A New Tool for Wildlife Gardeners

Native Plant Finder is an online resource for people who want to attract more wildlife to their gardens. The website is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, with support from the University of Delaware and the US Forest Service. It draws on the work of Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

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Bumblebee on Bluestem Goldenrod

After entering your zip code, Native Plant Finder presents you with a list of plant genera native to your location. These are ranked according to how many moth and butterfly species each genus hosts. Click on the genus, and you get a list of species of that genus that are native to your area.

You also get a list of the moth and butterfly species whose caterpillars feed on the plants of that genus. For example, when I enter my zip code and click “Find Native Plants”, I get a list of genera starting with Goldenrod (Solidago), which is host to 57 species of moths and butterflies that live in my immediate region.

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Painted Lady Butterfly

 

Click again, and you get a list of four native goldenrod species, along with the 57 moth and butterfly species attracted to this genus. The list includes the Painted Lady and a few other butterflies, but are mostly moths.

Don’t get all disappointed, though. Without moths we would have few songbirds. Tallamy’s research estimated that one pair of chickadees must find 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise a single brood of nestlings. More caterpillars means more songbirds.

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Chickadees and other birds need a lot of caterpillars. 

The moths and butterflies are listed with the most specialized species first. For Goldenrods, the first species listed is the Arcigera Flower Moth, whose caterpillars feed on Goldenrods only.

There’s also a link that lets you search by moth or butterfly species for host plants.

This is a beta website which means, I think, that it is a work in progress. My only quarrel with Native Plant Finder is that it may be a little too geographically specific. For instance, Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) may not be native to my zip code but it is native to several parts of Illinois. It certainly thrives in my garden, and I would think it would attract the same Lepidopterans as the Goldenrod species listed for my zip code.

Quibbles aside, this is definitely a website worth visiting. Give them a visit by clicking here.

 

32 Comments on “A New Tool for Wildlife Gardeners

  1. Where do you find all of these terrific links (thinking also of the link to when plants bud out)? I typed in my zip to find that many of the natives I *thought* would be good for this area are indeed the right ones. I wasn’t absolutely certain. I have two kinds of Goldenrod, but am about to add a third. Thanks for this.

  2. It would be an even better link if it went on to add ethical sources for the native plants. People should NOT go out and dig them up from a wild area, but go to a nursery that propagates its stock.

  3. Too bad there isn’t a similar version in Canada – but I’m only an hour from Buffalo so I’ll be looking that up to see what it says.

  4. Interesting that several of the plants that attract the most species are also very invasive. Left on their own, strawberries and violets, which I never planted, would take over the entire yard.

    • I like to use strawberries and violets as groundcovers in some places. I have to keep cutting the stolons back or they’d cover the sidewalk.

  5. Thank you Jason–I hadn’t heard of this. What a valuable tool. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll send this info on to my readers–giving you credit, of course.

  6. Very nice! I try to add as many native plants as I can to attract the wildlife, and this sounds like a wonderful resource!

  7. Thank you for the link, Jason!

    The Xerces Society, an International, nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat, also has some useful information of plants for pollinators.
    http://www.xerces.org/

  8. Hearing Doug Tallamy speak and reading his book shifted my garden in a significant way, so it was fun to see the website resource – thanks, Jason! If people need more detailed info for their region, try a Google search for “native plants of your state name” and several resources that are specific to your area will come up. A lot of these are sponsored by state ag extensions/master gardener organizations, with evaluations of garden choices and what wildlife they support.

    I love wild violets; in addition to having lovely blooms, they support several kinds of butterflies. I control them by cutting back after flowering to prevent seed dispersal in the garden areas and let them grow wild in other areas.

  9. Thanks for sharing this; what a great tool! It looks as though their data is still pretty limited for my zip code, but I’m sure getting all the plants into the database connected to the right zip codes is a huge job.

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