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Johnny Chestnutseed

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"Some trees are better than others when it comes to attracting and feeding wildlife.

QUESTION: I own a farm in northwest Kansas. It’s only 80 acres, but has a river running through it. I’m building it up to be a sanctuary for wildlife. Kansas has a conservation tree planting program that seems attractive to me. I can purchase shrubs, deciduous trees and evergreens. Since this program is not just for wildlife, but also windbreaks and other general conservation needs, can you guide me on what trees and shrubs are more suited for wildlife, i.e. food sources? I already have the windbreaks needed for cover. — Tom F.

Johnny Chestnutseed

ANSWER: First, I would recommend fruit-, seed- or nut-bearing shrubs and trees. Deer also need coarse woody browse, but they can get that from whatever else was planted for windbreaks, along with your food-producing trees and shrubs.

Next, plant a variety of species to extend the attractiveness of your area. Soft mast producers like raspberries, blackberries and grapes will ripen in late summer, followed by species like apples, pears and persimmons in early fall. Larger apple varieties and persimmons will be more attractive to deer, while small crabapple varieties might be more attractive to turkeys and songbirds.

You can also do much the same with hard mast, like oak, choosing several different varieties to spread out their effectiveness. In my part of the world, white oaks drop acorns early, and over a very short period. Red oak acorns fall later, and the drop is a bit more prolonged. Providing both oak types extends the period of attraction to wildlife.

Whether you purchase your stock locally or from one of the larger wildlife-specific nurseries, I would recommend you consult with their staff for specific recommendations on which species to plant to get the broadest period of effectiveness, and to determine which will grow best in your site conditions.

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