Dutchman’s pipevine (Aristolochia tomentosa) acting as a host plant. Photo: Mervin Wallace

Natives for Wildlife

Native gardens and landscaping provide a solid foundation for nature’s web of life. For example, the flowers of native plants attract butterflies, bees, moths, and other flying insects, which provide nectar and pollen from the flowers and are essential for pollination and thus fruit and seed production for many native plants. Learn more hereNinety-seven percent of all terrestrial birds feed their young insects and other invertebrates (Tallamy). The foliage of native plants (host plants) are food for thousands of different insect species, which in turn become critically important food for songbirds and other animals. Learn more here.

Seeds and fruits of native trees and other native plants provide food for songbirds, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and other animals. A diversity of native plant structure—native canopy trees, under story trees, shrubs, grasses, sedges, vines, wildflowers and ground covers—provides important nesting habitat and shelter for songbirds and many other animals during the growing season. 

Leaving seed heads and plant structure throughout winter provides continuing food and shelter resources for many creatures and gives people opportunities to observe nature up close. Leaf litter on the ground provides shelter for small animals like salamanders as well as moth cocoons and some butterflies that overwinter as adultsIf you trim your native garden or landscaping in late winter or early spring, instead of cutting all spent vegetation to the ground, by leaving 8- to 24-inch tall stems, you will provide nesting areas for stem-nesting native solitary bees and wasps throughout the growing season. Different species of native solitary bees and wasps lay eggs in cut stems at different times of the growing season. Eggs develop in cut stems over the course of a year and emerge from the cut stems as adults one year from when the eggs were laid. See graphic. 

If you have a water feature like a pond or small pool, including emergent native aquatic plants like rushes and pickerel weed gives places for the larvae of aquatic invertebrates like dragonflies a place to emerge and develop into an adult. Many of these larvae are important food for frogs, toads, birds, and other wildlife. Learn more here.

Native plants with red, orange, and/or tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, which feed on their nectar. Consult this list of native plants to attract hummingbirds.

We have a number of Top Ten lists below to help you support wildlife in your garden.

Top Ten Lists for wildlife:


Grow Native! articles from the Missouri Prairie Journal that provide information on specific benefits of native plants for wildlife.

Grow Native! Fantastic Moths and Their Woody Plant Hosts, Vol. 39, No. 3-4, 2018

Grow Native! Thankful for Flies in the Garden, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2018

Grow Native! Gardening for Bumble Bees, Vol. 37, No. 3 & 4, 2016

Grow Native! Gardening for Monarchs, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2016

Grow Native! It Starts with a Plant, Vol. 34, No. 3 & 4, 2013

Grow Native! Native Landscaping for Skippers, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2018

Grow Native! Defending against Deer and Rabbits, Vol. 28, No. 3&4, 2018

Grow Native! Wasps: Allies in the Garden, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2019

Grow Native! Missouri’s Native Aquatics, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2014


Missouri Prairie Journal articles that focus on education and wildlife.

Missouri Gets Moving for Monarchs, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2015

How Good are Plant Pollinator Hosts?, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2009

Cantrell: The Milkweed Connection Part One – Establishing an Outdoor Learning Station, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2012

Cantrell: The Milkweed Connection Part Two – Using an Outdoor Learning Station, Vol 33, No. 2, 2012

Cantrell: The Milkweed Connection Part Three – Advancing the Conservation Efforts of a Species with an Outdoor Learning Station, Vol 33, No. 3, 2012


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