Native Plants for Habitat Gardening
Flowers in our garden
Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Grasses + Vines for Habitat Gardening
Here are some plants native to New York (with a few exceptions), with a brief description of them and their function in the ecosystem. Those that are deer-resistant are marked with an asterisk. This list was compiled by Bedford Audubon Board Member Liz Stein.
Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir): 40-60’. Moist, acid soil. Seeds eaten by chickadees, crossbills, juncos, jays, towhees, finches, grosbeaks, and nuthatches. Tanagers, grosbeaks, and robins nest in firs.
Acers: Acer rubrum (Red Maple): 40-60’, likes acid, moist soils, but tolerates drier. Small flowers very early in spring, attracting mining, sweat, cellophane, mining, and mason bees; fruit eaten by birds: cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, vireos, etc. Red fall foliage. Larval host plant for Cecropia and other moths. Many birds like to nest in red maples, and the many insects that inhabit the tree are handy for them. Acer negondo and A. saccharinum (Box elder and silver maple) have much value for birds, mammals, and many insects, but being wind-pollinated have less value for pollinators, while Acer saccharum (Sugar maple) does attract bees to its male flowers, though it is also wind-pollinated. Silver maple seeds are especially abundant and large, and mature maples often offer nesting cavities for screech owls, flickers, pileated woodpeckers, chickadees, and wood ducks.
Betulas: Betula nigra, B. lenta, B. papyrifera, and B populifolia (River Birch, Sweet Birch, Paper Birch, and Gray Birch): River and gray birch are 30-50’, paper and sweet birch 50-75’, all preferring sunny, moist spots. Though wind-pollinated, birch catkins, seeds, and buds are eaten by birds like juncos, jays, waxwings, chickadees, finches, titmice, goldfinches and towhees, while many kinds of insects lay their eggs on birches, providing more food for birds, like orioles, vireos, and warblers. LH for caterpillars of more than 400 species of moths and butterflies, including the Mourning Cloak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Green Comma, and Luna moth. Doug Tallamy ranks birches in the Top 5 best woody plants for wildlife.
Caryas: Carya ovata, C. tomentosa, and C. cordiformis (Shagbark, Mockernut, and Bitternut hickories): 60-80’ and even taller. Beautiful trees, bearing nuts relished by mammals and many birds, and leaves that host “up to 200 different species of butterflies and moths… Some of the species Hickories support are Banded and Hickory Hairstreak butterflies, and many moths, including Hickory Tussock, Yellow-shouldered Slug, and the dramatic Hickory Horned Devil, the largest of our native North American caterpillars” (https://the-natural-web.org/tag/carya-ovata/).
Celtis occidentalis (Common Hackberry): 30-50’ tall and wide, deep-rooted and adaptable. Though wind-pollinated and thus of little interest to pollinators, the drupes (fruits) of this tree feed 48 species of birds, and many mammals. LH for many butterflies and moths, among which are the American Snout, the Tawny Emperor, and Hackberry Emperor, while the Mourning Cloak and Question Mark butterflies can winter under its wrinkled bark.
Juglans nigra (Black walnut): 50-75’, moist, rich soil. LH for 23 moths, including Luna and Regal. Nuts eaten by many mammals, but can stain sidewalks. Taprooted, so hard to transplant. Certain plants may be sensitive to biochemicals produced by walnuts, but increasing the organic matter under the tree helps with this.
Larix laricina (American Larch, tamarack): 50-75’, moist soil, full sun, one of the very few deciduous conifers, with needles turning a lovely yellow before falling. Seeds are a favorite of crossbills and pine siskins as well as many other birds, and the buds are eaten by spruce grouse. Larches are often used as nesting sites. LH for Columbia Silk Moth, Eye-spotted Bud Moth, Poecila Sphinx, Northern Pine Sphinx, Apple Sphinx, and Pine Measuringworm Moth. Several bark beetles feed on the bark. Larch Sawflies can also infest tamaracks, attracting many birds, such as white-throated sparrows, common yellowthroats, and Nashville warblers, who feed on both the larval and adult sawflies. An example of a plant that is more important for supporting insects that support birds than for its fruit or flowers.
Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum): 75’, rich, moist soil, not drought-tolerant. Beautiful red and orange fall color, LH for Luna Moth and Large Paectes Moth. The seeds (which can be a nuisance; plant this tree away from foot traffic) are a source of food to some songbirds during the fall or winter, including the Mourning Dove, Eastern Towhee, Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Common Redpoll, Slate-Colored Junco, and White-Throated Sparrow.
Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree): A tall and very straight tree, with yellow fall color, to 150’, preferring rich, moist soil. Fast-growing, with yellow and orange flowers that attract miscellaneous flies, beetles, honeybees, bumblebees, other long-tongued bees, and hummingbirds. LH for several moths and the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. The seeds are eaten by such birds as cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, and finches, and by many mammals. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker often drills holes through the bark of this tree to obtain the sap; the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sometimes obtains sap from these holes as well. These birds also consume insects that become trapped in this sap. The Pileated Woodpecker sometimes uses this tall tree as a nest site.
Morus rubra (Red Mulberry): 30’. Full sun, rich moist soil. Wind-pollinated, dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants). Red fruits attract 59 species of birds as well as mammals, including humans; LH for the Mourning Cloak butterfly.
Picea glauca (White Spruce): evergreen, to 80’, although smaller cultivars are available. Full sun, like almost all conifers. Seeds are eaten by crossbills, chickadees, nuthatches, waxwings, goldfinches, and pine siskins. Spruces provide excellent cover and nesting for many birds.
Pinus rigida (Pitch pine): 40-70’. Though not the most ornamental of trees, pitch pines offer cover and nesting for birds such as pine warblers, wild turkeys, red-cockaded woodpeckers, great-crested flycatchers, blue jays, chickadees, warblers, and waxwings. Small mammals and birds eat the seeds.
Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine): can become 80’ or more. Full sun, slightly acid soil. Hugely valuable for food, nesting, and cover for a wide variety of mammals and birds, and its bark, buds, foliage, and cones are consumed by a number of insects.
Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen): 40’-60’, adaptable. Catkin flowers in early spring are fed on by many bird species. Seeds in early summer are attractive to birds, good yellow fall color. LH for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Viceroy butterflies. Populus grandidentata (Bigtooth Aspen) is host to many kinds of insects. LH for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail and White Admiral butterflies, and Modest Sphinx and Virgin moths. Bigtooth Aspen trees are present in the breeding habitat for many birds, including veeries, a number of warblers, and vireos. As trees become older, they often form cavities that are used as nest sites by red-breasted nuthatches, owls, and woodpeckers. Ruffed Grouse feed on the leaves in the summer, flower buds in the winter, and catkins prior to the breeding season. The trees also provide crucial cover.
Prunus serotina (Black Cherry): 30-50’. Full sun to part shade, adaptable. White flowers in spring attract mining, sweat, bumble, cuckoo and small carpenter bees, beetles, flies and butterflies. Fruit eaten by many species of birds. LH: many species of butterflies, so like all prunus a great source of caterpillars for birds.
