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Keystone Shrubs: More Birds in Your Garden

Last month we discussed keystone trees that do well in the Rogue Valley.  As you will recall, keystone plants are those that do the heavy lifting in terms of supporting food webs.  While many homeowners cannot plant larger trees, here are some woody shrubs that can be used in local landscapes and support a wide diversity and number of caterpillar species.  I have quoted the descriptions of these plants from Oregon Flora


Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)  “Evergreen huckleberry is a popular species for native and ornamental gardeners alike. This slow-growing, low-maintenance shrub provides attractive year-round interest, readily growing in all light conditions. Glossy dark green leaves complement clusters of bell-shaped white and pink flowers. It fruits best when given some sun, yielding shiny purple-black berries that are delicious in pies, jams or straight off the bush! Perfect in hedgerows and privacy screens, evergreen huckleberry provides erosion control and food and shelter for wildlife.” But the real story is that Vaccinium can support up to 130 species of moth and butterfly caterpillars, so it creates an abundance of food for nestling and fledgling birds.

Vaccinium ovatum Pursh



Thimbleberry (Rubus nutkanus) “Thimbleberry is a beautiful alternative or complement to common raspberry and blackberry. Thimbleberry’s fast-growing, thornless branches form thickets with large velvety leaves that provide thick cover. Showy white flowers mature into vibrant red berries, which contrast delightfully with the bright green leaves. Ripe thimbleberries are highly sought after by mammals and birds and the tart berries are delicious fresh or in pies and jams. It will tolerate a variety of light and moisture regimes.”  Thimbleberries host 96 Lepidopteran species.

  Rubus nutkanus Moc. ex Ser.



We have several native roses (Rosa) here in the Rogue Valley: BaldHip Rose R. gynocarpa, Woods’ Rose R. woodsii, and Nootka Rose R. nutkana. Check Oregon Flora to see which will work best for your site.  Roses support up to 94 species of butterfly and moth.

  Rosa nutkana C. Presl


Ceanothus is another powerhouse plant for both bees and butterflies.  The link here will take you to a page with all the natives listed.  You can choose deciduous or evergreen varieties.  Ninety-three Lepidopteran species hosted.

Ceanothus cuneatus






Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia, hosts 81 species and is described thusly: “Pacific serviceberry is a silver barked, relatively slow-growing small tree that does well in sunny cool sites and dry shade. Patience will be amply rewarded with blueberry-like edible fruits and fragrant 1″ white flowers. In addition to providing wildlife habitat, it can be included in a hedgerow, windbreak, thicket, or erosion control planting in your woodland garden. Avoid heavy clay soils.”

Amelanchier alnifolia (Nutt.) Nutt. ex M. Roem.



Crataegus douglasii, or Black hawthorn is a beautiful small tree that hosts 80 caterpillar species. “Black hawthorn, or Douglas’ thornapple, is a slow-growing tree which can reach a maximum height of about 25 ft. It is particularly hardy and is resistant to diseases to which ornamental cultivars are susceptible. Lovely white flowers mature into black berries (haws). This small tree is ideal for gardeners interested in providing wildlife habitat: its sharp thorns provide protection to birds and small mammals while its berries offer food during winter months. Black hawthorn attracts pollinators, including hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as beneficial insects.”

Crataegus douglasii Lindl.


Finally, our native Hazelnut, Corylus cornuta, hosts 71 caterpillar species. “California hazelnut is a hardy shrub growing in full sun to shade and moist to relatively dry soil. It is among the first plants to bloom, its long catkins emerging between mid-winter and early spring. The leaves, which are deeply ridged with a slightly crinkly texture and serrated edges, turn a bright yellow in the fall. Attractive pale green leafy husks hide the maturing nuts which by late summer are a tasty and nutritious snack for humans and wildlife alike. Unlike the commercially grown European varieties, the native hazelnut is resistant to eastern hazelnut blight. If suckers are left unchecked, it will eventually form a thicket.”

Corylus cornuta Marshall


Try some, or all, of these wonderful, productive natives in your landscape.


 Garden for Life!