Native trees and shrubs that produce berries are a must-have in your garden. Not only do they provide visual interest during the dreary winter, but by adding one or several of the plants below, you can help provide much needed nourishment for birds that stick around for the colder months. Plants were selected based on value to the birds, aesthetics, fruiting season, and general plant availability.
Holly (Ilex spp.): Hollies are very easy to find and come in varieties of trees and shrubs, mostly evergreen, but there are a few deciduous such as Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Some of the best evergreen holly shrubs are Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) and Inkberry (Ilex glabra). American Holly (Ilex opaca) is a native tree that is a great addition as a specimen tree or within a woodland garden. The berries are poisonous to humans, but birds love them!
Southern Bayberry (Myrica cerifera): This is a large shrub or small tree and is pretty common at nurseries. They are very easy to grow and the fragrant evergreen foliage provides shelter for birds. The berries are enjoyed by many species of birds and provide much needed fat and fiber in the winter.
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina): This type of Sumac is a large deciduous shrub or small tree and is available at some nurseries. There are various native types of Sumac, but this one is the most commonly available. They are beautiful in the fall and the foliage has an almost tropical look. It will form colonies, so is not suitable for small gardens, but would be great if you have a large space to fill. The berries form in large cone clusters and are preferred by many types of birds in the winter.
Viburnum (Viburnum spp.): There are many varieties of Viburnums and almost all of them are great additions to the home landscape. They come in various heights, have beautiful blooms, and the berries come in reds and blues. Two of the best and most available are Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) and Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum).
Berries aren’t the only type of food that can be provided. Seedheads from grasses and perennials can also be a great source. This could include not cutting back your Black-Eyed Susan’s or Switchgrass until late winter/early spring. Remember, whether it is winter, spring, summer, or fall birds always need the three basic essentials: food, water and shelter. In addition to planting one of the above, make sure to provide shelter (brush piles, dead trees, evergreen trees, etc.) and water (heated bird bath).