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Native Plants For Attracting Birds In Iowa

Native Plants By States

Iowa 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 Iowa:


Eastern Red Cedar; Eastern White Pine; Silver, Sugar and Mountain Maple; River and Paper Birch; White, Swamp, Blackjack, Chinkapin, Chestnut, Pin, Red, Post and Black and Bur Oak; Shagbark, Mockernut, Bitternut, and Swamp Hickory; Hackberry; Redbud; Black Walnut, White and Green Ash; Honey Locust; Eastern Cottonwood; Black Cherry; Black Willow; Cockspur, Downy, Dotted, and White Thorn Hawthorn; Persimmon; Witch Hazel; Butternut; Prairie Crabapple; Ironwood; Sycamore; Large-Toothede and Quaking Aspen; Wild Plum; American Linden; Basswood

Northern Mockingbird

Mockingbirds can be commonly seen in Iowa.

Mountain and Speckled Alder; Western Serviceberry; Juneberry; Indigo Bush; New Jersey Tea; Buttonbush; Pogoda, Alternate-Leaved, Swamp, Silky, Rough-Leaf, Gray, Red-Twig, Red-Osier and Dogwood; American Hazelnut; Bush Honeysuckle; Burning Bush; St. John’s Wort; Winterberry; Wild Honeysuckle; Chokecherry; Fragrant, Smooth and Staghorn Sumac, Prickly Gooseberry; Dogberry; Buffalo and Golden Currant; Prairie, Smooth, Carolina, Illinois Rose; Red and Black Raspberry; Elderberry; Pussy Willow; Snowberry; Coralberry; Low-Bush Blueberry; Black Haw; Common and Creeping Juniper; Canada Yew

Butterfly, Bee & Moth
New England Aster, Buttonbush, Sweet Pepperbush, Spicebush, Pussy Willow, Narrowleaf Meadowsweet, Wolfberry, Coralberry, Preston Lilac, Old-fashioned Weigela, Dill, Asters, Sweet William, Sweet Pea, Sweet Marjoram, Black-eyed Susan, Scarlet Sage, Hollyhock, Indian Hemp, Intermediate Dogbane, American Columbine, Swamp Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Whorled Milkweed, Butterflyweed, Turtlehead, Tickseed Sunflower, Joe-Pye Weed, Purple Coneflower, Fireweed, Oxeye Sunflower, Lupine, Prairie Blazingstar, Gayfeather, Gay Goldenrod, Cardinal Flower, Butterflyweed

American Bittersweet; Virginia Creeper; Riverbank Grape, Purple Clematis, Leather Flower, Virgin’s Bower, Woodbine

Grasses and Legumes
Indiangrass, Little Bluestem, Sideouts Grama, Prairie Milkvetch, Switchgrass, White Prairie Clover, Purple Prairie Clover, Prairie Cordgrass, Northern Dropseed, Junegrass

Between the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri River on the west, Iowa is home to some of the most fertile top soil in the world. Its land areas can be divided into three main regions; the Young Drift Plains which cover most of the northern and central parts of Iowa, the Driftless Area parallel to the Mississippi River in the northeast, and the Dissected Till Plains in the southern area of the state. The fertile lands of Iowa makes the state the number one corn producer in the United States. Iowa’s four distinct seasons provide a wide range of temperature variation through the year. The Iowa 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.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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