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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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Friday - July 13, 2012

From: Port Aransas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Planting, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees, Vines, Wildflowers
Title: Bird-friendly plants for the Texas coast
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I'm interested in starting a native plant garden, specifically with an eye towards providing food (either from the plants or insects that are attracted to the plants) for migratory birds. However, since I do live on a barrier island, my yard is primarily sand and full sun. I am a novice gardener, so suggestions for how to get things started would be great!

ANSWER:

Congratulations on your decision to help our migratory birds.  The very best thing you could do is to make a welcoming spot for the songbirds that arrive on our shores every spring after a non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico of as many as 18 hours.  They often come down exhausted at the first place that offers cover, food and water.  Assuming that there are no such sites in your neighborhood, I would urge you to begin by planting trees and shrubs for shelter.  An excellent guide for planting is the Houston Audubon Society web site. The Houston Audubon Society has long been caretaker of the preserves at High Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, which are famous among birders. 

Two especially good trees are the Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) and the Morus rubra (Red mulberry).  These are just producing juicy fruit and hosting insects when the annual waves of migrants arrive in April.  Other trees and shrubs are described on the web site as well as useful grasses and herbs.  If you are in this for the long run, also plant Quercus virginiana (Coastal live oak), a long-lived but slow growing tree.  Help in getting your plants started is available at this web site.

Scanning the list of suppliers in your vicinity as listed on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web site should help you locate the plants of your choice.  Native plant seeds are available at Native American Seed and other local suppliers.

 

From the Image Gallery


Sugar hackberry
Celtis laevigata

Red mulberry
Morus rubra

Coastal live oak
Quercus virginiana

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