Perhaps you’re like me and think of pollinators as the bees you see busily buzzing around during the summer. But there’s really a whole realm of other native pollinators including butterflies, moths, birds, bats, and more. As these hibernating and migrating species come back to our part of Wisconsin, the early bloom of several native trees and shrubs are critical for the survival of our returning pollinators.
Examples of trees in this area our early pollinators depend upon would be red maple (Acer rubrum), willow (Salix L.), poplar (Populus balsamifera) and our many oaks (Quercus L.). Shrubs, for example, would be prickly ash (Zanthoxylum L.) and American bladderwort (staphylia trifolia). Although not typically considered a landscaping woodie, tag alder (Almus rugosa or Almus incana) is also an early bloomer.
I contacted Dr Robert Freckmann from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and he wrote: “I think that willows may be the most important early flowering trees for pollen and nectar because of their abundance and because they are primarily insect pollinated. Most of the others are primarily wind pollinated.”
Trees and shrubs are critical to wildlife habitat, but so often we think in terms of warmer season plants. We need to think of early spring as well. Here is a list of native woodies provided by entomologist Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home. These trees and shrubs function as host plants for our native caterpillars, moths and butterflies, and ultimately birds, and plan to add some to your natural landscaping.