Plant selection is easy for homeowners who desire beautiful landscapes that also function to attract wildlife. By carefully selecting species native to their region, they are choosing plants that have adapted over millennia to the local climate, growing season and soils. These hardy and disease resistant native residents, from tiny wildflowers to stately pines, create a ‘green foundation’ that underlies a large, complex wildlife community. Insects associated with the native plants form the base of this community and are an important, high-protein food source for many other species.
Many nonnative plants have little to no value for native wildlife. Insects, for example, may lack the specific mouth parts or digestive chemicals necessary to process the unfamiliar leaves. A good example is the nonnative Chinese tallow tree that is utilized in some way by 400 insect species in its Chinese homeland. In the United States, it is used by just three insect species, while native oak trees support 534 caterpillar species.
Let native plants form the foundation of your landscaping efforts with the help of our resource list. You will see a surprising diversity of wildlife and have the satisfaction of knowing that your yard plays a critical role in sustaining a healthy local ecosystem.
Art from Planting a Refuge for Wildlife by Brian Bryson