Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Native Landscaping for Birds, Bees, Butterflies, and Other Wildlife

Kathi L. Borgmann, Graduate Associate;  Amanda D. Rodewald, State Extension Specialist, Wildlife

Throughout the world, habitat loss is the leading cause of species endangerment and extinction. In the Midwest, a large portion of the land has been cleared due to agricultural and urbanization pressures, leaving marginal and fragmented habitats. Consequently, backyards play an increasingly important role in wildlife conservation. You can help reduce the negative effects of habitat loss on birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife species in your area by creating a favorable landscape. Providing wildlife-friendly habitat in urban and suburban areas is especially important for migrating birds and butterflies. These groups of animals also are least likely to cause nuisance or damage problems.

Landscaping with native trees and shrubs

A wildlife-friendly landscape is composed of four essential items: 1) food, 2) water, 3) cover or shelter, and 4) a place to raise young. To provide the most beneficial habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies, native trees and shrubs should be emphasized. Why native species? Native plants are adapted to local conditions and, therefore require less maintenance (especially irrigation and fertilization). Native plants also provide the best quality resources because wildlife species are adapted to use native plants. Planting native species also maintains the natural diversity of flora and fauna in the area.
Exotic plants can threaten other plant and animal species. Several exotic plants have escaped from garden cultivation and are now causing serious damage to natural areas and preserves. Examples of highly invasive exotic plants include multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackiiLonicera morrowii, and Lonicera tatarica), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), privet (Ligustrum vulgare), japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and dame's rocket (Potamogeton crispus). A complete list of problem exotic species can be obtained from ODNR Division of Natural Resources ( and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy ( Avoid choosing horticultural varieties when possible because altered varieties may not be appropriate for growing conditions of Ohio nor provide the best resources for wildlife.
Before you start landscaping your yard, plan ahead. Map your backyard and determine what environmental conditions you have (i.e., soil conditions and amount of sun). To provide optimal habitat for a diverse array of species in your backyard, choose a variety of trees and shrubs of varying heights to mimic natural forest structure. You will want to plant a few different species of canopy trees, along with fruiting shrubs of various shapes and sizes. Choose plants that provide habitat or resources at different times of the year. For example, conifer trees provide cover and warmth during the winter, whereas fruiting trees provide seasonal food resources. When choosing fruiting shrubs, select species that produce fruits at different times of the year to ensure that food is available throughout the season. In addition, many of the fruiting shrubs display large fragrant flowers that add to the attractiveness of your yard.

What Should I Plant?

Below is a list of recommended native Ohio trees and shrubs you can plant to create a wildlife friendly backyard.
SpeciesWildlife Benefits1Soil Conditions2Light Conditions3
Boxelder (Acer negundo)W, B, BFW - D, VSU - LS
Black Maple (Acer nigrum)W, BM, AKLS
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)W, BW - D, VLS - SH
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)W, BM, VSU - LS
Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)*W, B, BFW - M, ACSU - LS
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba)*·W, BFLM - DSU - LS
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)W, BM - DSU - LS
Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa)W, BM - DSU - LS
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)*W, B, BFLV, L, AKSU
Red Bud (Cercis canadensis)*BE, HB, BFM - D, VSU - SH
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)*·W, B, BFLM - DSU - LS
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)W, BM - D, ACSU - LS
Red or Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)W, BW - M, VSU - LS
Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos)*W, B, BEVSU - LS
Common Juniper (Juniperus communisW, BD, VSU
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginianaW, BM - D, AK - ACSU
Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)*HB, BFLW - MLS - SH
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)*·W, BM - D, VSU - SH
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)*·W, BMSU
White Pine (Pinus strobus)W, BM - D, ACSU - LS
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)W, B, BFW - MSU
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)*·HB, BFL, BM, VSU - LS
Common Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)*·W, B, BFM - D, NSU
White Oak (Quercus alba)W, BM - D, VSU
Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)W, B, BFLDSU - LS
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)W, B, BFLM - D, ACSU - LS
Black Oak (Quercus velutina)W, B, BFLM - D, AC, VSU
Canadian Yew (Taxus canadensisW, BW - MSU - SH
American Basswood (Tilia americana)B, BEM, AK, ACSU - LS
Black Chokecherry (Aronia melanocarpa)*·W, BD, ACSU - LS
Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli)*·W, BM - D, VSU
Thicket Hawthorn (Crataegus punctata)*·W, BM - D, VSU
Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)*·W, B, BFW - MSU
Dogwood (Cornus Spp.) [Red-osier (C. stolonifera), Silky (C. obliqua), Pagoda (C. alternifolia), and Gray (C. racemosa)]*·W, B, BFLW - MSU - LS
Burning Bush (Euonymus atropurpureus)*W, BM � DSU - SH
Running Strawberry Bush (Euonymus obovatus)*W, BM - DSU - SH
Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)*·W, BM - D, ACSU - LS
Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin)*·W, B, BF, BFLM, VSU - SH
Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)*·WW - D, AC, AKSU - LS
Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)*·W, B, BFM - DSU
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)*·W, B, BFM, D, WSU - LS
Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)*W, BEM - DSU - SH
Maple-leaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)*·W, BM - D, ACSU - SH
Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)*·BM, AC, VSU - LS
Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)*·W, BM - DSU - SH
Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)*·W, BD, AKSH
* flowering species · fruiting species valuable to wildlife and/or birds
1 Food and/or cover provided for; W = wildlife, B = birds, BF = butterflies, BFL = butterfly larva, BE = bees, HB = hummingbirds
2 W = wet, M = moist, D = dry, N = neutral soils, AK = alkaline soils, AC = acidic soils, CA = calcareous soils, L = limestone, V = adaptable to a variety of soil conditions
3 SU = sun, LS = light shade, SH = shade

Beware of Exotic Species

  • Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)
  • Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
  • Bush Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackiiLonicera tataricaLonicera morrowii)
  • Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
  • Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
  • European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

Additional Resources

Online Resources


Go Native—Gardening with Native Plants and Wildflowers in the Lower Midwest by Carolyn Harstad
Landscaping with Wildflowers and Native Plants by William Wilson
Peterson's Guide to Eastern Birds
The Birds of Ohio by Bruce Peterjohn
Peterson's Guide to Eastern Trees and Shrubs by George A. Petrides
The Woody Plants of Ohio by Lucy Braun
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb

Benefits of Native Landscaping

  • Reduces time, energy, and money spent on yard maintenance
  • Raises property values
  • Promotes biodiversity
  • Increases value to wildlife
  • Prevents or reduces erosion
  • Reduces the need for herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer applications
Click here for a PDF version of this fact sheet.

Retrieved from: on 02/18/15

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