The 10 most beautiful native trees for the garden

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When talking about native plants, there are often problems of understanding. Logically, the distribution of perennials and shrubs is not based on national borders, but on climatic areas and soil conditions. The term "native" is used in botany when it comes to plants that occur naturally in an area without human intervention (indigenous plants). More precisely, the term "autochton" (Greek for "old-established", "made locally"), which describes those plant species that have emerged spontaneously and independently in a region, have developed completely there and have spread. Due to the fact that in Central Europe, which until recently was completely covered with ice, but practically all plant species have immigrated, this term is difficult to apply for our latitudes. Experts therefore prefer to speak of "native" plants when it comes to describing long local populations that have evolved in a particular habitat and can be considered typical of the area.

Why are domestic plants so important?

When planting ornamental gardens, parks and grounds, it is unfortunately often overlooked that shrubs and trees are not only decorative, but above all, habitats and food sources for a myriad of living things. But for this system to work, animals and plants must fit together. The native hawthorn (Crataegus), for example, provides food for 163 insect and 32 bird species (source: BUND). Exotic woody plants, such as conifers or palm trees, are completely useless to domestic birds and insects because they are not adapted to the needs of the local fauna. In addition, the introduction of alien plants quickly leads to the overgrowth and eradication of native plant species. These invasive species include the giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), vinegar (Rhus hirta) and red ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) or the wolfberry (Lycium barbarum). These interventions in a regional ecosystem have serious consequences for the entire local flora and fauna.

Giant Bear Claw (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

The giant bear claw (Heracleum mantegazzianum) lives up to its name - and displaces the native flora

Eyes open at the plant choice

It is therefore very important to pay particular attention to planting new plants, preferably selecting those shrubs and shrubs that are useful not only for humans but also for all other living beings in the region. Of course, there is nothing against setting up a ficus or an orchid in a pot in the living room. However, if you create a hedge or plant several trees, you should first find out which plants enrich the ecosystem of the region and which do not. A list of invasive exotic plant species is published by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) under the title "Neobiota" as well as a "Guide to the use of native woody plants". For a first overview of useful woodlands in Central Europe, we have compiled our favorites for you here:

Common Snowball and Common Spiked Hat

Fruits of the common snowball

Blossoms of the Common Spiked Hat

Important food sources: In winter, the fruits of the common snowball (Viburnum opulus, left) are popular with birds, the inconspicuous flowers of the common stag-cape provide food for numerous bee and beetle species (Euonymus europaea, right)

The deciduous common viburnum (Viburnum opulus) shows large, spherical white flowers from May to August, which are visited by all sorts of insects and flies. With its red stone fruits, the common snowball is a good food source for birds, especially in winter. In addition, it is a habitat for the snowball leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), which occurs exclusively on plants of the genus Viburnum. Since the common snowball is well tolerated cut and grows quickly, it can be used as a solitary or as a hedge plant. The common snowball can be found all over Central Europe from the lowlands to 1,000 meters altitude and is considered "native" in all German regions.
The Common Echidacus (Euonymus europaea) is also a candidate, native to us, and has much to offer for humans and animals. The native woodland grows as a large, upright shrub or small tree and occurs naturally in Europe, both in the lowlands and in the Alps up to about 1,200 meters altitude. For us gardeners, the spiked hat is well-known for its striking, bright yellow to red autumn colors and its decorative but unfortunately strongly poisonous fruits, not so much because of its inconspicuous yellowish-green flowers that appear in May / June.But these can do more than they first appear, because they carry plenty of nectar in them and make the Common Spiked Hat an important food plant for honey bees, hoverflies, sand bees and various species of beetles.

Cornelian cherry and rock pear

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas)

Rock pear (Amelanchier ovalis)

Delicacy for birds: the fruits of Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, left) and the pear (Amelanchier ovalis, right)

Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) may therefore be missing in any garden, as the small yellow umbels show up in winter far ahead of the leaves. The large shrub, which grows up to six meters tall, impresses as a solitary shrub in the front yard as well as in the form of a densely planted wild fruit hedge. In autumn, shiny red, about two centimeters large, edible stone fruits, which can be processed into jam, liqueur or juice. The vitamin C-containing fruits are popular with many species of birds and dormice. The rock pear (Amelanchier ovalis) is a beautiful accent in the garden with its white flowers in April and the copper-colored autumn color throughout the year. The flowering shrub is up to four meters high. Its spherical black-blue apple fruits taste floury-sweet with a light marzipan aroma and are on the menu of many birds. The rock pear is, as the name implies, a mountain plant and naturally occurs in central Germany and the southern Alps up to an altitude of 2,000 meters.