Quercus: Many species of insects feed on oak leaves, with several species of moth larvae feeding on nothing but the leaves of oaks. Many predatory spiders take advantage of the diversity of insects attracted to oak leaves by residing in these trees and feeding on these other insects. Birds search the surface of branches and leaf clusters for insects. Acorns are one of the most important food items in the diets of a wide variety of animals: more than 100 species of vertebrate animals are known to consume acorns in the US, including white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, mice, voles, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, gray foxes, red foxes, and wild hogs. Birds that feed on acorns include wild turkeys, bobwhite quail, wood ducks, mallards, woodpeckers, crows, and jays. Oaks are the number one plant for caterpillars, according to Doug Tallamy, supporting many hairstreak and duskywing species as well as many of the showier moth species. Quercus alba (White Oak) can reach 100’, grows best in full sun in deep, moist soil; like most oaks, it’s taprooted. Q. palustris (Pin Oak) is medium-sized, to 70’; deep red fall color. Faster growing than white oak. Q. phellos (Willow Oak) has an elliptical rather than the lobed leaf common to others, is smaller than most, at 25-50’, and likes moist soil. Q. prinoides (Dwarf Chinquapin Oak) is smaller still, to 25’, but likes dry, even sandy, soil. Q. rubra (Red Oak) is 70’; brilliant to deep red fall color. Acorns take two seasons to mature, with large crops every 2-5 years.
Salix nigra (Black Willow): 10-60’, shallow-rooted, moisture-loving tree, often used for erosion control next to streams and lakes. Blooms mid-spring, pollinated by bumblebees and carpenter, cuckoo, Halictid and Andrenid bees, as well as March, Dance, Syrphid, and Tachinid flies. Other insects feed on the rest of the plant, including larvae of lots of beetles. LH for hundreds of butterflies and moths: willows are one of the top plants for caterpillars. Turtles eat the fallen leaves, some birds eat the catkins in early spring, nest site for others. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill holes for sap.
Tilia americana (American Basswood, Bee Tree): wide-spreading, 60-80’, a good choice for a specimen tree, providing dense shade. Fragrant flowers in summer, attracting bumblebees, honeybees, Halictid bees (green metallic bees & others), Syrphid flies, Tachinid flies, Muscid flies, moths, and other insects. Buds are important for birds and deer in winter. Fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals. The wood decays easily and produces many cavities (especially in trees past 120 years of age), which are used by cavity-nesting animals (wood ducks, pileated woodpeckers, other birds, and small mammals). LH for Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, and Compton Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Nyssa sylvatica (Black tupelo, Sour Gum): slow-growing tree to 40’ tall, 30’ wide. Although tupelo is famous for attracting honeybees, information on native bees using the flowers is scarce. Such birds as wood ducks, wild turkeys, mockingbirds, starlings, brown thrashers, robins, wood thrushes, and pileated woodpeckers eat the small, dark, oily fruits in autumn. LH for several moths. Outstanding fall color.
Tsuga canadensis (Eastern Hemlock): 40-70’, moist but well-drained soil, not drought-tolerant. Another deer favorite, Eastern Hemlocks are popular with birds for nesting and cover, and crossbills, chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, grosbeaks, and pine siskins eat the seeds. LH: Columbia Silkmoth. An invasive pest, woolly adelgid, has plagued these trees in recent years.
Alnus: A.incana, A. serrulata (Speckled Alder, Hazel Alder): clump- or thicket-forming tall shrubs or trees, these are good choices for streamsides and swampy areas. Seeds form in cones produced from catkins, attracting many birds, including pine siskins, mourning doves, mallards, great blue herons, and goldfinches. Insects drawn to the foliage attract warblers, vireos, goldfinches, and siskins. Scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, and rose-breasted grosbeaks feed on the buds and the attracted insects. Speckled Alder is LH for the Green Comma butterfly.
Amelanchiers: Amelanchier arborea, A. laevis, A. canadensis (Serviceberry, Shadbush, Juneberry): 15’ x 15’, shrubby in outline, with white flowers in early spring attracting mining and small sweat bees, beetles, and moths. 42 species of birds eat the summer berries, including ruffed grouse, hairy woodpecker, wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, scarlet tanager, robin, cedar waxwing, and rose-breasted grosbeak. LH: Viceroy, Striped Hairstreak, and Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. Doug Tallamy found 124 species of caterpillars feeding on amelanchier.
Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud): small tree with pink flowers early spring, attracting mining, cellophane, carpenter, bumble, and mason bees, beetles, flies, butterflies and hummingbirds. Yellow fall color. LH: Henry’s Elfin butterfly. Avoid purple cultivars, like ‘Forest Pansy’: purple foliage is not attractive to insects. (Not actually native to NY, but so pretty and useful I include it.)
Cornus florida (Eastern Dogwood): Likes moist soil; needs adequate air circulation to avoid anthracnose. White flowers in spring attract various small bees and flies, including Halictid and Andrenid bees, bee flies, and Syrphid flies. Bright red fruits in fall are vital for migrating birds: 98 species eat dogwood fruits, including thrushes, northern flickers, pileated woodpeckers, summer tanagers, evening grosbeaks, and pine grosbeaks. LH for Spring Azure butterfly and others. Offers good nesting sites.
Crateagus crus-galli (Cockspur Hawthorn): Small tree to 30’. Full sun to partial shade, moist, loamy soil. Long, wicked spines, so take care when placing it. Clusters of white flowers in spring, followed by small, red, fruits persisting until spring, or until they are consumed by various birds, including ruffed grouse, robins, cardinals, waxwings, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, thrashers, nuthatches, orioles, thrushes, vireos, wood warblers, wrens, and mockingbirds. Because of its dense branching structure and thorniness, Cockspur Hawthorn provides ideal nesting habitat for the Brown Thrasher, Yellow-Breasted Chat, and other songbirds. In open areas, the Loggerhead Shrike uses the thorns to impale the smaller songbirds that are its prey. Bees, flies, wasps and many other insects are attracted to the nectar and pollen of the flowers, while a variety of insects feed on the foliage, fruit, wood, and other parts. LH for the butterflies Striped Hairstreak and Red-Spotted Purple; up to 168 species of caterpillars have been observed on hawthorn trees.
Diospyros virginiana (Common Persimmon): 15’ in dry soil, much larger in moist. Adaptable medium-sized tree bears dioecious blooms attracting long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, and little carpenter, digger, mason, leaf-cutting, and cuckoo bees. Fruits in fall are eaten by mammals (including humans) and by wild turkeys, bobwhites, catbirds, cedar waxwings, starlings, northern mockingbirds, and pileated woodpeckers. LH for 17 moths, including the Luna.
Hamamelis virginiana (American Witch Hazel): 15’, multi-stemmed small tree. Bright yellow flowers in fall, sometimes outlasting yellow fall foliage. One of the top ten small trees for pollinators, witch-hazel flowers attract a great many insects, while more feed on the bark and leaves, attracting many birds to feed on them as well as on the seeds: cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, nuthatches, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, warblers, woodpeckers, and wrens. Witch Hazel provides cover and nesting habitat for the Indigo Bunting and other birds. LH of the Witch Hazel Dagger Moth and 62 other caterpillar species.
Ilex opaca (American Holly): more usually a small tree, the slow-growing Holly can reach 50’ in the wild, with a pyramidal shape. Full sun to part shade, moist (not flooded) soil. Glossy, spiny green leaves and red berries on female plants (must have male plants nearby for pollination). At least 18 species of birds, including songbirds, mourning doves, wild turkeys, and northern bobwhite, are known to eat the fruit. Cavities in the tree provide nesting habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. American holly is pollinated by insects, including bees, ants, wasps, and night-flying moths. Provides good cover in winter. LH for Henry’s Elfin and American Holly Azure butterflies. Doug Tallamy has found 39 species of caterpillars feeding on ilexes.
Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar): 30-40’, dry soil. Durable, tough tree. “Cedar waxwings are known for their ability to process fruits, but many other birds join them at the annual fall red cedar berry banquet. Robins, mockingbirds, bluebirds, ruffed grouse, wild turkeys, goldfinches, flickers, and grosbeaks all like the berries, as do a long list of mammals: meadow mice, bears, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, and deer. In between berry crops, eastern red cedar’s dense evergreen foliage is well used for nesting and cover by wild animals. The branches, especially when the trees are young, go right to the ground, providing a safe refuge” (www.northernwoodlands.org). LH: Olive butterfly.
Malus coronaria (Wild Crabapple): small tree, to 20’. Full sun. Fragrant, pinkish white flowers in spring attract honeybees, bumblebees, long-horned bees, and other long-tongued bees. Other floral visitors include small short-tongued bees (Andrenid, Halictid), butterflies, and skippers. These insects obtain nectar from the flowers, although some of the bees may collect pollen. Birds eat the yellow-green fruits, and nest in the branches. LH for Viceroy, Red-Spotted Purple, Tiger Swallowtail, and Striped Hairstreak.
Ostrya virginiana (Eastern Hop-Hornbeam): 30-50’ in height, with a trunk that looks like sinewy muscles and a rounded crown of slender, spreading branches. Shade. LH for Red-spotted purple and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. Its nutlets are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail and other small mammals.
Prunus americana (American plum): To 35’, rich, moist soil. Single- or multi-stemmed, often forming thickets. Fragrant flowers in spring attract mining, small sweat, cellophane, bumble, and mason bees, flies, and butterflies. Fruit is eaten by mammals and large birds. The plant is valuable for cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, mockingbirds, thrashers, nuthatches, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, warblers, woodpeckers, and wrens, who eat the many insects that feed on the wood, bark, sap, leaves, flowers, and buds. Plum thickets often furnish valuable protective shelter. Prunus sps. are LH for 456 caterpillar species, among which are Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple, Spring/Summer Azures, and Viceroy butterflies.
Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry): Adaptable, to 25’. Suckers to form thickets, offering good nest sites. Drooping racemes of white flowers in spring, attracting many native bees and flies. Cherries ripening in late summer are eagerly sought by over seventy species of birds, some preferentially: robins, thrushes, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, jays, bluebirds, catbirds, kingbirds, and grouse. Like other Prunus spp., Chokecherry atttracts many insects that feed on its foliage, wood, sap, flowers, and fruit. LH: Cherry Gall Azure, Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple and Coral Hairstreak butterflies as well as moths such as Speared Dagger, Cherry Shoot Borer, Ultronia Underwing, Scalloped Sallow, Angled Metarranthis, Common Metarranthis, and Garman’s Quaker. Prunus sps. are host for 456 caterpillar species.
Rhus: Rhus copallinum (Winged Sumac): 10-15’ tall and wide. Adaptable and drought-tolerant. Butterflies and bees nectar at the flowers. Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, white-tailed deer, opossums, wild turkeys, and quail. LH for the Red-Banded Hairstreak. Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac): Only tree native to all 48 contiguous states, often forms large colonies, 10-20’. Flowers July, dioecious (on separate male and female plants) flowers attracting mining, small sweat, bumble, and metallic green sweat bees, while many insects feed on the plant. Red fruit consumed by migrating spring birds when not much else is available. LH: Hairstreak. Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac)10-15’, also dioecious, is similar in ecological value. Dense clusters of yellow-green flowers in July, producing cone-shaped clusters of red fruit on female plants. Fruits persist through winter, and are eaten in desperation by 98 species of birds on their way back north. Gorgeous fall color, and there are several more garden-friendly cultivars available.
Salix discolor (Pussy Willow): To 20’, damp soil. Dioecious catkins in early spring, attracting mining, small sweat, cellophane, mason, and small carpenter bees as well as providing overwintering Mourning Cloak butterflies with nectar. LH: Mourning Cloak and Viceroy and many others: willows are the second most important Lepidopteran host genus, after oaks.
Sassafras albidum (Sassafras): 30-50’ tree, often multi-trunked, with gorgeous yellow fall color. Inconspicuous flowers are pollinated by Halictid and Andrenid bees and a variety of flies. LH for Spicebush Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, and several moths. Quail, wild turkeys, and many songbirds eat the drupes.
Sorbus americana (American Mountain Ash): 15-20’. Full sun, moist, acidic soil. Showy white blooms in spring attract bees, red-orange fruit in fall, yellow fall foliage. Berries are eaten by many species of birds, including cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers, woodpeckers, wrens, robins, jays, and grouse. LH for 68 species of caterpillars, per Tallamy. Sorbus decora is similar in most respects, but larger (to 40’), with showier flowers and fruits.
Swida alternifolia (Alternate-leaved or Pagoda Dogwood; often still referred to as Cornus alternifolia): 20-25’ tree, beautiful layered branches and maroon fall color. White clusters of flowers in early summer attract mining, small sweat, and metallic green sweat bees, beetles, butterflies, and moths; several mining bees are specialists of this plant. Fruit eaten by bluebirds, brown thrashers, cedar waxwings, flickers, cardinals, gray catbirds and many others. LH: Geometer and owlet moths. Doug Tallamy found 118 species of caterpillars on dogwood species.
Thuja occidentalis (Eastern Arborvitae, Northern White Cedar): 20-40’, narrow, pyramidal shape. Deer love this tree, but if you have a fence it’s great for birds: insectivorous birds often seen feeding in Northern White Cedar trees include many warblers, American redstarts, chipping sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and hermit thrushes, while the seeds are an important food source for pine siskins. In addition, Northern White Cedar provides nesting sites for a variety of birds.
Viburnums: Viburnums share many qualities: white flowers in spring attract mining and small sweat bees, flies, and beetles. Fruit in September preferred by cardinals, bluebirds, robins, and cedar waxwings, among others, with gorgeous red foliage. White-eyed vireos, indigo buntings, and catbirds use it for nesting. LH for many butterflies and moths, some of which overwinter in leaf litter below the plant, so don’t disturb it. Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry): 20-25’, small tree or large shrub. Full sun to part shade, medium soil. Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum): 15’ tall and wide, can tolerate full shade. Viburnum acerifolium (Maple-leaf Viburnum): low, densely branched shrub, 4-6 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide. Maple-shaped leaves with lovely fall color. Viburnum opulus var. americanum (Cranberrybush): 12’ x 8, full sun to light shade, glossy maple-leaf leaves.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry). Spreading groundcover shrub in sandy soil and full sun; glossy dark green foliage turns red in fall. Pink spring flowers attract native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Bright red fruit attracts birds. LH: Hoary, Freija Fritillary, Brown, and Elf butterflies.
Aronia melanocarpa and A. arbutifolia (Chokeberry, black and red): Black chokeberry is 3-6’, Red Chokeberry is 6-12’, both have bright red fall color. Flowers in early summer, attracting mining, small sweat, and bumble bees. Fruit eaten in desperation in winter by Crows & Jays, Mockingbirds & Thrashers, Orioles, Thrushes, and Cedar Waxwings. LH of the butterfly Coral Hairstreak, the moth Praeclara Underwing, the Bluish Spring Moth, and 26 other species.
Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea): 3’, sun. Taprooted, so plant it young and don’t transplant. Late summer white fluffy flower attracts sweat bees, bumblebees, small resin bees. LH for Mottled Dustywing skipper, Red-fronted Emerald moth, Spring/Summer Azure butterflies, and other moths and butterflies. Fruits eaten by turkeys and quail.
Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush): very cool, sci-fi looking flowers in July attract bumble, small carpenter, yellow-faced, metallic green sweat, long-horned and large carpenter bees, as well as butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and flies. 6-8’, moist soil. Nutlets attract cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, and wrens, but mostly ducks in its native environment in wetlands. LH: 19 species of caterpillars are supported by this plant. Deer-resistant*.
Corylus: Corylus americana, C. cornuta (American hazelnut, Beaked hazelnut): C. americana is a large shrub, 8-16’ high by 8-13’ wide; C. cornuta is half that size. Full sun to partial shade, normal soil. Fall color is quite variable, ranging from attractive combinations of orange, rose, purplish red, yellow and green to undistinguished, dull yellowish green. Flowers are unshowy, wind-pollinated, but nuts are edible, similar to European filbert, and are eaten by cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers and wrens, plus mammals. Because hazelnuts have a dense branching structure and large leaves, they provide excellent cover for various kinds of wildlife and ideal nesting habitat for many songbirds. LH for 131 moth and butterfly species, including Juvenal’s Duskywing.
Diervilla lonicera (Bush honeysuckle): 3-6’, drought-tolerant shrub, part-sun to shade. Yellow flowers in summer attract bumblebees, metallic green sweat and small sweat bees, hummingbirds and butterflies—flowers change color to orange after being visited by insects, to let them know not to waste their time. Seed pods in fall attract songbirds like bluebirds. Spreads determinedly, better as a shrubby groundcover than as a foundation shrub. Don’t confuse this honeysuckle with the various invasive varieties.
Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth Hydrangea, Wild hydrangea): 3-6’, moist soil, partial shade. Lace-cap white blossoms in summer attract more bees and beetles than any other in Bylane’s garden. Of the many hydrangea species available in nurseries, this is the only one native to NY; Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, is often used in native gardens but it is native to the southeast. Avoid the widely-available cultivar ‘Annabelle’ and others like it, with mophead blooms that are almost exclusively sterile, and so offer little for pollinators. ‘Haas’ Halo,’ in contrast, has lace-cap blooms and is more drought-tolerant and erect than the species. LH for Hydrangea Sphinx Moth.
Hypericum prolificum (Shrubby St. Johns’ Wort): 3’, mound-shaped shrub with large yellow flowers in summer, visited mainly by bumblebees, since they offer only pollen. LH for Gray Hairstreak, Gray Half-Spot, and 20 other species of butterflies and moths. Deer-resistant*.
Ilex: Ilex glabra (Inkberry): Evergreen, 6-10’ tall (there are shorter cultivars). Full sun, moist soils. Inconspicuous flowers in spring are visited by bees, bumblebees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and moths. Black berries in fall persist until eaten by many species of birds, including flickers, northern mockingbirds, catbirds, thrashers, bluebirds and robins. Ilex verticillata (Winterberry): Size very variable, 3-12’ tall. Full sun to part shade, moist soil, tolerates brief flooding. Inconspicuous flowers attract bees and the occasional hummingbird. Bright red berries borne on female plants; male plant needed for pollination. Berries persist into winter, and although they are not a first choice for birds, they are an important emergency food for many, including cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, mockingbirds, thrashers, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers, and wrens. LH for Henry’s Elfin butterfly, Holly Azure, and the Pawpaw Sphinx moth. Many cultivars available. Ilex opaca (American holly): see small trees.
Juniperus horizontalis (Creeping Juniper): prostrate, with blue-green foliage and small blue fruits that are eaten by many birds, including cedar waxwings, evening grosbeaks, purple finches, swallows and bluebirds. Wind-pollinated, but supports many insects and provides nesting sites for sparrows, robins, and mockingbirds.
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush): 6-12′ high. Full sun to partial shade, moist to average soil. Deer-resistant.* Clusters of tiny, aromatic, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in early spring. Male plants have larger flowers, but female plants set bright red drupes in fall; both are needed for pollination. Foliage bright yellow in fall. Leaves are aromatic when crushed. Fruit is attractive to cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, mockingbirds, thrashers, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers, and wrens. LH for Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly and many other butterflies and moths.
Myrica pensylvanica (Bayberry): semi-evergreen, moist soil in full sun to part shade, to 7’, dioecious. Catkins in spring give rise to small, gray, waxy berries on female plants, enjoyed by 86 bird species, including warblers, titmice, vireos, scarlet tanagers, woodpeckers, chickadees, bluebirds and catbirds.
Physocarpus opulifolius (Ninebark): Full sun, 10’ high and wide. Pretty, adaptable shrub with arching branches and white clusters of flowers in early summer that attract bees, wasps, flies, moths and butterflies. Seeds in fall attract birds, and dense branching offers good nesting sites. Avoid the cultivars with red foliage: less attractive to insects.
Rhododendron: Rhododendron arborescens, R. prinophyllum, R. periclymenoides (Smooth Azalea, Roseshell Azalea, Pinxterbloom Azalea): Deciduous, with good fall color. Sun to shade, 6-12’. Showy, fragrant tube-shaped pink or white flowers in spring, attract hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies, Andrenid bees and bumblebees. Rhododendron thickets often provide nesting sites for rose-breasted grosbeaks. Warblers visit the flowers and foliage for insects. Pinxterbloom tolerates dry soil better than the others.
Rosa: Rosa blanda, R. carolina, R. palustris (Smooth Rose, Carolina Rose, Swamp Rose): lovely, fragrant single pink flowers on shrubs that vary in size. Smooth rose is 6’, Carolina is 2-4’, swamp is 7’, all have relatively narrow growing habit, spreading by rhizomatous roots to form patches, good choice for naturalizing in larger areas. All need full sun; swamp rose can handle wet ground, and smooth rose has few thorns. Flowers attract mining, sweat, and bumblebees. Leaf-cutter bees use leaves for nest construction. Berry-like rosehip fruits turn bright red in late summer, and feed 42 species of birds, including waxwings, thrushes, cardinals, robins, bluebirds, grosbeaks, goldfinches and chickadees. Both smooth and carolina are host plants for the larval stage of the Apple Sphinx Moth. Nesting sites for many birds, including indigo buntings, cardinals, and towhees.
Rubus: Rubus occidentalis, R. idaeus (Black Raspberry, Red Raspberry): Shrub, 3-8’ tall, forming thickets that can be as wide as 15’. Full sun to almost full shade; fruiting best in sun. Acid to average soil, drought tolerant. White blooms in late spring, attracting many bee species, followed by berries in summer, offering food for at least 149 species of birds. In addition, the canes provide cover and nesting sites. 163 species of caterpillars are hosted by rubus sps, and there are 71 species of rubus native to New York, so if you have some brambly patches on your property, consider leaving them wild. Rubus canes are used by some native bees for nesting, so leave some dead canes when you prune.
