West Virginia Planting Tool


Would you like to restore native plants to your wetland or upland site in West Virginia? The West Virginia Planting Tool matches your site with known native plant communities in West Virginia and recommends the species that will thrive with minimal maintenance while providing excellent habitat for native birds, butterflies, and other species.


Interactive Planting Application


About the West Virginia Planting Tool

The WV Planting Tool recommends native species for habitat restoration projects, wetland mitigation sites, erosion control, rights-of-way, and pollinator gardens in West Virginia. Recommendations are customized based on the location in West Virginia, the purpose of the planting project, and whether or not the planting site is a wetland. Results can be displayed as “top choices only” or as a full list of all of the recommended species likely to thrive at a particular site. Results are categorized as trees, shrubs, vines, forbs, graminoids, or ferns/fern allies. Information is provided for each recommended species including Common Name, Scientific Name, Growth Form, Height, Sun/Shade, Soil Moisture, Bloom Period, Flower Color, Life Cycle, and Natural History Notes.

The WV Planting Tool was compiled by Elizabeth Byers, WVDEP Watershed Assessment Branch, during 2020-2022, with key assistance from the following experts: WVDEP: Sara Miller, Mike Shank, Dustin Lowers; WVDNR: James Vanderhorst, Sue Olcott, Brian Streets, John Burkhart; WVU: Donna FordWerntz; WV Wesleyan College: Kathy Gregg; WV Native Plant Society: Chris Gatens, Kevin Campbell; and Rod Bartgis.

The 71 customized planting locations are based on 55 counties and 5 ecoregions. Note that ecoregion boundaries cross 14 counties, splitting them into two, or in the case of Webster and Greenbrier counties, three planting zones. The WVDNR “Seed Zones” map created by James Vanderhorst at WVDNR was used to define the ecoregions: Ridge & Valley/Blue Ridge (RV), Allegheny Highlands (AH), Greenbrier Valley and Allegheny Mountain (AMG), Cumberland Mountains (CM), and Western Allegheny Plateau (WAP).

Methods and Criteria

Species were selected for recommendation according to a two-step process. First, the most common and abundant native species for each of 71 geographic areas in the state were selected based on more than 200,000 georeferenced plant records from WVDNR, WVU Herbarium (WVA), WVDEP, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The list of recommended species was then vetted by expert botanists at WVDEP, WVDNR, WVA, WV Wesleyan College, and the WV Native Plant Society.

The GIS map of geographic areas and database of recommended species for each scenario (location, wetland/upland, purpose of planting, number of results to display) were transformed into a public website by WVDEP’s Technical Applications and GIS Unit, using programming tools in SQL, Python, CSS, Javascript, and HTML.

Planting Categories

The three categories for purpose of planting, with their recommendation criteria are:

  • Restoration: Examples include habitat restoration, wetland mitigation sites, or wildlife conservation planting. Criteria are Frequency ≥ 10, Average cover ≥ 10%, Coefficient of Conservation ≥ 4, Additions: a few species that don't quite meet criteria but are deemed valuable for restoration, Exclusions: a few species meet criteria but have issues such as pervasive pathogens. Species recommended for wetland and buffer mitigation in West Virginia by the US Army Corps of Engineers are given greater weight in this section.

  • Erosion Control: Examples include open soil revegetation, pipelines, powerlines, and highway rights-of-way. Criteria are native, sun or partial shade, common, tolerant of human disturbance (Coefficient of Conservatism range 1-5), and with documented abundance on roadsides or in grasslands.

  • Pollinator gardens: Examples include gardens, yards, and hedgerows. Criteria are native, relatively common, with high documented pollinator value for hummingbirds, butterfly nectar, honeybees, native bees, pollen, or as butterfly larval hosts. Showy species are given greater weight in this section.

