Native Plants for the SouthEast
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There are a number of ways to estimate or describe the kinds of plants (and animals) that will grow or are native to an area. For practical reasons, USDA plant hardiness zones are defined by the average minimum temperature. In Athens GA, we are in USDA Zone 7B, with an average minimum temperature of 5-10 deg F. If you live in a city, your zone will be warmer, perhaps by as much as half of a zone. For convenience, the SouthEastern USA is shown below. The United States National Arboretum provides a wealth of detail on plant hardiness zones as well as the plants that can be grown.
Much of the SouthEast USA is classified as the Temperate Broadleaf Deciduous Forest ecoregion or biome. The figure below shows the occurence of this biome throughout the world. One might expect plants that grow well in Georgia to grow equally well in Europe, East Asia, and parts of South America, and indeed some of our popular (and unpopular!) non-natives originate there.