Get It Growing: Native plants to attract wildlife

The Olympic Peninsula is an extraordinary place to behold a diversity of plants and wildlife. In any of its ecosystems, wildlife thrives when there are abundant native plants to support their needs for food, shelter and nesting habitat throughout the four seasons.

To invite local wildlife in your yard, plant a wide assortment of native trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants. Take nature’s cue and plant in layers.

Trees serve as the canopy and provide shelter. The middle layer contains the shrubs and ferns while the ground layer is comprised of ground cover and herbaceous plants. This will allow for a large mixture to support nesting and feeding habits during the year.

Native plants adapted to our soil conditions, climate, and weather. Once established, natives require little maintenance and water. They resist most pests and diseases.

There is a great variety of native plants to attract wildlife: Garry oak, Western serviceberry, wild rose, elderberry, Pacific ninebark and trailing raspberry, just to name a few.

Below are other natives to consider for your wildlife landscape:

Trees

The Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca) grows to a maximum height of 40 feet. It prefers moist and sunny conditions particularly along wetlands. In early spring, the tree produces fragrant pinkish flowers that attract mason bees and hummingbirds.

Beginning in August, small oblong fruit ripens providing vital food for birds, deer, and other browsing mammals through the fall and winter months.

A vine maple (Acer circinatum) is used for its vivid display of fall color in landscapes. Usually multi-stemmed, it grows to 25 feet and can tolerate moist to dry soils.

Flowers bloom from April to June giving rise to double samaras that ripen from September to October. The seeds are dispersed through November providing food for finches, quail and nuthatch. Deer and elk enjoy eating its summer foliage.

In the fall, squirrels and chipmunks hoard seeds from the samaras.

Shrubs

The red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall and does best in sunny, moist locations.

Beginning in early April, deep pink pendulous flower clusters emerge providing nectar and pollen for bumblebees and hummingbirds.

In September, blueish-white berries appear and supply food throughout the fall season to a variety of birds such as robins, jays and cedar waxwings.

The beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) is an attractive multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub with long, yellowish catkins that provide winter interest. It grows up to 20 feet in sun or shade and prefers moist well-drained soil.

In January, it is the earliest shrub to bloom and is pollinated by the wind, not animals.

Its nuts begin to ripen in September which provides food to birds, squirrels, rabbits, and deer for the remainder of the year.

Tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is appealing any time of the year and is a favorite plant for wildlife. It is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 6 feet high in sun or shade.

Its cousin, the low Oregon grape (M. nervosa) is a ground cover growing no taller than 2 feet and prefers dry shade.

In early spring, both plants show off clusters of golden-yellow flowers that attract orchard mason bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

In late summer, strands of small blue berries ripen and provide nourishment for grouse, foxes, raccoons and a variety of birds.

Ground cover

Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-uris) is a drought tolerant, low trailing ground cover with small evergreen leaves. Its pinkish- white flowers appear in early spring which later form bright red berries that last into the winter. The fruit is enjoyed by small mammals and birds, such as towhees, grosbeak, and sparrows.

Bunchberry (Cornish unalaschkensis) is an herbaceous perennial ground cover that prefers shade and moist conditions. In May to August, its beautiful blossoms look like miniature dogwood flowers. Bumblebees are attracted to their blooms, while birds and grouse gorge on its bright red berries in the fall.

Native plants should never be dug up from the wild. Natives can be grown from seed purchased from reputable nurseries or purchased at the annual Clallam County Conservation District sale (see website information in sidebar).

Fall Plant Sale

The Master Gardener Foundation of Clallam County will have native plants for sale at the Fall Plant Sale, currently scheduled for Aug. 29 at the Woodcock Garden in Sequim. The plant sale will only take place if Phase 3 of recovery has been reached.

In case of postponement, online sales will be available.

For more information on this sale go to clallammgf.org or follow us on Facebook; search “Master Gardener Foundation of Clallam County.”

More native plant info

For more information on native plants, visit the following websites:

• Washington State University-Clark County Extension, Pacific Northwest plants: www.pnwplants.wsu.edu

• “Landscaping in the Pacific Northwest: Native Plants”: tinyurl.com/y2znhmyt

• Clallam County Conservation District: clallamcd.org/native-plants

Loretta Ferguson is a certified WSU Master Gardener for Clallam County.

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