The Dirty Dozen vs the Birdy Dozen
2021 Photo Contest Winner
Congratulations to Larry G. Laird for his winning submission of American Cancer-root, Conopholis americana, taken on May 17, 2021 at Michaux Forest.
Click here to view all the entries - so many gorgeous photos!!
What is a Native?
A native plant is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. We consider the flora present at the time Europeans arrived in North America as the species native to the eastern United States. Native plants include all kinds of plants from mosses and ferns to wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
Because native plants are adapted to the growing conditions where you live, they are often easier to grow, and less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants. Many Non-native plants are also invasive, and threaten out our native plant species.
Red Chokeberry's Time to Shine!
When people think of a red-fruited shrub for winter garden interest, winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) often comes to mind. And while winterberry is a wonderful native shrub, another option for flashy winter color is red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). The brilliant red fruits of red chokeberry are called pomes (same as apples and pears) and form in graceful dangling clusters in autumn. Being somewhat low in fat and protein, birds don't line up early for the chokeberry buffet. This means humans can enjoy their colorful beauty longer since they tend to adorn the branches into mid to late winter. Eventually when the more desirable foods are gone, the pomes provide a late winter and early spring food source for birds and small mammals.
Red chokeberry can be leggy and spread quite a bit due to suckering, so it fits nicely in a naturalized setting. It's a hardy shrub that grows 6-10' tall and 3-6' wide. It appreciates acidic moist soil in a sunny spot and will even grow in boggy areas and survive occasional flooding. Red chokeberry is a very adaptable plant that can also be found in the forest understory and in dry thickets. The shrubs do need protected from deer and rabbits when young.
The beauty and wildlife value of red chokeberry isn't limited to winter. Its masses of spring blooming white flowers provide nectar and pollen to butterflies, flower flies, and native bees such as mason, miner, and bumblebees. The plant is also a host for several species of moths and hairstreak butterflies and provides food for their caterpillars. Red chokeberry sports shiny green leaves through summer and displays brilliant fall foliage in shades of orange, red, and purple.
If you have the space to let red chokeberry spread to form a colony as it often occurs in the wild, the masses of flowers and fruits will provide a showstopping display. Whether grown as a specimen or in a colony, red chokeberry makes a beautiful statement in all four seasons.
If you have a favorite plant or photo, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for a future publication.
Article and photo courtesy of Karen Smith
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PNPS is committed to supporting programs and events advocating for the use of native plants. Money obtained from memberships and donations go to the following:
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