Why native plants and trees for wildlife?

Asclepias incarnata L. - swamp milkweed

Asclepias incarnata L. – swamp milkweed

Why are we so interested in planting native plants and trees for wildlife on the island? A book by Douglas W. Tallamy titled “Bringing Nature Home: How You can Sustain Wildlife on Native Plants” brings up some interesting ideas! We often plant trees, shrubs, and plants for wildlife and birds based on the seeds or fruits which they produce. Another important feature for wildlife, especially birds, is how many insects or caterpillars (immature stage of butterflies and moths, order Lepidoptera) a certain plant can support. Did you know that there are 532 species of butterflies or moths that feed on oak trees? Willow, black cherry, and cottonwood support from 450-350 different species. Walnut trees support 130 different species!  The book lists which species of butterflies need specific native shrubs or plants to feed on as immature caterpillars.

We all know about monarch caterpillars needing milkweed to feed on. The little known hoptree or wafer ash supports the caterpillars of the Giant Swallowtail, a beautiful butterfly to have around. And immature butterflies and moths as well as other insects are very important food sources for birds in addition to being beautiful to watch. So take a look at the native trees and plants for sale in this newsletter and keep them in mind as you plan your yard with wildlife and birds in mind.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Anderson @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database


  1. Kalen Cap says:

    Sounds great. Are you aware of any invertebrate conservation efforts specifically along the same line in Ohio as well? Or are invertebrates included in the bird conservation outreach mentioned given the food chain?

    • admin says:

      Hello Kalen, Our efforts to protect habitat on the islands will protect habitat for invertebrates also. There is a new isopod (crustacean) to science discovered in an island cave when the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Wittenberg University teamed up a few years ago to inventory the caves on the islands. The isopod has just been published. LEIC-BSC was supportive of the efforts to publish the new species and wants to promote preservation of our island caves. Our Nature and Wildlife Center and the South Bass Island Lighthouse both have Monarch stopover gardens currently-including milkweed plantings.

      State rare and endangered lists include insect species. The Bird Conservation Intiative will include a webinair this winter on planting the right trees to support caterpillars and other invertebrates for birds to feed on. There is also an Ohio Lepidopterist and Ohio Odonate Society and Ohio Coleopterists that have been formed for butterfly, dragonfly, and beetle identification and conservation purposes as well. I have belonged to each of them from time to time.

      Any more questions, let us know.

  2. admin says:

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