Every day the Blank Park Zoo feeds pounds of browse (non-toxic branches and leaves from specific species of trees and shrubs). This allows us to feed many of our animals food that is exactly like what they would consume in the wild. By feeding browse, the animals can mimic natural foraging behaviors such as nibbling leaves, stripping bark, and chewing on stems.
If you have a tree or shrub on the list below and will be trimming it soon, contact us by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and arrange a time to drop it off.
Some favorite browse species include...
Alder/ Alnus sp.
Ash (White, Green)/ Fraxinus sp.
Bamboo/Arundinaria sp., Bambusa sp., Chimonobambusa sp., Fargesia fungosa, Pachystachya sp., Phyllostachys sp., Pseudisasa sp., Sasa sp., Shibataea sp., Thamnocalamus sp.
Barberry/ Berberis sp. *
Basswood, Linden/Tilia sp.
Bradford pear/Pyrus calleryana’Bradfordi’
Birch, River birch, Paper birch/ Betua species
Box elder/Acer negundo
Cottonwood /Populus sp
Elm (all elm species)/Ulmus sp.
Ginkgo (Maidenhair Tree)/Ginkgo biloba
Honey Locust/Gleditsia triacanthos
Honeysuckle/Lonicera sp. *
Maple (Norway*, Silver, Sugar – NO RED)/Acer sp.
Mulberry/Morus sp. *
Redbud/Cercis canadensis only
Russian olive/Elaeagnus angustifolia *
Siberian elm/Ulmus sp.
I don’t know what kind of tree I have, do you?
There are many great online resources such as Iowa State’s Interactive Tree Identification Key : https://naturalresources.extension.iastate.edu/forestry/iowa_trees/key/key.html, phone apps like ‘Inaturalist’, or send a high resolution photo to email@example.com
Do I need to trim my tree a certain way?
We are looking for whole branches around five to eight feet in length. Usually the way we feed trees out to the animals is by hanging branches up for the animals to consume – small chopped pieces are difficult for us to manage. We can cut branches smaller if needed, so feel free to leave those limbs big!
How much do I need to be trimming?
Sometimes even three or four big branches from a tree will make a great meal. We’re happy to take even a few decent sized branches. When in doubt, send us an e-mail.
Can you do the trimming for me so you get exactly what you are looking for?
Unfortunately, we cannot. We are not licensed tree trimmers and cannot take on the liability for either harming your tree or property damage that could occur as a result of falling branches.
I use pesticides (organic or chemical) – will you be able to feed out my tree?
We cannot take any trees or plants that have been treated with a pesticide, even an organic one, as it may be harmful to the animals.
I cut my tree last week and then saw you were looking for branches…it’s available but dry. Do you want it?
We are looking for fresh branches with the leaves still on.
I trim my trees in winter, do you want the branches then?
Yes. We collect browse all year long! Our animals still enjoy eating tree limbs and bark when the leaves have fallen for the winter.
Will you take the whole tree/everything I trim?
We only use branches with green leaves. If you are cutting a whole tree we are happy to take as many branches with leaves as you can load.
I live outside of the Des Moines area, I would love to help, and have a large tree to be trimmed. Will you pick it up?
Due to time and resources, we can accept deliveries to the zoo at this time. But if it is possible for you to deliver, we certainly welcome your donation!
I’m here at your gate with a tree – come get it!
We ask that you please always contact us by email and wait for confirmation before bringing us a delivery. We appreciate your donation and want to make sure we have staff available to unload it.
I contacted you about donating my tree and was told you could not use it, why?
There are several possible reasons we may not be able to accept a browse donation. Your tree may have been turned down because it is not on our approved browse list – usually because it is toxic to our animals. There may also be occasions when we get so many trees donated that we simply cannot accommodate them all and have to turn donations away. Thank you for thinking of us and taking your time to try and help, we are sorry we could not accept your donation.
If I deliver, do I get to see the animals eat my donation right then?
It takes us some time to process trees that are donated. Many animals at the Blank Park Zoo enjoy browse as enrichment! They have to be sorted and then delivered to the appropriate section of the zoo depending on which species of animals will be eating them. This means you will not be able to see your donation used right then or help us feed it out, but you can be certain that the only ones who appreciate your delivery more than our zookeepers are our very happy and well-fed animals – all thanks to you!