Daphne and kitten pasture

Real daphne (Daphne mezereum)

Kitten Willow (Salix caprea)

Here butterflies like to land: Real daphne (Daphne mezereum, left) and kitten-willow (Salix caprea, right)

Among the smaller native flower stars, the daphne mezereum is a worthy representative. Its strongly fragrant, nectar-rich violet flowers sit directly on the trunk, which is unique in native plants in Central Europe. They are food source for many species of butterflies such as Lemon Butterfly or Little Fox. Between August and September ripen the bright red, poisonous drupes, which are often eaten by thrush, wagtail and robin. As a native of the real daphne is mainly in the Alpine region and the low mountain range, sporadically in the North German lowlands.
The kitten or Sal willow (Salix caprea) is one of the most important fodder plants for butterflies and honey bees due to its early budding in early March. On its broad crown, the willow catkins grow before they leave the leaves. On pollen, nectar and the leaves of the tree are over 100 species of butterflies in both the caterpillar and the butterfly stage. Various species of beetles such as willow leaf beetle and musk-buck live on the pasture. In the wild, it is also an important habitat component for game. The Sal-willow is native throughout Germany and decorates gardens, parks and forest edges. As a pioneer plant, it is one of the fastest plants to gain a foothold on bare soil and is one of the first to develop a forest.

Elder and dog-rose

Black elder (Sambucus nigra)

Rosehip of the Dog Rose (Rosa canina)

Delicious fruits for the kitchen: Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra, left) and Rose Hip of the Dog Rose (Rosa canina, right)

The flowers and fruits of the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) have been used for many centuries not only by animals, but also by man. Whether as a food, dye or medicinal plant - the versatile elder (Holder or Holler) was considered a tree of life for a long time and simply belongs to the Central European garden culture. The heavily branched shrub forms spreading, overhanging branches with feathery foliage. In May, the white-flowered umbrella spikes appear with their fresh-fruity elderberry scent. From August develop the healthy black elderberries, which, however, are edible only after cooking or fermentation. Birds such as starling, thrush and white warbler can also digest the berries raw.
Among the rosehip roses, the dog rose (Rosa canina) is one native of the lowlands to the mountains (hence the name: Hunds-Rose means "everywhere occurring, widespread rose"). The two to three meter tall, spiny spreading clusters grow mainly in width. The simple flowers are not very durable, but appear in large numbers. Only from October the red rosehips mature, which are rich in vitamins, oils and tannins. They serve as winter food for a variety of birds and mammals. The leaves of the dog rose serve as food for the garden gull beetle and the rare gold-glittering rose beetle. In nature, the dog-rose is a pioneer grower and soil stabilizer, in breeding it is used as a base for rose refinement due to its robustness.

Yew and rowanberry

Yew (Taxus baccata)

Rowanberry (Sorbus aucuparia)

Less toxic than suspected: yew (Taxus baccata, left) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia, right)

Among the yews, the European or Common Yew (Taxus baccata) is the only indigenous species in Central Europe. It is the oldest tree species that can be found in Europe (already "Ötzi" had a yew wood bow) and is now one of the protected species due to the overuse of the last millennia.With its changeable appearance - depending on the location - the yew is very adaptable. Uniform are their shiny dark green needles and the seeds surrounded by a red pericarp (Arillus). While the seed coat is edible, the fruits inside are poisonous. The bird world is pleased about the fruit (for example, thrush, sparrow, redtail and fir-hay) as well as the seed (greenfinch, great tit, nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker). Also dormice, various types of mice and beetles live in and from the yew, in the wild even rabbits, deer, wild boars and goats. Wild are only 342 Eibenvorkommen in Germany to be found, especially in Thuringia and Bavaria, in the Central German Trias mountain and hill country, the Bavarian and Franken-Alb and in the Upper Palatinate Jura.
An equally important pioneer and fodder plant as the yew is the rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), also called rowan. It grows at a height of about 15 meters to a small tree with a dainty crown, but can also be grown as a much smaller shrub. The white flowers in the form of a broad umbrella tress appear between May and July and attract beetles, bees and flies for pollination. Contrary to popular belief, the apple-ripening fruits of rowanberry, which ripen in August, are not poisonous. A total of 31 mammal and 72 insect species live from mountain ash, as well as 63 species of birds that use the tree as a food source and nesting site. In Germany, the rowan berries are considered native to the North German, Central and East German low and highlands and in the West German mountainous country, the Alps and the Upper Rhine Graben.

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