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Plant Actions


two white pointy tipped leaves on a green circle background

Plants are a cornerstone of wildlife habitat. You may notice that The Little Habitat Project includes more actions for plants than for the soil, water, infrastructure, and education components. The four plant action areas are: noxious invasive plants, native plants, vegetation layers, and plant practices.

We recommend that project sites have at least 70% native plants for the greatest wildlife benefits. For more information, read this article from the National Wildlife Federation and this article from the University of Maryland.

Certification Levels

Level I: Acorn

an acorn icon on a brown circle
  • Manage noxious invasive plants.
  • Provide 2 out of 4 vegetation layers.
  • Incorporate at least 2 from each of the 4 native plant categories.
  • Add at least one of the plant practices.

Level II: Seedling

green circle with a silhouette of a seedling with acorn attached to a baby oak tree
  • Manage noxious invasive plants.
  • Provide 3 out of 4 vegetation layers.
  • Incorporate at least 4 from each of the 4 native plant categories.
  • Add at least three of the plant practices.

Level III: Oak

a silhouette of an oak tree on a blue circle background
  • Manage noxious invasive plants.
  • Provide 4 out of 4 vegetation layers.
  • Incorporate at least 6 from each of the 4 native plant categories.
  • Add at least five of the plant practices.

Plant Actions

(Click bulleted action for details.)

Manage Noxious Invasive Plants

English ivy covers a tree trunk
  • Actively manage noxious invasive plants. Revisit every season. Select the most effective, lowest risk approach (manual, mechanical, cultural, chemical…).
  • Minimize the use of pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides) and look for alternatives.
  • If using pesticides, understand: when to apply, how to interpret label directions, and how to calculate mixing and application rates.

Actively managing all noxious invasive plants in your designated habitat is required for certification. Invasive plants don’t have natural controls (like diseases or pests) to restrict their growth. Invasive and noxious plants will outcompete native plant species and can produce chemicals that restrict the growth of other plants. This can result in a monoculture with limited biodiversity. While invasive plants can support some insects, they are not good options to support diverse insect communities. To prevent reinfestation, make sure to have a replanting plan before removing invasive plants.

Provide Vegetation Layers

An illustration depicting four vegetation layers: a conifer and a broadleaf tree, three smaller broadleaves, a shrub, and a low layer of grasses and flowers. Background is dark blue across top, followed by light blue, then yellow, then brown behind the grass layer.

Planting and supporting different types of vegetation at different heights helps create a diverse habitat for various wildlife.

This includes:

  • Canopy layer: tall trees (“D” in diagram)
  • Midstory layer: medium-sized trees (“C” in diagram)
  • Shrub layer: shrubs of all sizes (“B” in diagram)
  • Ground layer: flowers/groundcover (“A” in diagram)

Incorporate Native Plants

When selecting plants for your little habitat, be sure to select the right plant for the right place and choose species that are native to the Willamette Valley and neighboring ecoregions. Native plants are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, and they provide important habitat for local wildlife including birds, insects, and mammals. To help support a diversity of wildlife species, plant a variety of native plant species that have a different colors, flower shapes, sizes, and scents and produce fruits, nuts, seeds and bloom at different times of the year to support pollinators and other wildlife species.

A single plant can only be used to check off one item listed below.

Click bulleted items to access plant lists.

At least 2, 4, or 6 native plants that are:
At least 2, 4, or 6 native plants that produce:
At least 2, 4, or 6 native flower colors that are:
At least 2, 4, or 6 native plants that bloom:

Add Plant Practices

Install a Native Hedgerow

A line of large shrubs next to grass with a blue sky.

A hedgerow is a designed and managed line of shrubs, trees and flowers that can benefit various wildlife species. Benefits include providing habitat connectivity, cover, nesting sites, and various food sources including fruits, seeds, nuts, and berries that sustain many wildlife species, especially during the winter months when food sources may be scarce.

Reduce the Area of Lawn

green grass zoomed in to see the texture.

