Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gardening for Birds in Kentucky: Trees II

Part two of the series of trees that are best to plant for birds. 

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) - Few trees attract as many birds as the Black Cherry.  Native to every state east of the great plains, this sun loving pioneering species is often one of the first trees to colonize old fields.  It can grow as tall as 50 feet with a spread of 30 feet.  The leaves are simple with a serrated margin. The fragrant flowers are small with five white petals and about 20 stamens.  The fruit ripen in fall and are a favorite of at least 47 different species of birds.

Black Cherries

Scarlet Tanager

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) -Widely known for its beautiful flowers in the spring and breathtaking fall foliage, this small tree is also very important to birds and wildlife.  They usually grow 10-30 feet tall with a spread of 25 feet.  The berries first ripen in August and provide fuel for songbirds during fall migration, like the Black-throated Green Warbler below.   Around 35 other species of songbirds enjoy the fruit of the Flowering Dogwood.

Autumn Leaves #6

Black-throated Green Warbler

Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.) - This group of small, round-top trees and large shrubs are difficult to tell apart, fortunately they all bear small pome fruits that are enjoyed by birds.  They are easily recognized by single large, unbranched spines that grow from leaf axils.  The dense, forked branches provide great sites for nesting cardinals, jays, and robins.     

Cockspur Hawthorn Fruit

Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) -This small eastern native is one of the first trees to bloom in spring.  The leaves are ovate or elliptical with pointed tips and finely serrated margins. A characteristic useful for identification is that the young leaves emerge downy on the underside.  It grows to a height of 20-40 feet with a spread of 30 feet.  It too is valued for its berries that ripen starting in June.  It is a favorite of Ruffed Grouse, Wood Thrush, and the common and popular Downy Woodpecker.

Downy Serviceberry


Flowering Crabapple (Malus spp.) - Chances are you may already have a cultivar of this tree growing somewhere in your garden.  Crabapples are a favorite because of their beautiful flowers in the spring and their berries that stay on the branches into winter, bringing some much needed color into the cold months.  The penchant of the tree to hang on to its fruits is a great thing for songbirds as well.  The berries are readily consumed by American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and many others.  It is best to select the varieties with small fruits, like: Arnold, Bob White, Donald Wyman, Dorothea, Jacky, Mary, snowbank, and tea.


Oriole de Baltimore / Baltimore Oriole

Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) -This small tree is one of the most attractive to songbirds, which is the reason it is sometimes left out of the garden.  Birds consume and (cough) de-consume the berries so quickly and voraciously that it often leaves a mess on patios and sidewalks.  The seed are spread by birds as well and this leads to many seedlings sprouting up in places gardeners may not want them.  That is why it is recommended to plant this tree in a corner away from the main garden.  That way it will still invite birds to your garden but won't be such a nuisance.  The distinctive leaves are alternate, simple, broadly cordate, with a shallow notch at the base, typically unlobed on mature trees although often with 2-3 lobes on young trees.  They can grow to 25-40 feet with a spread of 50 feet.  It is dioecious, meaning you will need both male and female trees for a fruit crop.  They are wind pollinated so this may not be necessary if there are other mulberries nearby.  Their fruits are enjoyed by as many as 44 species of songbirds.



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