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Sources of Information on the Wildlife Value of Native Plants?

Question:

Some areas near me have added native plants to their gardens and I want to demonstrate to the residents how much of an impact they have had on the environment in doing so.  Do you know of a resource that could explains which specific animals/birds/insects are supported by specific native plants?

Answer:

You definitely have the right idea in trying to show how important native plants are to wildlife (and to us humans!).  I call it “connecting the ecological dots.”  Most folks don’t even give this a second thought. Ecologically bereft double-flowered exotic chrysanthemums are abundant this fall, when environmentally important late-blooming native goldenrods, asters, sunflowers, etc. could be planted instead.

I don’t know of one source that covers everything – mammals, birds and insects – in any detail.  The information can be found though, through a number of sources. Here are some good ones:

– The book, Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Urban and Rural America, by Gary Hightshoe, does a good job rating the wildlife value of woody plants to mammals and birds, but does not specify wildlife species.

The Audubon Society has a database of native plants for birds, that includes specific bird species. The database also indicates if plants are used by butterflies and/or caterpillars.

– The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant database includes information on benefits to bees (nectar) and butterflies (nectar, host plants), along with some information on plants for beneficial insects that perform biological control. There are also lists of plants with special value to bees and other beneficial insects.

– The Illinois Wildflowers database includes “faunal associations” – mostly insects, but there is some info on mammals as well.

– For butterfly host plants there is quite a bit of information online, including the Lady Bird Johnson website above. I really like David Wagner’s book Caterpillars of Eastern North America.

Good luck with your efforts to educate and inspire folks to plant natives!

From

Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!