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

Tuesday - January 12, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Birds attracted to wax myrtles in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello! We are considering planting Wax Myrtles in our relatively small SW Austin backyard. I'm excited about its ability to create quick privacy, but I was wondering specifically, what types of birds will its berries attract? Also, will we have a huge abundance of birds "taking over" or "fighting" for these berries in our yard and therefore, lots of bird poop under and around the trees? I want to know what we're "in for" before planting this tree that is so attractive to birds.

ANSWER:

We once read that the wax myrtle attracted 42 different species of birds, but have never found actual documentation of that factoid. We do know from research that the berries on these bushes attract warblers (including myrtle warblers), tree swallows, cardinals, mockingbirds, catbirds, chickadees, vireos, bob whites, flickers, robins and finches. That isn't 42, but about the best we can do. As for your questions about birds taking over or fighting over the berries, we think that is more likely to happen, especially in an urban situation, when you use birdseed feeders. Our personal experience is that the wax myrtle does not attract large birds, which would weigh down the very supple branches of Morella cerifera (wax myrtle). The plague for urban bird feeders is the dove and its relative, the pigeon, with the pigeons being far and away the most offensive. Pigeons are immigrants from Europe, imported to this continent to serve as food animals and message carriers. They will drive away the smaller birds and certainly leave a mess behind. Planting the wax myrtle in the garden will mean that whatever droppings there are will go into the soil as a natural fertilizer, instead of big splots on your porch. 

Now, on to the tricky part, getting berries on the plants you purchase at the nursery. The truth of the matter is, all of the wax myrtle plants at the nursery probably do have berries, because they are all females. Customers generally want the berries, because of the attractions to birds, and you may find it difficult to locate a male for purchase. The nursery trade reproduces many of the woody plants, including wax myrtle, by cloning, so that all the plants are females, exact copies of the parent plant.  As we mentioned, the plants at the nursery are likely all female; they have berries when they are placed in the nursery, because they have been pollinated in the growers' fields before being shipped to the nursery. However, comes the next Fall, with no nearby male, the females will have no berries, and will be indistinguishable from males. Both males and females bloom, only the pollinated female has berries. Generally, one male plant can pollinate any number of females within about a 40-ft. radius. Unfortunately, the nursery staff may not have a clue what you are talking about, and possibly will assure you the plants will all have berries. We would suggest you go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and consultants in your general area. They all have contact information and you can find out which ones either will have or can get you some male plants to assure your birds will have berries.  

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

 

 

 

 

 

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

Native annuals for pollinators in King County, Washington
February 06, 2014 - I live in King County, Washington State, and I have a plot in a community garden. Rather than plant food, I'd like to attract pollinators. I need to use native annuals rather than perennials as the c...
view the full question and answer

Little birds for Little Rock
March 21, 2005 - I would like to plant flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies like. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas. What do you suggest?
view the full question and answer

Plants for exotic pets
May 14, 2012 - I need to know what are some good native non-toxic plants for these species: Porcelain roach (Gyna lurida) from Kenya, Africa. Giant cave roach (Blaberus giganteus) from Central and South Americ...
view the full question and answer

Post-bloom period care for Pink evening primrose
June 28, 2011 - Hello, I live in Denton, TX. I introduced pink evening primrose as a ground cover to a xeriscaped section of my property a few years ago. I have pretty much left it alone and let it do its thing an...
view the full question and answer

Duck-resistant plants for pond in California
March 31, 2005 - I want to plant around a water pond and I need some plants that my ducks will not destroy. Please help.
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center