Importance Value Calculations

Species exported from the WVDNR (166,628 records) and WVDEP (3,814 records) databases were screened to include native non-invasive vascular plants with > 4% cover. Globally rare species and poison ivy were excluded. Species exported from the GBIF (30,336 records from Carnegie Natural History Museum Herbarium, iNaturalist, and PlantNet) were screened to include native non-invasive vascular plants with locational accuracy < 1000 m. WVA vouchers (27,194) were screened to include native non-invasive vascular plants.

Records without an abundance (cover) value were arbitrarily assigned a weight of 1. Records with abundance values were assigned a weight = % cover. Most WVA vouchers do not have coordinates or ecoregion locations. WVA records for counties that are not fully contained within one ecoregion were omitted from the totals.

The impact of the weighting is that WVDNR vegetation plots & WVDEP wetland assessments dominate the scores for species that are abundant in natural habitats. For species that are less abundant in natural habitats but widespread, WVA and GBIF make a significant contribution to the scores and sometimes dominate.

IV Calculations Explained

Importance value (IV) was calculated as follows:

  • IV = Ecoregion IV + County IV
    Note that ecoregion and county IVs are calculated in the same way. The difference is that the ecoregion values are averaged over the entire ecoregion, which includes multiple counties or parts of counties. Adding the average ecoregion value helps to fill out the species list for counties that are under-sampled.

  • Ecoregion IV = [Sum of WVDNR plot-species (Cover)] + [Sum of WVDEP wetland assessmentspecies (Cover)] + number of GBIF records + number of WVU Herbarium records (only for counties that are contained in a single ecoregion)]
    The total for the target ecoregion is prorated by dividing by the number of counties (approximating partial counties), in the ecoregion: AH 5, AMG 4, CM 10, RV 7, WAP 30. This value is weighted double (multiplied by 2) compared with the county value, since some counties are under-sampled.

  • County IV (portion of county within an ecoregion) = [Sum of WVDNR plot-species (Cover)] + [Sum of WVDEP wetland assessment-species (Cover)] + number of GBIF records + number of WVA records (only for counties that are contained in a single ecoregion)]

Thresholds for Inclusion in Results Queries

From the final list of 328 recommended species statewide, thresholds were set for inclusion in results for each scenario based on the geographic distribution of each species within the state. Species excluded from this version due to pervasive pathogens are Fagus grandifolia, Fraxinus (all species), Tsuga canadensis, and Ulmus americana. Since planting these species may have benefits to conservation, particularly if pathogen-resistant strains are identified, it is possible they will be included in future versions.


IV ≥ 5 is the default for all species, except as noted below.

IV ≥ 3 for 11 species with generally lower cover & abundance but with desirable qualities (e.g. pollinator value): Amaranthus hybridus, Bidens laevis, Cirsium discolor, Crataegus crus-galli, Diervilla lonicera, Helianthus giganteus, Helianthus strumosus, Ionactis linariifolius, Rhododendron prinophyllum, Rudbeckia hirta var. hirta, and Veronicastrum virginicum.

Platanus occidentalis and Liriodendron tulipifera are excluded from the Allegheny Highlands results since they occur only along a few low-elevation streams in that ecoregion.

Certain species with high IV have custom thresholds for inclusion, based on their distribution in West Virginia.

