Create Habitat

Food – Water – Shelter – Space

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens Douglas W. Tallamy:

“Natives… should be as densely planted as possible. It’s good if you can’t see the ground because then you have succeeded in providing safe sites for things that need them… Be sure to build complexity and diversity… Creating the vertical structure found in nature’s own designs by using ground cover, shrub, understory, and canopy species is a great start, but remember that animal diversity is a direct result of plant diversity. If you want to support lots of wildlife, you must supply as many different species of native plants as you can… Remember, it is the shrub layer rather than the tree canopy that birds most often use as nesting sites.” 

Aim for structural diversity from canopy to soil, with a diversity of site appropriate species communities where flowering and fruiting are happening at different times.  Layered edges are prime habitat. Learn the needs of different animal, fungal, moss and lichen species. For example:

Cirsium brevistylum – Short-styled Thistle

Refuge for Disappearing Butterflies

July 29, 2013 by wildcatphotography1976

 butterfly thistle 2573-2 wc

“This appears to be a Great Spangled Fritillary. Butterflies, like many other species of plants and animals where I live in Oregon, have nearly disappeared. I rarely find a butterfly, even when the flowers are in bloom.  I was out on a day trip and found where the county mower had missed some thistles, so the bees and two butterflies were allowing me to get a couple photos.  As a kid, we had butterflies come flitting by quite often.  But they are rare now, and I believe it is because of the use of pesticides, and things used to kill brush by the logging companies and the railroad. “


Ideas for Nature Stewards

*Carefully position logs parallel to slope to encourage more use by small animals, in addition to helping reduce soil erosion and water runoff by trapping sediments andn nutrients. Logs make great nurseries for a variety of life.  To improve log habitat and functions, dig a trench and bury about 1/4.

*If woody debris has a flat side, position flat side down to provide wildlife cover. Most wildlife prefer woody debris in partial shade.

*Remember to include not only trees and shrubs, but a variety of ground cover – perennials, annual, grasses, ferns – in addition to vines, and encourage moss and lichen.

*Leave branches on dead shrubs and trees for birds to perch and take cover.

*Consider disturbance to wildlife carefully before moving any ground debris, especially logs.

*Defragment and protect large patches of shrubbery for ground birds.

*Plant a diversity of site appropriate fruit, nut and pine trees for bird and other animal food.

*Plant a diversity of appropriate flowering native species to attract native pollinators. In general, bees prefer blue and yellow flowers, butterflies prefer bright colors, moths prefer light colors and hummingbirds prefer reddish flowers with narrow tubes that droop down, though they also prefer yellow flowers of Oregon grape in late winter.

*Leave mud puddles uncovered for butterflies to add minerals to their diets.

*Butterflies love warm, sunny edges & openings with low wind and rocks for warmth. Face large stones in sunny south facing spots.

*Place split logs flat side down, or uncut logs, on moist soil in shade near water sources for salamanders. Snakes and lizards prefer logs in dry sunny grassy spots.

*Leave piles of stones, fallen branches and leaves in piles near wet areas for toads and other amphibians. Create a radius of lush plants around water sources for cover.

*Add structural diversity, with many layers for insects, fungi, moss, and all animals for nesting, foraging and cover.

*Do not relocate animals in, but coax them in by creating their preferred conditions, (e.g. expanding native grass patches for snake habitat).

A Most Excellent List of Plants and Their Uses

From David Perasso

The full title explains it: List of Southern Vancouver Island, Western Washington and Western Oregon, Native Seasonal Food Plants, Used by Insectivorous Native Birds and Other Wildlife. Complied by Jean Stam, 1991.  This wonderful work was never published but seems to be in the public domain (it says “for copying” on the front sheet.  I thank John Dixon, steward at Twin Ponds, Shoreline, for lending me his well used copy.  There is info some info on propagation and lots of info on what wildlife uses what plants.


“For me adding anything is about adding species that I estimate are adapted to the soil and sun conditions that might have been in a spot like that before European contact.  All of them might support various co-adapted species… For example, I planted Nettles at a sunny forest opening, where the Satyr Anglewing butterflies would like that sunny opening habitat, and in a spot where the soil moisture and sun seemed appropriate for the nettles, and sure enough I later found Satry Anglewing caterpillars in their characteristic tents on the nettles there. ” – Stewart Wechsler

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