Birds of SGG – Mulberry Tree

Red-eyed Vireo Eating Mulberries

Red-eyed Vireo Eating Mulberries

It didn’t take long to find the most interesting bird spot in the gardens on my last scouting expedition. I parked in the back parking lot by the vegetable garden. I only had to walk about 20 ft. to the west when I noticed a lot of birds flying in and out of one particular tree.

There were Brown Thrashers, Mockingbirds, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Robins, Tufted Titmice, and a Gray Catbird all competing for the same food.  Of course I was curious about what they were eating, so I aimed my binoculars at the tree. On this tree were many berries in various stages of ripeness. This tree is located just to the left of the small rubbish bin and stands about 30 ft. tall.

The berries looked familiar to me, but the leaves were different from those I knew. I guessed that this tree was a mulberry because a few years ago I wanted to plant a berry tree that would attract birds to my yard. I had narrowed my choices to either a serviceberry or a mulberry. SGG has a large serviceberry in the southern part of the garden, so I decided to buy the serviceberry.

Sassafras

Sassafras

My serviceberry is doing very nicely and yielded its first berries this year. My yard birds love it. Several months after planting the serviceberry, I decided it was time to tame a rather wild part of my yard. As I was hacking down several tall weedy plants, I noticed an unusual sapling. I didn’t know for sure what it was because its leaves were not all the same shape. The only tree I knew with different- shaped leaves was the sassafras. I decided to leave the sapling alone until I could identify it.

After studying pictures like the ones inserted here, I concluded that I had a mulberry sapling. The leaves on my mulberry were like those of the mulberry #1 picture. The mulberry tree at SGG had leaves like those in the mulberry #2 picture, so that is why I was confused.

Mulberry

Mulberry

I was ecstatic because now I had both a serviceberry and a mulberry!  I like to think that my mulberry is a thank-you gift from one of my yard birds for all the seed and suet I provide them. It has not produced any fruit yet but is growing nicely.

If you are thinking of planting a fruit-bearing tree to attract birds, you might want to read up on cherry, serviceberry, or mulberry trees. There is a very informative book on plantings that attract birds entitled Bird-by-Bird Gardening by Sally Roth. In fact, the front cover of this book sports a picture of a Baltimore Oriole eating mulberries.

Mulberry

Mulberry

Here is an excerpt from this book: “Two alluring fruits are tops in all areas: cherries and mulberries. Both are absolute magnets for birds of every fruit-eating family…they’re super-easy to grow, and it costs only about $20 for a tree that will produce fruit the same year.”

Ms. Roth does give a word of caution concerning mulberries: “Mulberries were a lot more popular in days gone by, when yards were bigger and their messiness wasn’t considered a problem. The fruit stains any surface it drops onto or any surface where the semi-digested remains are deposited, courtesy of birds. If neatness counts in your yard or neighborhood, it’s best to stick with cherries.”

As I lowered my binoculars from the SGG mulberry, I saw in front of me a Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying the new canna lilies along the back parking lot. What a great spot that was for bird activity on that lovely morning.

Happy Birding!

Pat Pepper
Pat Pepper