5 critter-friendly trees

Planting native trees is one of the best ways to welcome a wide range of wildlife to your yard.


I’m no Snow White when it comes to wildlife, but I did grow up on six densely wooded acres surrounded by the adorable critters who live under the cover of the trees.

It was almost like I didn’t have neighbors from May to October when the trees blocked out the houses on either side of my childhood home. I didn’t have to wake up to the sound of a lawn mower cutting grass on Saturday morning or fall asleep to the end of a cookout on Friday night.

Aside from the sound of the train on the railroad tracks through the woods, it was generally quiet and peaceful.

Likewise, I didn’t have to worry about wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants to go get the mail. There was no one to run into on the way there. Messy buns reigned supreme.

For the most part, I felt secluded and disconnected from the clamoring of the rest of the world. There was no one to invade my space, but I did share it with a few fur neighbors from time to time.

It’s still pretty common to see deer roaming through the creek in my parents’ back yard or chipmunks darting in and out of my mom’s flower beds. One squirrel has practically become part of the family — my mom and daughter call him “the crazy squirrel” because he’s missing half his tail and the blond coloring mismatches his red body.

When your only neighbors are furry and you’re surrounded by nature at every turn, it’s easy to develop the expectation that every place you call home will be exactly the same. It doesn’t work that way. A year in the suburbs taught me that. However, now that I’ve graduated back to the sticks I want to have my own “crazy squirrel.”

Planting native trees is one of the best ways to welcome a wide range of wildlife to your yard. When I began researching trees that are most beneficial to Ohio wildlife, five stood out to me.

To find native trees and their benefits to wildlife and beyond visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Here’s my list:


  1. Eastern Red Cedar – Many pine trees provide good cover to shelter smaller mammals and birds. What sets the Eastern Red Cedar apart is a readily available food source. The juicy blue berries are consumed by a variety of animals. Additionally, the Red Cedar is home to over 25 species of butterflies and moths, who use it as a caterpillar host plant, making it a perfect food source for birds and their hatchlings. This tree has been known to benefit deer, birds, rabbits, pheasants, squirrels, chipmunks and variety of other native animals.
  1. Celtis sinensis by KENPEI (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Celtis sinensis by KENPEI (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Common Hackberry – The Hackberry tree is among the best food and shelter plants for wildlife. The sweet fruit is sought out by game birds, songbirds and many small mammals.





  1. plant-946355_1280American Holly – Although the small red berries are poisonous to humans, they are a food source to songbirds, game birds, deer, foxes and small mammals. The dense foliage also provides good cover for nesting sites. Being a host to over 33 types of butterflies and moths, the American Holly is especially appealing to birds.
  1. Shumard Oaacorns-1440268_1280k – As one of the fastest growing oak trees, the Shumard Oak produces relatively larger acorns than other varieties. This quality makes it a preferred food source for turkeys, deer, squirrels, blue jays, wood ducks and a variety of other animals.


  1. Eastern Persimmon – The Eastern fruit-1065727_1280Persimmon’s large orange fruit attracts a wide variety of wildlife. Specifically, deer have been known to actively seek the delicious fruit out during the fall. Opossums, raccoons, skunks and birds are some others who feed from the Persimmon tree.


To learn more about creating or improving a whitetail deer habitat specifically, check out “The Dirt on Conservation: Improve some whitetail deer habitat.”

Sources: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Native Plants Database, National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation Native Plants Finder.


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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s digital editor. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.



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