Trees and Shrubs That Attract Birds

Trees and Shrubs That Attract Birds

Part of Ep. 804 More Landscaping for Birds

Join UW-Madison Arboretum Naturalist Ken Wood to learn about trees and shrubs that bear fruit in the fall.

Premiere date: Dec 30, 2000

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Trees and shrubs enhance any garden. And many of them are essential if you're trying to attract birds to your back yard. We're at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. And I'm with Arboretum Naturalist, Ken Wood. And today we're talking about trees and shrubs that bear fruit in the fall. Ken, tell us about this one that we're in front of. This is gorgeous.

Ken:
This is our native deciduous holly, called Winterberry. This is a great one for attracting birds to your yard in the later part of the summer and through a good part of the fall.

Shelley:
This is native, so I'm assuming it does well throughout the entire state.

Ken:
Hardy throughout the state, right.

Shelley:
Beautiful spring flowers or not?

Ken:
Flowers that you would never notice. They're tiny little flowers. The fall color is not anything spectacular. In fact, it's actually basic black.

Shelley:
Oh, boy!

Ken:
But this fruit and the contrast with the leaves before the leaves turn and then after the leaves drop. They drop fairly rapidly.

Shelley:
So, then you've got just these showy berries.

Ken:
Just the showy fruit, right. It's just a wonderful looking plant in the landscape.

Shelley:
What birds eat this?

Ken:
Well, Robins, Cedar Waxwings. I think, particularly, some of the other thrushes, Wood Thrushes, Hermit Thrushes, that are migrating through later-- October and November.

Shelley:
So, these stay on for a while.

Ken:
They stay for a while, yeah. Not indefinitely. They'll drop off if the birds don't eat them. They'll drop off by mid-November.

Shelley:
So, showy up until about December.

Ken:
Yeah.

Shelley:
What do I have to do to keep something like this happy in my yard?

Ken:
Winterberries prefer a slightly acidic soil. They're native in fairly wet areas, so I wouldn't plant then in a really dry spot. They adapt well. They come in a variety of cultivars. We're doing trials on several cultivars here. This is a preferred one. It's called Red Sprite. I guess the reason for preferring it is that it's modest in height and fairly tight. The catch with Winterberries is they come in boys and girls.

Shelley:
So, we need more than one.

Ken:
Pollen bearing plants and fruit bearing plants. So, for every four or five of the fruit bearing plants, you want to be sure to have a pollen bearing one. For this cultivar, Red Sprite, the recommended pollen bearing plant is Jim Dandy.

Shelley:
And that's our male pollinator.

Ken:
Right.

Shelley:
Is this a full sun plant?

Ken:
Definitely full sun.

Shelley:
Are there any things that will attract birds to a yard that has more shade.

Ken:
Oh, there are good things for shade.

Shelley:
You know, this is one of my favorites in my yard. But this one, Ken, is about three times the size as the one I've got.

Ken:
This is Pagoda Dogwood. It's a shrub that's almost a tree, a tree that's almost a shrub.

Shelley:
This one is much older than mine, too.

Ken:
This is an old one. But it still has the layered character of the typical Pagoda Dogwood.

Shelley:
Almost an oriental delicate appearance to it.

Ken:
A nice shape, really. Yes, this is a really good old plant. It's not suckering. It doesn't become aggressive in a small yard.

Shelley:
So, it's a good one for the home landscape. And as we said, it tolerates the shade.

Ken:
It's very tolerant of shade. It has superb fall color.

Shelley:
Beautiful leaves.

Ken:
A nice maroon and sometimes orangy.

Shelley:
And it also has fruit early in the year. We've missed it here.

Ken:
Right. It flowers and fruits above the stems. And it shows off fairly well when it flowers in late May. And then, the flowers become a blue fruit.

Shelley:
And they really stand out nicely.

Ken:
Displayed there, not only for our show, but for the birds.

Shelley:
And that's what, late August for the fruit?

Ken:
Usually, mid to late August. By early September, it's usually gone.

Shelley:
Birds eat it. Which ones?

Ken:
Oh, Catbirds, all of the thrushes, Cedar Waxwings, sometimes some of the woodpeckers.

Shelley:
So, it's a great variety.

Ken:
A good assortment of birds will use it.

Shelley:
So what do I have to do to keep it happy in my yard.

Ken:
The Pagoda Dogwood likes what we call a cool soil situation, not a hot, dry spot. It does well on the north side of a house, up on the edge of a woodland. It's a common native woodland species in Wisconsin.

Shelley:
And it's hardy throughout Wisconsin.

Ken:
Hardy throughout the state.

Shelley:
Let's look at another one that's really hardy for the entire state.

Ken:
Fine.

Ken:
This is Showy Mountain Ash, a common native, especially in the northern part of the state, but throughout the state. Very winter hardy. No problems with cold.

Shelley:
Excellent. What's the life span of a tree like this?

Ken:
This is a small tree and they usually only live, typically for mountain ashes, 15-20 years, something like that.

Shelley:
Oh, so we're looking at the full size, here.

Ken:
This is a full-size tree.

Shelley:
Why would I want to grow something like this?

Ken:
Well, it's got flowers in late spring, polite flowers, a fairly good fall color and especially, this neat fruit display.

Shelley:
This glowing orange, incredible fruit.

Ken:
Wonderful fruit display, which just happens to be designed for birds.

Shelley:
So, I'm not the only one that's going to like this, huh?

Ken:
Right, especially the robins and cedar waxwings really enjoy this tree.

Shelley:
You told me a story about cedar waxwings and what they do to this tree.

Ken:
I've heard people say that they have a wonderful display of mountain ash fruit in their yard and almost in a day or two a flock of cedar waxwings will just strip the fruit. So, they really love it.

Shelley:
So, it's entertaining to watch, too. But that's where we have lots of activity with birds. Is that mid-winter we're talking about?

Ken:
In a suburban setting, where there aren't as many birds around, it might last until January, something like that.

Shelley:
So we can enjoy it longer, do.

Ken:
Right.

Shelley:
What do I do to keep this tree happy in my yard?

Ken:
Mountain ashes are one of those cool soil plants. They like soils that aren't hot and dry. So, plant it on the north side of a house, where the top of the plant gets good sunlight for flowering and fruiting, but the root zone is sheltered. Or, plant it with shrubbery around the base of the plant to help shelter the soil is a good thing. But you know, I've got another plant that you wouldn't even think of as having fruit that's useful for birds.

Shelley:
Let's go look at that.

Shelley:
You know, Ken, I love birches, but I would never consider planting one to provide food for birds.

Ken:
But, hiding up there amongst the leaves are these catkins, which have little scales on them. Under each scale is a tiny little seed that's really attractive to Redpolls, Goldfinches, Purple Finches. They hang there all winter. Normally, they'll fall and skid around on the snow.

Shelley:
So, they're readily available, even in deep snow, then, too.

Ken:
Right.

Shelley:
Birches are great to have in the yard. They're so pretty.

Ken:
Native, common throughout the state, very hardy.

Shelley:
Good idea. Thanks, Ken. Consider the trees and shrubs we've talked about to enhance your backyard garden and to attract birds.

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