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Fall 2009

Urban Jungle

The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark      


November 3, 2009

Fall fruits for birds

Pokeweed fruits, left, are ripe and ready for birds to devour. (Beware: The seeds are poisonous to people.) In a few weeks, the first hard freeze will collapse the plant, but underground stems will endure, sending up fresh "poke salad" leaves in the spring (also poisonous unless cooked twice in separate water).

Birds are also eating the tangy hips of multiflora rose , right. In the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers to use the rose as a "living fence," which would control erosion and provide food and cover for wildlife. The rose, a native of East Asia, quickly became an invasive plant. And birds continue to spread it as the seeds pass through their digestive systems.

SOURCES: National Park Service; University of Maryland Medical Center

Multiflora Rose