A useful starting point for managing any garden or landscape within the state is to understand the ecological characteristics of the region within which it exists, as well as the cultural and historic patterns of land use. Any given ecoregion— determined by its geology, hydrology, climate, and distribution of flora and fauna— is typically quite distinct from any other. Certainly, it is easy to see that the hills and mountains of western Massachusetts are vastly different from the sand-plains of Cape Cod, or the estuaries and barrier beaches of the North Shore.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mapped 13 ecoregions for the state. For practical purposes, and largely to combine many of the smaller (but related) ecoregions of the Berkshires, these original 13 regions have been slightly simplified into nine different forest management zones by the Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife. Those nine regions mapped here help to delineate our Commonwealth's varied ecology. In short, they can help us to understand the growing conditions of different areas and serve as valuable reference points for identifying the flora that are indigenous to those locales.
More about Massachusetts' Forest Management Zones
Interactive EPA Ecoregions Map for Massachusetts
Natural Community Fact Sheets for Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has created fact sheets to describe approximately 50 different natural communities that occur across the state. Each community represents an assemblage of species that grows together, dicated by the local climactic, geological, and other factors. When designing landscapes that are well suited to the particular soil, moisture, and climate conditions of any given site, it is helpful to understand the naturally occuring plant communities that grow in these same conditions.