A love of wildlife takes Americans into national parks and wild areas on weekends or vacations. Most gardeners welcome wildlife into their backyards and try to encourage birds and small animals to visit. You can landscape your yard to attract wildlife by planting trees and shrubs that provide food and shelter.
Wildlife friendly trees can go a long way in bringing birds, butterflies, and small animals, like squirrels, into your garden. Which are the best wildlife habitat trees? Read on for a list of our favorite trees for animals.
Providing the Best Wildlife Trees
As natural land has been developed for housing or industry, wildlife habitat has diminished over the years, reducing the plants available to beneficial insects, like bees and wild birds. As a gardener and/or homeowner, you can help restore this habitat and make your yard more attractive at the same time by planting trees for wildlife.
How? Planting wildlife habitat trees and shrubs is an extremely important step to welcoming wildlife. Carefully selected trees for animals can both offer protection and shelter, while fruits, nuts, and seeds provide nutrition. So, what are the best wildlife trees?
There are many trees and shrubs that are extremely attractive additions to a backyard and also provide food, cover, and nesting sites for wildlife. The plants you select for your backyard will determine the wildlife species attracted to your yard. Plant trees first, selecting evergreen trees for year-round protection and shelter.
The first plants to consider are those native to your area. Native animals and insects have relied on native trees and shrubs for centuries and are sure to attract them. Native species are easy to grow as well since they are accustomed to the local soil and climate. You can fill in the habitat with bird houses, nesting boxes, bird feeders, and watering sites.
Wildlife Friendly Trees
When you are considering trees for animals, here are a few of our favorites. Check and see if these grow in your area and hardiness zones before making a final decision. You’ll also want to compare the mature size of the trees to the available space.
We like beech trees (Fagus spp.) for their silvery foliage, holly trees (Ilex spp.) for attractive evergreen leaves and seasonal red berries beloved by the birds.
Oak trees (Quercus spp.) provide excellent habitat as well as acorns, consumed by squirrels and other small animals, while crabapple trees (Malus spp.) are smaller and provide fruit that wildlife enjoy.
Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) are both conifers, great for privacy hedges as well as wildlife habitat.
Other wildlife friendly trees include black cherry (Prunus serotina), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and red mulberry (Morus rubra).
Willows (Salix spp.) flower early and offer nectar to pollinators like native bees. Larger wildlife, like beavers and elk, browse on the willow leaves in summer and willow twigs in winter.
A garden rich in colourful nectar-rich flowers is a haven for nature. Learn how and what to plant.
Trees are a true friend to wildlife, providing shelter, food and nesting sites. Learn how to bring trees to your garden
Climbing plants and wall shrubs
They give valuable food and shelter to wildlife, especially when space is tight. Learn what to plant and how.
Hedges can provide valuable shelter for a whole host of wildlife. Learn how to manage and introduce one to your garden
Shrubs for gardens
We want. a shrubbery! They can be a beautiful addition to a garden and a fantastic home for wildlife. Learn more.
Allotments and vegetable gardens
If you enjoy growing fruit and veg, wildlife can help you manage and nurture a healthy crop!
Hedgehogs, bats, sparrows, song thrushes and stag beetles are all declining species in the UK, but if we manage our gardens to benefit wildlife, these creatures and many more will find refuge. It’s not hard to be help. Consider a whole host of wild ideas and features – or just pick one and then sit back, enjoy the view and see who visits!
Why have a plain, ugly fence when a green, living boundary can bring the riches of flowers, scent, berries, rich autumn colours and wildlife? Ever thought about which heavenly-scented plants provide night-time nectar for moths? Or digging a pond? If you introduce a water feature, not for fish but for newts, dragonflies, pond skaters, you'll also be providing water for birds. Plant up the edges with the golden blooms of marsh marigolds and the lush spikes of purple loosestrife and you'll have nectar stations for insects and beauty to dwell on.
Working together, people can change the natural world for the better. We can achieve a Wilder Future!
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A golden-mantled ground squirrel makes use of a fallen tree. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Heather Moore.
National Wildlife Federation affiliates along with schools, cities and other partners across the country will be planting almost 25,000 native trees to help provide habitat for wildlife and regreen communities during the next few weeks. This Earth Day, we’re celebrating the support from friends of wildlife like you that makes the trees for wildlife plantings possible.