Pollinator Friendly Native Trees
Excerpted from: Tree Pollination Process
Flowering trees are an important source of pollen and nectar for pollinators. They are
especially important in spring, when tired, overwintered bees emerge and need an
early supply of food.
Tree pollination is an essential natural process that enables trees to produce seeds, grow fruit,
and propagate future generations.
Flowering trees are an important source of pollen and nectar for pollinators.
Flowering trees are also great for pollinators because they provide a large amount of food at
one time. American basswood is one of the best nectar producers you can have. When an
American basswood is in full bloom, it attracts many bees and other pollinators. If you have
a small space, and want to maximize the pollinator food that you provide, trees are usually
your best option.
Trees have evolved with different strategies to spread their pollen far and wide to maximize
cross-pollination opportunities depending on habitat and structure.
Here are the different ways how trees distribute pollen.
Many trees like oak, pine, cypress, and birch rely on the wind to blow their dry, powdery
pollen through the air from catkin to catkin (wind pollination). Wind-pollinated trees produce
huge amounts of lightweight pollen grains to ensure enough to reach female flowers.
To better expose their pollen to wind currents, wind-pollinated species have catkins that
dangle openly from branches. Trees adapted to wind pollination often grow together in
dense stands which increases the chances of pollen transfer.
Most flowering trees depend on animal pollinators like birds, bats, bees, and other insects
to carry their sticky pollen from flower to flower (animal pollination).
They attract pollinators using showy flower colors, alluring scents, and nourishing nectar.
Specialized flower shapes precisely match pollinators’ size and form to ensure effective
pollen transfer. For example, hummingbird flowers have a tapered tubular shape perfectly
suited to hummingbird beaks and heads.
Although uncommon among trees, water pollination occurs in some aquatic plants.15
The pollen floats on the water’s surface to reach female flowers. White mangroves exclude
salt from their flowers to float their pollen along coastal waters.
Many native trees blossom in early spring, like the Pussy Willow, providing sources of pollen for
hungry, early-emerging pollinators.
The following chart provides a list of trees native to our area that can provide support to
native pollinators. Consider adding these trees to your pollinator garden plan. The chart
indicates the blooming sequence of each of the species.
Wisconsin Native Fruit Trees
Fertilizer Basics: A Tutorial
Wisconsin Native Flowering Shrubs
Native Plant Root Systems