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Wednesday - April 15, 2009

From: Greenville, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Attracting birds in Greenville, SC
Answered by: Janice Kvale


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 tall white oaks, Sweetgum, Tuliptrees, and Hickories in and around my yard. I want some plants that would provide good roosting areas for birds in the shade of these trees. We have a red cedar, but no birds roost in it. We want native species ONLY in our yard! Can you suggest some trees and/or shrubs for this?


Absolutely! What a wonderful canopy you must have. Mr. Smarty Plants bets you already have birds roosting in those trees. Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar) should be attracting cedar waxwings and other birds that are after the berries. The birds may be so high you can't appreciate them. So, let's entice them down with some native understory trees and shrubs that produce treats birds love. Consider, too, the butterflies that may be attracted also as a bonus (and possibly bird food!) There are four things that account for the kind of trees or shrubs best for your site. First, consider the ecology of the area. Then, what is the topography? You are near mountains, suggesting you may have a sloping site. Next, what type of soil is in the area? Your local library may have a soil survey of your area, or check this USDA website to access a soil survey for Greenville County. Last, look at the native small trees and shrubs growing naturally in your general area for what will thrive on your site. Because you are investing in native trees, you will have fewer pest and disease problems and greater success with your project.

Explore the South Carolina Native Plant Society website for great information on local trees, shrubs, and the wildlife they may atract. Lists of trees, shrubs and vines in your state that are attractive to birds may also be found at the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Tennessee Valley Authority Technology Administration, and the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Confirm the characteristics of your choices by following the plant links below for pages on each individual plant.

Envision your personal forest with a selection of understory trees complemented by a lower level of shrubs. The following selection of small trees, followed by a list of shorter shrubs, constitutes only a few of the possibilities. All of these trees and shrubs thrive in shady, dry sites, attract birds and other wildlife and are native to South Carolina. 

Understory trees

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)

Ptelea trifoliata (common hoptree)

Morus rubra (red mulberry)

Ostrya virginiana (hophornbeam)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Cornus alternifolia (alternateleaf dogwood)

Sorbus americana (American mountain ash) - Watch out for this beauty; birds are said to get drunk on the berries, so if you see birds staggering on the ground, cage the cat.


Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush)

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Hypericum prolificum (shrubby St. Johnswort)

Viburnum rafinesquianum (downy arrowwood)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Amelanchier laevis

Ptelea trifoliata

Morus rubra

Ostrya virginiana

Cercis canadensis

Cornus alternifolia

Sorbus americana

Lindera benzoin

Physocarpus opulifolius

Rhus aromatica

Hypericum prolificum

Viburnum rafinesquianum

Callicarpa americana







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