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Connecticut Garden Journal: Planting native berry plants helps our birds

Common Dogwood -Cornus sanguinea-, leaves and fruits, Thuringia, Germany
Frank Sommariva
Getty Images
Common Dogwood - Cornus sanguinea.

Even though the weather has been more summer-like, it is September, and the natural rhythms continue. One of those rhythms is birds are getting ready to either migrate or spend the winter here. To help our feathered friends, plant shrubs that produce berries that birds love and need for energy and survival.

While birds will eat many different berries this time of year, including from invasive shrubs, such as Japanese honeysuckle and buckthorn, it's best to plant native shrubs with higher-quality berries. Research has shown that while the calorie content of native and exotic berries is about the same, the fat content differs dramatically. Berries from invasives have only have about 2 percent fat, while native berries can have up to 48 percent fat. This is important for energy to migrate or survive a cold winter.

Some of the best native berry plants are in the dogwood and viburnum families. Grey dogwood, red osier dogwood, and silky dogwood are some of the shrub dogwood species that produce good quality berries for birds and are easy to grow. Bush dogwoods can tolerate part sun and moist soil conditions and grow into large wildlife shrubs. Nannyberry, American high bush cranberry, and black haw are some of the best native viburnums for birds. They also grow in full or part sun and tolerate different types of soil. Other native shrubs for berry production include aronia, winterberry and spicebush.

Make sure you plant these natives in groups where they will thrive and can grow large. Along a forest edge or mixed with other shrubs in a border is best.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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