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BACKYARD SECRET: Native Americans Were The First To Discover Purple Martins Would Nest in Gourds

        When the first European settlers arrived in what is now the Southeastern United States they found gourds (sometimes called calabashes) erected nearby many Native American villages.  The gourds were hung near the encampments in an attempt to attract nesting purple martins.  They knew nesting martins would vigorously defend their nest sites from any bird perceived to be a threat to their eggs or young.  By so doing, the large swallows would inadvertently help keep crows, vultures, and hawks from stealing drying meat and hides hung near the gourds used as nest sites.

       The new settlers were quick to adopt this practice and erected gourds and later manmade martin houses around their own homes. 

       The famous naturalist and painter John James Audubon noted in his journals that he could always tell the fineness of an inn’s accommodations by the quality of the martin housing provided by the tavern’s proprietor.

BACKYARD SECRET: DOGWOOD BLOSSOMS ARE NOT WHITE

To generations of Georgians, and all of the other folks that consider the blossom of flowering dogwood to be a symbol of spring, it might come as a surprise to learn that an argument can be made the flowers of this iconic tree are not actually white.

       The experts base this claim on the fact that the creamy, white petals that are the focal point of one of Nature’s most beautiful floral creations are not petals at all.  These petal-like structures are technically bracts.  The tree’s small flowers form the greenish-yellow button-like structure located at the center of the bracts.

       Although, I know plant experts are correct in making a distinction between bracts and petals, I am also certain the most people will continue to believe flowering dogwood flowers are white and not yellow.

 

10 TOP NATIVE HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR PLANTS

When most gardeners think about adding plants that provide nectar to hummingbirds to their gardens, often native plants are overlooked.

There are many reasons why natives are desirable additions to any garden.  These special plants help restore the diversity of native plants to the areas where they are planted. This is extremely important to the untold numbers of animals that depend on native plants for their survival. They are also as attractive as ornamentals, are often drought tolerant, more resistant to insect pests, and require little, if any pruning.

I hope you will add some of the 10 of the plants listed below to your garden.  Believe me, if you do, you will soon be wondering why you did not do so years ago.    

Bee Balm (Oswego Tea) (Monarda didyma) – Type of Plant – perennial; Height – 1 to 5 feet;  Blooms – June to September; Soil – moist to well drained;  Light – full sun to partial shade.

 

Buckeye, Red (Aesculus pavia) – Type of Plant – shrub or small tree; Height – 20+ feet;  Blooms – March to May;  Soil – well drained, moist soil types are best;  Light – partial shade to full sun.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) – Type of Plant– short-lived perennial; Height – 1-8 feet; Blooms – midsummer; Soil – well-drained, moist to dry soil types;  Light – full sun to partial shade.

Columbine, Eastern (Aquilegia canadensis) – Type of Plant – short-lived perennial;  Height – 1-3 feet; Blooms – late winter to early spring; Soil – well drained, moist; Light – partial shade to partial sun.

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – Type of Plant  – Perennial vine;  Length – 16 feet; Blooms – mainly March – September, will bloom throughout most of the year in some locales;  Soil – moist to dry soils; Light – full sun to light shade.

Horsemint (Monarda fistulosa) – Type of Plant  – perennial;  Height – 1 to 5 feet;  Blooms – June to September;  Soil – dry to well drained;  Light – partial shade to full sun.

Jewelweed  (Touch-Me-Not) (Impatiens capensis) – Type of Plant – Annual herb;  Height – 2 to 5 feet;  Blooms – May to October;  Soil – well drained, moist;  Light – shade to partial sun.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) – Type of Plant -shrub to small tree;  Height –  up to 35 feet;  Blooms – late winter to early spring;  Soil – dry to well drained;  Light – partial shade to full sun.

Sage, Scarlet (Salvia coccinea)  – Type of Plant – Annual; Height – 2 to 3 feet;  Blooms – from late spring throughout the summer; Soil – dry to moist well drained; Light – full sun.

Trumpet Creeper (Hummingbird Vine) (Campsis radicans) – Type of Plant – woody vine;  Length – 36 or more feet; Blooms – summer;  Soil – moist to dry; Light – light shade to full sun.

Help Hummingbirds and Other Native Wildlife

If you are interested in helping hummingbirds, butterflies and other Georgia wildlife, earn certification in the Community Wildlife Project’s Hummingbird Haven and Gardening with Georgia Native Plants initiatives.  For more information contact:  Melissa Hayes at 478-994-1438 or melissa.hayes@dnr.ga.gov

BACKYARD SECRET: MANY SPECIES DINE AT OUR FEEDERS

       More than 350 species of birds are known to visit backyard feeders in North America.  Some 170 species regularly dine at feeders.       

       These astounding numbers were derived from data collected by the thousands of citizen scientists that have participated in Project FeederWatch.

       This ongoing study is sponsored by The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada, The National Audubon Society, and The Canadian Nature Federation.

       How many species of birds do you feed at your feeders?

AN EASY WAY TO LEARN BIRD SONGS AND CALLS

Over the past few weeks, birds have been serenading us with a chorus of songs.  More often than not, we never catch a glimpse of the songsters that are filling the air with their pleasing notes.  This can be frustrating if we cannot identify birds by their songs and calls.

       Learning to identify the vocalizations of birds can seem impossible when you consider Georgia is home to hundreds of species of birds.  For many, the easiest way to begin learning bird songs and calls is to translate these sounds into words.

       If you are interested in trying this technique, here is a short list of translations you might find helpful.

Northern Cardinal – cheer, cheer, cheer; purty, purty, purty or

what-cheer, what-cheer, what-cheer

Eastern Bluebird – cheer, cheerful, charmer

Eastern Towhee – drink-your-teeee  or tow-whee

Tufted Titmouse – peter, peter, peter

BACKYARD SECRET: BLUEBIRDS NESTING

        In Georgia, bluebirds will begin nesting as early as late February.  However, throughout most of the state, bluebirds typically do not initiate nesting until March.    

       Bluebird expert Ron Lee has recorded bluebirds nesting on his property located just south of Atlanta in Henry County as early as the second week in March.

       It is obvious; if you have been planning to put up a bluebird box or two, do not delay any longer.