do birds eat cherry laurel berries

“Presidents’ Day” is upon us again, and that always makes me think of George Washington. For a botanist, the old legend about young George’s chopping down a cherry tree is rather memorable. So, in honor of our first President, I present to you a cherry tree.

All of the true cherry species belong to the genus Prunus, which is a member of the rose family. Our mystery plant — Cherry laurel, Laurel cherry, Prunus carolinianaour — is a relative of the common and widespread “black cherry,” which may be growing in your area.

These two species are superficially similar, but very easy to tell apart. While black cherry is strictly a deciduous plant, our mystery plant, is evergreen, its leaves elliptical or somewhat egg-shaped, and shiny green.

The leaf margins are extremely variable, and may be smooth, or equipped with a number of usually small, jaggedy teeth, especially on sprouts. The leaf blades are a bit stiff and leathery, and if you crunch some up in your two hands and breathe in the aroma, you will probably recognize at least a slight, sweet cherry scent.

This species is usually a fairly small tree, and it occurs naturally in maritime forests along the coast, from North Carolina down to central Florida, and west to Texas. The thing is, this species is easily capable of growing well away from the coast, and it has now become naturalized in many parts of the Southeast outside its “normal” range. It is something of a weed, actually, often showing up in vacant lots and along fences, and seems to have spread from sites where it was cultivated.

Flowers are produced in short racemes, found in the axils of the leaves. The flowers each bear 5 tiny white petals, plus stamens and a pistil. The flowers are fragrant, and the trees are rather attractive, I think, while blooming. At this time of year, the flowers are mostly still in tight bud.

Following the blooms, green one-seeded fruits begin to develop. As they mature, the skin ultimately turns a rather glossy black, and they too are attractive. The seed inside the fruit eventually swells to the point that it occupies most of the interior, with just a thin layer of soft tissue between the seed (or “pit”) and the skin.

You will remember that this sort of fruit is classified as a “drupe”; cherries, plums, peaches, almonds — they’re all drupes. Of course, on my class field trips, I used to taste the flesh of the fruits, much delighting the students when I make a face and then spit it all out. The fruits taste terrible.

On the other hand, various birds, especially robins and cedar wax-wings seem to love eating these fruits, in the late winter, as in now. Im not sure if the seeds must go through a bird in order to sprout, but my backyard is covered with seedlings of this tree each spring.

And, all the birds in my neighborhood that are eating these things then fly over to adorn my car with a kind of ornithological augmentation: what a mess.

John Nelson is the retired curator of the A. C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www.herbarium.org or email johnbnelson@sc.rr.com.

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The leaf margins are highly variable; they can have several small, jagged teeth, especially on sprouts, or they can be smooth. The leaf blades have a slightly leathery, stiff texture. If you crumple some between your two hands and inhale the aroma, you will probably detect a faint, sweet cherry scent.

This species, which grows naturally in maritime forests along the coast from North Carolina to central Florida and west to Texas, is typically a fairly small tree. The problem is that this species can easily grow far from the coast, and as a result, it has naturally spread to many areas of the Southeast outside of its “normal” range. It actually resembles a weed, frequently appearing in empty lots and beside fences, and appearing to have spread from places where it was once grown.

What a mess: all the birds in my neighborhood that are eating these things then come over to decorate my car in an ornithological way.

You will recall that this type of fruit is referred to as a “drupe”; examples of drupes include cherries, plums, peaches, and almonds. Naturally, I used to taste the fruit flesh during class field trips, much to the amusement of my classmates, when I would make a face and then spit it all out. The fruits taste terrible.

John Nelson is the retired curator of the A. C. Moore Herbarium at the University of South Carolina. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information, visit www. herbarium. org or email johnbnelson@sc. rr. com.

What a mess: all the birds in my neighborhood that are eating these things then come over to decorate my car in an ornithological way. It’s the pits.

However, a variety of birds, particularly late-winter robins and cedar wax-wings, appear to enjoy consuming these fruits. Every spring, this tree’s seedlings cover my backyard; I’m not sure if the seeds need to pass through a bird to sprout.

This species, which grows naturally in maritime forests along the coast from North Carolina to central Florida and west to Texas, is typically a fairly small tree.

It’s all about cherries this week. As the recipe from the 1300s indicates, people have been obsessed with sweet cherries for a very long time. However, Prunus avium, the species of sweet cherry, has been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years prior to that.

Short racemes of flowers appear in the axils of the leaves in the spring. Each flower has five tiny white petals, pistil, and stamens. When in bloom, the trees are pretty pretty, and the flowers are fragrant. Following the blooms, green one-seeded fruits begin to develop. Their skin eventually turns a glossy black as they get older, and they are also quite attractive.

FAQ

What is eating my cherry laurels?

Common laurel hedge pests include vine weevil, aphids, thrips, lacebugs, scale insects, and caterpillars. Common laurel diseases such as leaf spot fungi otherwise known as bacterial shot hole can also cause problems with your laurel hedges if not treated appropriatley.

Are skip laurel berries poisonous to birds?

Many bird species relish these cherries, such as robins, cedar waxwings, and bluebirds. When you’re considering what type of plant to purchase for an evergreen hedge, plant Skip Laurel and you’ll also be growing a food source that feeds the birds!

Can you eat the cherries from cherry laurel?

The cherry laurel is so named because its leaves are very similar to a laurel trees’ leaves, but they are not related at all. This laurel is a relation of plum, apricot and cherry trees. However, be very careful around this shrub as it is highly poisonous, and the small cherry-like fruit is not edible.

What is the use of cherry laurel berries?

Medicinal use of Cherry Laurel: They are of value in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion.