Wildlife feed on a variety of food sources: woody plants, weeds, herbs, grasses aquatic plants, and cultivated plants. How each plant is used by wildlife is useful information for hunters, farmers, or anyone interested in developing good wildlife habitat.
The following information is a ranking of plants used as food by wildlife based on the percentage of the diet it provides for all wildlife species. The higher the diet percentage and number of species that consume the plant, the higher its ranking. Here is a listing of the top food plants in our area, and includes the number of wildlife species that use each one. The ranking goes from highest to lowest.
Woody Plants: Oaks (43 users); Blackberry (56 users); Wild cherry (56 users); Pine (33 users); Dogwood (47 users); Grapes (53 users); Hickory (19 users); Beech (31 users) Maples (27 users); Blueberry (37 users); Birch (22 users); Sumac (28 users); Poison-ivy (28 users); Blackgum (27 users); Mulberry (25 users); Elm (15 users); Cedar (8 users); Serviceberry (39 users); Willow (13 users); Hemlock (13 users); Sawbriar (23 users); Ash (18 users); Elderberry (36 users); Virginia creeper (22 users); Yellow poplar (14 users); Holly (20 users); Black walnut (4 users)
Upland Weeds, Herbs, and Grasses: Ragweed (49 users); Crabgrass (20 users); Sedge-grass (43 users); Pokeweed (25 users); Pigweed (21 users); Clover (21 users); Sheepsorrel (23 users); Bluegrass (9 users); Dandelion (14 users); Plantain (6 users); Lespedeza (2 users);
Cultivated Plants: Corn (52 users); Wheat (37 users); Oats (33 users); Apple (33 users); Timothy (9 users); Barley (5 uses);
Some of the ranking surprised me, such as ragweed and poison-ivy being so highly used, but I don’t feel moved to grow more of them. Notably absent is fescue, the number one grass grown around here for pasture and lawns. Most fescue is infected with a fungus that greatly reduces its digestibility and value as a food source. The wildlife experts are recommending alternative grasses if you want to boost wildlife numbers.
I obtained this information from a book I use a lot called American Wildlife and Plants, a Guide to Wildlife Food Habits, published by Dover Books. If you’re into wildlife, it is a bible of information.