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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.

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

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Monday - March 22, 2004

From: Concord, NH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Bird attracting plants in Northeast U.S.
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What plants will attract birds in zone 6 (Northeast) in the spring and early summer?

ANSWER:

Let's start with petal color and attracting a specific bird--the hummingbird. Pretty much anything with red flowers will attract them. A few examples are: red columbines (Aquilega canadensis), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and red trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). The honeysuckle also qualifies as an attractant for its nectar. Plants in the Aster Family have attractive flowers and will also provide seeds for birds. For example, goldfinches are very partial to thistle seeds, such as the native thistles (Cirsium sp.). Another possibility in the Aster Family are native sunflowers. Ornamental native grasses are a great source of seeds for birds as well. They don't usually ripen until late summer or early fall, however. For Zone 6, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) are all good choices. You might look at the New England Wildflower Societyweb page and check "Native Seeds--Catalog and Advice". They have native plant seeds and plants available to purchase for the New England area. Their descriptions of the plants give information about their wildlife attraction. Also, on that web page you can select "Links" and then select "Native Plant Society Database" to find a list of Native Plant Societies in the US and Canada to look for the Native Plant Society nearest you. For instance, the Connecticut Botanical Society web page has a very good section on "Gardening with Native Plants".

 

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