer to most often for local plants is “Weeds of the Northeast”, by Uva, Neal and DiTomaso. You can walk around your yard and most anywhere identifying the things you don’t like that grow there.

  6. I am a native gardener at the Jamestown Audubon Society. I have many books that identify natives, and also wildflowers. I have to agree with MJ Graham about the Peterson’s Guide to Wildflowers. I also refer to another book, Wildflowers of New York, by William and Valerie Chapman, Alan and Arleen Bessette, and Douglas Pens. You can reference flowers and natives by color, (white, blue, yellow). This is probably the easiest book that I have to refer to the many beautiful wildflowers in our area. The photos are amazing. Love the picture of the Butter and Eggs you have on the website. Hope this helps

  7. What great information from everyone. I have a lot of butter and eggs in my garden. I think they are pretty but I pull them out because I’m not sure of their habit. If they grow to maturity will they stay pretty and will I be able to control them?

  8. Linda, in my experience, butter and eggs seem easy to yank out and I don’t think they spread that fast. However, a lot of sites describe them as aggressive. Also, they aren’t native; they’re an invasive species and could threaten native species if they escape into the wild. Gardeners in other states say they wouldn’t plant them in their gardens.
    Here’s a site in Minnesota with comments from gardeners.

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