En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - February 17, 2008

From: Waynesboro, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Plants for birds in Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi there, I would like to plant some bird-friendly shrubs in my backyard, here in the Shenandoah Valley. I have read that birds like winterberries, and I think they are gorgeous. But, this is mid-February, and I see so many winterberry shrubs that still are covered with berries, it makes me wonder if the birds really like them. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Ilex verticillata (common winterberry) is, indeed, considered an excellent winter food source for birds, as well as small mammals like squirrels, and even deer. One of the articles we found on winterberry says that birds turn to it in late winter when their favorite foods are gone. Another article referred to it as an emergency food source for birds. Perhaps the reason you are still seeing so many berries on the plants in your neighborhood is that "late winter" or an "emergency" have not yet arrived. If it's not a first choice for birds, and the weather has been mild this winter, they may still be feasting on berries that would ordinarily be frozen and gone by now. That's just speculation on our part; who can tell with birds?

It is, however, a good native choice for landscaping if you don't mind a deciduous holly. Everyone thinks of hollies as having those lovely, glossy, sharp-pointed leaves, and the winterberry is going to drop those in the winter. Another thing you should know about the winterberry is that it is dioecious, which means there must be two sexes available in order for berries to appear. The female has the berries, and you really only need one male around, but it needs to be within about 100 feet of the females. And, finally, before you make a decision to put these in your landscape, be aware that the berries are toxic to humans, especially small children.

You'll find more information in this article Winterberry Holly, Songbirds and the Winter Landscape.


Ilex verticillata

Ilex verticillata

 

 

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

Native plants to attract migrating birds
June 12, 2010 - Can you suggest native plants that would attract migrating birds? I have a very sunny location, with very sandy soil. Thanks in advance for your answer.
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a lizard terrarium
October 24, 2006 - My brother is setting up a terrarium for his lizard and wants advice on some species to put in the tank. He wants plants that generally fit the below description. Can you think of anything fairly c...
view the full question and answer

Attracting birds in Greenville, SC
April 15, 2009 - Hi, I live in Northeastern South Carolina near the mountains and I am making a shade garden in my back yard. I also want to attract birds to my yard. There are 100 ft tall and even some 125 ft tal...
view the full question and answer

Schedule for pollen and nectar for bees in Austin
May 27, 2010 - For beekeeping in western Travis County (Cuernavaca at Bee Caves) I need to know what nectar and pollen is flowing when. I have asked my local beekeeping club, but they are in Blackland Prairie and d...
view the full question and answer

Latin name for botany mist in McAllen TX
November 10, 2009 - What is the latin name or formal name of botany mist which is a Queen butterfly nectar source in the Rio Grande Valley?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center