Sambucus: Sambucus canadensis and S. racemosa (Elderberry and Red Elderberry): 8- 20’, moist to wet soil. White pollen-only flowers in spring attract mining, small carpenter and small sweat bees, and beetles. Fruit attracts ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, catbirds, mockingbirds, American robins, house finches, wood thrushes, red-eyed vireos, cedar waxwings, and white-throated sparrows, as well as mammals and turtles. Insect borers make holes in the stems that are later used by bees for nests, while some bees make their own holes. Deer-resistant.*
Swidas (formerly Cornus): Swida racemosa, S. rugosa, and S. sericea (Shrubby dogwoods: Gray, Round-leaved, and Red Osier): Large shrubs, 10-15’ tall. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. White flowers in late spring, to clusters of white berries on red stems in late summer. Dark red or purple fall foliage. Flowers attract mining, metallic green sweat, cuckoo, and small sweat bees. Dogwood fruit attracts cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, catbirds, tanagers, flickers, crows, jays, mockingbirds, thrashers, nuthatches, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, warblers, woodpeckers, and wrens. LH for the Spring Azure and Summer Azure butterflies, as well as caterpillars of 118 other moths and butterflies. Often used for nesting by birds and cover by small animals, these are great wildlife plants. Deer-resistant*.
Symphoricarpos albus (Common snowberry): 3-6’. Full sun to part shade, normal to dry soil, drought- and deer-resistant. Small pink flowers in early summer attract hummingbirds, honeybees, bumblebees, large carpenter bees, leaf-cutting bees, mason bees, green metallic bees, and Andrenid bees, leading to white berries late summer that persist into winter, eaten by cardinals and grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, mockingbirds, thrashers, orioles, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers and wrens. Songbirds, gamebirds, small mammals and browsers use this plant for food, cover, and nesting sites. LH for 25 species of caterpillars, including the Vashti Sphinx moth.
Vaccinium angustifolium and V. corymbosum (Blueberries, low- and high-bush): Low-bush is 6” to 2’, high-bush 6-12’; both like acid soil high in organic matter. Pink blooms in spring attract sonic-pollinating native bees and hummingbirds. Birds love the berries: cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, mockingirds, thrashers, orioles, thrushes, ruffed grouse, bluebirds, catbirds, veeries, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers, and wrens. Good red fall foliage. LH for 294 species of caterpillars of moths and butterflies, including the Brown Elfin, Henry’s Elfin, Pink-Edged Sulfur, Green Comma, and Striped Hairstreak.
Perennials and Grasses
Agastache foeniculum or A. scrophulariifolia (Anise Hyssop or Purple Giant Hyssop): Summer blooms attract long-tongued bees: bumble, small resin, leafcutter and long-horned bees; butterflies; and even hummingbirds. Birds like the seeds. Cultivars available.
Allium cernuum (Nodding Onion): blue flowers in July, attracting bumble, small resin, leafcutter, cellophane and small sweat bees. Deer-resistant bulb.
Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem): perennial bunchgrass, 4-7’ tall. Beautiful clusters of flowers in fall, red winter color. Needs good, deep soil. Seeds feed field sparrows, tree sparrows, and chipping sparrows in winter. LH for Leonard’s Skipper and other skippers, so don’t cut it back until well into spring.
Anemone canadensis (Canada Anemone): Groundcover with white flowers in spring, likes damp. Pollen-only flowers attract female mining, small sweat, yellow-faced, leafcutter, and metallic green sweat bees.
Antennaria plantaginifolia (Plantain-leaved pussytoes): Groundcover, with velvety foliage and little pussy-toe-like flowers pollinated by small bees and flies. Good for sandy or rocky areas, can be aggressive. LH for American Painted Lady butterfly.
Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine): red and yellow flowers in May attract hummingbirds and long-tongued bees, as well as a short-tongued bumblebee that rips open the spur and gets the nectar that way, sometimes allowing other bees to follow suit. Combines well with other shade-loving spring ephemerals, like tiarella and rue-anemone. LH for Columbine Duskywing.
Asclepias: Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed): Likes moist soil but, despite name, tolerates normal soil. Pink to white flowers in summer, attracting bumble, yellow-faced, metallic green sweat, and resin bees, plus butterflies, beetles, flies and hummingbirds. Seeds valued by Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Titmice, Crows, Jays, Finches, Orioles, Sparrows, Thrushes, Vireos, Waxwings, Wood Warblers, and Wrens. LH: Monarchs. Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) is similar in wildlife value but prefers drier, even sandy, soil, and it blooms later, extending the season.
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed): orange flowers in summer offer nectar to metallic green sweat, small resin, leafbutter, and small carpenter bees, as well as to moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Seeds valued by many birds. Taprooted, so transplant when young.
Baptisia tinctoria (Yellow Wild Indigo): yellow flowers in May-June, attract short- and long-tongued bees and syrphid flies. LH for 20 species of butterflies and moths, including Polyphemus Moth, the Hoary Elfin, and the Wild Indigo Duskywing. Baptisia australis (Blue Wild Indigo) is not native to New York, but it has much the same ecological function. Long-lived and deer-resistant, this plant is tap-rooted, so transplant when small. Many cultivars and crosses are available.
Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell): a circumboreal (native in both America and Europe) small plant with a long flowering period that attracts sweat, small sweat, mason, leafcutter, metallic green sweat bees, and it has an specialist bee as well.
Chamaenerion angustifolium (Narrow-leaf Fireweed; formerly Epilobium angustifolium): Bright pink flowers, often in disturbed areas, attract hummingbirds and long-tongued bees, including bumblebees and leafcutting bees. LH for bedstraw moth, white-lined sphinx moth, and 32 others.
Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead): White summer flowers attract bumble, long-horned, and yellow-faced bees, and the occasional hummingbird. Likes damp. LH for Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. Deer-resistant.*
Cornus canadensis (bunchberry or dwarf dogwood) is among the smallest of the genus and makes a nice native groundcover for moist, shady areas. In spring to midsummer, dogwood flowers just like the ones one the trees, attracting the familiar white bracts surround greenish white flowers and brighten woodland gardens and forest floors. But bunchberry flowers are astounding: they explode! “These amazing flowers can bloom in under 0.4 ms–a time shorter than it takes for a bullet to travel the length of a rifle barrel. To our knowledge this is the fastest flower on earth. Pollen is accelerated at 24,000 m/s², which is 2400 times the acceleration of gravity and 800 times that experienced by astronauts during liftoff. Pollen leaves the plant with an initial velocity of more than 4 m/s and is propelled an impressive 2.5 cm into the air, over ten times the height of the flower. Explosive flowering enhances insect pollination in two ways. First explosive flowering reduces the amount of pollen eaten by the insects because the pollen spray from the explosion disperses the pollen on insects’ bodies and the high speed of the pollen imbeds it deep in the insects’ hairs where it is less likely to be gathered and eaten. Second, explosive flowering limits pollinators to insects heavy enough to trigger the flower. Large flies, bumblebees and beetles are large enough to trigger flowers and move rapidly between inflorescences, whereas ants and small flies, which often stay on one inflorescence, cannot trigger the flowers.” (https://web.williams.edu/Biology/explodingflower/). Bright red fruits are eaten by the same birds that eat C. florida fruits. Leaves turn a warm bronze in autumn. LH: Spring Azure butterflies.
