All those native perennial plants with great fruit for the birds of which I have written? I have to show some pictures. The selection is by no means exhaustive: trilliums and twisted stalks, blue cohosh and mayflower, starry false Solomon’s seal and bunch berry, and many others are not shown. Spikenard and poke and other star players are featured…
Business took me to Wellington County yesterday, I stopped in for coffee at my cousins’s in Kitchener, and then decided, since I was relatively near to FWR Dickson, about which I have been blogging, I would revisit the area. The day was so beautifully warm and sunny, it could have been early September, but there were indications that this visit was later in the year than the day in September,2001, when I photographed all the fruit. This visit much of the fruit was gone, already eaten by migrating birds, bare stalks remaining. Two bright red fruits that persist into winter were still present: American high bush cranberry, and winterberry holly. Wild grape and grey dogwood had fruited with such abundance there were still lots left although much had been eaten. Other fruit that I knew was there was just about gone. I had to look carefully to find even one or two remaining fruits of carrion flower, running euonymus, maple-leaved viburnum, mayflower,or Solomon’s seal. I did find a few porcelain blue fruit of silky dogwood and I again tried to photograph the odd, pretty blue.
One of the prettiest wild plants this time of year is the unfortunately-named carrion flower (Smilax herbacea). Blue berries in large, round clusters on long stalks on a herbaceous vine that gets about 6 feet high – what’s not to like?
In my trove of old photos were several dozen prints taken on September 17, 2001 at FWR Dickson Conservation Area near Paris, Ontario. FWR Dickson has a nice assortment of plant communities in a relatively small area: sandy hills with open oak woods. mesic woodlands with maple beech forest, swamps, open kettle lakes, and old fields. Hiking through there one fall day, I was struck by the diversity and sheer amount of wild fruit, all crying out to migrating birds ” Eat me, eat me.” I started snapping photos. This was before I had a digital camera, so a few dozen exposures was extravagant. Today I would probably take several hundred pictures, and a few might actually be good photos. I have pics of wild grapes, and nanny berries, and the bright red clusters of highbush cranberry viburnum. I tried to capture the porcelain blue of silky dogwood fruit, not successfully.
The alternate-leaved dogwoods growing in full sun at the edge of the kettle lake were heavy with dark blue-black fruits. Alternate-leaved dogwood also grows in the valleys and ravines of Toronto. It reproduces well in city conditions so there is still quite a lot of it around. In the city, the dogwood’s fruit are stripped as soon as they start to ripen in mid-August. The ravines in Toronto are major migratory flyways. There is simply not nearly enough food for the birds. There is not enough food because the native understorey has been so largely replaced with invasives, such as European buckthorn, whose bitter, cathartic fruits the birds cannot use, and because of the stingy, Eurasian plant based landscaping of the homes along the ravines. The fruitful abundance of southern Ontario autumn, which evolved with the native birds and upon which they depend, is just not there in urban and suburban spaces. Continue reading Planting more fruit for birds