Updated: Sep 20, 2022
When I saw this day on the list of celebrated days, I knew I had to do a post for it since I immediately thought of Niobe, our African Grey. She passed 9 or so years ago now but I still miss her. So, in honor of her and the day, I decided to talk about plants that are grown in my area, are great for our bird populations, and have great human uses too.
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) or Juniper
Family: Cupressaceae Energetics: drying, warming, stimulating Taste: sweet, pungent, aromatic Medicinal parts: berries Actions: diuretic, carminative, urinary tract antiseptic, stomachic Affinities: kidneys and liver Cautions: people with kidney disorders, or pregnant Wild Birds Eat It: Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Yellow-rumped Warbler OK for Pet Birds: Toxic; see the link. How I Use Most Often: I’m just being reintroduced to this plant; have not used it yet.
Sumac (Rhus typhina)
Family: Anacardiaceae Energetics: cool, dry, tonifying Taste: sweet, sour Medicinal parts: berries, leaves, bark Actions: astringent, diuretic, refrigerant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antiviral, antimicrobial, nutritive Affinities: digestive, urinary, and immune systems Cautions: very drying and should not be taken for a long period of time. There is a poisonous variety of sumac: poison sumac has white berries that droop down and smooth bark. This distinguishes poison sumac from medicinal, staghorn sumac, which has red, upright berries and fuzzy bark. Wild SC Birds Eat It: Eastern Bluebird, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, White-throated Sparrow OK for Pet Birds: Reports of toxic on some types; see the link. How I Use Most Often: mostly in cooking and tea; this is a recent herb for me.
Greenbrier (Smilax officinalis) or Sarsaparilla
Family: Liliaceae or Smilacaceae Energetics: sweet, mildly spicy, neutral Taste: Medicinal parts: Root Actions: General tonic, pituitary stimulant, metabolic stimulant, immuno-stimulant, antiseptic, antibiotic, Alterative, anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic, anti-rheumatic, diaphoretic, alterative, aphrodisiac, testosteronic, progesteronic, diuretic, vulnerary Affinities: stomach, kidney, liver, colon Cautions: Avoid high doses (GIT complaints), long-term use may cause ulceration of the gastrointestinal mucosa, may increase absorption or elimination rate of some medications Wild SC Birds Eat It: Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler OK for Pet Birds: Non-toxic; see the link. How I Use Most Often: I’m just being introduced to this plant; have not used it yet.
Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) or Bayberry
Family: Myricaceae Energetics: Cooling, drying Taste: Astringent Medicinal parts: Bark Actions: expectorant, astringent, sialagogue, stimulant, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, bitter, diaphoretic, hepatic, laxative, tonic Affinities: mucous membranes Cautions: contains constituents that are reportedly carcinogenic; not for use during pregnancy Wild SC Birds Eat It: Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Carolina Wren, Northern Flicker OK for Pet Birds: no info posted How I Use Most Often: I’m just being reintroduced to this plant; have not used it yet.
All these plants are natural or grow well in South Carolina and are wonderful for many of our local birds. So, if you are looking to feed the birds or bring more birds to your yard these plants would be a great addition.
I have only worked with Sumac out of all these plants, and I just started that recently. I have known other varieties of some of these plants in other places I have lived: Eastern Red Cedar (SC) = Pinyon-Juniper (AZ), and Wax Myrtle (SC) = Bayberry (WA), which is a good reminder that just because the name listed above isn’t in your area doesn’t mean you don’t have something in the family that may be able to be used the same way.