Desmodium canadense (Showy Tick Trefoil): pink flowers with a pedal action that tosses pollen onto the bee that lands on it: leafcutter, small sweat, small resin, bumble and long-horned bees. Also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. LH: Eastern Tailed Blue, Silver-spotted Skipper, Hoary Edge. Does produce burrs, so grow it where your dogs don’t romp.
Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s Breeches): early-blooming, white flowers that look like breeches hanging on a line; important for bumblebee queens just waking out of diapause, both for nectar and for pollen for the larvae they’ll soon deposit; “nectar-robbers” with shorter tongues often take advantage of holes bitten into the bloom. Dicentra canadensis (Squirrel Corn) is similarly happy in rich, moist, shady areas, but blooms a week later. Dicentra eximia (Wild Bleeding Heart) is pink and has a longer bloom period, attracting hummingbirds as well as bees. All are deer-resistant.*
Dodecatheon meadia (Shooting Star): pretty spring ephemeral, to 1’, moist soil, partial shade. White or pink flowers that do look like shooting stars, buzz-pollinated by bumblebees.
Echinacea pallida (Pale Purple Coneflower): Elegant thin-petalled pink flowers on 2-4’ plants in summer attract bumble, sweat, leafcutter, metallic green sweat, and long-horned bees, as well as butterflies. Seeds popular with finches and other birds. A nice change from Echinacea purpureum, although that is a great butterfly plant as well. Drought-tolerant. Avoid double-flowered cultivars, which won’t provide much nectar.
Eupatorium perfoliatum (Common Boneset): to 3’. Late summer froth of white bloom attracts mining, small sweat, yellow-faced and metallic green sweat bees, as well as many types of beneficial insects, predatory and parasitic wasps, and butterflies and moths. LH for Clymene, Lined Ruby Tiger, and Three-Lined Flower Moths, among many other butterflies and moths. Likes moist soil. Deer-resistant*. Eupatorium hyssopifolium (Hyssop-leaved Boneset or Thoroughwort) is similar to common boneset, except it likes dry soil.
Eurybia macrophylla (Large-leaved Aster): 1-3’ woodland aster with white or light purple flowers in fall that attract sweat, small sweat, bumble, yellow-faced, and metallic green sweat bees. LH for Pearl Crescent butterflies.
Eutrochium maculatum (Spotted Joe Pye Weed): to 6’. Light to dark pink clusters of flowers on tall plants in mid-to-late-summer attract bumble, leafcutter, cuckoo, metallic green sweat, and long-horned bees, plus lots of butterflies and moths. LH: various moths. Somewhat deer-resistant.* Likes moist soil, but will tolerate drier. Eutrochium fistulosum (Hollow Joe Pye Weed, Trumpetweed) is similar. Both plants have hollow stems that may be used by bees to nest in, so leave them over the winter and then cut them back to 18” rather than to the ground. Eutrochiums are LH for 35 species of butterflies and moths.
Fragaria virginiana and Fragaria vesca (Wild Strawberry): Good groundcover, can be aggressive. The nectar and pollen of the white flowers attract little carpenter, cuckoo, mason, green metallic and Andrenid bees, flies, small butterflies, and skippers. LH for Grizzled Skipper, Isabella Tiger Moth, and 82 other moths and butterflies. Some upland gamebirds and songbirds eat the fruits, including the Ring-necked Pheasant, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Veery, and American Robin. Some mammals, including the American Black Bear, Opossum, Franklin Ground Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, and White-footed Mouse, also eat the fruits, as do the Eastern Box Turtle, Ornate Box Turtle, and Wood Turtle.
Geranium maculatum (Spotted geranium, wild geranium, cranesbill): 1’, partial shade. Pink flowers in spring attract bumblebees, mason, cuckoo, long-horned, Halictid, and other bees. An Andrenid bee, Andrena distans, is a specialist pollinator. The flowers also attract Syrphid flies, dance flies, butterflies, and skippers. Other insects and the caterpillars of 27 species of moths feed on the leaves. Seeds attract mourning doves and quail. Foliage turns red in fall. (Not to be confused with the annual “geranium,” pelargonium.)
Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed): 3-6’, sun. Bright yellow or orange flowers in fall that attract small carpenter, metallic green sweat, bumble, and long-horned bees, as well as butterflies and moths. LH: Dainty Sulphur Butterfly. Many cultivars in many colors available. Likes moist but well-drained soil.
Helianthus giganteus (Giant Sunflower): Annual; plants can reach 10’. Yellow flowers in summer attract mining, long-horned, and bumble bees, many specialist bees, and butterflies and moths. Seeds attract Mourning Dove, White-Winged Crossbill, Eastern Goldfinch, Black-Capped Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, and various sparrows. LH: Silvery Checkerspot, Gorgone Checkerspot, Painted Lady, and 67 other butterflies and moths. Likes moist to wet soils: good for raingardens. Helianthus maximiliani, Maximilian sunflower, is a similar, 3-8’, perennial native that likes dry soil. Helianthus divaricatus, woodland sunflower, also perennial, 2-6’, spreads pretty aggressively, so site carefully.
Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower): 3-6’, with yellow sunflower-like flowers that attract bumble, leafcutter, metallic green sweat, small carpenter, and long-horned bees, plus butterflies. Birds like the seeds.
Hibiscus moscheutos (Rosemallow): 3-7’, bushy plant, with large white and pink flowers pollinated by the oligolectic Rose Mallow bee. LH for 25 species of butterflies and moths, including Delightful Bird-Dropping Moth and Exposed Bird-Dropping Moth.
Impatiens capensis and I. pallida (Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-Me-Not, and Yellow Jewelweed): important hummingbird nectar source (5-10% of their food), but bees and butterflies also visit. Annual, 3-5’. Likes moisture and will reseed freely. The sap is an effective treatment for poison ivy and other irritants: crush stems and apply to skin. Some game birds eat the seeds.
Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star): 4’. Pinky-purple button flowers in late summer on a long stalk, attracting bumble, small carpenter, leafcutter, and metallic green sweat bees, as well as many butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. Not native to New York, but a great butterfly plant.
Lilium canadense (Canadian lily): 3-8’, moist soil. Hummingbirds love it. Great Spangled Fritillary and various Swallowtail butterflies nectar on it. LH for moths. Deer candy.
Lobelia siphilitica (Blue lobelia): 2-3’, moist soil; short-lived but self-seeds. Blue flowers in summer attract bumble, digger, yellow-faced and sweat bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) likes similar conditions, but has bright red flowers, rising above green rosettes, that attract hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies because swallowtails, like hummingbirds, can see red, while bees can’t.
Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine, Sundial Lupine): 2’, full sun. The native lupine, not to be confused with the more familiar, non-native garden plant, Lupinus polyphyllus; attracts mining, mason, and bumble bees. LH for 34 butterflies, but especially the endangered Karner Blue.
Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells): 1’, ephemeral (disappears in summer), can form large colonies in the shady, rich moist soil it likes. Pink buds open to bluebells, pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees, and mason bees; these insects obtain nectar and/or collect pollen. Butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths, including a hummingbird moth suck nectar from the flowers. Combines well with summer-blooming perennials, like wood aster.
Monarda bradburiana (Eastern Bee Balm): 2’ tall with incredibly (for the genus) disease-resistant foliage. Pale pink flowers about a week earlier than other bee balms attract long-tongued bees (especially bumblebees), butterflies, skippers, hummingbird moths, bee flies, and hummingbirds. Short-tongued Halictid bees may visit the flowers to collect pollen; they are unable to reach the nectar. LH for several moths.
