Cottonwood (tall, deeply grooved bark) and Willows (broad, widely branching) in late winter, stabilizing the inside of a barrier beach, Fair Haven, NY. Cottonwoods establish on bare soil early, while willows create broad, widely-expanding root systems which stabilize shorelines. These water-loving trees often remain after high water, taking abuse from waves that other trees do not tolerate. Photo by Roy Widrig, New York Sea Grant.

New York Sea Grant has published "Working with Nature: A Guide to Native Plants for New York's Great Lakes Shorelines."  Public and private property owners can use the guide to select the right plant for the right place to revitalize the state's Great Lakes' freshwater shorelines.

The guide freely accessible at offers nature-based alternatives or improvements to traditional "gray" structures such as concrete seawalls, steel sheet piles, and rock rip-rap.

New York Sea Grant Coastal Hazards and Processes Specialist Roy Widrig authored the 24-page guide that includes a list of 41 species of trees, shrubs, grasses, ground covers, vines, and perennials with the preferred shoreline setting for each. Detailed photos and ideal growing conditions accompany each plant on the list.

"Reestablishing natural, stable shoreline slopes and transition zones from lake to upland areas rehabilitates habitat for native birds, fish, mammals, and insects while beautifying the waterfront, and it can aid in controlling shoreline erosion, and improve drainage and water quality," Widrig explains.

The New York State Environmental Protection Fund under the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act provided funding for this native plants publication. Funding through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will assist with publication distribution. Print copies will be available by calling New York Sea Grant's Oswego office at 315-312-3042.


Waterfront property owners in need of erosion management expertise can request Widrig's assistance via This web-based resource allows property owners to easily locate their property on a New York State map, describe erosion and flooding issues, and add photos of impacted areas for evaluation by Widrig.

Widrig is also the author of the Erosion Management for New York's Great Lakes Shoreline Guide. See more information.

New York Sea Grant is a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, and one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Sea Grant College Program. Since 1971, New York Sea Grant has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education, and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness and understanding of the State's marine and Great Lakes resources. Learn more at

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