Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage’s Backyard Habitat program focuses on properties with limited space. From well maintained nesting structures to butterfly gardens, there are many habitat projects available that will attract a diversity of wildlife to any landscape. Using native plants is a big part of attracting native song birds and other wildlife. Native plants are adapted to the Eastern Shore weather, insects and other local growing conditions. They require less chemical input (which is good for the Bay) while offering a more natural setting for our native wildlife.
The following list contains native shrubs, trees and herbaceous plants that will attract native wildlife including songbirds and beneficial insects to your backyard.
Redbud, Cercis canadensis – Small, shrub-like tree only growing to about 10 meters. Flowers in late March- early April; seeds or pods are eaten by quail, deer and many other wild critters; grows in rich moist soils.
Virginia sweet spire, Itea virginica – Grows to 3m tall. Flowers are white, slender racemes which attract pollinators; small seeds eaten by birds and small mammals; grows in swamps or wet places.
Fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii– Blooms before the leaves emerge; flowers are a cream color and very fragrant. Produces wonderful fall color.
Inkberry, Ilex glabra– Evergreen shrub growing to 3 meters tall. Discreet solitary flowers; fruit on females, ripens to black and is eaten by many birds; grows in sandy woods of the coastal plain. An excellent source of nectar, highly aromatic and useful as an ornamental.
Winterberry, Ilex laevigata– Grows to 3 meters tall. Flowers & fruits solitary; fruits ripen to bright orange-red; grows in moist-dry soils
Wax-myrtle, Myrica cerifera– Evergreen shrub grows over 5 meters tall; has aromatic bluish white, hard waxy, persistent drupes-birds eat fruit. This thick evergreen offers excellent nesting sites; grows well in sandy swamps or wet woods.
Smooth sumac, Rhus glabra – Grows to 6 meters tall; can be leggy. Greenish flowers attract butterflies. Fruit is red, covered with short red hairs, and is an excellent reserve food during harsh winters, but may not be eaten during mild winters; grows in dry to moist soils.
Shadbush, Amelanchier canadensis – Deciduous shrub or small tree which grows up to 8 meters tall. Fruit is blackish, juicy and sweet; consumed by many birds and is a favorite fruit of the flying squirrel.
Fetterbush, (Swamp leucothoe) Leucothoe axillaris – Grows to 4 meters tall. Flowers are white or pinkish; seed capsule nearly spherical; persistent throughout winter. Grows in swamps, moist woods and thickets.
Arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum– Grows to 3 meters tall. Flowers are creamy white; fruit matures to blue-black and is eaten readily by many birds; grows in moist or dry soils.
Possum Haw, Viburnum nudum– Grows to 4 meters tall. Flowers are white to cream; fruit greenish to pink, maturing to blue-black and is eaten readily by many birds. Grows in moist soils, swamps, and open woods.
Southern Arrowwood, Viburnum recognitum – Grows to 3 meters tall. Flowers are white to cream; fruit dark blue; common in moist soils.
Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia – Grows to 3 meters tall. Flowers are very fragrant, white or pink; fruit nearly spherical, hairy capsule. Grows in swamps and wet thickets.
Spicebush, (Blume) Lindera benzoin– Many-branched shrub that grows up to 5 meters tall. Yellow flowers appear before leaves in clusters; spicy aromatic twigs; fruit forms red-yellow drupes; grows in damp woods.
Maple Leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerfolium-Grows to 2 meters tall. Flowers are creamy white or pink; fruit turning purplish black; grows in moist or dry soils.
Bayberry, (Candleberry) Myrica pensylvanica -Partially evergreen shrub grows up to 2.5 meters. Fruit matures into bluish white, hard waxy, persistent drupes-birds will eat fruit; thick cover; offers excellent nesting. Often planted as an ornamental, aromatic; grows in well-drained soils.
Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida-Shrub or small tree growing to 12 meters tall, in well-drained to moist soils. Flowers are greenish-white or yellowish; bracts are white (rarely pink); red fruit is a favorite winter food of Eastern Bluebirds.
Pinxter Azalea, Rhododendron nudiflorum-Can grow up to 3 meters tall. Flowers are rose pink to nearly white; attractive to hummingbirds & pollinators; grows in sandy woods.
Swamp Azalea, Rhododendron viscosum-Can grow up to 3m tall. Flowers are intensely fragrant white to pale pink in clusters; attractive to hummingbirds & pollinators; grows on stream banks and edges of swamps.
Meadow Sweet, Spirea latifolia – Flowers are white-pinkish and bloom June-September; very attractive to Butterflies; fruits mature in the fall and persist through the winter; grows in moist soils.
