We have installed a native plant demonstration area with a mixture of trees and shrubs which are important food sources to our local insects, butterflies and small mammals. In addition, all the trees chosen for landscaping are Virginia natives.
As Douglas Tallamy writes in his book Bringing Nature Home, native plants provide a ‘sense of place’ as they are the varieties which ‘belong’ to an area, they are easier to grow than exotics because they have evolved with the local climate and they support the local ecosystem – the intricate food web which is a balance between plants and animals.
Below is a partial list of the trees and shrubs we chose for the demonstration area- most are edible to both humans and animals:
American Plum (Prunus Americana): Beautiful spring flowers are important to local pollinators and the fruit makes wonderful jellies and pies.
American Hazelnut (Corylus americana): grows 10-15 feet high and attracts songbirds and small animals. The nuts are relished by humans.
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): This bush has very distinctive magenta berries in the fall. Found more frequently in the piedmont, occasionally beauty berry can be found in the mountains of Virginia. Birds relish the berries.
Beech (Fagus grandiflora): One of the most attractive trees for landscape use, the beech can grow to 75 feet tall. Songbirds and small mammals enjoy the nuts.
Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium): This small shrub grows to a maximum of two feet high, has attractive white flowers in the spring and edible fruits which are eaten by birds and can be made into jams and jellies.
Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa): This shrub creates multi-stemmed clumps which provides protection for birds. Our avian friends also relish the small black fruit. Leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall.
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis): larvae of several lepidoptera (butterfly and moths)species consume the elderberry leaves. However, only the ripe berries are safe for humans to eat. Elderberry jam and pies were a favorite of early settlers in the Shenandoah Valley.
Header Photo Credit: Chris Anderson. Brilliant blooms of native redbud and dogwood, spring 2011. Additional photos also by Chris Anderson, examples of native plants. All rights reserved.