Sunday, October 3, 2010


I’ve been paying close attention to fruit development this year. An untimely frost in the spring killed a lot of the flowers on the blooming shrubs. Three months of drought has stressed many of the fruit developing shrubs. I’ve noticed many of the Blackhaws are carrying shriveled fruit.

The Blackhaw fruit may not be of the best quality, but at least it’s here in abundance.

Areas along the creek held moisture longer into the summer and the Blackhaw fruits are fuller and much more abundant.

Leatherwood, a shrub of the deciduous forest understory, is showing far fewer fruits than would be expected in a normal year.

The bright red Leatherwood fruits seem to glow in the woodland shadows. These fruits won’t last long into the winter.

Flowering Dogwoods are still showing drought stress, but they all have produced a normal crop of fruit.

From a distance it appears that the Dwarf Sumac are carrying a heavy fruit load this year.

A closer examination shows the fruit to be nothing but a dried skin over the seeds

There’s nothing much left for fruit eaters. Dwarf Sumac isn’t a favorite of the birds, but they depend on it late in the winter season when all the other fruit is gone.

You can always depend on the non-native Multiflora Rose to produce a heavy crop of fruit. This reliable production of fruit that appeals to such a wide variety of wildlife is the reason this shrub was planted all over the countryside. Its invasive tendencies were not discovered until it was too late. This may be the fruit that keeps overwintering Bluebirds from starving this winter.

Another reliable fruit producer, also a non-native, is the Japanese Honeysuckle. Fragrant flowers and abundant wildlife-friendly fruit were the reasons for planting this vine. What really concerns me is the lack of several common fruits. Grapes, Elderberries, Poison Ivy, Buckthorn, Fragrant Sumac, Prickly Ash, and others have produced no fruit this year. I’m going to keep a close eye on berry consumption this winter and see if I can notice any changes in the local bird population when the available fruit disappears.


  1. I am learning so much through your camera and commentary. Fascinating.

  2. ...interesting. I noticed that poison ivy stands that were heavily laden last year with fruit are empty this year. It was always a great place to catch woodpeckers--not so this year.

  3. Thanks, Lois. I hope this lesson doesn't foretell of finding dead birds in late winter.

    Hi, Kelly. There are always a couple of species each year that fail to bear fruit. The worrisome thing is how many species are barren this year.

  4. Steve, here in northern CA we had more rain than usual in the spring and I'm seeing berries in much greater quantities than usual. I've been enjoying watching chickadees crazily eat the many native honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) berries that are ripe now. There are more poison oak berries than I've seen in a long time and there seem to be madrone berries, nearly ripe, everywhere!

  5. Hi, Debbie. It sounds like you had almost perfect conditions this year. I really enjoy watching the birds stuff themselves with abundant fruit, but it looks like I'll have to do that some other year. Enjoy your bounty.