Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 05, 2011

From: Harlingen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Bird-friendly plants for South Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Which are the best plants that provide food (perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines) to attract birds to my backyard garden? (I have water and cover and would like to make sure I have the 10 best plants to add to attract birds, especially cardinal and oriole.) Thank you!

ANSWER:

You are fortunate to live in an area having such colorful and intresting birds. As you probably know, bird-watching is also big business in South Texas. Birders come from all around the world to see birds like the Altamira and Audubon Orioles, which occur only in the southern border areas of the United States. Mr. Smarty Plants was surprised to find so little published advice on how local residents can enhance their communities as birding hot spots.

Since you have two essentials, water and cover, let me concentrate on the food requirements. Orioles and Cardinals love most kinds of fruit.  Non-native fruit, such as figs and plums, will be welcomed by these birds.  The Altamira and Audubon Orioles love to forage in dense thickets. You might consider whether you should increase your cover with something like Forestiera pubescens (Stretchberry) (or elbowbush), which provides berries as well as cover.  A number of other bird friendly plants are listed among natives in the book A Field Guide to Common South Texas Shrubs, by R. B. Taylor, J. Rutledge, and J. G. Herrera.  This book may be available at your local library.

Among other listed natives in the book are the following: Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) (early spring berries), Rubus flagellaris (Northern dewberry) (spring berries), Morus microphylla (Littleleaf mulberry) (berries in spring), Ehretia anacua (Anacua) (summer food),  Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive) (Hummingbirds, late summer fruit), Schaefferia cuneifolia (Desert yaupon) (winter berries), Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood) (cover, attracts insects, seeds), Colubrina texensis (Hog-plum) (fall and winter fruit and seeds, cover), Ulmus crassifolia (Cedar elm) (fall seeds) and Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry).  A variety such as this would provide food and cover for many species of songbirds, including orioles and Cardinals, throughout the year.  Other native species suitable for South Texas are shown on a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web site. You can obtain many of these plants and also additional advice at one of the suppliers also listed on our web site.  The Rancho Lomitas Plant Nursery, in particular, has several of them in stock.

Good luck, and thanks for helping to preserve our colorful birds.

 

From the Image Gallery


Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Elbow bush
Forestiera pubescens

Texas mulberry
Morus microphylla

Anacua
Ehretia anacua

Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

Desert yaupon
Schaefferia cuneifolia

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

Texas hog plum
Colubrina texensis

Cedar elm
Ulmus crassifolia

Sugar hackberry
Celtis laevigata

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

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

Creating a wildlife refuge
January 30, 2003 - We would like to make my yard more of a wildlife refuge by using a portion of the lawn for plants and shrubs and may afford shelter for birds and other wildlife. Can you please recommend what we shoul...
view the full question and answer

Hummingbird plants and Indian Hawthorn
May 13, 2008 - I live in The Woodlands in a new section of homes. I planted some hummingbird plants in full sun and they did ok last year for 4 months, then lost all their leaves and died when the winter came. At ...
view the full question and answer

Keeping bugs out of a Texas home
June 29, 2015 - I'm slowly growing my gardens into natural habitats for birds, bees, butterflies and other little critters but would like to keep them outside of my house. Being in central Texas it is difficult to ...
view the full question and answer

Planting for parrots
March 23, 2005 - I have 2 parrots, a sun conure and a nanday conure, and I would like to find some plants to put in their aviary room that are safe for parrots. Can you help me with this question?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.