Monday, June 29, 2009

Top 10 best plants for wild birds and mammals

If, like me, you'd like to encourage wildlife in your garden, check out these lists. According to American Wildlife & Plants by Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson (New York: Dover, 1961), these are the best plants for feeding birds and mammals in our area (okay, technically, northeast U.S., but I don't think things change that suddenly north of the border). Seeing the wildlife value of a number of less showy herbaceous plants is certainly giving me food for thought in choosing new plants for the garden. The woody plants are all fine ornamentals as well as being valuable sources of food for birds and mammals.

Woody plants

  1. oak (Quercus spp.): acorns are one of the most important foods for many mammals and birds. They are one of the blue jay's favourites. White oaks (including Quercus alba, Quercus prinus) produce tastier acorns than black oaks (Quercus velutina). Oak leaves and twigs are used as nesting material.
  2. blackberries and kin (Rubus spp.): as well as blackberries, this group includes raspberries, dewberries, cloudberries, and thimbleberries. The delicous fruit are popular, especailly with birds when fresh during the summer, though dried fruit will be eaten in autumn and winter if there's any left. The thorny brambles provide useful cover for birds, rabbits, and others, and are a popular nesting site. Cottontail rabbits eat Rubus stems in the winter.
  3. wild cherries (Prunus spp.): the fruit are popular with birds; mammals also eat them, often feeding on the cherries that have fallen to the ground. Deer and rabbits also feed on the twigs, foliage, and bark. The most important cherries in our area are P. virginiana and P. pennsylvanica.
  4. pines (Pinus spp.): seeds are eaten by many birds and small mammals; pine needles, bark, and wood are eaten by some animals. Pines with branches near the ground provide cover for wildlife; large pines are favoured nesting sites for mourning doves and migrating robins. In our area the most important is the majestic white pine (Pinus strobus), which is also our provincial tree.
  5. dogwood (Cornus spp.): the fruit are an important food in late summer, fall, and into winter.
  6. grapes (Vitis spp.): the fruit of grapes appeals to many animals; the dense foliage in summer provides cover and nesting sites. Birds often use the bark of grapevines to build their nests. Our native species are V. aestivalis, V. riparia, and V. vulpina.
  7. maples (Acer spp.): maple seeds provide food for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks; animals also eat the buds and flowers. Birds use the leaves and seed stalks to build their nests.
  8. beech (Fagus grandifolia): beechnuts are an important food for squirrels and chipmunks, and are also eaten by birds and other mammmals.
  9. blueberries and kin (Vaccinium spp.): as well as blueberries, this group includes hillberries, cranberries, and deerberries. The bruit are eaten by many birds and mammals (from mice to bears!), deer and rabbits also feed on the twigs and foliage.
  10. birches (Betula spp.): birds feed on the catkins, buds, and seeds; mammals such as deer, hares, porcupines, and beavers eat the bark, twigs, leaves, and wood.

Herbaceous plants

  1. ragweeds (Ambrosia artemisiifolia and A. psilostachya): the ragweedsare one of the most important plants for wildlife. In particular, their seeds form a major component of the diet for many songbirds. It's unfortunate that their pollen is so allergenic for humans!
  2. bristlegrass (Setaria spp.): although they are not native to our area, the bristlegrasses produce abundant seeds which are a major food source for many birds; some mammals also eat the seeds and leaves.
  3. sedges (Carex spp.): many birds eat the seeds; the leaves and roots as well as the seeds are eaten by various mammals. Sedges also provide valuable cover for wildlife.
  4. crabgrasses (Digitaria spp.): because crabgrass is common and produces many seeds, it is an important foodsource for many birds. The plants are also eaten by rabbits. D. cognata is native here.
  5. pigweeds (Amaranthus spp.): the numerous seeds of the pigweeds remain available in spiked clusters during the winter and sometimes even spring, where they provide an important food source for songbirds when food is scarce. Rabbits and deer feed on the plants. Although a number of pigweeds are alien, A. powellii and A. tuberculatus are native to our area.
  6. clovers (Trifolium pratense, T. repens, and T. hybridum): these three widespread aliens provide delicious foliage as well as seeds to many birds and mammals. The first two are somewhat invasive in our area according to Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario.
  7. sheepsorrels and docks (Rumex spp.): the most common of these, R. acetosela, is not native here but because of its abundance the seeds are a common food for ground-feeding birds; the seeds are also eaten by small mammals. Rabbits and deer feed on the plants.
  8. dropseed grasses (Sporobolus spp.): the seeds are important for birds who feed on the ground. Small mammals also eat the seeds, and deer browse on the plants.
  9. bluegrasses (Poa spp.): birds eat the seeds and rabbits and other mammals graze on the foliage.
  10. pokeweed (Phytolacca americana): the fruit are eaten by mourning doves, songbirds, foxes, opossums, raccoons, and mice.