Species With Custom Thresholds

  • Acer nigrum > 10
  • Acer pensylvanicum > 100
  • Acer saccharinum > 50
  • Acer spicatum > 10
  • Alnus incana ssp. rugosa > 200
  • Alnus serrulata > 20
  • Amelanchier laevis > 10
  • Apios americana > 5
  • Betula alleghaniensis var. alleghaniensis > 100
  • Betula lenta > 100
  • Betula nigra > 10
  • Calamagrostis canadensis var. canadensis > 10
  • Carex gynandra > 10
  • Carya alba > 63
  • Carya glabra > 50
  • Cornus amomum > 50
  • Cornus florida > 10
  • Dryopteris campyloptera > 50
  • Elymus virginicus var. virginicus > 10
  • Eriophorum virginicum > 100
  • Gaylussacia baccata > 100
  • Geum canadense var. canadense > 5
  • Hypericum densiflorum > 13
  • Ilex montana > 10
  • Juglans nigra > 26
  • Juncus brevicaudatus > 50
  • Juncus subcaudatus var. subcaudatus > 10
  • Liquidambar styraciflua > 10
  • Magnolia fraseri > 10
  • Nemopanthus mucronatus > 100
  • Oxalis montana > 100
  • Oxydendrum arboreum > 50
  • Photinia melanocarpa > 50
  • Photinia pyrifolia > 50
  • Picea rubens > 1000
  • Pilea pumila var. pumila > 10
  • Prunus pensylvanica var. pensylvanica > 10
  • Quercus ilicifolia > 10
  • Quercus stellata > 50
  • Quercus velutina > 50
  • Rhododendron arborescens > 10
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum > 10
  • Rhododendron catawbiense > 50
  • Rhus aromatica var. aromatica > 10
  • Rhynchospora alba > 10
  • Ribes cynosbati > 5
  • Salix nigra > 10
  • Sassafras albidum > 10
  • Saururus cernuus > 10
  • Solidago uliginosa var. uliginosa > 50
  • Sparganium emersum > 50
  • Vaccinium angustifolium > 50
  • Vaccinium corymbosum > 10
  • Vaccinium erythrocarpum > 20
  • Vaccinium myrtilloides > 50
  • Veratrum viride > 10
  • Vernonia noveboracensis > 12
  • Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides > 10

Top Choices vs All Results

Top Choices

“Top choices” includes the species with the highest 4 Importance Values for trees, shrubs, forbs, and graminoids, plus the single highest Importance Value for vines and ferns. Normally 18 species are shown in the top choices results, but sometimes slightly less if, for example, there are no vines that meet the recommendation criteria.

All Results

“All results” shows all of the species that meet the recommendation criteria, sorted by growth form (trees, shrubs, vines, forbs, graminoids, ferns) and then by Importance Values, with the most highly recommended species at the top of each category. Typically, about 65 recommended species are included, with a range of 29 species to 136 species depending upon the scenario.


  • Coefficient of Conservatism: Value from 1-10 that describes the sensitivity to anthropogenic disturbance by individual plant species, with values of 1 indicating high tolerance for anthropogenic disturbance and values of 10 indicating very low tolerance for anthropogenic disturbance. Species with low coefficients of conservatism will often volunteer on disturbed sites, whereas species with higher coefficients may need to be planted and nurtured before they can become established.

  • Cover, or absolute percent cover: The percentage of the ground covered by the vertical projection of the plant crowns of a species or defined set of plants (also known as the vertical projection of foliage of plants) as viewed from above. This information is recorded for each species in WVDNR vegetation plots and WVDEP wetland assessments. Values range from 0.1% to 100% for each species in an individual plot or assessment area.

  • Frequency: Vegetation attribute that describes the probability of finding a species within a particular area. The frequency is based on the number of occurrences of that species in a series of sample units, such as plots, observations, or herbarium vouchers.

  • Importance Value: Measure of how dominant a species is in a given area. In this tool, the Importance Value (IV) is calculated as the sum of all of the occurrences (frequency) plus the percent cover of occurrences where it has been recorded. IV is thus based on both likelihood of occurrence and abundance in a given area. A species can score a high IV in a given area by occurring in many scattered small patches or by occurring in a smaller number of large natural stands.


  • AH: Allegheny Highlands
  • AMG: Greenbrier Valley and Allegheny Mountain
  • CM: Cumberland Mountains
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets
  • GBIF: Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • GIS: Geographic Information System
  • HTML: HyperText Markup Language
  • IV: Importance Value
  • RV: Ridge & Valley/Blue Ridge
  • SQL: Structured Query Language
  • WAP: Western Allegheny Plateau
  • WVA: West Virginia University Herbaium
  • WVU: West Virginia University
  • WVDEP: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
  • WVDNR: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
  • WVNPS: West Virginia Native Plant Society
  • WVWC: West Virginia Wesleyan College


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