Native Trees, Shrubs and Perennials

Bird-friendly Native Plants

Native trees, shrubs and perennials are good for birds, butterflies and other wildlife that contribute to a healthy environment. Native plants are important food sources for birds, not only providing fruit, nuts and seeds, but also serving as host plants for insects and larvae that birds need as sources of protein. And, birds, butterflies, moths, bees and other insects serve as pollinators to regenerate native plants, which maintains those food sources and helps to keep invasive alien plants under control. Native plants also provide shelter for birds and their nests.

Below is a list of a few suggested trees and shrubs that should do well in your North Carolina yard. Click on the scientific name to find out more about each species. Forsyth Audubon plantings at Bethabara and Bethania are noted in the Comments. The last column notes the number of butterfly and moth species hosted.

We think of spring as planting time, but fall is even better. Over winter, plants can build a healthy root base before blooming the coming year. Much thanks to Susan Andrews and Shelley Rutkin for assembling this list. 

Buttonbush by Phil Dickinson

For a more complete list, consult one of these resources:

“Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas Tallamy

“Gardening With Native Plants of the South” by Sally Wasowski

 “Native Plants of the Southeast” by Larry Mellichamp

LBJ Native Plant Database

NC Audubon’s 700 Bird-Friendly Plants for North Carolina 

For photos of the plants at various seasons and in bloom see Landscaping with Natives.

Return to Bird-friendly Yards.

Common nameScientific nameEvergreen/ DeciduousCommentsTypeButterfly/ Moth Species   Hosted
River BirchBetula nigraDeciduousThrives on moist soil. Useful for erosion control.Tall Tree411
American HollyIlex opacaEvergreenBoth male & female trees needed for berries.Tall Tree34
Eastern Red CedarJuniperus virginianaEvergreenProvides nesting material and cover. Male & female plants needed for “berries” (cones) which are are consumed by many kinds of wildlife.Tall Tree37
Southern MagnoliaMagnolia grandifloraEvergreen‘Little Gem’ and many other cultivars are available.Tall Tree21
Sweetbay MagnoliaMagnolia virginianaEvergreenBoth evergreen & deciduous selections are available.Tall Tree21
White OakQuercus albaDeciduousAll native oaks are excellent for wildlife.Tall Tree518
Red OakQuercus coccineaDeciduousTall Tree518
Red BuckeyeAesculus paviaDeciduousRed flowers attract hummingbirdsSmall Tree/ Shrub32
Downy serviceberry/ ShadbushAmelanchier arboreaDeciduousNative to Forsyth County, but hard to find for sale.Small Tree/ Shrub119
Serviceberry hybrid/Amelanchier x grandiflora cvs.Amelanchier cultivarsDeciduousBethania/Bethabara. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ cultivar is recommended & available. All Serviceberries good for wildlife, but all subject to rust fungus that alternates with Red Cedar.Small Tree/ Shrub119
RedbudCercis canadensisDeciduousBethaniaSmall Tree/ Shrub19
Fringe treeChionanthus virginicusDeciduousBethania. Female fringetrees fruit if male is nearby.Small Tree/ Shrub8
DogwoodCornus floridaDeciduousUse only native dogwoods. NOT Kousa Dogwood.Small Tree/ Shrub115
Witch hazelHamamelis virginianaDeciduousBethania. Blooms October – November.Small Tree/ Shrub62
Yaupon hollyIlex vomitoriaEvergreenBoth male & female trees needed for berries.Small Tree/ Shrub34
Florida leucothoeAgarista populifoliaEvergreenCan be used for stabilization along moist, shady, stream banks. Native to SC, but not NC. Large, but ‘Leprechaun’ dwarf cultivar also available.Shrub?
American BeautyberryCallicarpa americanaDeciduousBethaniaShrub1
Sweetshrub/ Carolina AllspiceCalycanthus floridusDeciduousBethaniaShrub2
ButtonbushCephalanthus occidentalisDeciduousBethabara. Good in wet soilShrub19
SummersweetClethra alnifoliaDeciduousGrows in moist to wet soil.Medium size, but dwarf cultivars available.Shrub8
Wild HydrangeaHydrangea arborescensDeciduousBlooms in shade.Shrub5
Oak-leaf HydrangeaHydrangea quercifoliaDeciduousColorful in fall. Not native to NC, native further south. Can be large, but ‘Pee Wee’ dwarf selection is available.Shrub5
InkberryIlex glabraEvergreenLikes wet soil. Both male & female needed for black fruits. Several cultivars available.Shrub34
Winterberry HollyIlex verticillataDeciduousFemales produce red berries when male pollinator is close by.Shrub34
Virginia sweetspireItea virginicaDeciduousBethania. Medium size, but dwarf ‘Little Henry’ selection available.All cultivars like wet soil. Superb fall color.Shrub34
DoghobbleLeucothoe fontanesianaEvergreenNative to Forsyth County. Excellent for edges of streams and ponds.Shrub3
SpicebushLindera benzoinDeciduousBethania/Bethabara. Host for Spicebush Swallowtail. Need males & females for red fruit set.Shrub9
Piedmont AzaleaRhododendron canescensDeciduousShrub50
Pinxter AzaleaRhododendron periclymenoidesDeciduousBethaniaShrub50
Swamp AzaleaRhododendron viscosumDeciduousShrub50
Rabbiteye blueberryVaccinium asheiDeciduousMore than one selection needed for good berry set. Superb fall color.Shrub286
Maple-leaf ViburnumViburnum acerifoliumDeciduousAll viburnums on this list are native to Forsyth Co.Shrub97
Southern Arrowwood ViburnumViburnum dentatumDeciduousAll Viburnums need more than one selection for good fruit set.Shrub97
Possumhaw ViburnumViburnum nudumDeciduousLikes wet soil.Shrub97
Blackhaw viburnumViburnum prunifoliumDeciduousMoist soil, part shade.Shrub97
Downy arrowwoodViburnum rafinesquianumDeciduousGrows in dry soil, shade to part-shade.Shrub97
Rusty blackhaw viburnumViburnum rufidulumDeciduousDry soil, partial shade. Good fall color.Shrub97