It’s for the Birds

Did you know that when you garden with native plants, you are helping to sustain wildlife?

One of the biggest -yet least recognized- impacts that humans are creating through urbanization is loss of biodiversity. As we build cities and suburbs, we replace natural habitat (which contained predominantly native plant species) with non-native species.

Displacement of native trees for others (such as Crape Myrtles, and Ginkgo) creates problems for native bird populations. Birds need native plants to feed their young. Adult birds can feed on a wide variety of food... You might occasionally see them eating the pods from a Crape Myrtle tree. But, the chicks are fed insects. Native insects evolved with native plants, and most lack the ability to overcome the chemical defenses of non-native plants. Caterpillars are a particularly important food source for breeding birds. Around ninety percent of butterfly and moth larvae eat only particular plants, or groups of plants. Monarch butterfly caterpillars, for example, eat only milkweed leaves - and Monarchs are not alone in being so highly specialized.

By changing what we choose to plant, we can manage our urban landscapes so they function well for people as well as wildlife. So, please consider natives when planting your garden. We’ve assembled a list of trees to help…

Best Wildlife Friendly Trees for Coastal and Piedmont NC:
Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)
River Birch (Betula nigra)
Wild Plum (Prunus americana)
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)
Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Black Gum (also known as Tupelo) (Nyssa sylvatica)
Oaks (Quercus species)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)
Crabapples (Malus species)
Mulberry (Morus species)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Photo Credit: Bill Sandifer
"Eastern Towhee"