bird food! an avian ruckus in the cornus

cornus sericea sunshine fruit
WHAT IS ALL THAT NOISE AND FLUTTERING? Why is everyone feathered having a meetup in the twig dogwoods out front? Oh, I see–it’s the (apparently delicious) white fruits that have just ripened.

I have said before that I know what birds like, and have created a slideshow of the various Cornus, or dogwood, species that I grow–all of them good wildlife plants. But since the berries produced by Cornus alba and Cornus sericea, both twig dogwoods, really don’t catch my eye, I was interested to see that gray catbirds and tufted titmice, in particular, are positively wild about the unassuming white fruit.

I grow a few varieties of Cornus alba and C. sericea, including the variegated-leaf, gold-twig ‘Silver and Gold,’ the gold-leaf, red-twig sericea called ‘Sunshine’ (above, in fruit; Cornus alba ‘Aurea’ is similar) and others. Apparently my avian companions agree with me that these twig dogwoods are plants deserving of a place in every garden. Are you serving some up now, too?



  1. Eva says:

    My Cornus sericea (Red twig) have a lot of berries, but appear to be immature still. Either that or the birds haven’t discovered them yet. I hope they find them soon, as we still have some Silky dogwood (Cornus amomum) and Red Osier to plant this fall! Maybe critical mass is the key?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Eva. It was as if someone sounded an alarm saying “fruit’s ready” — suddenly all these birds, particularly the two species mentioned, went positively wild in the shrubs. I do have several very old and very large plants in the one area, and I wonder if that helps, as you imply.

  2. Val says:

    Unfortunately my red osier has not bloomed, so no berries. I think it is getting too much shade, but my oak leaved hydrangea is getting too much sun, so they’ll get a switcheroo in the fall–and hopefully I won’t lose too much fall color of either in the process. The catbirds and robins went crazy for my service berry (Amelanchier) . They love the black cherry (Prunus serotina) too.
    I saw my first humming bird of the season yesterday! It was confused by my red trellis, but it finally located the native honeysuckle.
    Sadly, the weekend also saw me burying a baby robin–probably the victim of a neighborhood cat. It kills the voles in my yard, which I am thankful for, but I wish it had at least eaten the robin.

  3. Brian says:

    I have 3 Red Twigs that are next to each other right outside my wrap around porch that the birds have found. The porch rail has the tel tale signs of birds sitting there and eating…. bird poop and lots of it. But hey, it’s worth it!!

  4. Oh yeah–the dogwoos bring them in. But even more, the viburnum. And more than that? Serviceberry (which as soon as it begins to ripen, I mean that second, the berries are GONE). I also grow some native thistle the finches love when it goes to seed.

  5. Jan Overturf says:

    I have 2 red twig dogwoods. One is about 5 years old and the other one is 2 years. The oldest one has for the last several years had limbs that keep turning black. I have cut those limbs off, but they keep turning black. I don’t know if it is the area we live in (west central Arkansas) and or the the extremely hot summers we have had the last 2 years. I am very fond of these and hate to lose them.

    Jan Overturf

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Jan. Certain species/varieties are more prone to stem canker than others, and in the warmer part of their hardiness range (Zone 7) all the twig dogwoods are all more susceptible, as I understand it. I asked a local nursery for advice on which ones do well here when I started buying plants, and then also had to experiment a bit, even thought I’m not pushing it heat-wise, because some get stem canker even in the middle of their hardiness range, where I am. I think your suspicion about the heat being a contributor to the problem is correct, but I wonder if your county extension or a nearby public garden might also be able to offer cultivar suggestions that are better adapted locally?

  6. Mary Murphy says:

    Hi Margaret: I have two Cornus Alba “Elegantissima” which are planted on each side of my Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum “Shasta”. When the Viburnum is in full bloom, with its beautiful white lacy flowers, both Cornus have leaved out and their lovely white edged foliage look spectacular alongside the Viburnum. The scene is quite the showstopper on my block each May. I also enjoy the red stems of the Cornus all winter. They are all wonderful and easy to care for shrubs.

    Mary Murphy

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