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Pollinator-friendly flowering trees

Closeup image of three black-and-orange monarch butterflies

Pollinator-friendly flowering trees

Invite birds, bees and butterflies to visit with trees 

Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators are essential to healthy forests, thriving food crops and vibrant landscapes. Plant a flowering tree to provide pollinators with the nectar, pollen and shelter they need and to bring natural beauty to your backyard. 

In addition to planting trees and flowering plants to feed pollinators, you can also support them by providing fresh, shallow water sources, applying fewer herbicides and pesticides and using fallen leaves as mulch instead of burning them.

Spring and fall are the best times of the year to plant trees. Visit for tree planting guidelines.


American basswood

The flowers of the basswood tree (Tilia americana), also called a linden, are a key nectar source for species of bees, butterflies and wasps. Additionally, the tree's leaves are an important food source for the larvae of many moth and butterfly species. This popular shade tree is known for its fragrant, creamy yellow flower clusters that bloom in June. In the fall, its toothed, heart-shaped leaves turn pale yellow and the flowers become small nutlets, attracting mammals and songbirds. Basswoods can grow to more than 80 feet tall and are hardy to growing zone 3, adapting to many soil conditions.


If you're short on space but want a tree with outsize impact, consider the crabapple (Malus spp.). These showy trees in the rose family only grow 10-20 feet tall, and with more than 800 cultivars to pick from, there's sure to be one to fit your yard or patio. Crabapples bloom in spring with an abundance of fragrant pink, white or red flowers, and attract pollinators such as gentle orchard mason bees. Later in the season, small fruits provide food for birds. Find a crabapple tree for your area using the USDA Plant Database. Crabapple trees often require light pruning to remove suckers growing from the base and keep the branch structure open. Don't plant them too close to a road - they do not tolerate salt.

Northern catalpa

Want a striking tree for your yard? With large, late-spring flowers, giant heart-shaped leaves and fun, beany seed pods that hang on the tree through winter, the Northern catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) will look interesting year-round and help pollinators including hummingbirds and bees. It's also the only host plant of the catalpa sphinx moth. The fast-growing Northern catalpa is a native tree hardy to zone 4 and can grow in full sun to part shade conditions. Due to its bean-like seed pods, this tree has many names including cigar tree, Indian bean tree, catawba, caterpillar tree, hardy catalpa and western catalpa.

Eastern redbud

The native eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) boasts  unusual magenta blooms that grow from buds along twigs, branches and even the trunk before the tree leafs out. Its flowers attract bees and butterflies in early to mid-spring when other blooming plants are still dormant. Blooms are followed by heart-shaped leaves. The redbud tree hosts many species of butterfly larvae and songbirds, small mammals and game birds such as bobwhite quail enjoy its buds and brown seed pods. The redbud is an understory tree, reaching 15 to 30 feet tall with a spreading crown. Redbuds can grow in full sun to partial shade.
Closeup image of pink redbud tree blossoms


Unique, four-pointed leaves and large, tulip-shaped yellow flowers that bloom in May and June make the tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipfera) distinct. Also called a tulip poplar, although unrelated, this native tree is related to magnolias and is beloved by ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumblebees and long-tongued bees. It's also a host for tiger swallowtail caterpillars. This fast-growing tree is hardy to zone 4, prefers at least 6 hours of full sun, and finishes the growing season with vibrant yellow fall color. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the stems of this tree have a spicy scent. Tuliptrees were once more plentiful but were harvested to make fence posts and railroad ties during the lumber boom. Their interesting look and their value to pollinators makes them worthy of a comeback.

Black tupelo

Early spring flowers and shiny green leaves that turn scarlet in autumn make the black tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica), also called a black gum or sour gum, a great landscaping pick. It's in the dogwood tree family, making it a favorite of honeybees and solitary bees. Pollinators are attracted to this native tree's small, whitish-green flowers, blooming April through June. Female trees produce sour, blue berries that attract birds. The black tupelo is grows slowly and will tolerate partial shade, making it hardy and low maintenance.
Dark green oval leaves and blue berries of the black tupelo tree