Birds are nature’s messengers and today they are experiencing the devastating effects of climate change and habitat loss. Pollinators like bees, butterflies and other insects are suffering severe losses as well.
In the face of these threats, you can help birds and pollinators by making your yard more bird friendly. If you don’t have a yard, you can still help by creating a native plant container garden on your patio or balcony. Even a very small patch of habitat can provide hungry birds with what they need during migration.
To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we will be posting a native plant each month which is beneficial to birds and pollinators.
Our first plant is:
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana):
This shrub grows 5-6 feet tall and prefers light exposure of part sun to full shade. It is tolerant of drought and cold weather and is one of the best plants to attract birds to your yard. It is deciduous in our area (meaning that it drops its leaves in winter). It readily spreads by self-sown seed in the garden or from cuttings. Since beautyberry scarcely branches above the base, it should be cut back in the late winter after the leaves are gone. This keeps it compact and results in vigorous young growth that flowers and fruits heavily. The blooms are small, clustered pale purple flowers which appear in the late spring and summer and attract butterflies. In the fall, beautiful lavender berries grow clustered on the stems and remain throughout the winter, if they are not devoured by the migrating and resident birds! Birds that will eat the berries include: wrens, sparrows, vireos, mockingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, waxwings, and nuthatches.
For additional information on native plants for birds, check out Audubon's excellent Plants for Birds website: Audubon.org/plantsforbirds.
These native plants nurseries in our area do not have a storefront, but can get plants for you on request:
If you are not opposed to ordering online, Mail Order Natives is an excellent source for native plants. They are located in Lee, Florida.
In addition, the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society often has native plants as well as cuttings available at their monthly meetings. They are on summer break right now, but in September will resume their meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Check out their Events Calendar for all of their upcoming activities.
--Jody Willis, President, Duval Audubon Society