Colorado Plants for Wildlife Habitat & Conservation Landscaping
Do you enjoy observing nature…hearing the song of the chickadee…watching hummingbirds fill up on nectar from trumpet vines…listening to the chattering of squirrels…seeing the beauty and grace of a monarch butterfly perched on a milkweed… experiencing the antics of a Mockingbird…the cooing of the Mourning Doves…the swiftness of the Cottontail…and the brilliance of a Cardinal or Baltimore Oriole?
If the answer is “yes”, you’ll probably want to landscape your property for wildlife so you can experience even more from Mother Nature by attracting more wildlife to your property.
Wildlife doesn’t just randomly appear in a given area. It is there because of favorable habitat. The essential elements that you must provide in your habitat are food, water, cover and a place to raise a family. To attract the most wildlife, you need native trees, shrubs, groundcover, vines and wildflowers, many of which will provide food and shelter.
Native or indigenous plants naturally occur in the region in which they evolved. They are adapted to local soil, rainfall and temperature conditions, and have developed natural defenses to many insects and diseases. Because of these traits, native plants will grow with minimal use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. Wildlife species evolve with plants; therefore, they use native plant communities as their habitat. Using native plants helps preserve the balance and beauty of natural ecosystems.
Remember the function served by plants and structures is more important than their appearance. In other words, don’t base your planting decisions solely on what a plant looks like. Following are WindStar Wildlife Institute’s plant recommendations for wildlife habitats in Colorado:
River Birch; Eastern Hemlock; Eastern White, Jack and Virginia Pine; Eastern Red and Northern White Cedar; Bald Cypress; Green and White Ash; American Beech; Blackgum; Black Cherry; Shellbark and Shagbark Hickory; Hackberry; Black, Bur, Chinquapin, Pin, Red, Scarlet, Swamp Chestnut, Swamp White and White Oak; Pecan; Persimmon; American Sweetgum; American Sycamore; Tuliptree; and Black Walnut.
Serviceberry, Elderberry, Blackhaw; Floweing, Rough Leaved, Gray, Red-osier and Silky Dogwood; Chokecherry, Nannyberry, Redbud, Shining, Smooth and Staghorn Sumac; Arrowwood; buttonbush; Black Chokeberry; Hazelnut; Ninebark; Wild Plum; Spicebush; and Winterberry
Blanket Flower; Scarlet Globe Mallow; Sand Dock; Velvetweed; Alpine Wallflower; Scarlet Gaura; Filaree; Shooting Star; Wild Rose; Wax Currant; Evening Primrose; Golden Currant; Golden Banner; Ground Cherry; Prickly Gilia; Prickly Pear; Yellow Violet; Rocky Mountain Bee Plant; Gayfeather; Pasque Flower; Purple Prairie Clover
Big and Little Bluestem; Indiangrass; Switchgrass; Hairy Dropseed; Sideouts Grama; Tufted Hairgrass; Woodrush; Indian Ricegrass
Colorado can be divided into five life zones that are broadly defined by the plant communities that occur at the approximate elevations described below. The Plains life zone, 3,500 to 5,500 feet, is located in eastern Colorado where the majority of Colorado’s population resides. It is dominated by grasslands and streamside cottonwoods. In western Colorado, the Upper Sonoran life zone is located at altitudes below 7,000 feet, and in the San Luis Valley, below 8,000 feet. This zone is characterized by semidesert shrublands and Piñon Pine-Juniper woodlands at its upper limit.
The Foothills life zone occurs from 5,500 to 8,000 feet and is dominated by dry land shrubs such as Gambel Oak and Mountain-Mahogany, and, in southern and western Colorado, Piñon-Juniper woodlands and Sagebrush. The Montane zone consists of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, Lodgepole Pine, and Aspen woodlands at elevations of 8,000 to 9,500 feet. Dense forests of Subalpine Fir and Engelmann Spruce dominate the Subalpine zone at 9,500 to 11,500 feet. The Alpine zone above 11,500 feet is a treeless zone made up of grasslands called tundra. Species requiring medium to high moisture occur along watercourses throughout all zones.The Colorado Native Plant Society can provide lists of plants for a specific region.
For more information on improving your wildlife habitat, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute web site. On the web site, you can also apply to certify your property as a wildlife habitat, register for the “Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist e-Learning course, become a member and sign up for the FREE WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-mail newsletter.