Marsh and aquatic plants

  1. smartweeds (Polygonum spp.): the seeds of smartweeds found near and in water are an important food for ducks and songbirds; small mammals also eat these seeds. The most significant are P. persicaria (alien), P. pennsylvanicum (native), P. punctatum (native), and P. lapathifolium (alien).
  2. pondweeds (Stuckenia and Potamogeton spp.): these plants dominate lakes and ponds in our area. The seeds and plants are an important food for many birds who live around water. Stuckenia pectinatus is considered the most important species for wildlife.
  3. wild rice (Zizania spp.): wild rice seeds are a key component of the diets of waterfowl, marshbirds, shorebirds, and songbirds. Z. aquatica and Z. palustris are native to our area.
  4. bulrushes (Scirpus spp.): the seeds are an important food for birds living near water and muskrats; they are also eaten by songbirds.
  5. American eelgrass (Vallisneria americana): the foliage, seeds, and roots are all enjoyed by ducks.
  6. naiads (Najas flexilis and N. guadalupensis): the stems, leaves, and seeds are favoured by ducks.
  7. spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.): waterfowl, marshbirds, and shorebirds eat the seeds; waterfowl also eat the stems and tubers, and rabbits and muskrats eat the plants.
  8. bur-reeds (Sparganium spp.): the seeds are eaten by birds living near water, and the whole plant is used by muskrats.
  9. wild millets (Echinocloa spp.): the seeds are important for ducks, and are also used by other birds. Rabbits and muskrats eat the plants.
  10. duckweed (Lemna minor): although this is a tiny species, its abundance allows it to play an important role in the diet of ducks.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eriophorum gracile

[Photo: Eriophorum gracile.]Eriophorum gracile, known in English as "slender cottongrass" or "slender cottonsedge" and in French as linaigrette grêle, is a perennial in the sedge family with showy fluffy white inflorescences, native throughout Canada and in the northern United States.

I photographed this cottongrass at Purdon Conservation Area in eastern Ontario.

Viburnum trilobum foliage

[Photo: foliage of Viburnum trilobum.]Viburnum trilobum, known in English as "highbush cranberry", "American cranberry bush", or "American cranberry viburnum", and in French as viorne trilobée, viorne pimbina, or pimbina, is a decidious shrub native to southern Canada and the northern United States. Although called a cranberry, it is not a true cranberry. (True cranberries are in the genus Vaccinum, like blueberries). Still, the highbush cranberries fruit look and taste similar to the real thing.

As you can see, I missed the prime flowering season. (This page has a good photo of a full corymb of flowers, as well as photos of the berries and fall colour).

The pretty flowers in spring, attractive maple-like foliage (click photo for a better look), fall colour, and edible berries, make this an appealing native shrub.

I photographed this plant at Purdon Conservation Area.

Tragopogon dubius seed heads

Warning: this plant is considered a noxious weed in Ontario [Photo: Tragopogon dubius seedhead.]Tragopogon dubius, known in English as "western goatsbeard", "yellow goatsbeard", "meadow goatsbeard", "western salsify", "common salsify", or "wild oyster plant", and in French as salsifis majeur or salsifis douteux, is a biennial native to Europe. The flowers and seedheads are somewhat similar to those of the dandelion, but goatsbeard is much larger and the leaves are grass-like and clasp the stem.

Goatsbeard is considered a noxious weed under the Ontario Weed Control Act.

I photographed this plant in Almonte, in eastern Ontario.

