Top Trees for Attracting Wildlife in the Garden

Planting trees will help attract wildlife to your garden. Trees provide habitat and food for insects, birds and small mammals. They also encourage important fungi and organisms, both on the tree and in the soil. Trees that produce berries and fruit are perfect food sources. Windfalls left on the ground through winter are an excellent way to provide food for birds during colder weather. Falling leaves and dead wood help restore a more natural ecosystem into your garden which is beneficial for maintaining and improving biodiversity.

Large trees offer more potential for supporting wildlife. If you have the space in your garden it is worth considering a more vigorous variety. A large native, such as Common Oak (Quercus robur) or a fruit tree grafted onto a more vigorous rootstock is great for encouraging lots of wildlife. Planting several different varieties of trees is even better for creating a range of habitats and extending the season of blossom and fruit. Even a small tree in a pot will increase the likelihood of more wildlife activity. All trees will help to contribute to a healthy and vibrant environment and attract birds, bees and butterflies.

What are the best trees for attracting wildlife to your garden?

Sorbus Pink Charm

Rowan (Sorbus)

Rowans are superb at producing large clusters of bright berries. These develop in late summer and hang onto the tree into autumn, often changing colour as they ripen. Birds love to eat these berries, especially blackbirds, song thrushes, redwings and fieldfares. Generally upright in habit and not large, Sorbus trees are suitable for almost every garden. Varieties that we would recommend include ‘Pink Charm’, ‘Eastern Promise’ and ‘Aspleniifolia’.

Crab Apple (Malus)

Crab Apple trees are covered in beautiful blossom in spring providing essential nectar for bees and other insects. In autumn they are laden with small, bright apples which act as natural bird feeders through into winter. These trees do not grow very big and can be pruned to shape if necessary. There are many different varieties to choose from and all of them are excellent. A handful of notable cultivars are ‘Evereste’, ‘Red Sentinel’, ‘Rosehip’, ‘Butterball’ and ‘John Downie’.

Malus Butterball
Crataegus Jubilee

Hawthorn (Crataegus)

The Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) can be seen in hedgerows throughout Britain. The white flowers in May and bright red berries in October are a popular sight. These beautiful and hardy trees are excellent for attracting wildlife and are very easy to grow. A few favourites are Crataegus succulenta ‘Jubilee’, Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia Splendens’ and Crataegus x media ‘Pauls Scarlet’.

Holly (Ilex)

Famous for their stunning berries in winter, hollies also have an abundance of tiny flowers in spring that are an important source of nectar for insects. The evergreen foliage creates useful shelter all year round. Hollies are ‘dioecious’ which means trees can be either male or female, it is the female cultivars that produce berries. Some of the best garden varieties are ‘Alaska’, ‘J.C. Van Tol’ and the delightful ‘Handsworth New Silver’.

Ilex Nellie R Stevens
Pear Winter Nelis

Apple (Malus) and Pear (Pyrus)

All fruit trees are good for wildlife but apple and pear trees are particularly good because as well as lots of blossom they produce large volumes of fruit for longer periods. Leave any unwanted fruit on the ground and through winter they will be eaten before the grass begins to grow again. Late apple varieties that will last for many weeks include ‘Bramley’s Seedling’, ‘Christmas Pippin’ and ‘Paradice Gold’. For pears choose ‘Black Worcester’, ‘Winter Nelis’ and ‘Doyenne du Comice’.

Native trees for attracting wildlife

Native trees are all excellent for encouraging local wildlife. These varieties have evolved over many thousands of years alongside other plants and animals so they have all adapted to be dependent on one another. Often developing into large trees and found in woodlands, parks and hedgerows, they also make superb garden trees. Native trees are usually defined as those which have not been introduced by mankind. Our countryside is adorned with these trees and they are easy to recognise. We would recommend planting in your garden any of the following, listed roughly from largest at the top to the smallest. Do bear in mind that some of them can be pruned to keep smaller:

Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Yew (Taxus baccata)
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
Silver Birch (Betula alba pendula)
Field Maple (Acer campestre)
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Rowan / Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
Spindle (Euonymus europeaus)

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