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SMALL TREES THAT WILL BRING FALL COLORS TO BACKYARDS

We Georgians know the fall foliage show in north Georgia far and away surpasses anything seen elsewhere in the Peach State.  However, there are a number of small native trees that grow throughout the state that display breathtaking fall foliage.  With that in mind, when planted in yard settings they can provide you and your family with a taste of fall color without making the trek to the mountains. 
FLOWERING DOGWOOD FALL FOLIAGE & BERRIES
Here is a short list of some of the small to medium-sized trees that you might want to consider will produce bright splotches in your backyard.
        Flowering Dogwood – Although this tree is well known for its beautiful spring blossoms, its fall foliage is stunning.  In autumn, the tree’s elliptical leaves vary from red to maroon.  Its bright red berries add immeasurably to the flowering dogwood’s autumn portrait.
        Sourwood – The fall color of this tree is bright red, and accented with clusters of green.
        Redbud – The redbud is plant more often for its purplish pink early spring flowers that its foliage.  However, in autumn, the tree’s heart-shaped leaves turn greenish yellow.
        Sassafras – The leaves of this small tree father either one or two lobes.  The two-lobed leaves look much like mittens.  Regardless of their shape, their red, yellow, or orange color rivals anything we see in the state.
        Blackgum – In addition to bearing bright red foliage in fall, this tree is a great source of food for many species of wildlife.

CORAL HONEYSUCKLE BERRIES PROVIDE FOOD FOR BACKYARD BIRDS

Most homeowners are familiar with the coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens).  This honeysuckle is often referred to as the “good” honeysuckle.  It is so named because folks want to make sure it is not confused with the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle.

       Coral honeysuckle is a native evergreen vine that  bears long, bright red tubular-shaped flowers throughout much of the year.  These nectar-laden flowers are visited by ruby-throated hummingbirds and butterflies such as the cloudless sulphur.

       What is less known is the plant also produces red berries that are eaten by songbirds and other wildlife. 

While this hardy vine does not produce an abundance of berries, they sometimes provide much needed food  during times when berries are often scarce such as during late fall and winter.      

THE GRANCY GRAYBEARD DESERVES A PLACE IN YOUR YARD

 

The Grancy Graybeard, also known as the fringe tree, grandfather graybeard, snow flower tree, old man’s beard and a number of other colorful names is a perfect addition to both large and small yards across the state.

The grancy graybeard is one of the last flowering trees to bloom each spring in the Peach State.  For the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been enjoying both the tree’s strikingly beautiful blossoms and aroma produced by a myriad of flowers.

This small native tree grows only ten to thirty feet tall.  I personally have never seen one more than fifteen feet tall.

       Before the tree’s oblong leaves appear, a riot of snow-white flowers erupt on its bare branches.  This startlingly beautiful floral show is created by literally thousands of slender flowers (up to an inch long and 1/16th of an inch wide).  Oddly, the male flowers are larger than the female blooms.

       If that isn’t enough to catch your attention, the delicate, sweet, clean perfume given off by these flowers will.  When in full bloom, the delicate sweet scent of the blossoms will waft many yards away from the tree.

       These unique blooms attract nectar feeders such as small beetles, bees and others.

       Later in the year female trees, bear a crop of blackish-blue fruit that are gobbled up by mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays and other wildlife.

       In addition, this demure tree is a host plant for both rustic and laurel sphinx moths.

       This tree requires little, if any care.  Although it does best in moist, rich soils, once established it will grow in dry areas too.  The tree’s ability to live in both partial shade and full sun is another plus.

       With that in mind, I hope you will consider adding it to your landscape.  This tree is definitely a keeper.

 

 

      

BACKYARD SECRET–SWEETGUM LOGS WERE ONCE USED AS CANNONS

The sweetgum is a common forest and backyard tree throughout Georgia. This valuable tree provides us with striking fall color, is a host plant for 30 species of butterflies and moths, produces food for a broad spectrum of wildlife ranging from American goldfinches and wood ducks to white tailed deer, and is also used to make medicine, plywood, furniture, and veneer.

However, would you believe that sweetgum logs were once employed as cannons during the Civil War?

 

sweetgum-leaves-in-autumn-1

Cannon barrels fashioned from sweetgum logs were not widely used. However, historians have reported that in 1865 the thirty-third Missouri Volunteers manned a battery of seven sweetgum log cannons at Spanish Fort, Alabama; they were nicknamed The Sweetgum Battery.  Six of the cannons fired six-pound shells. The other cannon shot a twelve-pounder.  It has been said that these cannons could accurately strike targets 500-600 yards away.

BACKYARD SECRET: POISON IVY BERRIES ARE EATEN BY BIRDS?

POISON IVY LEAVES

POISON IVY LEAVES

It is true, the fruit and berries of the plant we love to hate are great fall and winter foods for a number of our favorite backyard birds including:  the eastern bluebird, gray catbird, Carolina chickadee, American crow, northern flicker, dark-eyed junco, eastern phoebe, sparrows (fox, white-crowned, and white-throated), brown thrasher, hermit thrush, tufted titmouse, cedar waxwing, woodpeckers (downy, hairy, pileated, and red-bellied), and Carolina wren.

BEAUTYBERRIES MAKE BIRDS AND HUMANS TAKE NOTICE

Cardinal partaking on the American Beautyberry plant

Cardinal partaking on the American Beautyberry plant

Throughout most of the year, the American beautyberry is a native shrub that goes unnoticed. However, from the moment its fruits begin to ripen in late summer, birds and humans find them impossible to ignore.

The American beautyberry’s gaudy, bright lavender-colored fruit seemingly advertise themselves to resident and migratory birds alike. When migrating songbirds stop and begin looking for food to fuel their fall migration, being able to find nutritious food quickly is extremely important. This enables the birds to expend a minimum amount of energy and time before resuming their southward trek.

Since beautyberries will remain on the shrub well into winter, they also provide food for birds when it is often scarce.

Beautyberries are eaten by a number of our backyard favorites such as American Robins, Baltimore Orioles, Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Towhees, Wood Thrushes, Northern Cardinals, Gray Catbirds, and Brown Thrashers.

In exchange for serving as a source of food for birds, the plants have their seeds scattered widely when the feathered diners expel them in their droppings.

In my yard, mockingbirds vigorously defend fruit-laden American beautyberry plants from other birds. Late one summer, two Baltimore Orioles landed on a hummingbird feeder hanging outside my office. Their sudden appearance provided me with a perfect opportunity to photograph these handsome birds. However, just as I was about to snap my first picture, a mockingbird, that had been defending a nearby beautyberry bush, swooped down on the orioles and scared them away.

In backyard settings, American beautyberries can be planted in a shrubby border or as an occasional shrub.

They can be grown in a wide range of soils, as well as in both partial shade and full sun. In addition, they require much less water than many ornamental plants. In my yard, they are growing in sunny locations with their roots anchored in dry, hard Georgia red clay.

Most beautyberry plantings are established using containerized plants or pass-along plants obtained from a friend. Beautyberry plants can, however, be propagated from both cuttings and seeds.

Beautyberries typically grow four-feet tall in shade and eight-feet tall in full sun. Although it is not necessary to prune the plant, if pruning carried out in late winter, berry yields will be increased since berries are produced on new wood.

The plant’s attractive dark-green foliage turns yellow to reddish-purple in autumn.

The beautyberry’s small flowers are pale, lilac-colored. However, its unusual, brightly colored berries and pleasing fall foliage make it an attractive landscape planting. As such, if you are looking for wildlife food plant that will also provide a touch of unusual fall color, the American beautyberry may just be the ticket.