Toxicodendron radicans foliage

Warning: this is a noxious weed in Ontario. [Photo: Toxicodendron radicans foliage.]Toxicodendron radicans, known in English as "poison ivy" and in French as sumac grimpant, herbe à puce, bois de chien, or sumac vénéneux, is a woody vine native to much of North America. It's important to be able to recognize its characteristic leaves, with three leaflets, because it contains urushiol, an oil which causes a horrible itchy rash in many people. (When we were kids, my sister actually decided to try rubbing it on her arm to see if she really would get a rash. She sure regretted that.) Because of its allergenic properties for humans, poison ivy is considered a noxious weed in Ontario.

Although few people will deliberately plant poison ivy, it is one of the top twenty plants in terms of providing food for birds and mammals according to American Wildlife & Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits by Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zime, and Arnold L. Nelson (New York: Dover, 1961). I like Sara Stein's suggestion, in Noah's Garden, of planting poison ivy in areas where vandalism is a problem; it would not only deter vandals but feed birds as well.

I photographed this poison ivy in Purdon Conservation Area.

Osmunda cinnamomea

I photographed this plant in Purdon Conservation Area.

Onoclea sensibilis fronds

[Photo: Onoclea sensibilis fronds.]Onoclea sensibilis, known in English as "sensitive fern" or "bead fern" and in French as onoclée sensible, is a perennial fern native to North America and east Asia. The name "sensitive" refers to its sensitivity to frost, and I think the name "bead fern" refers to the appearance of the fertile fronds.

Sensitive fern was the first fern I learned to recognize. Its coarse fronds are quite different from the other native ferns in our area.

Sensitive fern grows in moist areas. I photographed these ferns at Purdon Conservation Area.

Cypripedium reginae

[Photo: Cypripedium reginae.]Cypripedium reginae, known in English as "showy ladyslipper", "pink and white lady's slipper", "royal lady's slipper", or "queen's lady's slipper" and in French as cypripède royal, is a rare perennial orchid native to southeastern Canada and northeastern United States.

[Photo: Cypripedium reginae flower bud.] Here's a dear lady's slipper just opening. It reminds me of a shy maiden ducking her head, with blushing cheeks.

Lady's slippers produce no nectar to entice pollinators; according to a sign at Purdon, they rely of the "curosity" of bees. If a flower actually is pollinated, it produces thousands of tiny seeds. However, they mostly reproduce vegetatively from rhizomes.

[Photo: Cyprepedium reginae.]I hadn't seen showy lady's slipper in real life before I visited the Purdon Conservation Area in eastern Ontario. (When I was growing up we lived not that far away, but the Purdon has a large fen for the showy lady's slippers, whereas our land had lots of rocks with thin soil that the pink lady's slipper, Cypripedium acaule, favours.) Lady's slippers are particular about their growing environment and difficult to grow in the garden (unless you are a gifted gardener like Teza) so for most of us it is best to enjoy them in the wild. (Removing plants from the wild is bad in any case but especially for rare plants like this which are unlikely to survive transplantation. Because cypripediums are so difficult to cultivate, it's vital to make sure that if you buy one it wasn't just dug up from the wild.)

[Photo: colony of wild Cypripedium reginae.]You're unlikely to see this many lady's slippers in any garden, not only due to the difficulty of growing them but the cost, about $40 per plant.

[Photo: many Cypripedium reginae in bloom at Purdon Conservation Area.]This is only a small fraction of the lady's slippers blooming now at Purdon. Truly an amazing sight.

Convolvulus arvensis

Warning: this plant is moderately invasive in Toronto.

[Photo: Convolvulus arvensis.]Convolvulus arvensis, known in English as "field bindweed" and in French as liseron des champs, is a perennial native to Eurasia which is now found throughout most of North America. The flowers are white, turning pink with age, and show a clear resemblance to their cousins the morning glories (e.g. Ipomoea purpurea, Ipomoea tricolor).

According to Invasive Exotic Species Ranking for Southern Ontario, field bindweed is moderately invasive here. A native which looks similar, only with larger, showier flowers, is hedge false bindweed (Calystegia sepium).

I photographed this plant in Almonte, Ontario.

Aralia nudicaulis: foliage

[Photo: Aralia nudicaulis foliage.]Aralia nudicaulis, known in English as "wild sarsparilla", "American sarsaparilla", "bamboo brier", "shot bush", "spreading spikenard", or "wild licorice" and in French as salsepareille sauvage or fausse salsepareille, is a perennial native to much of North America. Spreading by underground stems, it forms an attractive groundcover in dry woods. I took this photo in Purdon Conservation Area.

