One of the reasons I enjoy watching wildlife in my yard is every time I walk out the backdoor I have a chance of making a new discovery.  It does not matter whether or not anybody else has made this discovery elsewhere.  The important thing is it is new to me.  Finding it in my own yard makes it extra special. 

       I would like to take a moment to tell you about my most recent discovery.

       Each year my wife scatters globe amaranth seeds in large containers sitting on our deck.  She grows globe amaranth because it bears beautiful flowers that attract a bevy of different wild pollinators such as butterflies.  In addition, the plant does not require a lot of water, plant pests rarely bother it, and it blooms profusely from summer into autumn.

       For weeks, we have been noticing the papery remains of tiny amaranth blooms littering the deck and nearby rail alongside one of our pots containing globe amaranth plants.  We suspected that birds were the responsible for the scattered flowers.  Our suspicion proved to be correct.  Recently while I was drinking my second cup of coffee and gazing out the window over the kitchen sink, I saw a group of globe amaranth plants violently shaking.  When I focused my attention on those particular plants I realized a female cardinal had landed on them and was pulling apart their globe shaped flower heads.  After tearing apart several blossoms to reach the tiny seeds hidden inside, the bird snipped off an entire flower head and flew away.  Shortly thereafter a male cardinal arrived and ate his fare share of the globe amaranth seeds.

       Wow!  To say the least, we are elated to find that a container full of globe amaranth plants provides foods for butterflies, bees, butterflies, and cardinals.  Who knows what else is visiting our globe amaranth plants?  What I do know is we are going continue watching the plants in hopes of discovering if anything else is benefitting from them.


  1. Thank you for another educational, smile-producing post. I enjoy all your writing and observations and have learned so much from you!

  2. Hi Terry,

    I,too, grow globe amaranth each year. Most of the time, as is the case this year, volunteer seedlings sprout so I don’t have to resow. I have noticed the last two or three years that cardinals and even English sparrows pick and pull at the dried seed heads often. {We haven’t had English sparrows until the last two years for decades!} I have observed cardinals eating dred seed heads from crape mrytle the last few years.
    I recently noticed on the Shady Oak butterfly farm site that they have small partridge pea seedlings for sale. They’re located in Brooker, FL.

    Thanks for all your great columns and observations.

    • William,

      It is always good to hear from you. Thanks for the information about globe amaranth & the birds that eat the seeds. Also, I am going to share the tip regarding the partridge pea see with others.


  3. We have a lot of young cardinals in our yard. This year I have a red geranium in a pot that is several feet below a humming bird feeder. the young cardinals come to the flower pot and pick off the individual petals of the the flowers. I have never seen the before. I wonder if some of the sugar water has dripped on the flowers and that is what they like? There is another geranium across the patio but I have not seen the birds on that plant.

    • Katherine,

      I have never heard of cardinals eating geranium petals; however, I know the eat the petals of many plants. Perhaps the sugar water makes them more appealing to the birds. Who knows?


  4. I started leaving the post flowering stalks of black-eyed Susans after seeing goldfinches feeding on them a few years ago

    • Camm,

      Thanks for the information regarding black-eyed Susans. It is amazing how opportunistic birds can be.


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