Trees of the Mountains
and Basins

Attract Birds and Other Wildlife



Native Trees of the Mountains and Basins are some what limited due to the extreme climates and elevation difference.

Yet, like everywhere else, there are indeed plenty of them for gardens, wildlife and backyard birding.

Native plant life must endure some hardships.

Extreme temperatures, drought, heavy snow at times and a short growing season.

No where else is it as important to look for native plants that are grown locally.

Often nurseries buy stock that is grown elsewhere. This could mean that what?

Though it is considered a native plant, but is raised in climate conditions that differ from where you live, the plant may not survive the first year.

A prime example for me would be this.......

I live in Michigan and I want a Flowering dogwood. I'm looking for one that was grown from a nursery that is in a zone 5 or 6.

I don't want one to come from South Carolina, it may not survive my winter.

Though you are looking at plantings for the mountains or basins. You don't want one that was raised in coastal Oregon.

Do you get the picture?

It may not be hardy enough to handle your weather!

In other words, if you live in zone 3, look for a plant that has been raised in a zone 3 nursery or grower.

Ask if you must.

A reputable nursery will tell you where in came from.

If the root stock came from zone 3 and was farmed elsewhere, that makes it good.

Many of your green giants in the mountains and basins are conifers. Elevation and shorter growing seasons dictate this.

Yes, there are several deciduous trees at lower elevations as well.

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) a large spreading pine that can grow to 200 feet.

Ponderosas range from Mexico through the Rocky Mountains up to Alaska and into the Plains.

It is usually found and flourishes 5,500 above sea level and the middle latitude of its range.

This species prefers well drained soil and does best with little water. To much rainfall or watering does more harm than good.

Large tracts of this pine offer food and homes for an estimated 57 mammals and up to 128 species of birds.

A native that is sure to be a hit with wildlife and backyard birds in your gardens.

Lodgepole pine

Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), as the name suggests, was once used by American Indians to support lodges and tee pees.

A prolific grower, this specimen is not only found in the wild, but planted in large forests as a lumber producer.

There are four different varieties of Lodgepole pines, growing in ranges from Arizona, California, Alaska and much of the Rockies.

These pines can reach heights of 100 feet and produce 2 inch cones the have the points facing backwards.

An easy to grow broadly conical tree.

Trees of the Mountains also include spruce trees.

Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) also known as blue spruce has become an over used specimen in landscapes throughout much of the United States.

The blue green color make the Blue spruce an attractive plant for most gardens.

The sharp, stiff needles makes it ideal for nesting birds and protection.

Often found growing as a solitary tree in the wild, it can be found on dry slopes and dried up stream beds.

This spruce grows in elevations of up to 10,000 feet and reaches heights excess of 100 feet.

The 4 inch cones offer valuable food for all seed eating birds as well as food for mammals.

You will want to plant it in a sunny location and don't over water.

Other spruces of the mountains and basins include White spruce (Picea glauca) and Black spruce (Picea mariana). Both of these species are found growing in the northern mountains and basins of the United States and much of Canada.

Both grow to 70 feet with 2 inch cones.

Trees of the Mountains might also include a false fir.

Rocky Mountain fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca).

Now what to I mean a false fir?

True firs are botanically called "Abies".

False firs are the Douglas fir and its cousin the Rocky mountain fir.

Also, true firs have cones that grow pointing up, not down.

it grows to around 80 feet and has a a 3 inch cone with protruding bracts.

It is a glaucous blue color making it easy to identify from the Douglas fir.

It grows well in altitudes up to 10,000 feet and tolerates soil with a higher lime content.



Trees of the mountains and basins also consist of deciduous species.

I will list a few important ones for wildlife.

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is one of the most widely distributed in North America.

Quaking aspen is native to the northern two thirds of the continent.

A large specimen at 100 feet, it does well in lower mountain altitudes and basins.

It is called Quaking aspen because the leafs always seem to be in perpetual motion.

Like all poplars, it produces male and female catkins.

The females produce tiny seeds.

A couple of cousins you may find are the Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and on the western side of the Rocky Mountains is Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa).



Another widely distributed specimen is the Ash-leaved maple (Acer negundo) also called Box elder.

It reaches heights of 65 feet, can be found along streams and river beds.

Like all maples, it throws out the helicopter type seeds. Watch out or you can have little trees growing everywhere.

Some others of the mountains that do well in lower elevations and produce fruits for birds like robins, bluebirds and waxwings.

Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), a broad grower that is found throughout much of America.

Hackberry grows to about 80 feet and produces edible berries for humans and wildlife.

A favorite with backyard birds.

Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) is a small tree, ideal for smaller yards.

At 35 feet tall, it is able to withstand the cold winters and does require some water.

The black pea sized fruit is a miniature version of our domestic fruits. A birds favorite and should be considered in your landscape.

Consider Birch, Redbuds, Serviceberry and several other natives of the mountains and basins fit well into any landscape.

Look for plantings that attract birds and other wildlife.

Native trees are plentiful for these harsh climates.

All Photos are courtesy of "Forestry Images"

Trees need Shrubs for a Good Understory

Native Grasses

Native Flowers of the Mountains and Basins.

Native Vines of the Mountains and Basins

Feeding Birds, Understand what, is What Choose the Right Feeders

Bring on the Hummingbirds

Tips on Feeding Hummers

Add Fresh Water

Share Your Passion, I Am With "SBI"


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