Sarracenia purpurea

[Photo: Sarracenia purpurea.]Sarracenia purpurea, known in English as "common pitcher plant" or "purple pitcher plant" and in French as sarracénie pourpre, is a perennial native to a wide swath of Canada from Newfoundland to Alberta, and part of the northeastern United States. Pitcher plant is best known for being carnivorous: insects are trapped and drown in the water collected in the hollow leaves, where they are digested by mosquito larvae and other tiny creatures living in the water, releasing nutrients for use by the plant.

I have never seen this plant in real life, so it was an unexpected thrill to find it in the Purdon Conservation Area in eastern Ontario, which is best known for its showy ladyslippers (Cypripedium reginae, post coming soon!).

I hadn't realized how showy the flowers would be. A very pretty as well as interesting plant!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coreopsis lanceolata in bloom

[Photo: Coreopsis lanceolata flowers.]These beautiful coreopsis are the star of a neighbour's front-yard wildflower garden. This native plant deserves its popularity in Toronto gardens.

Gaillardia aristata seedlings

[Photo: Gaillardia aristata seedlings.]My gaillardia seeds from Wallflower Studio Seeds germinated, but something apparently finds them quite tasty. I hope at least a few survive to blooming age.

Verbena stricta seedlings

[Photo: Verbena stricta seedlings.]The hoary vervain, which I started from seed from North American Native Plant Society, is doing very well—and no one's eaten it yet! I'm looking forward to the blooms. Maybe next summer?

Tiarella cordifolia foliage

[Photo: Tiarella cordifolia foliage.]Tiarella cordifolia, known in English as "Allegheny foamflower" or "heart-leaved foamflower", and in French as tiarelle cordifoliée, is a perennial native to eastern North America.

I bought this plant from High Park Volunteer Stewardship Program. I find it interesting that it has little purple markings on the leaves.

Solenostemon scutellaroides 'Wizard Mix' in the garden

[Photo: Solenostemon scutellaroides 'Wizard Mix', white and green variety.]I managed to kill some of my coleus seedlings by putting them out too early, but these ones planted on the south side of the house survived. This white and green variety is my favourite... [Photo: Solenostemon scutellaroides 'Wizard Mix', chartreuse variety.]... but the chartreuse variety seems to be more vigorous.

Of the plants that were still in flats on the north side of the house, the red ones survived the frost the best; all of the green with purple stripes succumbed. Then slugs or something started eating the survivors; a lot of them are still alive, but they are too ugly to photograph and post here.

Antirrhinum majus volunteers in the front garden

[Photo: pink Antirrhinum majus volunteer.]For once my soft-hearted refusal to pull up unknown volunteers has paid off. These little beauties showed up in our front yard; I'm not sure whence they came since we have never had snapdragons in the front yard as far as I can recall. [Photo: white Antirrhinum majus volunteer.]It's surprising to me that they are doing so well here, since usually snapdragons prefer full sun, and the spot they're growing is part- to full shade.

First rose of the year! our garden at least. If only I could "photograph" the fragrance!

Everything's in bud

...just in time for me to go away for a week. Hopefully I'll be able to see most of these blooms when I get back... [Photo: Sedum with flower buds.]
Sedum (don't know which one).

[Photo: Rudbeckia hirta flower buds.]
Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan).

[Photo: Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' bud.]
Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' (beebalm).

[Photo: Lilium 'Dot Com' buds.]
Lilium 'Dot Com' (Asiatic lily).

[Photo: Liatris spicata flower buds.]
Liatris spicata (blazing star).

[Photo: Lavandula angustifolia flower buds.]
Lavandula angustifolia (lavender).

[Photo: Hosta flower buds.]
Hosta (don't know which one).

[Photo: Hemerocalis fulva flower buds.]
Hemerocalis fulva (orange daylily).
(I would not plant this myself as it is considered invasive in our area but my landlord's son is very attached to it.)

[Photo: Heliotropium arborescens flower buds.]
Heliotropium arborescens (heliotrope).

[Photo: Helianthus annuus flower bud.]
Helianthus annuus (sunflower).

[Photo: Echinacea purpurea flower buds.]
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower).

[Photo: Astilbe flower buds.]
Astilbe (don't know which one).

[Photo: Asclepias tuberosa flower buds.]
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed).

