Top: Cardinal by Harvey Doerksen
Middle: American holly by Paul Cox
Bottom: Cedar waxwing by Dave Menke
Winter Wildlife Need Native Evergreens
Ignored most of the year, evergreens now take center stage. These are plants that do not lose their leaves at the end of the growing season. It is not the cold that causes trees and shrubs to lose their leaves. They shed their leaves annually in order to conserve water.
The leaves of evergreen trees and shrubs have a thick often waxy covering that prevents loss of water. The leaves or needles remain alive and on the plant throughout the winter. Because they retain their leaves year-round, evergreens are invaluable to wildlife for winter cover. The berries, seeds and needles provide important food for birds and mammals venturing out in winter.
Pines, spruces and firs provide food for birds like the black-capped chickadee, Carolina chickadee, cedar waxwing, American goldfinch, ruffed grouse, dark-eyed junco, blue jay, rufous-sided towhee, house finch, purple finch, white-breasted nuthatch and Eastern meadowlark. Mammals, such as white-tailed deer, chipmunks and gray squirrels, feast on seeds and needles.
Hollies provide excellent shelter for many species. The fruit is eaten the common flicker, gray catbird, cedar waxwing, mourning dove, ruffed grouse, Northern bobwhite, blue jay, mockingbird, white-throated sparrow, rufous-sided towhee and cedar waxwing. Raccoons and white-footed mice also eat the berries, while white-tailed deer may graze on the leaves and twigs.
Junipers and eastern red cedars are particularly attractive to cedar waxwings, purple finches and Eastern mockingbirds. Hemlocks give protection to many birds. The fruit of common wax myrtle is favored by tufted titmice, common flickers, finches, white-eyed vireos, black-capped chickadees, Carolina chickadees, gray catbirds and rufous-sided towhees.
Look at your own yard. Does it need some evergreens? Here are a few species native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
American holly (Ilex opaca)
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana)
white pine (Pinus strobus)
rose bay (Rhododendron maximum)
mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
inkberry (Ilex glabra)
wild ginger (Asarum canadense)
wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)