Bunting (1900), Edwin Sheppard
pronunciation | zho-‘kOt-tah (zh like s in vision)
Chioanthus virginicus (Fringetree or Grancy Gray Beard) is a native to the Southeastern United States. The tree is a prolific bloomer, with fragrant, fringe-like flowers appearing in April on both male and female plants. It is best utilized as an understory tree, where it can be protected from harsh afternoon sun ~ it is the perfect specimen tree for a woodland garden. Trees tend to be multi-stemmed, with a broad rounded head. Suitable for wetland areas, stream banks, or creek beds.
Berries appear on female plants only, ripening in August and September. (A male plant must be in the vicinity for fruit to set.) The berries are eaten by bluebirds, thrashers, finches, and many others. Don’t forget: February is National Bird Feeding month!
Arbor Day in Georgia is the 3rd Friday in February, an ideal time for tree installations. (National Arbor Day is the 3rd Friday in April, but it is too warm that time of year for tree planting in Georgia.) What better way to celebrate Georgia Arbor Day, than by planting a tree native to the Southeast? This one is a show-stopper!
American Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum)
Look up into the tops of deciduous trees in the dead of winter. See anything interesting? Nestled in the top of this elm tree is a bright green cluster of American mistletoe. It could almost be mistaken for a nest of some sort, but is more commonly referred to as a “witches’ broom.”
Mistletoe attaches its roots onto the “host” of a healthy tree, stealing valuable nutrients from the tree. (The Greek name for the American mistletoe tree, Phoradendron, translates as follows: phor meaning “thief,” and dedron meaning “tree.”)
How does mistletoe get into a tree in the first place? Since February is National Bird Feeding Month, this seems like an appropriate time to address that question. Birds are the main propagators of the mistletoe crop. They feast on the white sticky mistletoe berries from one tree, then fly off to the next tree, where the birds deposit any sticky berries they might be carrying onto the bark of that tree. The berries adhere to the bark and send out roots within days. Those roots work their way into the tree bark, enabling the establishment of another cluster of mistletoe.
Today mistletoe is considered an important ecological organism, despite the potential harm it may cause to host trees. The berries are consumed by a number of animals, and the “brooms” are favored by birds (owls and sea birds) for nesting and roosting. In other words, the greater the mistletoe density, the more diverse the wildlife population due to the benefits of food and shelter it provides in woodland and forest areas.
If the determination is made to remove the mistletoe, the entire limb of the tree must be removed and disposed of. The roots of a mistletoe broom may extend up to a foot along the host limb, so care must be taken in the removal of the branch, and consideration given to the long term health of the tree. Improper pruning will destroy a tree much faster than a mistletoe broom.
February is National Bird Feeding Month
Which plants are useful for attracting birds? Listed below are my top ten favorite trees and shrubs that produce berries for birds ~ and because birds have color vision, choosing plants with red berries is like having “bird magnets” in the garden. REMEMBER: some berries that are edible for birds, can be toxic to humans.
Above, left to right: Pyracantha; Crabapple ‘Indian Summer’; Crabapple ‘Prairie Fire’; American Beautyberry; European Cranberry Bush ‘Chicago Lustre’; Red Chokeberry; Linden Viburnum ‘Michael Dodge’; Linden Viburnum ‘Cardinal Candy’; Weeping Yaupon Holly; Hawthorn.
Red fruit appears in autumn, but persists through winter in milder climates, especially if trained against a wall as an espalier. Mockingbirds, cedar waxwings and cardinals feast on the pyracantha berries. This robust evergreen shrub is suitable for full sun.
These berries lure waxwings, thrushes, cardinals, finches, and blackbirds into the garden and provide a reliable source of food in late Autumn. Two Cotoneasters from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit include: C. ‘Rothschildianus’ (white berries), and C. x waterer ‘John Waterer’ (masses of scarlet berries). The berries should not be ingested by humans. (Summer flowers also attract bees and provide a valuable source of nectar when other sources of food may be scarce.)
Crabapple (Malus ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Prairie Fire’)
Cedar waxwings, robins and woodpeckers love the berries on Crabapples. Some varieties, like ‘Prairiefire’ and ‘Indian Summer’ have persistent fruits, in that the berries will not drop once they have ripened, but remain on the branches for the birds to eat.
