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Old 09-08-2016, 02:42 PM   #1
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chickadee Native Plant Finder Tool - National Wildlife Federation

Early this spring we attended a presentation by Douglas Tallamy (Bringing Nature Home author) and he mentioned a project the he and his team were working on. Working with the National Wildlife Federation he and his team were creating an internet tool that would list the native plants and their value to butterflies, moths and birds.
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About this Tool

When it comes to attracting beautiful butterflies and birds to your yard or community, the best thing you can do is use native plants. By planting natives, you restore the health and function of your local ecosystem. This website will help you find the best native plants specifically for your area that attract butterflies and moths and the birds that feed on their caterpillars, based on the scientific research of Dr. Douglas Tallamy.


Did you know that a native oak tree can support the caterpillars over 500 species of butterflies and moths? Those caterpillars are a critical food source for over 96 percent of the songbirds. For example, a pair of Carolina chickadees requires between 6,000 and 9,000 caterpillars to successfully raise just one brood of young. That’s the power and importance of planting native plants when it comes to supporting wildlife. This tool focuses on butterflies and birds, but many other wildlife species also benefit when you plant natives.
It would list the best plants for each zip code in the U.S.
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How to use this Tool

This website is designed to help you find the best species to attract the butterflies and birds in your area. Here's how it works:
  1. Enter your zip code at the top of the page. This will filter search results to give you only plants that are native to your specific area.
  2. Click "Find Native Plants" to get a list of the host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars. The plants are ranked by the number of caterpillar species they support, so if you plant these species you are more likely to attract a whole array of different butterfly and moth species. The results are broken into two categories: 1) flowers and grasses and 2) trees and shrubs, to help in your planning.
  3. Click on any individual genus to learn more about it, including a listing of the specific plant species of this genus in your area.
  4. You can also click on any individual plant to find the species of butterflies and moths that use it as a host plant.
  5. Click "Find Butterflies" to get a list of butterfly and moth species in your area and what host plants their caterpillars use. The butterflies and moths are ranked by the choosiness of their diet. The ones that appear first are the species that only eat one or a few types of plants. Unless they find the plant species they need, they cannot live in your area.
  6. Click "My List" to create a profile and to save the specific plants that you want to make a part of your wildlife-friendly garden.
  7. You can use this site on your mobile phone or tablet too while you're on the go and even right in the garden center.
About - Native Plants Finder
The tool is still in the "beta" phase, which means that they have not worked out all the kinks yet. For example, when I put my zip code in it left out the oaks and black cherry which are two of the most productive trees. Now a zip code is a relatively small area, so I would use all of the adjoining zip codes to get a complete list of the native plant choices in your area.

Here is the Native Plant Finder Tool if you would like to try it out:

Home - Native Plants Finder

Here is a zip code map (scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the zip codes by state.) When you zoom way in you can see the zip code numbers in each area.:

Free ZIP code map, zip code lookup, and shipping comparisons

As we gain knowledge about all the interconnections that exist in biodiverse ecosystems it seems likely to me that these same plants will be of high value to all of the native fauna in that area.
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Old 09-09-2016, 11:20 AM   #2
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I don' now about this list for my area. In the plant section, they list as native and, I presume, desireable, cow parsnip or giant hogweed and bindweed, or morning glory. I detest both of these plants, and I wonder how many patrons of the site following its directions would be pleased if they ever planted these items to attract wildlife???

THoughts??? I keyed in 01951 as the zip code...
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Old 09-09-2016, 09:52 PM   #3
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Looks like a good tool to have...but you still have to do your own homework. As Jack has already mentioned, some of the plants that are native and desirable to pollinators, may not be the best for yards/gardens. Bindweed shows up in my zip code as well. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!
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Old 09-10-2016, 11:31 AM   #4
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I don't know why they have non natives in a native plant list. Bindweed isn't native
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Old 09-10-2016, 03:31 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jack View Post
I don' now about this list for my area. In the plant section, they list as native and, I presume, desireable, cow parsnip or giant hogweed and bindweed, or morning glory. I detest both of these plants, and I wonder how many patrons of the site following its directions would be pleased if they ever planted these items to attract wildlife???

THoughts??? I keyed in 01951 as the zip code...
I tried looking up the plant list for your zip code, but without success. Unfortunately the plant finder tool won't work on my dial-up internet connection. Hopefully it's just one of the kinks yet to be worked out. I'll have to try again the next time I'm at a WiFi site with my laptop.

There are native species of parsnip (do not cause the rash that the non-native does) and morning glory. But as I mentioned I could not find out which species is on your list. I'm just guessing that the species listed are the natives since it is named the Native plant finder tool. Then again, Tallamy has used some non-natives in the past to illustrate how few caterpillars can use them for food.

But more to your point about suitability for landscaping, I don't think that the project was designed to determine whether or not any specific plant is suitable for any particular project. The goldenrods rank high on the list of herbaceous plants but I wouldn't consider it desirable for a residential landscaping project. On the other hand, I would certainly consider it for a prairie planting where it would have to compete with other aggressive native plants.

The tool doesn't consider things like sun/shade or dry/moist, etc. either, so I think it's almost exclusively focused on providing an ordered list of plants that can be considered based on their value to caterpillars and thus their value to butterflies, moths and by extension, the critters that use them for food. The plants should also be of high value for all of the other native insects including the pollinators.

I think the generated lists will be a great starting point for people that want to get into native plants. They won't have to try to figure out which native plants are best for their area and they will have important information on the relative value of each species for the fauna in their area. As you point out though, they will have to do a little more homework on selecting which plants are best for their landscaping project.
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Old 09-16-2016, 09:24 PM   #6
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I'm having trouble connecting. Just spinning out and not pulling anything in.
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Old 09-17-2016, 08:35 PM   #7
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Thanks for sharing this NEWisc. I think it has a lot of promise.

I didn't get too far in exploring the site, but from what i saw, I think it will be useful to me...more for learning what species are supported by what I have (or plan to add).

Cool.
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Old 09-18-2016, 06:57 AM   #8
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I will be sharing this site with our environmental club, despite its drawbacks.
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Old 09-18-2016, 08:41 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Rebek56 View Post
I will be sharing this site with our environmental club, despite its drawbacks.
Hopefully, they will keep improving it...and other Uchiha sites and apps will be developed.
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