Monarda didyma (Bee balm): 2-4’, moist, rich soil, sun. Spreads aggressively, so plant carefully. Red flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, but not often bees, despite the name (“bee balm” refers to a resin in the plant once used to soothe bee stings). Many cultivars: ‘Jacob Cline’ and ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ are more resistant to mildew than the species.
Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot): 2’, moist soil, full sun to part shade (flowering best in sun). Pale pink flower clusters all summer attract bumble, digger, long-horned, leafcutter, and metallic green sweat bees, moths, butterflies, hummingbird moths, and hummingbirds. LH: Hermit Sphinx and Gray Marvel moths. Less aggressive than bee balm (Monarda didyma). All Monardas are reasonably deer-resistant.
Monarda punctata (Spotted Bee Balm): 2-3’, sun to light shade, moist soil. Summer-blooming, funky bracts in tiers attract bumble, long-horned, metallic green sweat, and mining bees. Also attracts a predatory wasp that preys on brown marmorated stink bugs, so plant lots of them.
Oenothera fruticosa (Evening Primrose): Hummingbirds and specialized bees nectar at the yellow flowers and songbirds eat the seeds. LH for 19 species of butterflies and moths.
Opuntia humifosa (Eastern Prickly Pear): yellow spring blooms are visited by long-tongued and short-tongued bees, including bumblebees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, halictids, and colletes. LH for several moths. Since it’s a cactus, it provides cover for snakes and Bobwhite Quail; the sandy soil it prefers would seem to be a good nesting site for ground-nesting bees, although I haven’t found evidence of this for eastern opuntia (western opuntia has its own oligolectic bee).
Packera aurea (Golden Groundsel): 1-3’, spreads to become a groundcover. Likes moist to wet soil, but can tolerate drier soil in shade. Heart-shaped leaves with long-blooming, bright gold flowers in spring to summer that attract small bees such as little carpenter bees, cuckoo bees and various Halictid bees. Combines well with other moisture-loving perennials, like lobelias and mertensias. LH to Northern Metalmark butterfly. Deer resistant.*
Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass): 3-6’, with pink-tinged flower panicles in summer. LH for 25 species of butterflies and moths, including Adjutant Wainscot, Black-bordered Lemon Moth, and the Pink-Streak (plant it just for the pleasure of those names).
Parthenium integrifolium (Wild Quinine): 2-4’, sun. Small white flowers in clusters on a bushy plant in summer are madly attractive to mining, yellow-faced, leafcutter, sweat, and small carpenter bees, plus many other insects.
Penstemon digitalis (Foxglove Penstemon): 2’, sun. White foxglove-shaped flowers with purple lines in throat for long-tongued bees: bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, miner bees, mason bees, and large leaf-cutting bees. Halictid bees, butterflies, Sphinx moths, and hummingbirds may visit the flowers, but they are not effective pollinators. LH: Chalcedony Midget.
Phloxes: Phlox divaricata: ground cover, light shade to partial sun, rich soil. 8-18” including the flower spikes. Fragrant lavender or pink blooms in spring attract long-tongued bees (especially bumblebees), bee flies, butterflies (especially swallowtails), skippers, and moths (including Hummingbird Clearwing & Sphinx moths).
Phlox drummondii (Drummond’s phlox): the only annual phlox, can be found sometimes in garden centers but come easily from seed. Not native to NY, but since annual natives are hard to come by, I list it. 1’, needs consistently moist soil to bloom all summer in various colors ranging from white to pink to blue to dark purple, with lots of mixed colors. Attracts swallowtails and skippers.
Phlox maculata (Spotted Phlox, Wild Sweet William): blooms in early summer, with mounds of dark-pink blossoms (to 3′) that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Several moth caterpillars feed on theplants. Native to Appalachian states, it grows best in moist, rich soil, in full sun or partial shade. If deadheaded, it may bloom again in autumn. ‘Miss Lingard’ is a widely available cultivar, blooming white in June. Deer like it.
Phlox paniculata (Garden Phlox): 3-4’. The fragrant pink, lavender, or rarely white flowers are borne in a 4-8 in. wide, terminal cluster in mid-to-late summer. Attracts swallowtails, Painted Ladies, Great Spangled Fritillaries, sulphurs and skippers. Although there are many cultivars available, the Mt. Cuba Center did trials to find which were both powdery mildew-free and attractive to butterflies, and for once, a cultivar was more attractive even than the species: ‘Jeana,’ a bright pink bloomer, won hands-down.
Phlox pilosa (Downy Phlox): not well-known, but unlike most phlox it likes drier, even sandy, soil. A mounded perennial (1-2’), downy phlox bears clusters of fragrant, pale pink to lavender flowers in spring that attract long-tongued bees, butterflies and skippers.
Phlox stolonifera (Creeping Phlox): a mat-forming perennial with semi-evergreen foliage and erect clusters of fragrant flowers in spring. Needs moist soil and shade. Similar pollinators to Phlox subulata (Moss phlox): ground cover, 3” tall spreading to 24” wide, full sun, does well even in poor soil, needle-like foliage is sometimes evergreen. Pink, blue, or white blooms in spring provides valuable early season nectar for swallowtail butterflies, day-flying sphinx moths (like hummingbird moths and clearwing moths) and hummingbirds.
Physostegia virginiana (Obedient Plant): 2-3’, sun. Pink flowers in fall attract long-tongued bumble and sweat bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Likes moist to wet soil, but can be aggressive. ‘Miss Manners’ is a white cultivar.
Phytollaca americana (American pokeweed): tall(to 8’), weedy, taprooted plant with berries adored by cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, mockingbirds, thrashers, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, and waxwings. Berries poisonous to people, and the plant can become aggressive. The flowers are visited primarily by Syrphid flies and Halictid bees.
Polemonium reptans (Jacob’s Ladder): 1’, shade to sun. Early spring blooms important for mining, bumble, and small carpenter bees. Cultivars with variegated foliage available.
Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon’s Seal): to 3’, moist, shady soil. Green-yellow flowers hang from the length of the stem, rather than at the tip, distinguishing it from False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). Pollinated by various bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds. Birds will eat the berries. Deer like it, too.
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, P. muticum, P. virginianum (Mountain Mint: Slender-leaved, Short-toothed, and Virginia): all three species are pollinator magnets. Slender-leaved might be less aggressive, and it’s more refined in appearance. Small white flowers in late summer attract yellow-faced, metallic green sweat, long-horned, small resin, and bumble bees, plus butterflies and many species of predatory wasps, including one that preys on brown marmorated stink bugs.
Ratibida pinnata (Yellow Coneflower, Gray-headed Coneflower): 3-5’, sun, tolerates drought and poor soils. Not native to New York, but attracts many bees, plus butterflies, moths, and flies. Birds eat the seeds. Normal to dry soil.
Rudbeckias: R. hirta and R. fulgida(Black-eyed Susan and Orange Coneflower): bright yellow flowers on rather coarse 2-3’ plants appeal to a wide range of insects, particularly bees and flies, as well as some wasps, butterflies, and beetles. Some Andrenid bees, such as Andrena rudbeckiae and Heterosarus rudbeckiae, prefer visiting the flowers of Black-Eyed Susan and closely related plants. LH of Silvery Checkerspot and 16 other species. The seeds are eaten by goldfinches, titmice, nuthatches, and towhees.
