Wild Plant Species for Wildlife Gardening

With a greater public awareness of environmental matters - and understanding about stresses on certain flora and fauna species - a growing number of gardeners are looking at ways of making their gardens more friendly to wildlife. In this way they enjoy the results, as greater numbers of birds, butterflies, and even dragonflies [where ponds have been created] come into the domestic garden.

While some gardeners will prefer to plant cultivated species to attract wildlife, others may prefer a more complete meadow-like and generally wild approach. The list below is dedicated to the latter. Trawled from various sources, the list should provide you with a starting point for plant selection - or perhaps prevent you from inadvertently tearing out plants that may be beneficial to some form of wildlife.

Where 'attracts insects' is mentioned you can assume that birds will also be consequently be attracted, and where 'seeds' are mentioned these will attract birds generally, although some seed types are specific to certain species. The odd plant here, like Columbine, can overtake your garden if not suitably controlled.


Amaranth - attracts insects
Bird's-foot Trefoil - foodplant for Wood White / Silver-Studded butterflies, &
Six-Spot Burnet moth
Bistort - attracts insects / seed source
Cat-Mint - attracts bees
Columbine - attracts insects
Common Evening Primrose - attracts insects / seed source
Common Thistle - seeds for Goldfinches
Common Toadflax - nectar for bees and bumble-bees
Corn Cockle - attracts butterflies
Cornflower - attracts insects / seed source
Cow Parsley - seed source
Cowslip - foodplant for Duke of Burgundy Fritillary
Devil's Bit Scabious - caterpillars of Marsh Fritillary
Dill - slugs attracted / seed source
Dog Rose - often aphids on leaves / hip fruits for birds
Dog Violet - caterpillars of various Fritillary butterflies
Eyebright - attracts bees and butterflies
Fennel - insects / hoverflies / seed source
Field Poppy - attracts insects and bees / seeds
Foxglove - attracts bumble-bees
Garlic Mustard - food source/egg laying habitat for Green-veined White &
Orange Tip butterflies
Golden Rod - attracts insect / seeds
Great Mullein - attracts butterflies
Greater Knapweed - attract bumble-bees and butterflies / seed source
Greater Plantain - seeds favoured by birds
Ground-Ivy - attracts bees
Hemp Agrimony - attracts butterflies
Honesty - attracts butterflies and bees
Honeysuckle - foodplant for caterpillars of White Admiral butterfly (rather specialised and of limited distribution) / nectar for hawkmoths and other night- flying moths
Ivy - foodplant for Holly Blue butterfly and Swallow-Tail moth caterpillars / berries for birds / attracts insects during flowering
Lady's Bedstraw - foodplant for caterpillars of Broad-Bordered Bee Hawk-moth
Lady's Smock/Cuckoo Flower flowers for hoverflies and foodplant for Green Veined White & Orange Tip butterflies
Marjoram - nectar for butterflies and bees, and attractive to burnet moths
Marsh Marigold - beetles and other insects
Marsh and Nodding Thistles - flowers attract bumble-bees and other insects
Meadow Buttercup - attracts beetles and flies
Meadow Crane's-Bill - attracts bees
Meadow grasses - many grasses are useful habitats for certain butterfly caterpillars
Oxeye Daisy attracts many insects
Primrose - attracts insects, bees, slugs! (though not popular with many gardeners!) / seeds for some birds / Duke of Burgundy Fritillary caterpillar (very unlikely in gardens)
Purple Loosestrife - insects plus seed source
Ragged-Robin - attracts butterflies and bees
Red & White Dead-nettle - nectar for bumble-bees
Red Campion - attracts flies and bees
Red Valerian - for butterflies
Red/White Clover - nectar for bumble-bees/bees/ foodplant of Clouded Yellow butterfly (very rarely breeds in Britain mainly a migrant)
Rosebay Willow-herb - nectar source for bees / foodplant for Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars
Rosemary - attracts various flying insects
Selfheal - attracts bees
St. John's Wort - attracts insects / seeds for some bird species
Stinging Nettle - food source Red Admiral, Peacock, Tortoiseshell and Comma butterfly caterpillars / seed source
Tall Melitot - bee nectar source
Teasel - good seed source flowers attractive to various butterflies
Thyme - attracts bees
Tormentil - foodplant for caterpillars of Grizzled Skipper butterfly (unlikely in gardens)
Traveller's Joy - attracts bees and hoverflies
Tufted Sedge - insects and seed source
Water Mint - attracts various insects
White Campion - attracts moths
White Dead-Nettle - attracts bees
Wild Angelica - attracts slugs and snails!, flowers for pollinating insects, winged fruits
Wild Pansy - attracts bees
Yarrow - seeds / various insects and aphids / hoverflies and butterflies


Blackberry - fruit supply for birds, flowers attract many butterflies, especially Browns
Broom - attracts insects and bees / seed source
Buckthorn - foodplant for Green and Brown Hairstreak (rare) and Brimstone butterflies
Common Alder - seed source for birds and finches
Crab Apple - fruit for birds / flowers for insects
Gorse - attracts insects, especially bees and Silver-Studded Blue butterfly
Hawthorn / Elder - insects during summer / berries for autumn/winter
Holly - berries for birds / foodplant for Holly Blue butterflies
Pear - various insects
Silver Birch - seed source / aphids often present
Willow - attracts many insects and caterpillars

Remember, it is an offence to pick and dig up many wild flowers and plants in the UK without the landowner's consent, and a good number are 'endangered'. A much better approach is to buy seeds or plants from UK nurseries and seed companies who specialise in wild flower stocks. That way the natural wild flora remain in their habitat and support their localised wildlife community.