Devil’s Walking Stick, (Hercules’ Club) Aralia spinosa-Shrub or small tree 12 meter tall. It has prickles on lower surface of large leaves; leaves are twice or thrice compound; thorny bark; large compound umbels of small flowers attract many pollinators including many butterflies. Various songbirds consume berries; seeds are poisonous if chewed; deer often browse twigs and leaves.
Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis-grows up to 3 meters tall. Flower heads are round and creamy-white; very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Birds, especially waterfowl, eat fruit heads or seeds.
Strawberry Bush, (Hearts-a-bursting) Euonymus americanus – Straggling shrub growing up 2 meters tall; flowers are greenish; fruit is crimson when mature; seeds are scarlet; grows in moist woods; seeds readily eaten by birds; often browsed by deer.
Red Osier Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera -Grows to 3 meter tall. Twigs turn bright red during the winter months; compound white flowers, white fruit which matures to dark blue is readily eaten by many birds. Grows in moist soils.
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis – Grows to 4 meter tall. Abundant white flowers produces purplish to black fruit that is eaten by many species of birds.
Red Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens – Partly evergreen; flowers are coral-red outside and yellow within tube; bloom March-July; red berries August – October.
Blackeyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta -Annual to perennial; orange to orange-yellow disk flower; butterflies and other pollinators attracted to nectar; birds, often goldfinches, eat seeds during the winter.
Purple Lovegrass (Trouble grass), Eragrostis spectabilis-Densely tufted perennial; spikelets are purple, oval grain eaten by birds & small mammals; grows well in dry soils.
Yellow Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale – Deep yellow ray-flowers; grows in swamps, flood plains and other moist soils; butterflies nectar from flowers and birds eat seeds.
Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis– Perennial; flowers early spring (April-July); red outside, yellow inside, nodding flower; hummingbirds and larger butterflies visit for nectar; grows in open woods moist-dry soils.
Whitewood Aster, Aster divaricatus-Clustered white flowers blooming July-October; grows in dry to moist woods; attracts pollinators and birds eat the seeds.
Turtlehead, Chelone glabra -Flowers are white-pink spikes; host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillar; hummingbirds visit for nectar; grows in wet soils.
Butterfly weed (Pleurisy root), Asclepias tuberosa-Very showy orange flower attracts many butterflies; grows in dry, open fields to moist ditches.
New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae – Reddish-purple ray flowers; late blooming August-October; great late source for migrating Monarchs; finches and other birds will eat seeds.
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum– Flower clusters, purplish or pale pink; blooms July -September; grows in rich soils of open woods.
Grass-leaved Blazing Star, Liatris graminifolia – Spike flowers are lavender to rose-purple; blooming September-October; grows in open woods often in dry soils, also on edges of salt marshes.
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa-Flower clusters are mostly solitary and terminal, lilac to pink; bloom July-August; grows in dry fields, thickets and woodland borders.
Golden Rod, Solidago sp. – Late fall flower normally bright yellow; a great source of nectar for late migrating monarchs. This is a large, difficult genus because the plants may vary greatly; species are closely similar and hybrids occur.
New York Iron Weed Vernonia noveboracensis-Flowers are purplish, blooming in August – October; grows on creek margins and other moist soils.
Willow Oak, Quercus phellos-Large tree grows to 25 meter tall; grows well in swamps and bottom lands; produces nuts at a younger age than other oaks. Acorns eaten by Wood Ducks and many other birds and mammals; will hybridize with other oaks (rubra & falcata).
Black Haw, Viburnum prunifolium -Grows up to 8meter tall. Flowers are white and fragrant; fruit blue-black sweet, edible, many birds readily eat. Very twiggy growth makes for excellent nesting; grows in open woods thickets in moist to dry soils.
Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis-Deciduous tree that grows to 25 meter. Produces drupe-type fruit which turns black as it ripens.
Blackgum, ( Sour gum, Tupelo) Nyssa Sylvatica – Tree of moist or dry soils often found in swamps, growing to 30 m tall. Flowers in early spring and forms drupe fruit that is eaten by many birds and small mammals once it turns dark blue.
Pawpaw , Asimina triloba – Deciduous shrub or small tree which grows to 12 meters tall. Normally grows as part of the understory; fruit is fleshy and eaten by a wide variety of wildlife.
Fringe-tree, (Old Man’s Beard) Chionanthus virginicus-Small tree or shrub, will grow to 10 meters tall. Grows in wet soils; flowers are white and have odor of cloves; drupe dark blue fruit produced May-June and is eaten by many birds.
Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana – Thick, evergreen tree growing to 30 meters tall. Females produce small blue cones that are readily eaten by birds; great for nesting and protection from thermal stress.
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum -Small tree grows to 15 meters tall, that often grows in shrub- like dense thickets. Discreet flowers form drupe fruit that ripens blue in April to June. Fruit readily eaten by many birds & mammals.