Attract native wildlife with these 5 landscaping trees.

Jeana Cadby
July 20, 2020

Washington state is home to some of the most exceptional and majestic native plants and animals. Nature-lovers who seek to support local flora and fauna have long recognized that urbanized areas have impacted the availability of wild landscapes where native wildlife can survive. Planting native trees is one of many ways to support native species and bring wildlife diversity into the area.

Attract native wildlife with these 5 landscaping trees:

1- Vine Maple

Slender, sprawling branches provide fresh, lush foliage throughout the summer months and breathtaking and brilliant seasonal color. Twisted and spreading limbs give rise to the name, the Vine Maple tree is well suited to supplement a natural landscape with dark conifers or provide a well-structured attraction as a specimen tree. Seeds supply food and branches offer nesting sites for birds. This dense understory tree is often multi-stemmed, providing a wonderful habitat for native fauna. Spring flowers emerge before leaf flush, which is greatly appreciated by deer and elk. Squirrels and chipmunks delight with plentiful seeds and lovely fall colors.

Growing in Zones 6-9, the Vine Maple tree (Acer circinatum) has a maximum height of 15 ft, and spread of 20 ft. 

2- Douglas Fir

Boundless, resilient, and native to the west coast, the Douglas Fir grows rapidly and vigorously. This lush evergreen has unique forked cone bracts and is an excellent tree for windbreaks and habitat restoration. Seeds provide food to crossbills, pine siskins, and other birds, while needles and twigs sustain white-tailed deer, blue and spruce grouse, mountain beaver, deer, elk, and rabbits. Douglas squirrels naturally delight in darting in and out the dense foliage.

Growing in Zones 4-6, the Douglas Fir tree (Pseudotsuga menziesii) can be maintained at a spread of 12-20 ft and a height of 40 ft and will grow taller if left unmanaged.

3- Western Hemlock

Lanky and elegant, the fine-textured Western Hemlock is the state tree of Washington. Wispy branches are adorned with fern-like foliage, and give this west coast native a graceful, delicate appearance that provides nesting habitat for many birds. Seeds sustain pine siskins, crossbills, chickadees, and deer mice. Bark and twigs invite porcupines, deer, elk, squirrels, and other mammals. This tall evergreen tree is also planted for erosion control such as in forested riparian buffers and to protect aquatic environments.

Growing in Zones 6-7, the Western Hemlock tree (Tsuga heterophylla) can grow very tall, potentially reaching a height of 165–230 ft.

4- Grand Fir

The impressively large Grand Fir is a long-lived, impressive true fir tree, often found on the Pacific Coast. Fir trees are useful to many animals and provide for food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds and squirrels. This large fir tree grows in mixed stands, and needles release a citrusy aroma when crushed. Its size, symmetry, and beautiful deep and shiny green foliage make this fir tree a popular Christmas tree. A spreading, drooping branching habit also encourages hummingbirds, butterflies and moths, deer, and elk.

Growing in Zones 6-9, the Grand Fir tree (Abies grandis) can grow very tall, reaching a height of 80-200 ft if left unmanaged. 

5- Lodgepole Pine

Tall, slender, and unwavering, the Lodgepole Pine is well known for its stoic height and persistent vertical growth. These coniferous evergreen pine trees are an important refuge for animals, providing food, shelter, and nesting sites. Seeds provide food to chickadees, jays, nuthatches, siskins, finches, and chipmunks; while woodpeckers, chickadees, and bushtits can forage insects from branches and cones.

Growing in Zones 2-8, the Lodgepole Pine tree (Pinus contorta) is highly adaptable and can be found along the coast from southern Alaska to Northern California. Although some specimens can grow to be over 100 ft fall, most will reach a height of 20-35 ft.

Growing Native Plants

Once established, native plants generally require little maintenance, and are a good option for low maintenance landscaping. Consider including native shrubs, groundcovers and flowers to enhance the landscape while providing nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. Native plants that are adapted to local environmental conditions often require less water, fertilizer, and disease control, and can provide vital habitat for birds, many other species of wildlife.

Evergreen trees native to the state of Washington can provide the much-needed food and habitat to nurture native wildlife flora and fauna. Maintaining diverse canopy layers can also elicit more abundant populations of birds, butterflies, other animals, and even other native plants. As always, the key to landscaping with any tree is to place the right plant in the right location.

What is your favorite native tree or animal? We would love to know in the comments!

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