August Berries for the Birds
Late in August some of the birds begin to fatten themselves up for their fall journey. At the same time, berries of all kinds have begun to ripen. This, then, is a good time to take stock of what kind of garden buffet is on offer for our avian friends.
The red berries of Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) are not quite ripe, but they are getting close. Most books say that birds tend not to eat these berries until late in winter, but mine are often gone by December.
This year the Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) berries seem especially plentiful. They are gobbled up as soon as they turn white. The branches are full of songbirds (especially Robins) gulping down the fruit. Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Bluebirds are also attracted to the berries (sadly no Bluebirds found in this area).
When the white berries are gone, the red pedicels remain.
Black Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) are also ripening. This is another crowd pleaser, as long as the crowd consists of songbirds – about 40 species eat the fruit. This is a rather wild-looking shrub, and it suckers freely, so I keep it in a far corner of the back garden.
Let’s turn now to herbaceous plants. I’m not sure who exactly eats the black fruits of Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum), but I’ll just assume that someone does.
The same is true of Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). The berries are bright red when fully ripe.
American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa) is a wild-looking shrub-sized perennial. It bears tiny inconspicuous flowers in large panicles that yield substantial clusters of berries (technically drupes). The berries are appetizing to birds but inedible for people. I’m looking forward to the moment when all the fruits have turned bright red.
The dark purple stems are another ornamental asset of this plant, which ignorant people disdain as a weed.
Are the birds eating any berries in your garden?