Shrubs for wildlife

kelpJanuary 18, 2013

My daughter recently moved from a yard with clay soil to one with sandy soil. She would like to attract more birds to her yard, including wild turkeys that are known to be in the area. Does anyone know of native shrubs bearing berries, fruit, or nuts that can tolerate sandy soil? Most will be in full sun. She's in zone 6A, in eastern MA.

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lycopus(z5 NY)

Common and trailing junipers
American filbert
Blueberries (especially lowbush)
Sand cherry (Prunus pumila)
Scrub oak
Carolina rose

There are also lots of perennial plants that like sandy soil, like strawberry.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 1:00PM
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Thank you! I'll pass the list on to her.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 3:07PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Kelp!

Also consider Northern Bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica). Would be perfect for the conditions you describe.

American hazelnut (Corylus americana) prefers a loamier soil, but would probably do okay in a sandy soil, as long as you water well while getting established and add some compost.

New Jersey Tea/Ceanothus americanus doesn't make berries, but it's very tolerant of lean and dry soil, and makes pretty fragrant white flowers that attract butterflies. NPIN says "turkey and quail consume seeds".

I have well drained sandy loam on my lot and it can be enriched with compost and organic matter so that it will accomodate plants that prefer richer soil, to some degree.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Turkeys, by the way, love to eat blueberries/blackberries/raspberries, acorns and BUGS. Bugs are high in protein and are an important of the diet of many, many birds. In fact some birds are almost exclusively insectivores.

Turkeys enjoy poking through heavy leaf litter to find bugs, so be sure to encourage her to have plenty of leaf litter.

Encourage her to research plants that act as host plants for insects: oaks are probably number one when it comes to butterflies/moths laying eggs on them. Caterpillars are an important source of food for baby birds.

Here is a link pointing to some of Doug Tallamy's research; she should definitely read his book "Bringing Nature Home" to learn more.

Here is a link that might be useful: top 20 plants for caterpillars

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Thanks, everyone. I'm sending her this entire post. : )

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 1:16PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)


Hollies, hollies, hollies! There are many choices, and most are coastal plants and do fine in sandy soils. Consider Ilex opaca, Ilex glabra, and Ilex verticillata for starters.

I'll second/third/fourth/fifth the oaks recommendation. Not only do they provide host material for a lot of native insects that support bird life, the genus Quercus has a lot of members that produce the acorns/mast that Wild Turkey populations thrive on.

All the members of the Dogwood group (Cornus sp.) will provide plenty of fruit - and all the other enjoyments of showy ornamental native plants.

FINALLY: I would be all but remiss to not put in a plea for my passion - Viburnums. Where to start? Where to end? V. nudum, V. cassinoides, V. dentatum, V. recognitum, V. lantanoides, V. trilobum - not a bad plant in the bunch.

You can NEVER have too many Viburnums...

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Thanks, Viburnumvalley. I forwarded the info.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 12:39AM
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I've been researching a similar question. How wet is the area?

Cranberry (likes moist sand)
Bearberry (likes dry salty sand)
American Holly. (Easy to Plant)
Virginia Rose (Flowers, fruit, sand tolerant)

If you plant blackberry, be sure to plant the native variety

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:57PM
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