Best Trees to Plant

Trees and wildlife. Trees help wildlife thrive in so many ways. We never really thought about the connection until we started learning how to help wildlife on our 3-acre homestead. And what we learned is hundreds of animals count on trees to help them survive.

trees help wildlife

The mighty oak tree supplies food for over 500 caterpillars (which in turn are eaten by baby birds) and 100 animals 


oak trees

Acorns from oak trees provide food to over 100 animals.

Acorns provide food to over 100 animals.

A chickadee with a caterpillar ready to feed its young. Photo: Doug Tallamy


Wow, but think about it. Trees provide shelter for nesting birds and squirrels. A single oak tree provides food (mostly in the form of leaves) for over 500 different caterpillars, not to mention the 100 animals that eat the oak’s acorns.

A chickadee with a caterpillar ready to feed its young. Photo: Doug Tallamy

But do I really want a bunch of creepy caterpillars in my yard? You bet if you want birds. A chickadee pair must feed its babies over 6,000 caterpillars in one season to raise them. Since all baby birds need caterpillars to fledge (since they can’t yet eat seeds), you need a lot in your backyard to keep them healthy!


And what about trees that have died? Dead trees are the second most important tree for animals to thrive. How? By providing shelter and nutrients to over 1000 critters. Think salamanders, beetles, rabbits, and many, many more. Plus mushrooms often grow on rotting trees providing much-needed food for turtles, deer and birds.

oak trees

A dead tree covered in moss provides shelter to over 1,000 animals.


So what are the 2 most important trees for wildlife? In our book, the oak tree and the dead, dying tree. And if you are planting an oak, look for one that is native to your area and has a high-fat content in its acorns (who knew acorns vary in fat content?). The trees will help wildlife thrive and you will be helping the planet at the same time. A win/win.

So what can you do to help support wildlife? Plant an oak, or better yet, lots of oaks. And leave those fallen dead trees for shelter and food. The animals will thank you.

To learn more, read:

The Wildlife Benefits of Acorns and Oaks
Dead Trees are Anything but Dead
9 Trees that will Attract Winter Wildlife


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