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New native plant list helps landowners boost wildlife habitat

Published by Central Office April 11, 2017

Contact(s): Amy Staffen, 608-261-0747; Lucas Olson, 608-266-0545

MADISON - Wisconsin landowners who want to boost wildlife habitat on their property -- whether a city lot or hundreds of acres -- have a new resource to help them choose native plants that can thrive where they live, benefit a wide variety of wildlife and promote water quality.

Adding even just a few native plants to your property, like this cardinal flower, can help boost habitat for wildlife.
Adding even just a few native plants to your property, like this cardinal flower, can help boost habitat for wildlife.
Photo Credit: USFWS

"Wisconsin's Native Plants: Recommendations for landscaping and natural community restoration," [PDF] was developed by Amy Staffen and Lucas Olson, conservation biologists with the Department of Natural Resources, to help people boost habitat on their property by adding native plants that have historically thrived and evolved in the area where they live.

"By choosing diverse, hardy and locally-adapted native species, you can create essential habitat for native wildlife like birds and pollinators," Olson says. "Even selectively adding a few native plant species to your ornamental landscaping can make a difference."

Native plants that evolved in Wisconsin have by far a greater ability to fuel life up the food chain than nonnative plants, Olson says. Research shows that 96 percent of North America's land birds rely on insects and other arthropods to raise their young, and 90 percent of plant-eating insects have evolved to require specific plants for food, according to Douglas Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature Home," and chair of the University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

Staffen says DNR's new publication groups plants by region and by specific soils, topography and climate. They list species that are widespread throughout Wisconsin.

"The focus of our recommendations is on trying to mimic or borrow elements from Wisconsin native plant communities, in particular grasslands, savannas and forests," she says. These are the predominant natural communities in Wisconsin, which sits at the crossroads of North America's western tallgrass prairie, eastern deciduous forests and northern coniferous forests.

Staffen says the new publication also provides lists and hyperlinks to other helpful references for specialty plantings such as for pollinators and rain gardens, as well as for native plant nurseries in Wisconsin where people can buy native plants. Many native plants have deep and extensive root systems that allow slow infiltration of rainfall to the aquifer, thus rain gardens can promote cleaner water, enhance groundwater recharge, and reduce flood risk.

More information about the Wisconsin Native Plants publication, how to use the lists, how DNR developed them and why native plants are beneficial can be found in the winter 2017 issue of Natural Heritage Quarterly. To view past issues or sign up for this newsletter for landowners interested in protecting, restoring and managing land for rare species go to dnr.wi.gov and search "Natural Heritage Quarterly."

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Contact information

For more information about news and media, contact:
James Dick
Director of Communications
608-267-2773