Reducing lawns can help conserve water needed for irrigation, prevent pollution runoff from fertilizers and pesticides entering local water ways, and increase biodiversity for wildlife. Consider replacing lawn that you are not actively using with Meadowscaping or planting a Wildlife Friendly Garden.

For More Info..

Provide Hollow Stems

a bundle of hallow teasel stems with large oak trees and green grass in the background.

Leaving hallow plant stems and branches of varying sizes can provide homes to cavity-nesting insects such as leaf cutter and carpenter bees. Around 30% of native bees rely on these on hallow crevices to lay their eggs. Female bees find open stems, lay eggs on collected pollen balls, and her offspring will emerge the following Spring. Hallow stems can be left standing in the garden or harvested and bundled. If you create a stem bundle, hang it in sheltered area and clean out old materials after bees have emerged in the Spring.

Retain a Snag or Nurse Log

a dead branch with a hole in the middle created by woodpeckers.

Snags (a standing dead tree) support woodpeckers, owls, and songbirds that rely on snags for nesting cavities. These holes are often excavated by woodpeckers and later used by other species. Snags can be lowered to a safe height to mitigate safety hazards and still retain ecological benefits. Nurse logs (fallen or decaying log) contribute to micro habitats, foraging opportunities, and nutrient cycling as wood decomposes back into the soil.

For More Info…

Create a Brush Pile

a pile of logs with smaller branches on top to support wildlife habitat.

A brush pile is a collection of branches, twigs, and other woody debris that stacked or piled together in a designated area. Benefits include providing shelter, nesting sites, and foraging opportunities for birds, beneficial insects, and reptiles. When constructing a brush pile place the larger woody debris as the foundation with openings so wildlife can enter the pile. The top of the pile should have the smaller and brushy materials to help create weather protection.

Plant Big Patches of Each Species

a patch of goldenrod

According to the National Park Service, “Planting flowers in clumps, rather than scattering single flowers throughout the yard, makes it easier for pollinators to locate their next meal.”

Patches, or clumps, of about 3 feet in diameter will be visible to pollinators flying overhead.

Reduce Mowing Frequency

a red lawn mower mowing lush green grass.

Reducing mowing frequency or increasing mowing heights, especially during the month of May, can have a significant positive impact on pollinators and other wildlife species by providing food sources and nesting sites. If possible leave some areas of lawn unmown year round to create a tall grass habitat that support beneficial insects and other wildlife species.

Reducing mowing frequency may result in increased presence of lawn weeds like dandelions, which provide benefits to pollinators. If these weeds can be tolerated, they should be left during pollinator peak activity periods. If leaving weeds will result in higher herbicide use later, then this action item should not be considered.

Plant an Eco-Lawn

backyard landscaped with a yarrow lawn, native plants, and stepping stones.

Eco-lawns use groundcovers other than perennial grass to provide a walkable surface. These alternatives are usually comprised of a mix of broadleaf and grass species. They typically stay green though summer, require less water and little to no fertilizer.

Plant a Native Plant Garden

a native plant garden with lupine, sea blush, larkspur, co parsnip and other species

We recommend that project sites have at least 70% native plants for the greatest wildlife benefits. This is because baby birds need to eat insects to survive, and native plants have co-evolved with native insects; landscapes with fewer native plants don’t support large enough insect populations to feed baby song birds.

Native plants have other advantages over non-natives: they require less water and do not require fertilizer. When the you choose the “right” native plant for each place, your garden will not require mowing and will even help store carbon.

Plant a Native Wildflower Meadow

Golden paintbrush and other prairie wildflowers

Meadows are grassy managed areas in rural and urban settings. An urban meadow incorporates native prairie plants to provide benefits for pollinators and stormwater.

According to The Meadowscaping Handbook by West Multnomah SWCD, this practice helps reduce our ecological footprint, conserves and increases biodiversity, and increases awareness of our natural and cultural heritage.

headshot of Kassi smiling and wearing a yellow cap and a gray sweatshirt with her hair pulled back.
Kassi Roosth
Urban Conservation Planner
© Marion Soil and Water Conservation District. All Rights Reserved.