Tag Archives: birds

Fast Growing Privacy Screen: Wax Myrtle

Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera or Morella cerifera) a.k.a. Southern Bayberry is an evergreen, which is native to the U.S. It is versatile and will work for most landscapes. It can be used alone as a specimen or group together to form quick growing hedges or privacy screen.

Makes a great specimen alone or grouped as a privacy screen

Makes a great specimen alone or grouped as a privacy screen

Wax myrtle has multiple stems growing from a common root collar. Left unpruned, it will become a multitrunk tree, which can reach heights of 25 feet but is normally maintained at 10 to 15 feet.

Female plants produce prolific amounts of berries to feed wildlife

Female plants produce prolific amounts of berries to feed wildlife

Propagation is by underground runners, which extend the growth laterally.  Seed germination is possible if the waxy coating is removed. This likely occurs in the digestive systems of birds that eat the berries so it is possible that birds help provide “propagation by nature” in disturbed areas or along fences where they rest.

“Wax-myrtle is a popular ornamental because it grows quickly, responds well to pruning, and is heavily clothed in attractive evergreen foliage.”

It has the ability to grow in a variety of habitats but prefers moist, sandy soils and is a great addition for areas that may experience flooding, yet it proves to be a wonderful, drought-tolerant species once established. It is also salt-tolerant, does well in full sun to partial shade but the growth will be considerably thinner in total shade.  It is recommended for street planting especially beneath powerlines because it looks great in any shape. It is hurricane wind resistant.

It provides excellent cover for wildlife. Wild turkey, bob-white quail, various waterfowl, catbirds, thrashers, bluebirds, vireos, warblers, tree swallows, squirrels and other mammals are some of the species who rely on its berries as a winter food source. Mockingbirds use it to build well hidden nests albeit some of them prove to be “decoy” nests apparently set up to throw off other birds or the birds of prey.

birds find nesting cover within the branches of Wax Myrtle

birds find nesting cover within the branches of Wax Myrtle

It is dioecious and only female plants have fruits provided there is a male nearby for pollination. It has subtle yet pretty blooms in the spring. It is a larval host for Red-banded Hairstreak Butterfly, which use the leaf litter below the plant as the host, another good reason to leave your leaves in place. It is a larval host for the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) and serves as a nesting zone for yellow garden spiders and other beneficial creepy crawlies.

colorful blooms

colorful blooms

It’s functional uses transcend into the home as the wax coated fruits can be used to make scented candles and the leaves can be used to make a pale yellow shade of dye. Although there is no scientific proof that it repels fleas, my dogs have not been treated with chemicals and yet they have no fleas. On the one occasion that I did see fleas, I made an infusion from the leaves and sprayed the dogs. The next day the fleas were gone.  If you crush the leaves and rub them on your arms and legs it will repel biting flies.

Glorious scents and thick greens make it a nice tabletop bouquet

Glorious scents and thick greens make it a nice tabletop bouquet

This plant does have two minor downsides, although they are quite workable and certainly don’t warrant passing this beauty up:  It should not be planted too close to structures as it has oils contained in the leaves that could ignite in a fire. It is larval host for what is considered to be the most toxic stinging caterpillar in the United States, the puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis). The caterpillars are hardly prolific and can be easily swept into a container while wearing gloves and moved to an untravelled area of your yard.

Warblers flock to Myrica cerifera to feast on waxy berries

Warblers flock to Myrica cerifera to feast on waxy berries

Wax Myrtle gives a myriad of wildlife entertainment and other benefits to those who choose it for their landscapes.

There will be a great selection of Florida Native Plants to provide biodiversity in your yard at the 4th Annual Central Florida Native Plant Sale.  A follow-up to the Florida Association of Native Nurseries Trade Show each year at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, this years’ event takes place on Thursday and Friday March 31 and April 1 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday April 2 from 9 a.m. until noon.

Loret 2016

References:

Van Deelen, Timothy R. 1991. Myrica cerifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2016, March 20].

