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Only time to do one thing in your Chesapeake garden?

Got three hours? If so, you can take the most effective step out there to increase the ecological value of your Chesapeake garden. That’s how much time I estimate it will take to plant a new tree or woody plant. Forty-five minutes to drive to a nursery, thirty minutes to select a tree or plant, forty-five minutes to get home, leaving an hour for planting. You may even have time to spare!

Doug Tallamy, Professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, gardener, and native plant enthusiast, tells us native woody plants are where you get your biggest return on investment to improve the ecological value of your garden. Spend two and a half minutes with Professor Tallamy here to learn more.

His incredibly well researched and written book “Bringing Nature Home” notes an oak tree hosts over 500 moths and butterflies whereas ornamental (non-native) trees may host one or two.

Professor Tallamy’s top ten trees for insect biodiversity, measured by the number of moths and butterflies these trees support, are:

  1. Oaks (Quercus alba) (supporting over 500 species)

  2. Willow (Salix nigra) (supporting over 450 species)

  3. Cherry, plum or wild plum (Prunus Americana) (supporting over 450 species)

  4. Birch (Betula nigra) (supporting over 400 species)

  5. Poplar, cottonwood (Populus deltoides) (supporting over 360 species) and not recommended for average gardens

  6. Crabapple (Malus coronaria) (supporting over 300 species)

  7. Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) (supporting over 280 species)

  8. Box elder (Acer negundo) (supporting over 280 species) and not recommended for average gardens

  9. Elm (Ulmus Americana) (supporting over 200 species) and not recommended for average gardens

  10. Pine (Pinus strobus) (supporting over 200 species)

Please note the three not recommended for residential gardens. Are you in an apartment? You may want to plant a blueberry bush (number 7) in a container. Do you have a small urban garden? You may want to look for a smaller tree like the Wild plum (number 3) or Crabapple (number 6).

Any native plant you plant, on this list or not, is going to help! Short on time? You could order a tree by mail. Garden Centers like Merrifields in Northern Virginia, Valley View Farms outside of Baltimore, Sun Nurseries in Howard County, Homestead Gardens outside of Annapolis and American Plant in Bethesda will plant trees for you, typically at 40% to 60% of the cost of the tree. Fall is a great time to plant a tree!

For More Information:

Doug Tallamy’s website and a more in depth interview with him.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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