HUNTING FOR NATIVE SHRUBS in Point Pleasant Park

On October 26th we headed to Point Pleasant Park to hunt for shrubs native to the Acadian forest. Akhtar was our skilled guide with lots of experience and a great identification book.

Here is what we found.

Here is Akhtar with a ServiceberryAmelanchier arborea

Elderberry- Sambucus nigra

Elderberries are hardy, native shrubs that have great ornamental and fruiting value. They produce beautiful, large, white flower heads in the spring that are followed by large clusters of blue-black berries in late summer. They are relished by birds and are an important food source for fruit-eating birds like Robins and Cedar Waxwings. At least 120 species of bird eat the fruits of Elderberries! The berries also make great jelly, jam, pie, juice, syrup or wine. Elderberries strengthen the immune system, are a great source of potassium and vitamin C.

Witch Hazel- Hamamelis virginiana

A rare native shrub in Nova Scotia. It is a large shrub that is noteworthy for being one of the last species to flower. Witch hazel also adds winter interest with leaves that turn yellow in the fall, and is moderately drought tolerant.

Although it isn’t a huge supporter of wildlife beyond red squirrel and ruffed grouse it creates shelter for a wide range of species.

Witch hazel is very useful as a medicinal. The twigs and bark are used to produce oil of witch hazel, while the roots are used to produce a tincture that is also known for its healing powers. Also, witch hazel is the shrub of choice for making the divining rods used in water-witching.

Rowan or Mountain AshSorbus Americana

The Rowan tree has attractive foliage, flowers and fruit and is a food source for many bird species. Berries are a preferred food source of ruffed grouse, gray catbird, American robin, eastern bluebird, European starling, cedar waxwing, common grackle, northern oriole, evening grosbeak and pine grosbeak. Crops are fairly regular and the ability to hang on throughout winter makes the berries excellent emergency food. Beaver eat the bark and snowshoe hare browse on winter twigs. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill larger specimens for sweet sap.

The fruit can be eaten by humans and is rich in iron and Vitamin C. Frosts make the berries sweeter and are sometimes used in jellies, jams, wines and other preserves. The leaves are poisonous so beware.

The Rowan Tree has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was believed to be a magical tree that could protect you against malevolent beings. In Celtic mythology the rowan is the traveller’s tree protecting the traveler from loosing their way.  As it grows readily it was often used for walking sticks and magician’s staves, dowsing rods, magic wands and more. Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, used to guard against lightning and planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting.

In Newfoundland, popular folklore maintains that a heavy crop of fruit means a hard or difficult winter. Similarly, in Finland and Sweden, the number of fruit on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter.

Pin Cherry-Prunus pensylvanica

Pin cherrys flower from late March to early June.  The flowers are white with long pedicels.  The fruit are light red and ¼” in diameter and are arrayed on long stems, with 3-5 in a clusters ripening in July.  It has been estimated that some seeds buried in the soil retain their viability for 50 to 150 years.

Provides major wildlife value by providing food. The fruit is not only highly preferred by the whole family of fruit eating songbirds (thrushes, waxwings, grosbeaks) and game birds like ruffed grouse, but also is relied upon by mammals from squirrels to raccoons to deer, moose, and black bear.

ServiceberryAmelanchier arborea

The serviceberry is beautiful in all four seasons. With beautiful delicate white blossoms in early spring, blue berries in June, which change into a bronze fall colour and silver-gray bark in the winter months.

They are great for birds, which feed on the ripening serviceberries, which are one of the first fruits to ripen in the early summer.  Thirty-five different species of bird have been documented eating serviceberry, which makes it a great shrub to plant in support of birds.

When little else is in bloom the serviceberry supplies insects with nectar as early as mid-April supporting emerging insects. Serviceberries are also favored by chipmunks, squirrels, beavers and bears.

Serviceberries also can be used to make berries into pies, wines, and jellies of all sorts. They were used traditionally in a dish called pemmican which is a dried food used for traveling which consists of dried meat, grease and berries.

WinterberryIlex Verticillata

Winterberry/Canada holly bears lots of beautiful red berries that sustain birds throughout the winter. Migrating birds on their way south, as well as overwintering songbirds such as white-throated sparrows, cedar waxwings and robins will feed on the large red berries in late fall and early winter. And you can enjoy winterberry berries contrasted against the winter landscape.

The species occurs particularly in wetland habitats, but also on dry sand dunes and grasslands.

Wild RaisinViburnum nudum

Also known as withe rod, is the most common shrub in Nova Scotia. It can grow up to 12 feet and has umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers. In early September, each cluster will have green, white, pink and dark purple fruit present, as ripening is independent.

The berries that are not eaten by birds will turn dark and shrivel like raisins.

Unlike some other shrubs, wild raisin consistently bears heavy crops of fruit. Berries are a not a preferred food, but are eaten by ruffed grouse, American robin, rose-breasted grosbeak, purple finch, cedar waxwing and other birds. Ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, chipmunk, red squirrel, skunk and mice all make use of the fruit, which can hang on late into the winter. Especially where it forms dense thickets, wild raisin provides valuable cover for many types of mammals and birds.

*In prehistory, the long straight shoots of some viburnums were used for arrow-shafts, as those found with Ötzi the Iceman.

We spent a long time hunting for  and finally came across this beautiful high bush Cranberry.

The berries of the high bush cranberry are not the favorite of many birds they are a  very important survival food as the winter progresses. Ruffed grouse, cedar waxwings, thrushes, robins, cardinals and grosbeaks are among the birds that feed on its fruit. Mammals such as deer, moose, red squirrels and beaver may feed on the various parts of the high bush cranberry.

In addition to food, the bushes also provide birds with shelter from the elements and hiding places from predators.

The berries can be used to make sauces and jellies although they are quite bitter.

Some beautiful extras – heather.Bunch berry and gold threadThere will be a Woody Stem Propagation Workshop on Wednesday December 14th at 5:30 at the Ecology Action Centre.

Please email urbangarden@ecologyaction.ca if you would like to register

Compiled by Rebecca Singer

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