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Please plant oaks!- Letter to the Editor of Wilmette Beacon


Do you want to attract birds and butterflies to your residence? When planting a butterfly garden, it is important to remember that while flowers attract butterflies, they need native “host plants” to reproduce. The plants 

that excel at hosting butterflies are the native oak trees. At least 534 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies/moths) lay their eggs on native oaks, creating future generations of butterflies and serving as essential food for baby birds. Chickadees, for example, feed their nestlings only caterpillars. It takes over 5,000 caterpillars for these tiny birds to raise one brood! In comparison to native oaks, Eurasian tree species, like Corktree, Zelkova, Pagoda and Katsura host no butterflies or moths and produce no caterpillars for nesting birds to feed their nestlings. 

A signed proclamation from Governor Rauner established October 2016 as OAKtober-Oak Awareness Month in Illinois in recognition of the ecological importance of oaksand oak ecosystems. Planting oaks in yards, gardens and parkways helps butterflies, birds and acorn-eating wildlife.

Native oaks in our area include White Oak, Black Oak, Pin Oak, Red Oak, Swamp White Oak, Northern Red Oak, Chinquapin Oak, and Bur Oak. The Village selected White Oak as one of the trees for the Spring 2016 Parkway Program. A native to Illinois, and the Illinois State Tree, this long-lived and beautiful oak tree can be acquired for parkways and yards from the Village. For the sake of our butterflies, birds and other wildlife, and to create a more beautiful and ecologically healthy village that reflects our regional heritage, The Little Garden Club of Wilmette encourages residents to plant native oaks!

Charlotte Adelman
The Little Garden Club of Wilmette 

Co-author of The Midwestern Native Garden and Prairie Directory of North America