Trees for Wildlife

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Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  December 6, 2015

December is the perfect time to think about trees. In fact, the United Kingdom has the first week of December as National Tree Week to celebrate the beginning of the best time to plant trees. This is a much better time for folks living in California then the Arbor Day time of late April. The ground is just wet enough to make it easy to dig and the winter rains will help to establish the roots. While we’re thinking about trees let’s consider how trees impact the wildlife in our urban setting. Trees play a huge role in providing habitat for bees, birds, and butterflies. The Pollinator Partnership is an international organization whose mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. In 2016, their annual poster used for outreach and education shall focus on the many benefits that trees provide to pollinators, such as:

  • The canopy of the tree provides protection for all wildlife (evergreen canopies do so year round)
  • The branches provide a home for birds to perch and nest in
  • The leaves can offer food for some of our most beautiful butterflies such as the western tiger swallowtail.
  • The flowers of trees can give crucial nectar and/or pollen to a host of bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies
  • The fruit is a major part of the diet of many songbirds

Examples of trees that are locally adapted and create excellent habitat for wildlife are listed below. Select trees that are an appropriate size for your yard and meet the water, sun, and soil conditions that you have and they will give you and wildlife many years of beauty and enjoyment.

Trees as host plants for butterflies (a host plant is one that a butterfly can lay its eggs on because it is the only or one of the only plants its caterpillars can eat to complete its life cycle):

Salix spp. Willow

Aesculus californica California Buckeye

Platanus racemosa California Sycamore

Populus Cottonwoods, Poplars

Betula Birch

Prunus ilicifolia Cherry

Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’

Trees as a source of nectar/pollen for butterflies:

Aesculus californica California Buckeye

Trees as a source of nectar for hummingbirds:

Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’

Chilopsis linearis Desert Willow

Salix spp. Willow

Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’

Arbutus mensiesii Pacific Madrone

Platanus racemosa Western Sycamore

Sambucus Mexicana Blue Elderberry

Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon

Aesculus californica California Buckeye

Trees as a source of fruit/seeds for birds:

  • Quercus Oaks
  • Pinus Pines
  • Acer macrophyllum Big Leaf Maple
  • Acer negundo californicum California Box Elder
  • Alnus rhombifolia White Alder
  • Arbutus menziesii Pacific Madrone
  • Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’
  • Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
  • Elderberry
  • Prunus ilicifolia Hollyleaf Cherry
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon
  • Myrica californiica Pacific Wax Myrtle

Trees as a source of nectar/pollen for bees:

  • Fruit trees
  • Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
  • Salix Willow
  • Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’
  • Tilia cordata Little Leaf Linden
  • Vitex Chaste tree

 The links below provide further descriptions of these trees and the benefits they provide to wildlife

Happy Gardening!