Salvias: Salvia azurea (Blue Sage): 3-4’, part-shade, dry soil. White or blue blooms in late summer attract long-tongued and bumblebees and some butterflies. Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf Sage): 1-2’, pale-blue to purple blooms in spring that attract large carpenter, leaf-cutting, and mason bees. Mourning doves eat the seeds. “Makes a great evergreen groundcover, with somewhat ajuga-like foliage and showy blue flowers in spring. It will reseed easily in loose, sandy soils and can form a solid cover with regular watering. It even takes mowing and can be walked on. The exposed lower lip of this and other salvias provides an excellent landing platform for bees. When a bee lands, the two stamens are tipped, and the insect is doused with pollen” (https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=SALY2)
Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot): pure white flowers in early spring above green lobed leaves. Temperature determines pollinators: native bees can’t fly below 55 degrees, and then syrphid and bee flies take over. Pollen only, no nectar. Flowers only last 3 to 4 days, so watch for them! There are two variants available: S. canadensis ‘Flora Plena’ has more than the usual number of petals, but is still valuable for pollinators; ‘Multiplex,’ however, is fully double and sterile, so is pretty but useless. Seeds are dispersed by ants, which carry them away for their elaiosomes (little oily attachments to the seeds)—this is also true for trilliums, and celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum).
Schizachrium scoparium (Little False Bluestem): 2-4’, sun. Warm-weather grass with good fall color. LH for several skippers. Many grasshoppers also feed on the foliage; grasshoppers are common in the same habitats as skippers and they are an important source of food for many insectivorous birds. The Field Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Slate-Colored Junco, and other small songbirds eat the seeds, particularly during the winter.
Senna hebecarpa (Wild Senna): 4-6’, full to part shade. Yellow, nectarless flowers in late summer attract bumble bees. Spreads by rhizomes. LH for sulphur butterflies.
Solidago: solidagoes host a whopping 138 butterflies and moths. Solidago caesia (Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod): 1-3’. Shade-tolerant goldenrod attracts bumble and metallic green sweat bees, and various specialist bees. Solidago flexicaulis (Zigzag Goldenrod): 1-3’. Shade-tolerant goldenrod attracts mining, bumble, small sweat, and yellow-faced bees, with many solidago specialists. Solidago rigida (Stiff Goldenrod): 3-5’. Sun-loving dryland goldenrod, attracting metallic green sweat, long-horned, small sweat, small carpenter, yellow-faced, mining, and bumble bees, plus plenty of solidago specialists as well as other insects. Solidago speciosa (Showy goldenrod) is similar, but 2-3’.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster): 3-6’. Purple flowers attract metallic green sweat, long-horned, sweat, leafcutter, small carpenter, large carpenter, mining, and bumble bees, specialist bees, and butterflies. Preferred nectar source for Monarchs. LH for Pearl Crescent and checkerspot butterflies. Many cultivars available. Likes soil on the moist side. In general, asters are terrific pollinator plants.
Symphyotrichum laeve (Smooth Blue Aster): 2-4’. Usually blue flowers in late summer attract honeybees, bumblebees, cuckoo bees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees, Andrenid bees (including the oligolectic bee, Andrena asteris), and Sphecid wasps. LH for many moths.
Thalictrum thalictroides (Rue Anemone, Windflower): a delicate woodland perennial rising to 9”, with white flowers in early spring that attract little carpenter, cuckoo, mason, Halictid, and Andrenid bees, and bee flies. Ephemeral. Deer-resistant.*
Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower): 1’, moist and shady soil. A slowly-spreading groundcover with heart-shaped leaves and white bottle-brush flowers in spring that attract bees and flies. Moderately deer-resistant.
Uvularia grandiflora (Bellwort): 1-2’, woodland perennial. Hanging yellow bell-shaped flowers in spring attract mason, Halictid, and Andrenid bees, and bumblebees. Looks a little like Solomon’s Seal. Deer love it.
Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain): 2-6’, purple spikes in fall attract metallic sweat, small carpenter, leafcutter, long-horned, mining, and bumble bees, plus lots of other insects, including butterflies. This vervain likes moist soil; Verbena stricta, Hoary Vervain, is not native to NY but likes dry soil and attracts similar bees.
Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed): 4-6’. Purple flowers in late summer and fall. Attracts long-horned, mining, and bumble bees, and other insects, including moths and butterflies. LH: American Lady butterflies and 22 other species of moths and butterflies.
Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver’s Root): 4-7’. Narrow white spikes of flowers in late summer attract small bees, and long-horned, sweat, and bumble bees, plus lots of predatory and parasitic wasps, soldier beetles, and butterflies.
Viola pubescens, viola sororia (Violets—Downy Yellow, Common Blue): early spring flowers attract small carpenter, small sweat, metallic green sweat and mining bees. LH for 31 species of butterflies and moths, including Great Spangled Fritillary, Mountain Silver Spot, and Aphrodite Fritillary.
Zizia aurea (Golden Alexanders): 1.5-3’. Yellow umbelliferous spring flowers attract small carpenter, yellow-faced, mining, bumble, and mason bees, as well as other insects. LH for Black Swallowtail.
Aristolochia macrophylla (Eastern Pipevine): woody vine, to 25’, excellent for covering a porch or pergola with its big green heart-shaped leaves, pipevine was often used for this purpose in colonial times. Odd little greenish-purple pipe-shaped flowers, pollinated by flies. LH for Pipevine Swallowtail.
Clematis virginiana (Virgin’s Bower, Devil’s Darning Needles): to 15’, with fluffy white flowers in late summer that attract Halictid bees and hummingbirds. The mature seed pods are very ornamental, and goldfinches sometimes use the fluff in their nests. Don’t confuse it with either poison ivy, which has alternate leaves instead of opposite ones on the vine, or with the exotic invasive, Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis), which has more fragrant flowers and bluer leaves.
Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet honeysuckle): 15-20’, woody vine. Red flowers all summer attract bees, bumblebees, and hummingbirds. LH for Spring Azure, Snowberry Clearwing Moth.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper): May reach 50’, may become aggressive. Leaves turn red in fall, berries attract cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, crows, jays, finches, orioles, sparrows, thrushes, vireos, waxwings, wood warblers, and wrens. Some bees are attracted to the small whitish-green flowers in early summer, and it’s LH for 15 moths.
Vitis: fast-growing vines with spring flowers followed by fruit in late summer to fall. Flowers are visited by bumblebees, honeybees, and long-horned bees; fruits are enjoyed by as many as 100 species of birds and many mammals; and the vines themselves provide nesting sites and shelter. LH for many species of moths. Vitis aestivalis (Summer grape): 35’, sunny, well-drained soil. Vitis labrusca (Fox Grape) 10-40’. Vitis vulpina (Winter Grape): 60’, can become quite aggressive. Grape leaves can look very similar to the invasive Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (Porcelain Berry), but porcelain berry bark is dotted with lenticels and does not peel (grape bark lacks lenticels and peels or shreds), and of course the berries are very different, both in color and the way they’re held on the plant: porcelain berries are held up, while grapes dangle. It is worth learning the difference, because porcelain berry is one of the top invasive plants endangering our ecosystem.