Loret T. Setters. Wildly Wonderous Wax Myrtle, Beautiful Wildlife Garden. 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/20101205083930/http://www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/wildly-wonderous-wax-myrtle.html

Florida Native Plant Society. http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/myrica-cerifera

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Attract Hummingbirds with Red Flowering Florida Native Plants

Hummingbirds are attracted to red colored flowering plants, and are especially fond of tubular flowers.

Coral Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera sempervirens)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Coral Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera sempervirens), a Florida Native Plant

Some great Florida native plants to attract hummingbirds include, but are not limited to: Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea), Southern Beeblossom (Oenothera simulans), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Tampa Verbain (Glandularia tampensis), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Coral bean (Erythrina herbacea), Standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), Scarlet Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

Some great Florida native vines include, but are not limited to: Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata), Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) and Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).

I personally have witnessed Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds nectaring at a few other plants in my garden. In the purple family: Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum var. lanceolatum) and Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea); and the red bracts (top leaves) of Wild Poinsettia (Poinsettia cyathophora) also draws them in.

There will be a great selection of Florida Native Plants that meet the criteria to attract hummingbirds and a variety of other birds at the 4th Annual Central Florida Native Plant Sale.  A follow-up to the Florida Association of Native Nurseries Trade Show each year at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, this years’ event takes place on Thursday and Friday March 31 and April 1 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday April 2 from 9 a.m. until noon.

Loret March 2016

References:

Univ. of Florida IFAS Extension, Hummingbirds of Florida, Publication #WEC21. 2015. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw059

Marianne Cowley. Native Plant Families for Hummingbirds, Your Florida Backyard.  1997-2015. http://www.nsis.org/garden/bird-plants-nectar-family.html

Florida Native Plant Society, http://fnps.org/

Morus rubra (RED MULBERRY)

jennymulberry
Photo © Jenny Welch

Mulberry is a medium sized tree which is deciduous AND delicious.

Plant tree in areas where fallen fruit will not be an issue, or just be quick about it and pick the fruit to make muffins before it falls.

Wildlife interaction: fruits feed birds (cedar waxwing pictured) and mammals (including humans); attracts pollinators.

Learn more:  http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/morus-rubra

Pinus palustris (LONGLEAF PINE)

GreenpineconeMay2013

These evergreen, hurricane resistant trees reach a massive height of up to 120 ft.

LongleafPineFullJan2013Wildlife interaction: 68 species of bird utilize this species and it provides habitat and food for mammals. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/pinpal/all.html

The enormous cones make great christmas decorations or the base for a natural bird feeder.  This tree goes through several years in a grass stage and then a few years in a “bottlebrush” stage.

Grass stage

Grass stage

Learn more:  http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/pinus-palustris

bottlebrush stage

bottlebrush stage

Myrica cerifera (SOUTHERN BAYBERRY; WAX MYRTLE)

waxmyrtle053010If you have room for only one shrub, make it Bayberry. A wildlife playground. Extremely versatile, evergreen, dioecious shrubs can be used as a specimen, screen, or trim as a hedge.

femalewaxmyrtle093010Wildlife interaction: berries feed numerous species including Bluebirds, warblers, bobwhites and wild turkey. It is a host plant for countless moth caterpillars which in turn provide food for native wasps and bees. Cover and nesting site for many species as well.

waxmyrtlebudforblogFlowers attract bees and other pollinators. added bonus? cull the wax from the berries to make candles!

Learn more:  http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/myrcer/all.html

Sambucus spp. (AMERICAN ELDER; ELDERBERRY)

elderberryMar2014Bright creamy flowers give way to small juicy fruits atop Elderberry shrubs which can be used as a specimen with a height of 10-15ft or trimmed as  shrub or to thicken as a screen.  Moist location.

Shown is Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis

Wildlife interaction: fruits feed more than 50 species of birds including robin, mockingbird, catbird, bobwhite, doves and wild turkey.

Flowers attract bees and other pollinators.

Learn more:  http://www.fnps.org/plants/plant/sambucus-nigra-subsp-canadensis