Are there particular native plants that are especially important for wildlife?

Yes! Particular native plant species – core species, such as oaks (Quercus species) – create what Professor Douglas Tallamy terms “foraging hubs.” These hubs are key sources of food for wildlife. For example, foraging hubs are made of 5% of local native plant genera (Quercus, for example) that support 73% of the local butterfly species. When the caterpillars are eaten, they supply essential protein, lipids and carotenoids to other insects and animals in the food web. (Birds, for instance, need carotenoids for immune system support, anti-oxidant protection for DNA, attractiveness for mating, improved color vision, and sexual vitality. Carotenoids are only made by plants, so birds have to eat things that eat plants – caterpillars! – to obtain the carotenoids birds need. And most species of caterpillars can eat ONLY native plants, so…) Foraging hubs exist everywhere across the world. To help support biodiversity in our gardens, we need to plant foraging hubs of native plants. 


Top foraging hub tree species for our Santa Ana River Watershed 

The following two species are well-adapted to dry environments.

  Oak : Coast Live Oak ( Quercus agrifolia)   or Englemann Oak ( Quercus engelmannii ). Pictured is an Engelmann Oak . Image © Pam Pavela

Oak: Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) or Englemann Oak (Quercus engelmannii). Pictured is an Engelmann Oak. Image © Pam Pavela

  Cherry  (not the common cherry): holly-leaf cherry ( Prunus   ilicifolia)  and Carolina laurel cherry ( Prunus caroliniana).  Pictured is a holly-leaf cherry.

Cherry (not the common cherry): holly-leaf cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) and Carolina laurel cherry (Prunus caroliniana). Pictured is a holly-leaf cherry.


The following three species are riparian, meaning they thrive in moist environments such as river areas. In the landscape, riparian species do well in a swale environment (where water collects). 

  Willow : arroyo willow ( Salix lasiolepis ), Goodding's black willow ( Salix gooddingii ), red willow ( Salix laevigat a), and sandbar willow ( Salix exigua )

Willow: arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis), Goodding's black willow (Salix gooddingii), red willow (Salix laevigata), and sandbar willow (Salix exigua)

  Cottonwood : Freemont cottonwood ( Populus freemontii ), black cottonwood ( Populus trichocarpa ),

Cottonwood: Freemont cottonwood (Populus freemontii), black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa),

  Alder : white alder ( Alnus rhombifolia )

Alder: white alder (Alnus rhombifolia)


Top foraging hub shrub species for our Santa Ana River Watershed:  

·       Acmispon (American bird’s-foot trefoils and deervetches)

·       Arctostaphylos (manzanita)

·       Atriplex (saltbush)

·       Baccharis (coyote bush, broom)

·       Ceanothus (California lilac)

·       Dudleya (chalk plant)

·       Encelia (brittlebush)

·       Epilobium (hummingbird flower)

·       Eriodictyon (yerba santa)

·       Eriogonum (buckwheat)

·       Frangula (coffeeberry)

·       Juniperus (juniper)

·       Lessingia (lessingia)

·       Lupinus (lupine)

·       Malacothamnus (bush mallow)

·       Malosma (laural sumac)

·       Penstemon (beardstongue)

·       Peritoma (bladderpod)

·       Prosopis (mesquite)

·       Ribes (currants and gooseberries)

·       Salvia (sage)

·       Yucca (yucca)