We have come to the time of year where yards are covered with snow and all that remains are the bare trees or perhaps a few pops of green from the trees that keep foliage throughout the year. We once looked out our windows and were able to take in the beautiful pops of color from the flowers, shrubs and trees that we tirelessly worked on through the spring and summer months. But don’t be dismayed, we have the answer – BIRDS! Birds are quite a treat to see when you gaze out your window and look at the start white snow that has laid overnight. Seeing a bright red cardinal perched on a limb of a leafless tree will show you just how beautiful the winter months can be. In this blog we will look at the native trees, shrubs and vines that will provide a home and food for these fabulous feathery friends and encourage them to keep residing at your home.
Dogwood [Missouri’s state tree] – there are many types of dogwoods and range from small shrubs to single-trunked ornamental trees. These trees are best suited in zones 5-9 and can grow anywhere between 1-25 feet tall. These are very hearty trees and can tolerate full sun as long as your area provides an abundance of rain, keeping it well-watered. Dogwoods produce beautiful white, pink or even red blooms that peak mid-March through May. The leaves of a dogwood are green during the summer providing contrast to the blooms and transition to a deep reddish-purple in the fall before they fall to the ground. At least 36 different species of birds feed on the dogwood’s fleshy red berries. These birds include cardinals, bluebirds, waxwings. Residence is taken up by robins, mockingbirds and sparrows who build their nest on the branches.
**FUN FACT! George Washington planted dogwoods at Mount Vernon & Thomas Jefferson planted them at Monticello (his home) in Charlottesville.
Oak [official tree of the capital] – one of the most versatile trees; adapting in the natural forest, the suburban yard as well as inner cities; oaks can be found almost anywhere once you exit your front door. Prized for strength, longevity and the amazing wood properties. There are about 70 oak species that grow in North America, some are deciduous (leaves drop) while others keep their leaves year-round BUT they all produce acorns. The acorns provide 70% of the diet for wild turkeys. They tree, itself, provides a playground for squirrels and raccoons can be found living in larger holes or tree forks of the mighty oak. The canopies of the oak tree provide home to robins, blue jays and starlings. In addition, woodpeckers’ nest in the trees as well as peck for insects to provide them nutrition.
**FUN FACT! The oldest oak tree (the Angel Oak) in America is located in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island, South Carolina. It may be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River.
Elderberry [medicinal plant] – a deciduous shrub that comes from North America. In spring, the plant is covered with white clusters of tiny flowers and small dark berries. This shrub is best suited in zones 5-7 and will survive in full sun or part shade making it a very hearty addition to your landscape. The elderberry will provide food for many songbirds in the summer such as the house finch, gray catbird, cedar waxwing, Baltimore oriole and more. In addition, bears love to eat the elderberry fruits and deer, elk and moose will chew on the stems and foliage.
**FUN FACT! The seeds, stems, leaves and roots are poisonous to humans containing a cyanide-inducing glycoside that creates a toxic build up that will leave you quite ill.
Virginia creeper – a woody, deciduous vine that consists of five leaflets. This vine is often mistaken for poison ivy but poison ivy only has three leaflets. Native to the Eastern parts of the country and the Great Plains this vine will attract the pine warbler, hermit thrush, woodpecker, American robin and more.
Trumpet honeysuckle – growing between 10-15’ this deciduous, twining vine is easy to grow requiring minimum moisture, well-drained soil and full sun. Many birds depend on the trumpet honeysuckle including the ruby-throated hummingbird, purple finch, house finch and American robin.