Plant Selection in the Natural Capital™ Plant Database

Start here if you are interested in learning about an individual plant: its niche, its allies (pollinators, dispersers, and soil organisms), its natural associates and its cultivated polycultures and guilds. You can enter a partial plant name or scientific name to begin the search.

Search for Plants by Characteristics

Start here if you want to get a list of plants to meet criteria for a site or a patch you are designing. You can select multiple criteria in each search. For example:

  • all the nitrogen-fixing shrubs that are drought-tolerant and work in sandy soil.
  • all the perennials that are drought-tolerant, work in clay soil, support beneficial insects, and can be used for cut flowers.
  • all the medicinal plants that work in full or partial shade.
  • be sure to match your growing zone, sunlight, and soil conditions














Cultivated Polycultures and Guilds

Start here if you are looking for polycultures or guilds to begin working with. There is redundancy in each of the polycultures. Some of this redundancy can be eliminated if you are conscious of what you are doing. The polycultures are divided into four different types:

  • Sustainable Landscape – these polycultures have high plant diversity and are geared towards hand harvesting with smaller volumes of many crops.
  • Agricultural – these polycultures have lower plant diversity and are geared towards mechanical harvesting and larger volumes of fewer crops.
  • Environmental – these polycultures are specifically designed to address larger-scale environmental problems such as erosion control and toxic cleanup.
  • Restoration – these polycultures are designed to restore natural areas.
  • Wildlife – these polycultures are designed to meet the food and habitat needs of specific wildlife populations.

The "candidate" polycultures are ones that have not been in site trials but were designed based on a set of patch characteristics, ecological functions, and human uses. The "in testing" polycultures are being tried at specific sites. The "validated" polycultures have been in use for several years and appear to be functioning well.

At the "Designer" access level, all searches can be downloaded as a CSV spreadsheet file (Compatible with Excel).











Natural Plant Associates

Start here if you are looking for natural plant associates to design a polyculture and guild. Once you have selected a polyculture that closely matches your patch conditions, begin to look for "ecological analogs" or substitutions that fill the same niche but meet some of your other goals for specific ecological functions (insectory) or human uses (food).

One way to begin this process is to select a plant you would like to substitute. Then check out its niche characteristics by going to "Plant Selection". Make note of the characteristics. Then go to "Plant Selection by Characteristics", putting in the list of characteristics to get a list of possible substitutions. Some of these may include height, pH, soil conditions, light conditions, ecological functions, and human uses. Then continue working forward from there.

Plant Compatibilities and Incompatibilities

Start here if you have selected a specific fruit or vegetable and want to know what plants are compatible or incompatible with it. Most of this information comes from the sustainable agriculture community and some of it is anecdotal.