Wildlife Plants

The survival of some animal species depends on native plants; native flora and fauna evolved here together.  Providing habitat for wildlife is one excellent reason to plant natives.

Fruits and flowers are important food sources:  flowers provide pollen and nectar for insects and hummingbirds and fruits feed a wide range of animals.

The Cascade or Coast Penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus) blooms all summer with a profusion of purple flowers.  It gets 2-3’ tall and wide, thrives in the sun and seeds itself readily.

In his informative book, Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, Russell Link says about Penstemons,:  “The flowers attract hummingbirds, bumblebees, night-flying moths, and butterflies including swallowtails, common wood nymphs, and Lorquin’s admirals.”

Cascade Penstemon is showy, valuable for wildlife, and easy to grow.  What’s not to like?  Well…one thing.  The flowers are, uh, stinky.  So grow it, just not by the front door.

Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), another valuable wildlife plant, is a narrow evergreen shrub with holly-like leaves.  It gets 6-8’ tall and slowly spreads by rhizomes.  It thrives best in well-drained soil in the sun though it tolerates shade also (but will be lanky in the shade).   Both its yellow flowers and pretty clusters of blue fruit are valuable to wildlife (and edible for humans).

Some of Tall Oregon Grape’s specific wildlife benefits, according to Link:  “The berries are eaten by many birds, including grouse, pheasants, robins, waxwings, juncos, sparrows, and towhees.  Foxes, raccoons, and coyotes also eat the berries.  Deer and elk will occasionally browse the leaves and flowers.  Orchard mason bees and painted lady butterflies use the nectar.”

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