[Tweeters] re: Berry Interesting

Pjgumbo at aol.com Pjgumbo at aol.com
Wed Dec 6 21:58:51 PST 2006

I've greatly enjoyed and profited from this instructive thread. Thanks for
kicking it off, Dennis!

Especially valuable were the exchanges regarding Madrona and snowberry. I
have had a strong visceral connection to the former from formative years when
we had a pair of good-sized ones in front and back yard in Lake City
(Seattle). I spent some time high up in the backyard specimen in particular and
became intimately familiar with the wonderful flowering and fruiting properties
of this tree. News that the species is struggling with increasing human
incursion is discouraging.

And snowberry has always fascinated me, from the time I first came across it
in the wild as a youngster. Somewhat like beautyberry does today, with
unexpected semi-improbable berry color. I'd always assumed that snowberry was a
strong bird attractant - it is interesting to gather here that it may be more
in the category of disappointing leftovers.

I couldn't help but observe two non-natives that do not seem to have been
mentioned here. (Sorry Dennis, I realize this is not at all where you were
going with thread, but a ripe offering like this is bound to have some off-topic

Arbutus unedo, the so-called Strawberry Tree, is a close Madrona relative
(generally more of a shrub here). It has always intrigued me due to its
fascinating fruit and the obviously different yet similar flower and fruit
characteristics and its' attractive appearance. Has anyone observed birds feeding on
this plant?

And then there is that landscaping bugaboo the English Laurel. How could I
be the first to bring it up (perhaps I just missed mention)? In that same
adolescent yard we had a classically huge hedge that even my young relatively
non-bird-oriented mindset realized was an attractant for the feathered
creatures when the berries were ripe. Actually, 50 years later, with only a few 4-
or 3-year periods residing elsewhere, I can't think of a time in the Seattle
area when there wasn't some hulking nasty Laurel squalor within a hundred
yards of my domicile. I've never had a chance to check out which birds favor
the dark purple berries, but I suspect the usual culprits, robins in
particular. Again falling down on my avocation as amateur naturalist I must admit I
have not even registered the period when ripe fruit is available. I will have
to do better on that, given that I am once again living within 50' of a huge
Laurel hedge.

I spotted a Varied Thrush in yard a couple weeks back - just before the
first snow. I believe it was a first for our yard, and it was certainly the
first I have ever seen clearly enough to claim an ID on. It may be common, but
to me it was a beautiful bird and quite exciting.

Paul Johanson
_pjgumbo at aol.com_ (mailto:pjgumbo at aol.com)
North Beach (north Ballard)

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