[Photo: Dionaea muscipula flower buds.]
Last but not least, Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap). Since this little one is portable, it's coming with me!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Silphium perfoliatum foliage

[Photo: Silphium perfoliatum foliage showing 'cup' formed where leaves join stem.]Silphium perfoliatum, known in English as "cup plant" and in French as plante bain d'oiseaux or plante à calice, is a perennial native to eastern and central North America. The common names refer to the little hollow formed where the leaves join the stem, which often collects water.

I photographed this plant at Riverdale Farm.

Rosa setigera in bloom

[Photo: Rosa setigera.]Rosa setigera, known in English as "climbing wild rose" and in French as rosier de la prairie or rosier à feuilles de ronce, is a woody perennial native to eastern and central United States and southern Ontario. The wild roses are currently blooming exuberantly at Riverdale Farm.

[Photo: Rosa setigera: close-up of blossom.]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Erigeron philadelphicus

[Photo: Erigeron philadelphicus.]Erigeron philadelphicus, known in English as "Philadelphia fleabane" and in French as érigéron de Philadelphie is a biennial or perennial native to most of North America. I photographed this plant at Riverdale Farm.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, June 2009

It's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

I'm still feeling like not enough is in bloom yet. I was pleasantly surprised when I counted how many different kinds of blooms there actually are. [Photo: Paeonia lactiflora.]Paeonia lactiflora has just started blooming in the front garden.

[Photo: Impatiens walleriana 'Accent Lavender Blue'.]A recent acquisition for the front garden: Impatiens walleriana 'Accent Lavender Blue'.

[Photo: Primula hybrida.]The Primula hybrida that my landlord got as a potted plant early in the spring has started forgiving me for transplanting it for the garden. I wasn't expecting any more blooms until next year.

[Photo: Allium roseum.]Last year's Allium roseum came back. I'm not sure what the pink buds in the background are. It looks like a snapdragon but if so I don't know where it could have come from.

[Photo: Dicentra spectabilis.]The bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is on its way out, alas.

[Photo: Calibrachoa.]This year my landlord chose a rainbow of Calibrachoa for the front urn.

[Photo: Viola x wittrockiana 'Delta Pure Rose'.]I love pink(ish) pansies. This one is Viola x wittrockiana 'Delta Pure Rose'.

[Photo: bright pink petunias and white verbena.]My landlord gets bright pink petunias every year. This year they share their basket with white verbena.

[Photo: light pink petunias.]My landlord's son chose these pretty light pink petunias for the half barrel planter.

[Photo: Petunia 'Saguna Lavender Vein'.]The light pink petunias share their planter with this pretty lavender variety... ('Saguna Lavender Vein')

[Photo: Petunia 'Famous New White'.]...and these white petunias ('Famous New White'). I must remember to check if they're fragrant.

[Photo: Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lulu'.]The marigolds I started from seed are thriving! (Tagetes tenuifolia 'Lulu'.)

[Photo: Anemone canadensis.]I've been meaning to acquire this pretty native, Anemone canadensis, for a while. What a delight to find it volunteering in the garden!

[Photo: Dianthus chinensis 'Double Gaiety Mixed.']The annual dianthus I started from seed has just started blooming. (Dianthus chinensis 'Double Gaiety Mix'.)

[Photo: Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Scarlet'.]My son wanted this snapdragon because he loves making the flowers open their "mouths". (Antirrhinum majus 'Montego Scarlet'.)

[Photo: purple Aquilegia.]The aquilegia is winding down. I'm looking forward to lots of seeds.

[Photo: Erigeron annuus.]Another native volunteer just started blooming today! (Erigeron annuus).

[Photo: Phacelia parryi 'Royal Admiral'.]I sowed a whole packet of phacelia seeds but I seem to have only one plant, which also bloomed for the first time today. (Phacelia parryi 'Royal Admiral'.)

[Photo: Violas.]I really lucked out with the volunteer violas this year; I love the colours.

[Photo: Reseda odorata 'Mignon Finest Mix'.]This is the first time I've ever grown mignonette, a plant I had never seen in real life but which is supposed to be deliciously fragrant. It has started blooming, and I cannot smell it at all, nor can anyone else I've asked. Maybe it will acquire a scent when it's more mature? (Reseda odorata 'Mignon Finest Mix'.)

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