In selecting woody species for your property, keep in mind the needs of birds and beneficial insects. Native species are much more valuable in providing habitat, while contributing beauty to the landscape Most non-native species have little or no value in providing for the needs of birds and insects.

The woody plants are listed in order of value for nesting birds (Source, Tallamy and Shropshire, 2017, National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder). These species of woody plants are important due to the number of butterfly and moth species (lepidoptera) attracted to the species as host plants. Caterpillars are the major source of food for nestlings – even species that are seed eaters as adults. Some 95% of bird species feed their young on the larvae of butterflies and moths, and spiders.

For convenience, the list is divided into sections for trees, shrubs and vines, but the relative rank is maintained. Some 48 woody genera providing host value for lepidoptera species are included on the spreadsheet. There are additional natives offering habitat value. The list that appears on the CLC website was the results of a search on zip code 60010. To ascertain the plant list for your zip code, check the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder and provide your zip code.

An additional column shows the importance of the woody species in providing fruits, nuts, or seeds for adult birds (Various sources, including Mariette Nowak, author of Birdscaping in the Midwest and George Adams’ Gardening for the Birds.). Although some woody plants may support a relatively low number of lepidoptera, they may be quite valuable as a food source for adult birds (Elderberry, for instance).

Woody plants also provide shelter and nesting locations. Hawthorns, Spruces, American Plums, Ninebarks, Roses, Viburnums, Maples, Junipers, Pines, and Dogwoods are among the woody plants offering excellent or good cover or nesting value.

Note: this list applies to Midwest region

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
Oaks Quercus sps. 342 Good – Several birds eat acorns
Wild Cherries, Plums, etc. Prunus sps. 283 (1) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willows Salix sps. 254 (1) Good
Birch Betula sps. 224 Good
Aspen, cottonwood, poplars Populus sps. 218 Good
Maple, Boxelder Acer sps. 206 Fair (Though Boxelders attract insects that birds eat)
Hickories, pecan, other nuts Carya sps. 195 Good
Crabapple Malus 187 High
Elm Ulmus 157 Not rated
Pine Pinus 132 Fair
Basswood, Linden Tillia 126 Not rated
Ash Fraxinus 115 Will be impacted by EAB
Walnut, Butternut Juglans 114 Not rated
Beech Fagus 104 High
Hawthorns Crataegus 104 High
Pagoda Dogwood Cornus 78 (1) Excellent
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (1) Very high
Ironwood, Tupelo Ostrya 70 Good
Spruce Picea 61 Good
American Hornbeam Carpinus 56 Not rated
Witchhazel Hamamelis 55 Not rated
Locust Robinia 52 Not rated
Larch, Tamarack Larix 44 Good
Mountain ash Sorbus 44 Good
Hackberry Celtis 41 Very high
Honey locust Gleditsia 40 Not rated
Sycamore Platanus 38 Good
Holly Ilex 35 (1) Not rated
Blackgum, sourgum Nyssa 29 Good

See the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder for additional species.
(1) In combination with shrubs of the genus
Not rated = sources used did not show a value of this species for adult food value

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
Chokecheery, other Prunus shrubs Prunus sps. 283 (2) Excellent (84 bird species use)
Willow Salix sps. 254 (2) Good
Cranberry, Blueberry Vaccinium 162 Very high
Alder Alnus 132 Good
Blackberry, raspberry, others Rubus 105 Very high
Filbert, Hazelnut Corylus 85 Good
Dogwoods Cornus 78 (2) Excellent (Used by 93 Species)
Viburnums Viburnums 77 Good (Used by 35 species)
Serviceberry Amelanchier 76 (2) Very high
Native Roses Rosa 74 Good
Medowsweet, Steeplebush Spirea 52 Good
Sumacs Rhus 37 Good (Used by over 20 species)
Winterberry Ilex 35 (2) High
Sweetfern Comptonia 34 Not rated
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus 31 Good
Ninebark Physocarpus 30 Good
Sassafras Sassafras 29 Good
Elderberry Sambucus 25 Excellent (Used by over 100 species)

(2) In combination with trees of the genus

Genus (Common name) Genus (Latin name) No. of Lepidopteran species hosted Value as Food for Adult Birds
Grape Vitis 58 Very high
Woodbine, Virginia creeper Parthenocissus 27 Not rated