Cynthia Ellis of Red House, one of the most knowledgeable bird enthusiasts in our area, sent me an interesting tidbit recently. It deals with two items that I'm always interested in: invasive/
"Q: Birds eat the berries of nonnative bushes, so why is it bad to plant them?
"A: You're right: Many nonnative plants produce fruit that North American birds feast upon. Berries are, after all, designed to be attractive and palatable to birds and other animals, since they disperse seeds. Plants that appeal to birds on one continent are likely to find takers on another.
"But unlike our native species, exotic plants often have no or few insect predators. In fact, it was the lack of insect pests that prompted the importation of many species of ornamental plants.
"While it may mean less trouble for gardeners, fewer insects on introduced species means that the plants provide little or no food for birds outside of the fruiting season. Even seed-eating birds need insects to feed their young during the nesting season. The timing of migration and breeding evolved with the timing of insect emergence on native plants. Nonnative plants are strangers to the system and may not provide insect food.
"In addition, nonnative species that do not have predators, diseases and pathogens to keep them in check may become invasive in a new location. They outcompete native species, change soil composition, alter hydrology, disrupt food chains, or otherwise modify ecosystems in sometimes profound and unpredictable ways.
"If you are considering landscaping this fall, remember that a plant evolved in your region's unique habitat is always the best choice."
The problem I run into is that I love some of the plants that are nonnative. Some have been used in our area for a long time, and maybe I'm justifying my selections, but I do use some of these established nonnative plants in my landscape.
Some "native" shrubs and trees that are good for the birds, that have been grown here forever, include: "Cameo" flowering quince; "Sunrise" forsythias, eastern redbud, many varieties of pussywillow, raspberries and hawthorn.