Interested in more biodiversity in your yard? Plant trees!

If you are considering planting trees, there is no better choice to promote biodiversity and support birds and other wildlife than planting oaks. Oaks top the list of tree species that, across all of North America, support the greatest biodiversity. For this reason, they are referred to as a “keystone species.” There are no other trees that support more wildlife than oaks. According to the National Wildlife Federation there are 389 different caterpillar species that use oaks in our area and over 550 species nation- wide.

Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor: As oaks go, Swamp Whites grow faster than most oaks, though Red Oaks grow a bit faster. Some sites report that they grow at a moderate to even fast rate – 1 foot or more per year. Though they certainly tolerate moist and poorly-drained soils, they will grow in dry sites and full sun as well. Swamp White Oaks typically branch heavily, especially in full sun, and have a broad rounded crown. They have yellow/gold fall color, though sometimes reddish-purple. They are often used as a landscape tree and can live to be 300 to 350 years old.

Red Oak, Quercus rubra: Red Oaks have nearly all of the same wildlife-supporting attributes listed for the Swamp White Oaks. Red Oaks grow relatively fast and can put on 2 feet per year and reach 50 to 80 feet with a similar spread. Red Oaks are a good tree for urban settings because their roots are so deep that sidewalks and streets are not disturbed. Their crown is rounded and broad-spreading, though often irregular. Leaves turn red-brown in fall. Red Oaks prefer medium to dry conditions and tolerate Walnut toxicity. They prefer fertile and sandy soil with good drainage and are thought of as durable and long-lived.