Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mahonia Madness

We inherited an extensive planting of Leatherleaf Mahonia when we bought our house, and initially took a deep dislike to this shrub's nastier qualities. It's not native (came from China in 1800s) and is actually on prohibited plant lists in our neighboring states of South Carolina and Tennessee. My normal instincts would be to tear the stuff out and replace it with something native to the area. But Mahonia does have one quality that so far has kept it alive on my property: its berries are very popular with some species of songbirds. I have watched in amusement in May every year when Catbirds, Cardinals, Robins, and Brown Thrashers assault the shrubs and strip them clean. I expect that at some point I am going to get serious about a phased withdrawal: take out a few plants every year and replace them with something else that also has high bird value. As academics would say, "more research is needed." But at least for 2010, Mahonia Madness will soon be upon us!

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