Wax Myrtle, Southern Bay Berry (Myrica cerifera)
This shrub is best suited to a wildlife habitat. In harsh winters, the berries are an important source of food for mockingbirds, Carolina wrens, and cardinals, although more than 40 species of birds will eat the berries. Thousands of berries cover the branches in winter. The berries only form on female plants (just like hollies) and provide a good source of fat and fiber for birds. Wax Myrtles also provide shelter for birds.
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
A woodland garden shrub with purple berries that appear in clusters along the stems in late summer through fall. A favorite food for robins, mockingbirds, cardinals, finches and towhees. It makes a beautiful shady hedge when massed under trees, while also providing a good cover for birds.
European Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Chicago Lustre’ - pictured)
An attractive, deciduous woodland garden shrub, particularly suitable to hot, humid climates. After flowering, this shrub is massed with blue berries that are quickly consumed by birds, including bullfinches and mistle thrushes.
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Cedar waxwings, brown thrashers and chickadees are fond of the berries produced on this deciduous shrub which grows well in the woodland garden, under cover of other hardwood trees. Drought resistant once established, this large shrub has the added bonus of spectacular fall leaf color.
Weeping Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)
An upright, weeping evergreen tree, producing berries for a number of birds, including the norther flicker, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, robin, mockingbird, and many others.
Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ and ‘Cardinal Candy’)
This large deciduous landscape shrub produces a plethora of berries for cedar waxwings, cardinals, eastern bluebirds, and more. Its broad structure also provides a protective shelter for birds. ‘Michael Dodge’ has bright orange berries, and ‘Cardinal Candy’ has bright red berries.
Hawthorn or Thornapple (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’)
The fruit on this small ornamental tree resembles that of the crabapple. The winter berries attract birds including grosbeak, robin, waxwing and the purple finch.
February is National Bird Feeding Month
Isn’t this a beautiful way to accessorize a winter bird bath, and feed the birds at the same time? The frozen birdbath consists of cranberries, kumquats and citrus slices with some white polished stones and pepperberries for decoration.
Tattooed Eggs. Photo: Burku Avsar.
Top: Sebastopol geese from Cottage Rose, a Sebastopol breeder.
Left: Snowflake the Sebastopol goose (who thinks she’s a sheep), at the Red Brick Road Farm, Icelandic sheep breeding, Illinois.
Right: The Sebastopol goose (also known as Frizzled Fowl) has pure white, curling feathers.
Sebastopol geese are descended from the European Gray-lag goose, and have been around for a couple hundred years. Their origination remains the subject of debate, even today, but the following account was published in the Illustrated London News, on September 8, 1860, and re-printed in The Poultry Book:
Amongst the geese there were two curious specimens from Sebastopol, exhibited by Mr. T.H.D. Bayly. These birds are somewhat smaller than those of this country at a mature size, but they are of the purest white and the most perfect form, whilst the more conspicuous portion of their plumage is of a curly nature, affording a very striking contrast to the feathers of the ordinary English goose. The feathers on the back are curved and frilled upwards; the secondary feathers of the wings are elongated and twisted, also the tail coverts. These geese were sent to Mr. Bayly by John Harvey, Esq., who had been cruising in the Black Sea. Their weight is 11 lbs. each. They are of precisely the same habits as our English geese.
The average female goose will produce between 25-30 eggs per year. They bond well and can be very social with their keepers. The long curling feathers prevent them from flying well, although they do maintain some flight ability. Clean swimming water, such as a small pool, should be provided to allow the geese to bathe and clean themselves. Sebastopol geese can be raised in colder climates if an adequate shelter from the cold is provided.
Syrischer Maler um (1310), Kalîla and Dimma
Book of Kalîlah and Dimnah, or, The Fables of Bidpai
The Story of the Owls and the Crows (1885) by I. G. N. Keith-Falconer, M.A. (pp. 151-52):
The crow. The whole camp of the owls with their king dwell in such-and-such a place by day, and at night they have a certain great hole into which they all enter. Therefore command all the crows that everyone of them bring in his mouth a piece of dry wood, and put it at the entrance of that hole in which they live. And let one of the crows bring a spark of fire and put it in the wood, whereupon let the crows fly aloft that the fire may be fanned and burn the wood well, and if anyone of the owls come out, the fire will burn him, and if he remain inside he will die of the heat and the breath of the fire and the fumes of the smoke.