Trees play a critical role in many aspects of our environment but they are especially important to wildlife attracting many different species to them. They provide food for many different types of insects which then attract birds, mammals and amphibians too who will feed on the insects. Whatever variety of trees you may have in your garden, they will benefit wildlife in one way or another but native trees tend to do far better so if you’re just starting out with your wildlife garden and want to plant one or more trees, take a look around your vicinity and find out what other trees are growing which seem to attract birds, for example, or ask your garden centre for advice.
Trees are important for providing shelter and a place for birds and some small mammals to build nests, in addition to producing food such as fruit, berries, nectar, seeds and edible leaves.
How Can I Attract Wildlife To My Trees?
Late autumn and winter are the best time for both planting new trees and carrying out routine maintenance on existing ones as long as the ground isn’t too wet or frozen. For new trees, you should prepare the hole in which you’re looking to plant by using compost or rotting manure in which to set the tree and make sure the roots are firmly bedded into it when you’re refilling the hole. Make sure you water them well in the first year and to remember that larger trees will probably need to be affixed to a strong stake to prevent damage from the wind. For established trees, there will be some pruning to do. It’s worth noting that you should try to keep hold of any dead wood or twigs if you can as it can still play a vital role in creating a wildlife habitat for invertebrates and amphibians. Certain lichens, mosses and fungi also rely on wood which is decaying too. Instead of getting rid of any logs, you should build several small piles out of it which will attract insects. Even a dead tree stump can be a home to many insects, small mammals and even a woodpecker! The logs can also be used in a shady place to create a habitat which could include ferns, primroses and other shade-loving plants which, in turn, will attract even more wildlife.
Ivy growth around trees is usually fairly harmless, except in the event that its growth is so vigorous that it can strangle and further weaken an unstable tree but, for the most part, you should leave it be. Ivy provides nectar and pollen for many insects, including some species of butterfly, and ivy berries are a good food source for many bird species, especially when their natural food sources are more scarce in late winter.
Which Trees Are Best?
You should choose native trees over non-native ones if you truly want to improve your chances of attracting wildlife to them. Native trees provide insects when it’s time to breed and seeds over the winter months. However, different trees attract different birds. For example, cones from alder trees attract goldfinches, birch is a good all-round tree attracting many species of birds, insects and caterpillars who are also partial to eating the catkins on willow trees so ideal if you want a butterfly garden. The acorns from the oak tress will, naturally, attract squirrels and also wood pigeons and jays. Beech trees don’t support a great variety of insects but their nuts are in demand by the likes of the tit family and chaffinches. The berries from ash and rowan trees are also highly popular with birds.
Therefore, if you want to encourage wildlife into your trees and especially if there are certain species of birds you want to have regularly visiting your garden, you need to find out what species are attracted to which tree. Also, it’s worth noting that both oak and beech trees can grow quite large so are not that practical if you only have a small garden.